Majority of SOCs are below optimal maturity levels

With increased pressure to rapidly innovate and align security initiatives with business goals, a SOC provides the foundation for how organizations protect their most sensitive assets, and detect and respond to threats. However, findings from a new report show that the majority of SOCs are falling below target maturity levels, leaving organizations vulnerable in the event of an attack.

soc maturity levels

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) examine nearly 140 SOCs in more than 180 assessments around the globe. Each SOC is measured on the HPE Security Operations Maturity Model (SOMM) scale that evaluates the people, processes, technology and business capabilities that comprise a security operations center.

A SOC that is well-defined, subjectively evaluated and flexible is recommended for the modern enterprise to effectively monitor existing and emerging threats. However, 82 percent of SOCs are failing to meet this criteria and falling below the optimal maturity level. While this is a 3 percent improvement year-over-year, the majority of organizations are still struggling with a lack of skilled resources, as well as implementing and documenting the most effective processes.

“Successful security operations centers are excelling by taking a balanced approach to cybersecurity that incorporates the right people, processes and technologies, as well as correctly leverages automation, analytics, real-time monitoring, and hybrid staffing models to develop a mature and repeatable cyber defense program,” said Matthew Shriner, Vice President, Security Professional Services, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Key observations

SOC maturity decreases with hunt-only programs. The implementation of hunt teams to search for unknown threats has become a major trend in the security industry. While organizations that added hunt teams to their existing real-time monitoring capabilities increased their maturity levels, programs that focused solely on hunt teams had an adverse effect.

Complete automation is an unrealistic goal. A shortage of security talent remains the number one concern for security operations, making automation a critical component for any successful SOC. However, advanced threats still require human investigation and risk assessments need human reasoning, making it imperative that organizations strike a balance between automation and staffing.

Focus and goals are more important than size of organization. There is no link between the size of a business and maturity of its cyber defense center. Instead, organizations that use security as a competitive differentiator, for market leadership, or to create alignment with their industry are better predictors of mature SOCs.

Hybrid solutions and staffing models provide increased capabilities. Organizations that keep risk management in-house, and scale with external resources, such as leveraging managed security services providers (MSSPs) for co-staffing or in-sourcing, can boost their maturity and address the skills gap.

soc maturity levels

Implications and recommendations

As organizations continue to build and advance SOC deployments alongside the evolving adversary landscape, a solid foundation based on the right combination of people, processes and technology is essential.

To help organizations achieve this balance, HPE recommends:

  • Mastering the basics of risk identification, incident detection, and response, which are the foundation to any effective security operations program, before leveraging new methodologies such as hunt teams.
  • Automating tasks where possible, such as response automation, data collection, and correlation to help mitigate the skills gap, but also understanding the processes that require human interaction and staffing accordingly.
  • Periodic assessment of organizations’ risk management, security and compliance objectives to help define security strategy and resource allocation.
  • Organizations that need to augment their security capabilities, but are unable to add staff should consider adopting a hybrid staffing or operational solution strategy that leverages both internal resources and outsourcing to a MSSP.

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