The SOCaaS market is worth over $6.7 billion as of 2023. Recent developments in the cyber crime landscape point to a likelihood of this increasing in the coming years. This doesn't surprise us, given that a survey published on Statista shows that 72% of companies in the AMER (North, Central, and South America) region identified cyber attacks to be the top threat to business continuity in 2023.
SOCaaS comes as a solution to these ever-present risks for organizations seeking increased IT efficiency. Perhaps, small businesses have the most to gain, as they are the number one target for cyber threat actors.
What is SOCaaS and how can your organization benefit from it? Keep reading as we dive into everything you need to know, including the challenges your organization may face in SOCaaS adoption.
Please do not confuse this with SOC reports i.e. such as SOC I and SOC II.
What is SOC as a Service?
Ordinarily, a security operations center (SOC) is the in-house arm of the organization that is responsible for orchestrating the tools, processes, and human resources needed to manage cybersecurity events. It is responsible for protecting sensitive IT assets. Particularly, it ensures continuous cyber monitoring, executing quick response workflows, and remediating IT damages in the event of an attack.
SOC-as-a-Service (SOCaaS) is a subscription-based model for cybersecurity management. It introduces a third-party service specifically dedicated to managing an organization’s SOC operations. In this case the organization, typically due to reasons like high costs or a lack of technical skills, outsources all its SOC operations to a specialized external company and pays a fee for these services.
The SOCaaS provider acts as the company’s security analyst, security architect, and SOC manager.
The providers take over the following responsibilities from the internal IT team:
- Intelligence gathering and threat detection
- Incidence response
- Threat mitigation
- Security reporting
- Security compliance.
For comprehensive insights into endpoint security, please read our article on What is Endpoint Security. Additionally, for a selection of the best tools for endpoint protection, check out our guide on the top endpoint security tools.
Why are organizations looking toward SOCaaS?
In a Morning Consult report published by IBM, internal SOC teams spend at least 32% of their time investigating and deciding on security events that pose no threat.
In addition to a 63% false positive rate, these SOC teams are slowed down by weak integrations between security tools, inadequate/manual security processes, and a lack of sufficient people/skills. The result? Only 49% of security alerts are reviewed, leaving a large gap for threats to slip through and more problems for unprepared organizations.
Outsourcing to SOC as a Service providers was identified as one of the actionable solutions to SOC inefficiency.
What benefits does SOCaaS offer organizations?
1. High-level security expertise
SOCaaS providers are highly specialized in the field of security management. They exist as companies with hundreds of competent SOC professionals. These providers offer personnel specialized in these fields:
In short, these professionals are highly experienced in taking care of complex security problems. Once you engage the services of a SOCaaS provider, you don’t have to worry about the adequacy of qualified security personnel/skills.
2. Enjoy faster threat detection and remediation
Thanks to the availability of specialized personnel, SOCaaS providers also ensure that threats are addressed without dividing or diverting the attention of each IT team member.
However, this is just one perk. Top SOCaaS providers also utilize AI and machine learning (ML) powered automated tools for intelligence gathering, analysis, response, remediation, and reporting. This allows them to eliminate security risks as fast as possible and with minimal contribution from the internal IT team. Workflows are seamless and SLA requirements remain unbreached.
3. 24/7 SOC coverage
The routine operations of SOCaaS providers are not limited by work hours, as is normally the case with internal SOC teams.
Rather, SOCaaS providers work round the clock, ensuring that the client is always ready to respond to security events. This is an excellent advantage for businesses with limited IT budgets who want to enjoy proactive SOC services.
4. Easier scalability
Adopting an in-house SOC means hiring and developing all the framework architecture needed. This also means spending a lot of money on hardware/software SOC tools.
What do you do with all those resources when SOC growth shrinks? Obviously, they will have no immediate use. The result is wastage of total cost of ownership (TCO) and operating expenditure (OPEX).
The vastness of a SOCaaS provider’s IT infrastructure helps to solve this problem. With SOCaaS, you will easily expand the security infrastructure based on immediate needs. You also have the freedom to downsize IT deployments when necessary. This ease of scalability results in a low-cost advantage, the next benefit.
5. Low-cost advantage
The freedom that comes with the pricing models offered by SOCaaS providers affords organizations the flexibility to scale security deployments up or down as needs change. You can leverage this flexibility to manage cybersecurity costs more efficiently.
We see many SOCaaS providers offer subscriptions on a «per device» or «per user» basis. This means that when security-related IT users/devices grow or shrink based on needs, the cost of SOC equally increases or reduces — eliminating cost wastage.
What’s more, one SOCaaS subscription covers all SOC operations. Imagine paying a single fee for expert personnel, SOC hardware, AI-powered software, and dynamic threat management workflows.
An in-house SOC team may offer complete control over assets and security processes. However, the benefits SOCaaS offers are enticing and difficult to ignore.
SOCaaS and Managed Security Services: What’s the difference?
When we look at what the SOCaaS model is ordinarily about, we see that it shares an almost mirror-like similarity with managed security services. Both are outsourced services and both take security responsibilities away from the IT team. They are, however, differentiated along a thin line.
While SOCaaS covers the outsourcing of cloud-based cyber threat monitoring, response, and remediation, the scope of managed security services covers broader security issues. Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) take care of vulnerability scans, firewall management, identity and access management (IAM), and virtual asset/network management, to mention a few.
We can thus refer to SOCaaS as a form of managed security service that focuses on cyber threat detection and remediation. Other outsourced security service providers, like security device management services and others outside the scope of SOCaaS, also qualify as MSSPs.
Problem areas for SOCaaS adoption
SOCaaS brings a lot of benefits to security. However, adopting it as a major security model comes with certain roadblocks. This is especially true if your organization needs a security solution immediately. What are these challenges?
1. Complex onboarding and integration
Effective SOC operations require a complete understanding of the IT environment, as well as the seamless integration of security tools across the infrastructure.
When you outsource to a SOCaaS provider, there is the risk of incompatibility of internally deployed IT components with the provider’s SOC tools.
Vendor-diverse tool stack, legacy security hardware, and hybrid cloud environment increases the complexity of external and internal integration. What’s more, the templated protocols of some SOCaaS providers may leave little room for customization to fit your organization's unique security needs.
2. Data Security and Privacy
A common reservation that crops up against dealing with managed security service providers, in general, is fears around data safety and costly breaches.
A good example of this is the 2020 hack of SolarWinds, the popular managed IT services platform for both small and large private and public organizations. The supply chain attack affected 18,000 organizations, 28 percent of which also included MSPs.
These fears drop significantly when you use an in-house SOC team since the control of sensitive data and related workflows is assured to stay within the organization. However, with SOCaaS, there is the risk of theft when weak access control protocols and security management tools are adopted by the SOCaaS provider.
2. Compliance Risks
Every organization has regulatory compliance requirements specific to its industry. Sadly, due to the need for constant communication and reporting between your organization and the vendor, the SOCaaS model brings more difficulty to compliance. However, this isn’t all.
Even a provider with wide regulatory coverage may not assure your organization of meeting its specific compliance needs. For instance, a vendor with comprehensive HIPAA and SOC2 coverage can’t assure you of GDPR compliance if they are not experienced in meeting GDPR standards. What’s more, the lack of control over the entire security process also brings uncertainty to meeting regulatory standards that are deemed «covered». Compliance fines can range between $50,000 to $1.5 million per violation or even more for larger organizations.
To scale these SOCaaS challenges and get the most from the model organizations, you need to be sure that you are indeed outsourcing your company’s SOC operations to the right SOC as a Service provider.
Choosing SOCaaS that’s right for your organization
The right SOCaaS provider is one whose services and platform align with your security management needs.
Consider these items when choosing one.
1. Internal SOC needs
What is needed from the provider to deem SOC operations a success for your company? Here, your organization should map out its existing architectural design, security systems, tools, and dependencies, and also determine its service-level objectives (SLOs). You identify what threats and assets need to be prioritized, as well as the budget for SOC operations.
Information on all these makes it very easy to determine the relevant criteria a potential SOCaaS provider has to meet. This as well comes in handy when negotiating quotes for SOCaaS subscriptions.
2. Non-stop Monitoring
Apart from service offers that satisfy the unique internal needs, it's important to find a SOCaaS provider that assures 24/7 SOC coverage. However, it isn't enough for SOCaaS operations to run 24/7. While some providers may only offer SOC alerting outside regular office hours, the best vendors take an extra step by responding to and remediating active threats.
A provider that offers the latter is what gives your organization true 24/7 coverage, and it is only with this that the full value of SOCaaS is realized.
3. Choose ML-powered investigations
For improved threat detection, the best SOCaaS is one that also utilizes ML and other advanced AI technologies to correlate threats more accurately. They should have the right tools that utilize contextual information to recognize risk events better.
To achieve faster SOC workflows, the SOCaaS provider should also take the extra step of automating threat triaging and response.
4. Adequate compliance coverage
Choose a SOCaaS provider with a track record of meeting your most critical compliance requirements.
Not only does this help to avoid hefty regulatory penalties but, you are assured of safe external access to and control over your IT components.
Other factors to look at include how the SOCaaS provider separates their clients’ data and also the track record of partners the provider works with.
SOCaaS in practice: Fortinet and Grand View University
We can sum up the effectiveness of the SOCaaS model with a close look at Grand View University and how they implemented FortiGuard SOCaaS.
Grand View University is a 127-year-old private educational institution in Des Moines, Iowa. This institution hosts data and educational resources for over 2,000 students online.
Although the university had an IT team that took care of its security needs, a cyber audit revealed that the team was too small. It also disclosed that the university needed a more proactive solution to cyber threat monitoring and response, especially for its network infrastructure. The FortiGuard SOCaaS, a tool from Fortinet, was the institution’s go-to solution.
FortiGuard came with comprehensive security visibility and automated alerting, as well as an integration with the FortiAnalyzer for high-level SOC reporting. It helped introduce 24/7 network security coverage to Grand View University’s IT management workflows. The solution also eliminated the time-wasting need to dig deep into log files to identify potential risks.
As an additional bonus, the adoption of the FortiGuard SOCaaS helped Grand View University cut on some costs. For example, the university was able to totally avoid the cost of setting up and training IT personnel to use a full-blown in-house SIEM system. As noted by the university’s LAN Administrator, the SOCaaS helped the IT team catch onto critical security events at odd hours of the night — an advantage of proactive monitoring and alerting that didn't exist before.
Learn more about the case study here.
What does the future hold for the SOCaaS landscape?
In his Forbes Technology Council article, Joe Morin, founder of CyFlare, a prominent SOCaaS innovator, predicts that the future growth of SOCaaS hinges on the expansion of its capabilities. We share Joe's foresight and anticipate an evolution where automation transcends mere detection. It will encompass the integration of contextual, personality-based playbooks in both threat alerting and response.
Moreover, we predict that customization capabilities will improve. This will enable the swift deployment of tailored security applications. A noteworthy shift will be the significant reduction in human involvement, a result of advancements in personalization and the integration of APIs.
What’s our advice?
Embrace this evolution proactively. Evaluate its fit within your company's current circumstances and build upon this foundation.