Security operations is a well-established discipline — many businesses have even had SecOps strategies in place for decades. Yet the approach to security operations that many companies often take suffers from a number of drawbacks.
Many security teams rely on disparate security tools that are difficult to integrate and manage centrally. These tools generate more alerts than analysts and engineers can respond to. Additionally, security operations processes remain largely manual at many organizations, even amid a pervasive security skills shortage, which makes it even more challenging to process and respond to all of the alerts.
Security orchestration, automation and response, or SOAR, has arrived as an antidote to all of these challenges. By embracing SOAR, businesses can bring true modernization to their security strategies and add critical efficiency and effectiveness to security operations.
What is SOAR?
SOAR refers to a solution that allows businesses to collect and analyze data from multiple sources in order to identify security incidents within their IT systems. In addition, SOAR helps to automate the management of security issues, manage security tools through a single interface and coordinate responses to security incidents.
A SOAR solution consists of three main components:
- Security orchestration: Security orchestration refers to the integration and management of every security tool and resource at an organization’s disposal. Security orchestration helps teams to leverage all of their tools from a central location.
- Security automation: Security automation means using software tools to perform tasks that would otherwise need to be executed by human security personnel. Although not every type of security task can be fully automated, many can be, from cumbersome duties like updating firewall rules and auditing policy configurations to more advanced functions like threat triage, investigation and response can be automated.
- Incident response: The act of reacting to and remediating security issues is called incident response. Response involves first interpreting alerting and monitoring data to determine the root cause of a security incident, then taking steps to contain and remediate the issue and ensure that the threat does not happen again.
SIEM versus SOAR
Some businesses mistakenly assume that having a security information and event management, or SIEM, solution means they don’t need SOAR. A SIEM automates the collection of security monitoring data from multiple sources and provides a central interface for analyzing it and tracking alerts.
However, SIEM platforms don’t provide the orchestration and automation features of SOAR. SIEM focuses mostly on monitoring and alerting, rather than the broader set of functionality and integration that is critical for streamlined security operations.
This is why many organizations need both SIEM and SOAR. While SIEM acts as an aggregator of real-time alerts, SOAR extends SIEM’s capabilities in an actionable way to triage, assess and respond to threats.
Top 4 SOAR use cases
Modern security threats come in many different forms, which is part of the reason why addressing them is so challenging. SOAR, however, offers the flexibility and automation required to address and streamline virtually any type of incident response workflow, including the top security threats that businesses face today.
- Phishing: Phishing attacks attempt to trick a business’s employees into clicking malicious links or installing malware on their devices. By collecting and analyzing security data from a range of sources, SOAR can automatically detect and respond to phishing attacks.
- Malware: Whether it’s local storage on an employee’s PC, an email attachment sent over the network, a company’s server or even third-party cloud infrastructure that a business uses, SOAR can respond to malware threats across the entire IT landscape, generate alerts and, in many cases, mitigate them automatically.
- Insider threats: Some of the greatest security threats come not from external attackers but from “insiders,” meaning a business’s employees, contractors, partners or others who have access to internal networks and systems. Because SOAR automates response to incidents in a multitude of locations, it provides the coverage necessary to identify threats from insiders, as well as external adversaries.
- Threat hunting: Threat hunting means proactively identifying security vulnerabilities that exist inside IT systems that would otherwise go undetected until they are actually exploited. Using threat hunting tools in tandem with SOAR allows organizations to automate targeted hunting and easily build out hunts based on incoming threat intelligence.
In all of these ways, SOAR helps bring security operations to the next level by adding efficiency and depth to a company’s ability to detect and respond to threats of all types.
Best practices to get the most out of SOAR
While implementing a SOAR solution is the first step in supercharging your security operations, getting the most out of SOAR requires leveraging the solution in a way that maximizes its value.
Establish clear objectives
Start by setting clear objectives for your SOAR. Different organizations face different types of threats depending on the industries they operate in, the size of their companies, the regions in which they are based and the complexity of their IT infrastructure, as well as other factors. As a result, threat assessment is critical, and it is going to look different for every company.
For instance, a business heavily reliant on connected devices may not have the same threat outlook as a company deeply invested in the cloud or with a larger-than-normal remote workforce (which has suddenly become every organization). As another example, a business whose IT infrastructure is Linux-based may be less prone to malware attacks than one that relies heavily on Windows, since more malware is written for Windows.
Your business should identify which threats are the most pressing for its situation, then make sure that it deploys its SOAR in a way that is tailored to address those threats.
Leverage security playbooks
Security playbooks are one of the core building blocks of security automation. They allow teams to define procedures for responding to various types of security incidents. Not only do they speed response times by removing the need to devise a solution manually whenever a new type of threat arises, but they can also power fully automated responses by software tools, thereby eliminating the need for human engineers to respond altogether.
Although not every type of threat can be managed by a playbook (complex threats will require manual intervention), leveraging playbooks whenever possible will help maximize the value of SOAR.
Take a threat-centric vs. alert-centric approach
A threat-centric approach means designing your security orchestration and automation solutions to react to threats by their type. It’s the opposite of being alert-centric, which entails reacting to alerts individually.
A threat-centric approach avoids the inefficiency of having multiple analysts working to respond to the same type of threat because they each received alerts related to that threat. Instead, alerts can be grouped together based on the type of threat that they represent, thus remediated more quickly.
Deploy whichever security tools make most sense
SOAR should allow you to integrate together whichever security tools make most sense for your needs. If your SOAR solution places limitations on which tools are available for you to use because it is only compatible with certain vendors, you are missing out on one of the primary benefits of SOAR, which is to unify, as close as possible, yourentire security toolset through a central platform.
To this end, make sure to identify the tools that are most effective for your needs, then choose a SOAR solution that supports them — instead of starting with SOAR and only then selecting tools that are compatible.
Although SOAR offers powerful automation features, it should never be treated as a set-it-and-forget-it affair. Instead, aim to make ongoing improvements to the way you use SOAR by reviewing and analyzing reports and metrics on current activity, then using the insights gleaned to revise your processes so you can get the most of your investment.
Understand which SOAR software is right for your business
As more and more businesses seek ways to automate their IT and security operations, an increasing number of SOAR solutions are entering the market to address this need. But not all SOARs are created equal.
To get the most out of your SOAR solution and be sure that it can continue to meet the threats of the future, organizations should select an option that provides:
- Playbooks, to make the most out automation
- Context enrichment, to help understand complex security issues quickly.
- Case-based management for grouping different types of incidents and responses together.
- Collaboration features that help different stakeholders coordinate their response to incidents.
Siemplify, whose SOAR platform is featured in a recent Gartner market guide, provides all of this critical functionality. Siemplify offers the flexibility, broad feature set and rich integrations that businesses need to meet today’s security threats and stay ahead of new and evolving menaces.
See for yourself by test driving the Siemplify Security Operations Platform for free or the platform in action with our no-cost Community Edition.