Manoharan Mudaliar

Cyber Security Consultant

Understanding SOAR and Its Impact on Threat Detection and Mitigation

Understanding SOAR and Its Impact on Threat Detection and Mitigation

Keeping your remote systems protected is no more a matter of just deploying a firewall and an antivirus system. Defending your systems from modern, sophisticated cyber threats requires you to put up a unified security strategy. Your strategy should detect, manage and mitigate all security lapses and attacks whenever they emerge.

Almost all cyber security experts have heard of SOAR, better known as Security Orchestration, Automation and Response. SOAR is considered to be one of the most capable tools for managing security threats and creating an actionable mitigation strategy to tackle them.

Originally coined by Gartner in 2017, it is used to refer to the presence of tools combining Threat Intelligence Platforms, Security Orchestration and Automation and Incident Response Platforms together. A SOAR solution essentially enables users to gather data from multiple sources and view it together in one location.

Understanding How SOAR Works

SOAR tools and solutions can basically be defined as monitoring platforms that give users access to a dashboard compiled with metrics and security data from different systems across the organization. Combining data from different sources across the organization helps give a comprehensive understanding of threats, with an immediate incident response.

Tools coming under the SOAR solution use AI and threat intelligence to help users respond to threats and improve their decision making skills. The automated response generated through SOAR tools helps reduce the time it takes to detect problems and the system, and to resolve them.

A typical SOAR platform is made of three integral components:

  • Orchestration
  • Automation
  • Response

Orchestration

Orchestration is the process of gathering data from multiple sources and compiling it together on one platform. Orchestration is considered highly useful in the cyber security domain as it gathers data from different disparate technologies and tools to provide a single top-down perspective into security attacks and threats.

For instance, a typical SOAR tool would use the feature of orchestration to gather alerts from multiple data sources and compile them in one place where users can easily manage these threats. Compiling security event data and real-time results in one place can make vulnerability management and threat detection easier than before. Without a proper tool for security orchestration in place, security analysts would have to sift between different tabs and systems to maintain a professional network. This leaves greater room for human error.

Automation

Automation is another forte of SOAR tools for reducing administrative burdens. Most network administrations and security analysts face a wide range of administrative burdens when managing security threats. Manually monitoring, detecting and responding to cyber events and attacks has proven ineffective and useless for many professional organizations. One network analyst cannot possibly monitor over a dozen systems together. These systems generate over a thousand alerts and alarms during a typical day.

SOAR solutions offer automation in not just alert detection, but also in how network managers respond to the security threat. Automated solutions automatically shut down systems or devices where cyber threats have been detected.

Response

A typical SOAR tool is also concerned with enabling users to respond to a given situation, also known as incident management. The dashboard compiles and gathers data from across the board, which is why response and incident management activities take place here. Network analysts can monitor the dashboard to view threat intelligence alerts in real-time.

SOAR tools offer root-cause intelligence and diagnostics to help users find security events that have infiltrated the system faster. In simpler words, SOAR tools come designed with the intention of performing a thorough diagnostic operation during the remediation process.

Ways SOAR Is Helping Businesses Combat and Overcome Security Challenges

The cyber security domain has never been as complicated as it is right now. In the face of complications and ever-evolving threats, SOAR offers businesses of all sizes an opportunity to improve their chances of swiftly detecting and responding to attacks.

Some of the complications facing businesses on the cyber security domain include:

  • A rise in ever-evolving and disruptive cyber security threats
  • Shortage of qualified security analysts for managing threats on a routine basis
  • And, the growing structure and reliance on IT estates. Businesses now have more to lose from a cyber attack than ever before.

SOAR helps support cyber security systems by:

Providing Intelligence of the Highest Order

Cyber security threats have become complicated and more disruptive over time, which is why tackling these threats now requires an ability to not only recognize all indicators of compromise, but to also understand the techniques and procedures followed by attackers, along with their line of attack.

SOAR systems compile and validate data from disparate sources, including security and exchange technologies such as intrusion detection systems, firewalls SIEM and UBA technologies and threat intelligence platforms. Eventually, SOAR helps SOCs become even more intelligence driven.

The changes brought through better quality intelligence allow security personnel to contextualize incidents in a better manner. Security analysts can also make better decisions, while accelerating the process of threat response and detection.

Improving the Efficacy of Operations Without Downtime

The need to oversee multiple security technologies with different metrics of their own can put a significant strain on your security personnel. Not only do systems require constant monitoring to ensure their ongoing health, but the thousands of alerts generated by disparate security systems can lead to alert fatigue, eventually creating gaps for actual cyber attack alerts to go through unnoticed.

Constantly switching between different networks can also make situations worse than they actually are. Constant switching can cost time and effort and can also elevate the risk of mistakes.

SOAR solutions and tools can help CSOCs semi or fully automate some of the mundane tasks performed by security personnel on a day to day basis. SOAR tools provide solutions through a single glass window, utilizing both, machine learning and AI, to give automated real time alerts and responses. Security analysts often waste a lot of their time during the day on context switching and SOAR solutions can stop this wastage of time through unified results on a single dashboard.

The solution also helps ensure that security threats are managed in a more efficient and timely manner, improving the organization’s productivity and capacity to operate without any major cyber attacks. Additionally, the system ensures that more incidents are managed without the need to hire more staff members on your security team. SOAR helps security staff perform smarter rather than harder, by giving them the means to streamline their efforts.

Enhancing Incident Response

Data breaches and cyber attacks have become extremely common in today’s world. Rapid response is extremely vital for minimizing the damage caused through these breaches and cyber attacks. Two key vectors used to gauge performance here include mean time to detect or MTTD and mean time to respond (MTTR). SOAR helps organizations reduce the mean time to detect and respond by qualifying and remediating security alerts in a matter of minutes, rather than weeks or even months.

SOAR also enables and helps security teams automate the procedures for incident response. Automated responses include the immediate blocking of an IP address on the IDS system or firewall. This helps suspend infected user accounts and other endpoints on a given network.

Streamlining the Reporting Process

In most cyber security operation centers or CSOCs, frontline workers waste a significant amount of their time trying to manage impending cases, creating reports, journaling and preparing documents for the incident response procedure. Manually reporting processes and cyber attacks can waste time and requires attention to detail, taking focus away from the mitigation of other follow up attacks.

SOAR can come in handy in the reporting process as it aggregates and compiles intelligence from a wide range of sources before presenting it in a visually appeasing format. SOAR helps organizations reduce the paperwork and hassle that goes into the reporting process, while simultaneously improving contact between the corporate heads and frontline workers.

Through the use of automation, SOAR can also help codify knowledge and prevent the loss of institutional memory from cyber attacks. Since organizations face difficulty in otherwise retaining security talent, institutional memory from within the system can come in useful in the future.

SOAR allows you to perform tasks faster and reduce time to resolution. The longer your threats go unaddressed, the greater the chances of disruption and damage.

A cyber security consultant can help improve your transition towards SOAR. I’m a certified information security manager with extensive experience in helping organizations from various industries devise cyber security protocols and measures to ward off sophisticated and invasive cyber threats.

Manoharan Mudaliar
Consultant and Blogger

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