Is a security operations centre better for advanced threats?

Whether your business is determined to retain that competitive edge, provide a responsive, customer-centric experience, or cultivate a proactive digital approach – you need the foresight to manage all unforeseen challenges efficiently and comprehensively. Leveraging security infrastructure that’s as effectual as it is resilient is paramount.

Now as obvious as it is to say, today’s businesses face considerable advanced digital threats. With every passing year, cybercriminals become more and more sophisticated. It’s no longer astute to merely password-protect digital assets, back up your data and install antivirus software. Of course, employing each of these actions is a start, but to secure your business, you need to do much more.

The only way to safeguard all your commercial activities is to establish a security operations centre (SOC). It’s that simple. After all, the consequences of a sustained, sophisticated cyberattack can be catastrophic.

In short, the discovery, monitoring, triage and response capabilities of a SOC are the definitive antidote to cyberattacks – especially the tailored strategies and pervasive features of advanced attacks designed to evade traditional cybersecurity.


Advanced Threats Nullified by a SOC

As you’ve probably surmised, the key benefit of leveraging a security operations centre is the peace of mind businesses can enjoy. Businesses with an internal or outsourced SOC are confident that their IT infrastructure and associated services will not be compromised.

A SOC vastly improves security incident detection by analysing data activity across a business’s servers, network(s), endpoints and databases – 24/7. This capability is essential when dealing with advanced threat actors and malicious technologies.

Lateral Movement Threats

The cyberthreat techniques that can be mitigated by a SOC include lateral movement – whereby threat actors compromise an endpoint to extend access to other hosts or applications within an organisation. This halts the actions of nefarious individuals who aim to maintain persistence in a network and work towards gaining access to valuable access.

Long Ransomware Threats

There’s also long ransomware. One of the more prolific targeted ransomware variants Ryuk has been deployed via spear phishing emails or used to compromise user credentials to log into enterprise systems.

Threat actors access devices – encrypting files and documents, denying access to anyone but themselves, only relinquishing control once a ransom has been paid – one that’s typically extortionate. For this reason, larger blue-chip businesses or those operating critical services are quite susceptible to attack. If they don’t employ a SOC, of course.

Encryption Threats

Encryption, as the name suggests, is another advanced security threat whereby threat actors use encrypted communications to disguise malware and viruses to infiltrate private information, siphoning off valuable (often financial) data for their own personal use.

As you can probably guess, antivirus software doesn’t stand much of a chance against sophisticated encryption, but a SOC will help to mitigate any potential device intrusion.

Persistent ATP Threats

Persistent ATPs are the final advanced threat that a SOC is very effective in stopping. ATPs are prolonged and targeted cyberattacks whereby threat actors gain access to a network and remain undetected, stealing vital information over a long period.

A SOC’s consistent monitoring means that it can detect persistent ATPs at the first sign of intrusion, locking threat actors out of networks and safeguarding corporate data.



How Does a SOC Target Advanced Threats?

Businesses must address several challenges when safeguarding their data. However, the most consequential issues that simply have to be mitigated are the advanced, targeted persistent threats, most notably those listed below:


1. Sophisticated Attackers

Every successful organisation’s cybersecurity strategy should incorporate network defence. Remember sophisticated threat actors have the know-how, tools and determination to evade traditional defences like firewalls and endpoint security.

  • What a SOC does differently: deploys tools that have anomaly detection and/or machine learning capabilities whilst simultaneously monitoring networks to identify new threats.


2. Voluminous Data and Traffic Network

The quantity of data and traffic handled by businesses is vast. The volume only gets bigger with every passing year, as the economy digitises and organisational digital transformation progresses. Such expansive data volume and traffic growth mean businesses face the difficult challenge of analysing everything in real-time.

  • What a SOC does differently: leverages automated tools to filter, parse, aggregate and correlate information in real-time, mitigating, or at the very least, drastically reducing manual analysis.


3. Unknown Threats

You might be surprised to learn that standard firewalls, signature and endpoint detection do not always identify unknown threats, such as day zero attacks and never-before-seen threats. This is because traditional cybersecurity is largely rules-based with minimal Machine Learning and AI to fill gaps in databases (that may be updated irregularly).

  • What a SOC does differently: improves devices’ standard signature, rules and threshold detection solutions by implementing behavioural analytics to detect oddities. Outsourced SOCs in particular have constant access to open-source databases which are continually updated with the latest threat intelligence.


Examples of Advanced Persistent Threats

ATPs have been common thorns in the side of cybersecurity for two decades. The earliest known ATP was detected in 2003 when hackers (purported to be perpetrated by the People’s Liberation Army Unit) ran the Titan Rain campaign.

This string of coordinated cyberattacks compromised computer systems in both the US and UK. Over a three-year period, Titan Rain accessed networks in NASA and Lockheed Martin amongst other highly classified and highly sensitive networks.

Not to be discounted is another ATP attack known as the Sykipot family malware, which exploited flaws in Adobe Reader and Acrobat. Sykipot was first identified in 2007 and active until 2013. Threat actors ran a long-standing attack, targeting defence contractors by using a backdoor trojan and bypassing two-factor authentication to execute commands on a specific computer.

More recently, in 2017 an ATP was identified and thought to have been active since at least 2014. The threat, known as ATP34 instigated cyber-attacks on companies in the Middle East, targeting financial, energy, chemical and telecommunications sectors.

Do You Need a SOC for Advanced Threats?

The bottom line is that every business in a modern, digital-first world is increasingly defined by intelligent, disruptive, and malicious advanced cyber threats. To mitigate risks today and in the future, businesses need to take a proactive, progressive approach to their cybersecurity.

As you’ve no doubt learned from this article, threat actors are becoming increasingly sophisticated and emboldened in their activities. Although effective for most threats, standard data security protocols, like endpoint security, antivirus and standard firewalls do not deter the actions of determined cybercriminals.

It’s perhaps rather eye-opening that cyber risk management has not kept pace with digital transformation and regulatory change, leading to many organisations being unable to control threats as they develop.

When all’s said and done, the best thing that any organisation can do is to outsource their critical cybersecurity to a SOC provider. This safeguards vital data against both rudimentary and advanced threats and provides much-needed peace of mind.

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