SOCwise: A Security Operation Center (SOC) Resource to Bookmark

By and on Nov 12, 2020

Core to any organization is managing cyber risk with a security operations function whether it be in-house or outsourced. McAfee has been and continues their commitment to protecting cyber assets. We are dedicated to empowering security operations and with this dedication comes expertise and passion. Introducing SOCwise a monthly series of blogs, podcasts and talks driven by two highly experienced and devoted security operations professionals.  This is an ongoing resource of helpful advice on SOC issues, distinct SOC functional lessons, best practices learned from a range of projects and customers and perspectives on the future of security operations.  In addition, we will invite guests to contribute to this series.

Meet the SOCwise

From Michael Leland, Technical Director of Security Operations, McAfee

From the perspective of a ‘legacy SIEM’ guy I can tell you that there’s nothing more important to a security analyst than intelligence. Notice I didn’t say ‘data’ or ‘information’ – I didn’t even say ‘threat intelligence’. I’m talking about ‘Situational Awareness’. I’m specifically talking about business, user and data context that adds critical understanding and guidance in support of making more timely, accurate or informed decisions related to a given security event. A typical SOC analyst might deal with dozens of incidents each shift – some requiring no more than a few minutes and even fewer clicks to quickly and accurately determine the risk and impact of potential malicious activities. Some incidents require much more effort to triage in hopes to understand intent, impact and attribution.

More often we find the role of SOC analyst to be one of data wrangler – asking and answering key questions of the ‘data’ to determine if an attack is evident and if so, what is the scope and impact of the adversarial engagement. Today’s modern SOC is evolving from one of centralized data collection, information dissemination and coordination of intelligence – one where each stakeholder in security was a part of the pre-determined set of expectations throughout the evaluation and implementation process – to a fully distributed cast of owners/creators (application development, operations, analysts, transformation architects, management) where the lines of authority, expectation and accountability have blurred sometimes beyond recognition.

How can a modern SOC maintain the highest levels of advanced threat detection, incident response and compliance efficacy when they may no longer have all (or sometimes even some) of the necessary context with which to turn data into intelligence? Will Security Operations Centers of the future resemble anything like the ones we built in previous years. From the massive work-from-home migration brought on by an unexpected pandemic to cloud transformation initiatives that are revolutionizing our modern enterprise, the entire premise of a SOC as we know it are being slowly eroded. These are just some of the questions we will try to answer in this blog series.

From Ismael Valenzuela, Senior Principal Engineer, McAfee

I have worked for 20 years in this industry that we once used to call, information security. During this time, I have had the opportunity to be both on the offense and the defense side of the cyber security coin, as a practitioner and as a consultant, as an architect and as an engineer, as a student as well as a SANS author & instructor. I want to believe that I have learned a few things along the way. For example, as a penetration tester and a red teamer, I have learned that there is always a way in, that prevention is ideal, and that detection is a must. As a security architect I have learned that a defensible architecture is all about the right balance between prevention, monitoring, detection and response. As an incident responder I learned that containing an adversary is all about timing, planning and strategy. As a security analyst I have learned the power of automation and of human-machine teaming, to do more analysis and less data gathering. As a threat hunter I have learned to be laser focused on adversarial behaviors, and not on vulnerabilities. And as a governance, risk and compliance consultant, that security is all about tradeoffs, about cost and benefit, about being flexible, adaptable and realizing that for most of our customers, security is not their core business, but something they do to stay in business. To summarize 20 years in a few phrases is challenging, but no one has summarized it better than Bruce Schneier in my opinion, who wrote, precisely 20 years ago: “security is a process, not a product”.

And I am sure that you will agree with me that processes have changed a lot over the last 20 years. This transformation that had already started with the adoption of Cloud and DevOps technologies it is now creating an interesting and unforeseen circumstance. Just when security operations barely found its footing, and right when it was finally coming out from under the realm of IT, garnering respect and budget to achieve desired outcomes, just when we felt that we made it, we are told to pack our things, leave the physical boundaries of the SOC and have everyone work remote.

If this didn’t introduce enough uncertainty, I read that Gartner predicts that 85% of data centers will be gone by 2025. So, I can’t help but wonder: is this the end of it? Is the SOC dead as we know it? What is the future of SecOps in this new paradigm? How will roles change?  Will developers own security in a ‘you code it, you own it’ fashion? Is it realistic to expect a fully automated SOC anytime soon?

Please join us in this new SOCwise series as Michael and I explore answers to these and more questions on the future and the democratization of SOC and SecOps.

About the Author

Michael Leland

Michael served formerly as the CTO at NitroSecurity bringing over 20 years of senior leadership to the company. He was responsible for developing and implementing NitroSecurity's overall technology vision and roadmap.   Michael has held senior technical management positions at Eziaz, Cabletron and Avaya. At Avaya, a global telecommunications equipment and services vendor, he served ...

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Ismael Valenzuela

As Sr. Principal Engineer, Ismael Valenzuela (@aboutsecurity) is part of McAfee's senior technical leadership team, leading research on Security Operations and Threat Hunting using machine-learning and expert-system driven investigations. Author and contributor of numerous technical articles and open source tools, Ismael is also a regular speaker at International conferences and is one of the few ...

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Categories: Security Operations

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