Foster a Culture of Knowledge Sharing in Your Security Operations Center

March 29, 2019
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3 min read

Security operations centers (SOCs) are leaning more and more on technology, and artificial intelligence (AI) and orchestration are finding their way into the detection and response activities of the modern SOC. Although large chunks of these activities are being programmed, there are still some people-oriented aspects that will never be fully automated. One of them is the knowledge sharing that takes place between the people in your SOC.

Share Knowledge to Bridge the Skills Gap

Every day, security operations center analysts rely on their skills and knowledge of different systems, tools, technologies, threats and vulnerabilities to investigate alerts. Finding highly skilled SOC analysts is a challenge. An alternative is to turn to more junior profiles or external resources, which results in a more diverse mix of skills and knowledge. This is considered a strength, but only if this knowledge is transferred between team members.

If a skill is exclusive to any single employee, on the other hand, this is a weakness. The last thing you want in an industry with high turnover is to lose employees with undocumented knowledge. A good approach to enabling active knowledge sharing is critical to running an efficient SOC.

Explicit Versus Tacit Knowledge

Let’s first dig into what kind of information there is to share. In general, we can make a distinction between explicit and tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge, such as procedures, work instructions and other documents, are easily transferable.

Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is based on experience and intuition. When a senior SOC analyst has a feeling that a security event is related to malicious activity, this can be linked to tacit knowledge. The analyst might not immediately be able to explain the reason for this feeling since it is based on personal context. When a complex security alert pops up or a storm of tickets rages, this person will be quicker to identify the issue in an accurate way.

What Is the Proper Channel for Sharing?

Since there are different types of knowledge, there should also be different ways to transfer knowledge. You should store explicit knowledge in a knowledge management repository. Collaboration or wiki software can help you centralize this information. You can also share tips and tricks, workarounds, contact lists, tool manuals, standard operating procedures, checklists, shared bookmarks, escalation paths, use case documentation or any other information that is easily transferable in such a repository.

SOC analysts working on a 24/7 shift schedule might find it hard to connect to what is going on during the day. Creating a news section with decisions made during meetings, running issues, achievements and more could help them avoid missing any important information.

Documenting tacit knowledge is more challenging. The best way to transfer this kind of knowledge is face to face. Mentoring and job shadowing can be a good approach; for example, you might pair senior and junior SOC analysts to investigate alerts. Of course, it’s also a great idea to transform tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge by documenting historical investigations whenever possible.

Let AI Do the Heavy Lifting

To make knowledge management more efficient, it’s critical to get the right information to the right people at the right time. This is where AI solutions can assist with knowledge management in your SOC. Analysts are drowning in security news and announcements every day. When investigating alerts, AI can generate relevant insights automatically and provide SOC analysts with related online and offline information based on IP addresses, malware names and hashes, enabling analysts to make faster decisions.

More Tips to Enable Active Knowledge Sharing in Your Security Operations Center

It’s imperative for SOC teams to actively share knowledge and identify knowledge gaps. Aside from reduced frustration and higher job satisfaction, knowledge sharing will lead to faster response times, higher quality of analysis and lower costs. It will also improve the efficiency, accuracy and time of investigations, and new team members will be able to ramp up more quickly. AI solutions can augment the knowledge sharing process and allow SOC analysts to focus time and energy on their core competencies.

Below are some additional tips to encourage knowledge sharing in your security operations center:

  • Make knowledge management and mentoring part of the job description.
  • Create an onboarding checklist for new SOC analysts to show the value of knowledge sharing from day one on the job. The ability to quickly onboard new analysts is an advantage to any SOC.
  • Facilitate job rotation between different tiers to identify knowledge shortcomings.
  • Organize regular peer training sessions in which an analyst delivers a short presentation to other colleagues on a topic of his or her choice.
  • When hiring specialized resources for a few days, allocate some time to let them organize a training.
  • Establish an open SOC area and limit remote work to maximize the amount of knowledge being shared.
Simon Gemoets
Security Intelligence and Operations Consultant - IBM

Simon joined IBM in 2014 as a security consultant with a focus on Security Intelligence and Operations. After setting up a Security Operations Center (SOC) f...
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