Security operations centers (SOC) serve as the primary cybersecurity hub for an organization, comprising all relevant personnel, processes, and technology. Responsibility for such a critical organizational role creates substantial security operations center challenges. The common challenges faced by a security operations center span both daily tasks and ongoing management.
The Common Challenges Faced by a Security Operations Center
The challenges of SOC teams primarily result in (or from) staffing unavailability. Overall, the cybersecurity field currently faces a shortage of professionals with the requisite skills and experience. In particular, SOC roles’ demanding jobs contribute to heightened turnover, which strains organizations’ budgets and leads to employees’ insufficient operational knowledge.
Common challenges faced by a security operations center include:
- Staffing availability
- Budget availability and perceived return on investment (ROI)
- Security data proliferation
- Documentation and operational knowledge gaps
Outsourcing responsibilities to an expert managed security services provider (MSSP), such as RSI Security, can provide organizations with their solution to security operations center challenges.
#1 Staffing Challenges
The foremost challenge facing every SOC is assembling the team itself and keeping roles filled. Nearly all other challenges revolve around this difficulty.
The general roles that comprise a SOC team consist of:
- Security Analyst (Tier One) – Monitors for vulnerabilities, triage detected threats, and escalating incidents that warrant a direct response to senior team members
- Security Analyst (Tier Two) – Investigates and responds to escalated incidents by executing predefined action plans
- Threat Hunters (Tier Three) – Assesses IT security infrastructure according to the latest threat intelligence to discover threats and vulnerabilities that may evade initial scans
- Manager (Tier Four) – Oversees the entire team and reports to the organization’s CISO
- Engineer/Architect – Works in conjunction with the SOC team to design, develop, and maintain security infrastructure
Each role requires specialized cybersecurity and organizational knowledge, which immediately minimizes the number of suitable candidates. Furthermore, the demanding roles led to a substantial majority of SOC personnel describing their jobs as “painful” or “very painful” in Ponemon’s 2021 SOC survey.
There’s a common theme in cybersecurity that attackers need to be successful only once to inflict massive damages to an organization. To deter breaches, SOC teams need to be successful every time. Security personnel continually remain on guard and wary of cyberattacks, ceaselessly grappling with high-stakes job pressures. Despite the severity of threats, SOC team members spend most of their time conducting repetitive, monotonous scans.
The data collected by Ponemon readily demonstrates SOC personnel’s burnout rates. For example, analysts only hold their position with a given organization for 26 months on average. In addition, 75 percent “strongly agree” or “agree” that job stress stems from their high-pressure working environment.
SOC Skills Shortage
Turnover rates and talent scarcity combine to exacerbate SOC staffing challenges. While Ponemon reported that organizations expect to hire an average of 4.9 SOC team members in 2021, 3.2 will also resign or be fired. 30 percent of organizations stated their intent to hire six to over ten SOC personnel in 2021 in their survey responses. The rising demand for capable SOC hires has led to a significant skills shortage and resulting in competition to acquire talent.
#2 Budget Availability and Perception of Diminished ROI
Insufficient SOC budgets complicate staffing challenges even more. Team members command higher salaries due to the hiring shortage, and expensive technology implementations, such as security information and event management (SIEM) solutions, drain resources further. From 2019 to 2020, security analysts experienced an average salary increase of ten thousand dollars.
Often, organizations have little left over to provide security awareness training to non-technical employees, which would help alleviate SOC workloads.
As SOC staff compensation levels continue to rise, organizations’ perceived return on investment has fallen. 51 percent of Ponemon’s survey respondents indicated that their SOC’s ROI has diminished due to management complexity, which is only complicated by high turnover rates.
#3 The Proliferation of Security Data
Organizational growth, new and heterogeneous technology implementations, and increasing cyberattack frequency have created a situation where the amount of scanning data that SOC teams must analyze continuously expands. The proliferation of security data results in yet another exacerbation of the vicious staffing challenge cycle faced by SOC teams.
SOC personnel must either work longer hours or perform more cursory analysis—unless their organization reenters the hiring competition sooner. Alternatively, organizations can outsource responsibilities to an MSSP that can offer services such as managed detection and response.
#4 Documentation and Operational Knowledge Gaps
The revolving door of SOC personnel contributes to response plan documentation stagnating or being left incomplete. Without a dedicated action plan, team members must rely on their experience and what “tribal knowledge” (i.e., undocumented organization or role-specific information) they’ve managed to accrue.
However, the average employment duration for security team members doesn’t lend itself to accumulating enough organization-specific experience and tribal knowledge to overcome lacking process documentation. It also prevents conducting sufficient onboarding and other training for senior members to exchange theirs.
An MSSP can help bridge an organization’s documentation and personnel gaps. Extensive security program advisory helps an organization update its infrastructure and response plans, collating documentation to help lessen the impact of employee turnover.
Outsourcing SOC Responsibilities to Overcome Challenges
Since the common challenges faced by a security operations center revolve around their staffing needs, outsourcing responsibilities to an expert MSSP can immediately help organizations alleviate their SOC burdens.
Reclaim your SOC team’s bandwidth and increase the scope of their capabilities by contacting RSI Security today!