3 Key Areas of Security Operations to Benchmark and Evaluate

Security operations are built on human effort, tools and processes. However, just mixing these components based on tool cost, availability and preparedness for the latest threats doesn’t always guarantee success. So which top criteria should you benchmark against when upgrading your security operations workflow?

1. Speed

Speed is one of the most important criteria. If you are not efficient in executing your workflow, you leave a larger window of time for attackers to cause damage on your network. So where does speed manifest within the traditional detect, investigate and respond workflow? Below are some capabilities that contribute to the speed of security operations:

  • Onboarding new data. Is your security information and event management (SIEM) or security analytics solution optimized to quickly consume new data from the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud and mobile platforms? If you lose time when onboarding data, you end up with blind spots and partial visibility.
  • Detecting threats within high volumes of data. You’ll need to be able to quickly sift through massive amounts of data produced by your security tools and IT infrastructure.
  • Extracting and building new intelligence. Create and expand on intelligence daily, hourly, every minute or even every second with new unique findings.
  • Comparing and analyzing the collected data against intelligence.
  • Representing analyzed data, metrics and views to your operations team members.
  • Switching between different views, contextually linked.
  • Having the right incident response actions available at your analysts’ fingertips.

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2. Intelligence

Decision-making is a constant challenge for every security operations center (SOC). Your team must constantly decide which alerts or events to act on and which ones to put on the back burner. Security intelligence is crucial to making this happen. Let’s explore some tips for increasing the intelligence level within your workflow.

  • Enrich your workflow with internal insights, such as the identity of the user behind the ID, the criticality of the assets involved, and the type of activity performed by the attacker.
  • Build out observation processes and scan your environment to understand normal or abnormal behavior associated with a user, system or network.
  • Generate known configuration baselines.
  • Familiarize yourself with multiple external threat intelligence sources and compare your operations against them.
  • Generate your own intelligence around potential suspicious assets or identities. Has any configuration drift been spotted?

3. Accuracy

While speed and intelligence gives you an indication that something is happening, accuracy allows you to take action at the right time and place. Here some ways you can increase the accuracy within your security operations workflow.

  • Have priorities so security operations center (SOC) team members know what to look at first.
  • Enrich your workflow with business metrics and risk indices so that even if multiple similarly prioritized alerts come up, you can still make a decision about what should come first.
  • Connect alerts to get a full picture of the attack and to understand which parts of the environment were compromised and need to be cleaned.
  • Surface all the related assets, users and data to achieve full containment. Look beyond the traditional assets in the alert and search for other systems that may have been impacted by similar activity.

Why You Must Maximize All Three Areas to Improve Security Operations

While each of these criteria contributes to the overall efficiency of your security operations, they also influence each other and act as communicating barrels. If you drop the intelligence level, for example, the level of accuracy will go down, and vice versa. In short, speed, intelligence and accuracy are key to a successful security operations workflow and should be monitored continuously.

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Bart Lenaerts

IBM Product Marketing

Bart started his career as a network systems analyst working for a large financial organization in Belgium. In 1999 he...