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Streamlining Security Operations with SOAR

As cyber threats become more frequent and sophisticated, security teams struggle to keep up. The 2022 SANS Incident Response Survey reveals over 50% of respondents feel overwhelmed by high alert volumes. Moreover, strained resources coupled with manual and repetitive tasks slow down threat investigation and remediation.

To bolster security operations, organizations are turning to SOAR (Security Orchestration, Automation and Response) solutions. Gartner predicts the SOAR market will grow from $1.69 billion in 2022 to $4.43 billion by 2027. What makes SOAR so critical? It empowers resource-constrained security operations centers (SOCs) to modernize processes, accelerate response times and reduce costs.

This blog post explores how SOAR helps optimize SOC workflows to improve productivity, efficiency and outcomes. We analyze SOC metrics showcasing SOAR’s benefits and provide guidance on applying SOAR effectively.

A flowchart illustrating the process flow from 'Data sources' to 'Data gathering' to 'Data analytics' leading to 'SIEM', and separately from 'SOAR' to 'Case assignment' to 'Incident response'.

Why Modernize Security Operations?

As outlined in the NIST cybersecurity framework, key functions of a cybersecurity program include identifying, protecting, detecting, responding, and recovering. Conceptually, we can divide these into prevention and response categories. Security operations primarily focus on incident detection and response through the Security Operations Center (SOC).

However, SOCs encounter several challenges today:

  • Too many alerts overwhelm analysts
  • Too many false positives waste time and resources
  • Too many manual and repetitive tasks
  • Too few skilled analysts to handle incidents
  • Too few hours to respond to incidents
  • Too few indicators to uncover the full story of incidents

To solve these problems, we need to modernize security operations. This is where SOAR solutions come in.

Why SOAR is a Critical Piece of the Puzzle?

The concept of a security operations center encompasses people, processes and technology working in conjunction. A well-designed SOC workflow typically involves five key stages:

  1. Data Collection: Gather security data from across environments
  2. Data Analytics: Apply analytics to detect potential threats
  3. Case Management: Assign detected threats to cases/incidents
  4. Incident Response: Investigate and remediate security incidents
  5. Post Incident Activity: Carry out recovery procedures

SOAR platforms aim to enhance productivity specifically within the incident response process. According to Gartner, top use cases for SOAR adoption based on client inquiries are:

  1. Automating repetitive/manual tasks
  2. Improving incident response
  3. Enhancing efficiency of Tier 1 analysts

How does SOAR stack up against traditional security operations? Here is a look at key performance indicators before and after SOAR implementation:

MetricBefore SOARAfter SOARImprovement
Alerts Requiring Triage3,000/week1,500/week50% Reduction
MTTR28 hours7 hours75% Faster
Cost Per Incident$14,700$7,35050% Lower

With increased automation and orchestration, organizations can respond faster, resolve more incidents and substantially reduce operational costs.

What is SOAR and What Benefits Does it Provide?

Before we go further, let’s learn what is SOAR. SOAR stands for Security Orchestration, Automation and Response. It helps organizations achieve security objectives by:

  • Orchestration: Integrating disparate security tools/processes
  • Automation: Replacing manual operations with automated workflows
  • Response: Optimizing incident triage, investigation, and remediation
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Key benefits of implementing SOAR include:

  • Accelerated response times (reduced MTTA and MTTR)
  • Increased productivity by focusing on high-value tasks
  • Cost savings through optimized resource allocation
  • Enhanced collaboration across security/business teams

How to Apply SOAR in Your Security Operations Center?

Let’s look at how SOAR helps streamline the Security Operations Center (SOC). Here is a high-level view of the SOC workflow:

We gather security data from endpoints, apps, infrastructure etc. These logs/metrics are aggregated and fed into analytics for threat detection. Alerts are assigned to incidents, which are handled by SOC analysts.

A typical SOAR implementation focuses on the stages from incident creation to response by automating repetitive manual tasks. For example:

  • Tier 1 analysts use SOAR to reduce false positives and accelerate triage
  • Tier 2 analysts leverage SOAR to enrich threats and auto-remediate issues
  • Tier 3 analysts utilize SOAR to streamline collaboration and automate threat-hunting

Options for Automation with SOAR

As a core SOAR capability, automation replaces manual operations through three main options:

  1. Automation Rules: Centrally manage conditions and actions for incident handling
  2. Playbooks: Predefined processes comprising orchestrated actions to handle incidents
  3. Artificial Intelligence: Rapidly analyze threats and provide response recommendations

While SOAR platforms provide automation rules and playbook building functions, they also integrate with AI solutions via orchestration.

Implementing SOAR Effectively

Like any other IT solution, effective SOAR implementation entails change management across six key stages:

  1. Understand business needs and problems aiming to solve
  2. Analyze current security processes and workflows
  3. Prioritize and plan SOAR projects starting with small
  4. Design architecture aligned to security best practices
  5. Develop playbooks adhering to software engineering best practices
  6. Continuously re-evaluate objectives and update processes

Rather than attempting to overhaul entire operations immediately, take an iterative approach to building capabilities over time.

SOAR platforms enable security teams to work smarter by increasing automation, optimizing resource usage, and ultimately shortening incident response times. To learn more about streamlining your Security Operations Center with SOAR, check out the attached introductory PDF guide.

We hope this post helped in modernize and streamline security operations. Thanks for reading this post. Please share this post and help secure the digital world. Visit our website, thesecmaster.com, and our social media page on FacebookLinkedInTwitterTelegramTumblrMedium, and Instagram and subscribe to receive updates like this.  

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About the author

Arun KL

Arun KL is a cybersecurity professional with 15+ years of experience spanning IT infrastructure, cloud security, vulnerability management, Penetration Testing, security operations, and incident response. He is adept at designing and implementing robust security solutions to safeguard systems and data. Arun holds multiple industry certifications including CCNA, CCNA Security, RHCE, CEH, and AWS Security.

To know more about him, you can visit his profile on LinkedIn.

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