Managed SOC: Cybersecurity solutions that evolve with you

| By:
Sajal Sahay

In 2023, cybersecurity was identified as one of the top concerns of businesses across the US, at both large enterprises and small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). Data from the ConnectWise 2023 TSP Threat Report shows that in 2022, there were over 25,000 security vulnerabilities disclosed that were assigned a common vulnerabilities and exposure (CVE) number and included in the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) via the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

To manage these risks, large enterprises are building in-house cybersecurity operations centers (SOC) with cybersecurity professionals who manage round-the-clock operations. But for SMBs, staffing their own SOC can be prohibitively expensive, so they are turning to TSPs with a managed SOC as a budget-friendly and effective alternative.

What is a SOC?

A SOC is a centralized function that includes the people, processes, and technology required to monitor and address cybersecurity issues affecting a company's IT infrastructure. It can provide many benefits for an organization, including improved cybersecurity posture, early detection and prioritization of threats, and regulatory compliance.

Most SOCs employ a security information and event management (SIEM) process that aggregates data streams from various security-focused systems. The trained cybersecurity specialists in a SOC then collect and review the aggregated data to proactively develop remediation plans for their clients.

Why would a TSP have a SOC?

The ConnectWise Cyber Research Unit (CRU) has seen in recent years that threat actors are increasingly targeting TSPs. Threat actors have realized that TSPs are critical infrastructure and are easy opportunities to attack multiple victims—in the form of TSP clients— from the same location.

Playing whack-a-mole, i.e., expecting the limited cybersecurity staff employed by the TSP to fix one security vulnerability only to find another immediately, is not a feasible long-term strategy. To solve this challenge for their clients, TSPs must provide 24/7 monitoring, automated analysis, and remediation capabilities to satisfy client cybersecurity requirements. A SOC is the most effective way for a well-run  TSP to protect clients, whether the TSP builds one in-house or finds a SOC services partner.

What type of organization benefits from a SOC?

If a company has any digital presence, it is susceptible to cyberattacks by external threat actors. This is the reality of the world we live in today —any interaction can put you at risk. This includes, but is not limited to, instances of customers engaging with a company's website or e-commerce platform with activities such as learning more about products and services or interacting with any internal team, from sales and marketing to customer service or technical staff.

The root underlying cyberattacks is the data generated between the company and its customers, suppliers, and all other parties. These interactions are confidential by nature, making the resulting data extremely valuable to a threat actor. Protecting the gathering, transacting, and storage of this data is the job of the IT security department.

In the case of SMBs with small and under-resourced IT teams, they certainly require external help to maintain their cybersecurity vigilance against all incoming threats. Companies that fit this profile usually benefit from a relationship with a Managed SOC.

What is the difference between a SOC and a NOC?

Managed network operations centers (NOC) and SOC are similar—both a NOC and a SOC work with the TSP and never with the end user. The difference is that a NOC focuses on the remote monitoring and management (RMM) of a client's IT environment, and a SOC is principally security-focused. SOCs monitor for cybersecurity vulnerabilities, attack vectors, and emerging threats on a client network and are prepared to detect anomalies and mitigate cyberattacks as they arise.

What is the NIST Cybersecurity Framework?

Established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and developed in collaboration across the private and public sectors, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework is a comprehensive tool designed to help organizations adhere to cybersecurity best practices. The NIST framework was released in February 2014 in response to a US President's Executive Order that called for "a set of standards, methodologies, procedures, and processes that align policy, business, and technological approaches to address cyber risks."

According to the FTC, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework helps businesses of all sizes better understand, manage, and reduce their cybersecurity risk and protect their networks and data. An efficiently run Managed SOC will establish protocol for all five elements of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.

There are five elements to the NIST Cybersecurity Framework:

  1. Identification of all equipment, software, and data used by an organization
  2. Determination of best practices to protect all identified assets
  3. Ways to monitor and detect unauthorized access across the enterprise
  4. Plans on the required approaches to respond to any unauthorized access
  5. Disaster recovery processes if a cyber incident has occurred

Word-for-word implementation of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework is voluntary—there are no legal requirements or compliance-related regulations requiring businesses to enact it in its entirety. Instead, it is meant as a best-practices approach for companies who do not have the workforce, financial resources, or time to develop and implement their own cybersecurity protocol from baseline.

Best practices of a Managed SOC

A world-class Managed SOC is at the forefront of the following three areas:

  1. Improving a company's security posture

Assessing an organization's cybersecurity posture, especially against emerging threats, is an evergreen priority. Testing teams within the SOC are responsible for conducting quarterly or semi-annual vulnerability analyses, penetration tests (aka pen tests), and periodically reviewing and updating the company's security policies. As the execution of these processes are standardized within the company's IT team, not only is a baseline of a company's threat exposure established but it's continually updated to keep up with the rapid growth in new and emerging threats that are now a hallmark of the cybersecurity industry.

  1. Early detection, prioritization, and mitigation of threats

While vulnerability analyses and pen tests provide valuable data on the cybersecurity vulnerabilities of an organization, round-the-clock monitoring of all the different network systems and endpoints across the organization allows a SOC to see how an external actor can enter the organization via these vulnerabilities. Prioritizing the most severe entry points and vulnerabilities for remediation provides the team with the highest chance to secure the company within an appropriate time period and cost.

  1. Regulatory Compliance

The SOC's compliance experts analyze networks, software systems, and even employee behavior to determine non-compliance with local, state, and federal regulations. With this information, the compliance team can provide clients with best-practice approaches to re-establish compliance. The SOC compliance team can also provide training to the company's IT team about regulatory environment changes and how to enact them, creating a loop of proactive compliance.

What are emerging challenges for the SOC industry?

The growth of cyberthreats has created three acute issues that every SOC, including Managed SOC's, is dealing with:

  1. Staffing challenges

Experts expect there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity roles by 2025. And the number of cybersecurity incidents continues to grow every year. Large enterprises are the best resourced to provide the high-paying jobs and advancement opportunities that these professionals seek, but even they are having difficulty filling the required roles for their in-house SOCs. For smaller companies and TSPs, this problem is even more acute. Finding, training, and retaining cybersecurity personnel will continue to be a major challenge for all SOC types, company-owned or Managed, for the foreseeable future.

  1. Skills challenges

SIEMs are getting more complicated every day, and since Managed SOCs use SIEMs for their data aggregation and analysis, the skills required of personnel are also growing. Necessary tech stacks that they must learn will also grow. This includes tools to extract and organize data, machine learning and automation capabilities to analyze and decipher this data, and artificial intelligence (AI) methodologies that provide remediation options and predictive opportunities to mitigate threats.

  1. Knowledge challenges

Knowledge is different than skills but equally important. Highly skilled cybersecurity personnel can still fail if they are not knowledgeable about the environments they are tasked to protect. Unknowledgeable staff will have higher degrees of false positives and negatives and spend their valuable time resolving issues that have no prioritized impact on the organization. The worst-case scenario is that they get so burdened by these non-urgent issues that they do not respond to a real attack when it happens. Maintaining the knowledge base of the cybersecurity team is just as important as ensuring their skill set is constantly enhanced.

A best-in-class Managed SOC is one that stays ahead of all three of these issues in a proactive manner.

How does a TSP learn more about ConnectWise SOC Services™?

With our world-class SOC, highly-skilled cybersecurity experts become an extension of your team. They combine their skill with cutting-edge threat intelligence to manage 24/7 cybersecurity monitoring for TSPs. Learn more here >>