In a recent article, “Why Outsourcing Cybersecurity is Essential for SMBs,” we explored the difficulties SMBs face when securing their digital assets against cyber threats and briefly discussed the pros and cons of building an in-house security operations center (SOC) versus using an outsourced SOC.
In this follow-up post, we’ll take a more practical and detailed look at the benefits and challenges of using an outsourced SOC. As with any decision, what you perceive as a strength or shortcoming depends on your business’s particular needs and available resources. However, in the end, a SOC is a crucial piece of the security puzzle, and a choice must be made between an outsourced or in-house SOC.
As you weigh the factors, it’s important to remember the eternal tug of war between IT efficiency and IT security, between fast, frictionless operations that streamline processes and productivity and layers of protection, strict access controls, and hardened defenses. Can outsourcing cybersecurity, specifically a SOC, help alleviate some of that tension?
Advantages of an outsourced SOC
With attacks against SMBs becoming more frequent and costly, a SOC is non-negotiable. Partnering with an outsourced SOC is one of the fastest and most reliable proactive measures you can take. Let’s dive into some of the most impactful advantages.
When you work with an outsourced SOC, almost instantly, your business will go from having low security to high security instead of waiting months for your in-house team to build a SOC from scratch. In some cases, it can take years to implement a SOC fully; the chance of you becoming a victim of a breach during that time is uncomfortably high, given that an attack happens every 39 seconds.
With a third-party SOC provider, you’ll have immediate access to a team of security experts, sophisticated security technologies, and a mature security framework. You can quickly ramp up your security capabilities and respond to cyber threats more effectively without investing in infrastructure or purchasing multiple tools.
SOC providers employ skilled security analysts trained to monitor, investigate, and respond to potential security incidents in real-time. These experts have extensive experience working with the latest security technologies, tools, and methodologies, enabling them to identify and mitigate threats before they escalate and cause significant damage.
Building an in-house SOC requires a highly skilled and knowledgeable in-house team. Cybersecurity professionals are in short supply, and even as record numbers of skilled workers enter the workforce, the competition to hire and retain top talent is often cost-prohibitive for SMBs.
Hackers don’t work on a ‘9 to 5’ schedule. Their favorite times to attack are when employees aren’t in front of their screens – nights, weekends, and holidays. Outsourced SOCs can provide 24/7/365 monitoring and remediation while you’ll have a tough time requiring your in-house team to actively cover those dangerous non-typical office hours.
Scalability and simplicity
As your organization grows, your SOC needs to keep pace. An outsourced SOC can easily scale your security capabilities as your IT infrastructure changes, applications are added, employees are onboarded and offices spring up in new locations. This allows you to stay agile and quickly respond to changes without wasting resources. An in-house SOC should be built with scalability in mind, but that doesn’t mean your team will have the know-how and time to immediately adapt without encountering issues.
An essential qualification for a third-party SOC is to be tech agnostic. The SOC should have experience and familiarity with a wide range of security tools and technologies so that they can work seamlessly with your existing (and future) security infrastructure. A major advantage of an in-house SOC is that it can be designed to work specifically with your existing tech stack; however, since technology and security tools evolve rapidly, the question is whether your SOC will adapt over the years.
Security management processes are already complicated. As your company expands and new teams or offices require different toolsets, maintaining security and eliminating vulnerabilities in your IT environment will be more challenging. That is a necessary growing pain but one in which an outsourced SOC can be invaluable. The SOC will help reduce the time and resources required to implement, update, and manage security technologies while simplifying and streamlining security operations and efficiencies.
To build your in-house SOC with all the necessary bells and whistles, you must comfortably cover the initial and ongoing expenses for hardware, software, and security tools, plus the salary demands for skilled experts and the office space to house this team. With nearly a $3 million per year price tag, that’s likely an inefficient use of your budget.
Outsourcing a SOC can offer significant savings through economies of scale since their expertise, services, and infrastructure costs are spread out across their many clients. A good SOC provider will also have a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system that includes proprietary rules to help identify potential threats and respond to them quickly. Implementing and managing a SIEM system on your own is an additional expense to consider and quite a project to set up.
While threat intelligence is essential, gathering and analyzing vast amounts of data from multiple sources is time-consuming and resource intensive. You’ll need a complex set of tools and a skilled team for your in-house SOC to use the intelligence to effectively identify threats, prevent attacks, and respond to incidents.
SOC providers have access to a wealth of threat intelligence from managing their client base, enabling them to leverage the wisdom of the masses and partnerships with leading threat intelligence providers, giving them access to the latest and most comprehensive threat intelligence.
Investigations are essential to determine the extent of the damage and identify the source of the attack. A third-party SOC provider should manage and execute incident investigations as well as coordinate a response. Because of their understanding of the latest threats, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), they already have well-established systems and processes in place for conducting investigations and can keep you updated on the status and findings.
Unless you have an extremely experienced in-house SOC team, investigations are often overlooked or conducted incorrectly because they don’t have access to the right tools and don’t know the proper procedures to be thorough. Poorly managed investigations can result in threats not being entirely eradicated and systems remaining infected, potentially leaving back doors untouched.
Additional In-House SOC Costs
For many SMBs, outsourcing their SOC or building one in-house comes down to funds. We’ve already seen how costs play out across primary considerations, but what about some lesser-known expenses associated with an in-house SOC?
Many organizations are subject to regulatory compliance requirements like HIPAA or PCI DSS. Building an in-house SOC requires ensuring you fully comply with these regulations, which are difficult to understand and vary by state, country, and region. You’ll likely need to hire expensive compliance consultants to ensure you meet all regulations and continue to do so as new laws are enacted.
Training and development
Keeping your SOC team up-to-date on the latest threats, technologies, and best practices can be a significant ongoing expense. You’ll need to invest in training and development programs to ensure your team has the skills and knowledge to manage your organization’s cybersecurity effectively.
An In-House or Outsourced SOC: What Should You Decide?
Today the question isn’t “should I have a SOC?” Every organization needs one to comply with regulations and obtain cyber insurance or because it’s simply a good business practice. Cybersecurity is a complex beast, and it becomes more intricate every day.
The struggle to keep up is real, which is why more cybersecurity companies come into existence almost daily. Unless you’re an enterprise with unlimited funds, the best way to secure your business is to take advantage of all the cost-saving measures third-party providers offer while keeping in mind, not all service providers were created equal.