Physical security

What is a Security Operations Center? [Complete Guide]

Calipsa 17 March 2022
  • Physical security
  • FILTER_Physical-Security

What is a SOC, and how does it work? If you have any questions about security operations centers and how they can protect your business, this comprehensive guide will tell you all you need to know. 

When you work for a large organization, you may wonder who is responsible for ensuring that devices are kept safe and that buildings are protected from intruders. 

This is typically due to the efforts of people working in a security operations center, or SOC for short. This team of specialists makes sure the information systems in a company stay secure. 

SOCs used to be the preserve of enterprise businesses, but more and more companies are now taking advantage of the benefits they offer. 

We've put together this guide to tell you more about SOCs, what they do and how they can help your organization. Let's start with a security operations center definition. 

What is a SOC?

A SOC (or security operations center) is part of an organization that detects, protects and prevents security threats. It is there to look after businesses and ensure they don't fall victim to lost or compromised data. 

Think of a SOC as the nerve center for security within a business. A SOC monitors all software and hardware within a company, from networks and devices through to physical data storage, ensuring these assets are safeguarded. 

A SOC can be: 

  • Virtual (i.e., hosted on a web-based portal) or dedicated (i.e., a physical presence within a business) 
  • In-house or outsourced 
  • Run 24/7 or operated within business hours 

What is a global security operations center?

A global security operations center (or GSOC) is a facility that provides security services for buildings across the world.  

Having one overarching global security operations center rather than lots of smaller SOCs is typically a better approach if you have an international business. Not only it is more cost-effective, but it means you're not replicating work. 

What does a security operations center do?

A security operations center carries out a wide range of tasks to help protect a business. Some of its primary responsibilities include: 

Preventative maintenance 

One of the main responsibilities of a SOC is to carry out preventative measures to protect a business against physical security threats, such as vandalism and theft, and online threats, such as data theft. 

A physical security team will carry out tasks including risk assessments, regular monitoring of devices such as security cameras and access controls, and maintaining a redundancy (backup) system in case the primary security system stops working. For cyber security, this includes updating security systems, ensuring applications are secure and backing up devices. 

Asset discovery and management 

It's the responsibility of a SOC to identify new assets that people within the business are using. For example, if the company has a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy or staff use their own equipment when working from home. The SOC needs to make sure these assets are safe and have no vulnerabilities. 

For physical security SOC teams, any new assets must be located on-site and appropriately protected or guarded. These could include new equipment or raw materials, so identifying where they will be stored/located enables SOCs to plan how these assets will be secured, and any site vulnerabilities that criminals could exploit.  

Penetration testing 

Penetration testing is when systems are broken into, or ‘hacked’ on behalf of the business. That way, the company can identify any vulnerabilities and improve its defenses. 

In the physical security world, sites are tested to see whether protective measures such as perimeter fences, motion detectors and security cameras work to keep intruders out. In cyber security, penetration testing is also known as ethical hacking or white-hat hacking, and is when computers and systems are 'hacked' to search out vulnerabilities.  

Threat response and recovery 

If a security threat is identified, the security operations center must be first on the scene, containing and eliminating the threat as quickly as possible. Afterwards, the SOC will work to recover any lost data, restore systems and take measures to reduce the risk of the incident reoccurring, such as calling law enforcement or bringing in IT forensic investigators. 

Remote video surveillance 

Not all data breaches are conducted online. The security operations center is also responsible for the physical security of buildings, ensuring locked-down areas stay protected. 

For example, the SOC may be responsible for remote video surveillance (also known as CCTV), monitoring and responding to any suspicious activity identified.  

Compliance auditing 

A security operations center will be involved in making sure businesses stay compliant with government regulations. For example, GDPR in the EU and UK, or GLBA, COPPA and HIPPA in the US. 

If a business wants to achieve a security accreditation such as ISO27001, SOC 2 or IASME, a security operations center will be pivotal in ensuring the business attains it. 

Staff training 

When it comes to security, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. A SOC is responsible for identifying training needs and ensuring staff keep their devices and data secure. 

As 95% of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error, a training program can help staff know what to look for and how to report something suspicious. 

Similarly, staff are regularly trained in physical security procedures to identify potential security threats, suspicious activity, and the appropriate action to take if an intruder is found on the premises.  

Why do we need SOCs?

With companies doing more and more online, businesses and their assets are often spread out. This is great news for flexible, connected workplaces, but it does leave companies exposed to certain security risks; simply because if your assets are more spread out, they can be more difficult to manage.  

In terms of physical security, working in many different locations can put your assets at risk and increase the potential for criminal activity. For example, if you are an ecommerce business, your main office might be in one location whilst all your valuable stock might be stored in a warehouse elsewhere. Having a team who constantly monitors the building where your stock is stored will make it harder for thieves to break in.  

Online, there is an increased risk of criminals getting hold of our data. Whether a ransomware attack, phishing attempt or bringing down the systems in a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, no organization is safe. As more businesses move their operations online, cyber security is equally as important as physical security.  

In 2021, four out of ten UK businesses reported a cyber-attack. There are many more organizations that are experiencing cybercrime and not reporting it. 

SOCs don't just protect against cyberattacks; they protect businesses from physical data theft. It's estimated that 10% of data breaches worldwide are due to physical security issues, whether a stolen USB stick or access to a storage closet full of old computers. 

Compromised data can bring a range of problems to businesses, large and small. Statistics show that it costs $1.85 million for a company to recover from a ransomware attack, and there is no guarantee that it will get all its data back.  

Data theft not only costs money and time but reputation too. As well as negative publicity, businesses may find customers no longer want to work with them. Nearly 40% of businesses have lost customers following a data breach. 

This is why a security operations center is so important. It allows businesses to identify threats before they happen. If an incident does occur, the SOC can quickly assess and remove the issue before it causes significant damage. 

A SOC gives businesses the peace of mind they need to operate without fear of theft, vandalism or cyberattacks. 

What should a SOC monitor?

A SOC needs to monitor a business's entire infrastructure. 

Security issues and data breaches can quickly impact a whole system. As an example, ransomware can encrypt 1,000 documents in the space of 18 seconds. 

By taking responsibility for the entire system, a security operations center will be in the best position to identify and act upon potential threats. 

Here's what a SOC should be monitoring: 

Physical security Cyber security
  • Access controls  
  • Entry and exit points  
  • Lighting  
  • Motion detectors  
  • Perimeter fences 
  • Security cameras 
  • Applications 
  • Databases 
  • Devices 
  • Endpoints 
  • Networks 
  • Servers 
  • Websites 


How do you manage a security operations center?

A SOC will need the following team members to provide a comprehensive service and efficiently manage all security risks: 

  • SOC manager. This person will be ultimately responsible for not only the team's management but also protection against data breaches. They typically report to a business's CIO, CISO or CTO 
  • Security analyst. A security analyst prioritizes threats by the level of urgency and runs regular assessments to identify any weaknesses in the system 
  • Incident responder. An incident responder takes control when there is an attack, making sure threats are removed as quickly as possible 
  • Forensic investigator. A forensic investigator identifies how data breaches happen and takes measures to ensure they don't happen again 
  • Penetration tester. A penetration tester attempts to 'hack' the system to see if there are any vulnerabilities and makes suggestions for improvement 
  • Compliance auditor. A compliance auditor makes sure all processes and actions that occur are in line with local, national and international regulations 

What are the tools used in a SOC?

One out of four SOCs receives more than one million threats a day, with over half getting over 10,000 notifications. This means the SOC team above needs help and support identifying the most high-risk issues and disregarding the false alarms. Here are some of the tools SOCs can use to help. 

  • Artificial intelligence (AI). Artificial intelligence can help SOCs identify threats more quickly, allowing the team to spend their time more efficiently. Intelligent analytics is fast becoming an essential part of a SOC’s toolbox. Video analytics solutions like Calipsa remove over 90% of false alarms, giving security teams time to focus on genuine threats.  
  • Asset discovery. It's essential to know how many active and inactive assets are on a network. Asset discovery tools help security operation centers identify assets, how often they are used and their relationship to one another. 
  • Endpoint detection and response (EDR). An endpoint is a device at the end of a network, for example, a laptop or mobile phone. Endpoints are easy ways for viruses and other security threats to enter a system. EDR monitors these endpoints to determine if there are any potential issues. 
  • Security information and event management (SIEM). SIEM is a tool (often a dashboard) that looks at data patterns and lets security operation centers recognize threats before they have an opportunity to cause damage.  
  • User and entity behaviour analytics (UEBA). Often used alongside SIEM, UEBA uses the data that SIEM provides to identify any issues that need resolving. 
  • Video management system (VMS). This software puts all the camera feeds from a video surveillance network into one, manageable dashboard, making sites easier to monitor. VMS solutions can integrate with AI software, making remote video monitoring even more efficient.  
  • Vulnerability scanners. A vulnerability scanner scans the network to detect any weaknesses. A member of the SOC can then act and make any repairs. 

A security operation center can be a great way to protect your business from malware, phishing attempts and other security threats. 

Whether large or small, in-house or outsourced, a SOC will save you time, money and most importantly, keep your customers safe. 

You can learn more about how Calipsa works for SOCs by exploring our solution for monitoring stations.

Want more content about SOCs? Check out our article on Best Technology Practices for Security Operations Centers. 

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