The cybersecurity landscape has evolved over time, and in the quest to stay ahead, organizations are embracing security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR) to bring unprecedented speed, enhanced visibility and refined processes to the incident response function.

The paradigm shift prompted by the increasing complexity of attack vectors, the volume and severity of attacks, the growing cyber skills shortage and intensifying global regulatory demands has necessitated the adoption of SOAR technologies across the security operations center (SOC). To keep up with today’s threat landscape, security leaders and service providers must build the foundation of response technologies into their environments and workflows to address the needs of their customers.

Security Operations: Then and Now

Most organizations’ reaction to these increasing challenges has been to invest in multiple security tools. In the early ’90s, it was all about protection within the perimeter, so investments across the network, firewall, intrusion detection system (IDS) and antiviruses was common. The early 2000s witnessed the exponential growth of the internet and compliance around Sarbanes-Oxley and Payment Card Industry (PCI) security standards, which originally drove the adoption of security information and event management (SIEM).

While traditional log source collection from network, firewall, endpoints and other sources is still critical for threat detection, today’s threat landscape has brought about the emergence of flow data, threat intelligence, user behavior analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide security operations teams with real-time alerts.

What Is SOAR, and What Does It Do?

As defined by Gartner, SOAR is a method of connecting disparate security technologies that enables a coordinated process workflow combining orchestration, automation, threat intelligence, and human and machine learning to accelerate, standardize and shorten incident response processes. In other words, implementing a SOAR platform can help organizations significantly improve their overall security posture.

Speed, agility and decisive actions are key to any response process. Due to widespread digital transformation across the workplace, the attack surface has expanded exponentially. Since SOAR operates real time, metrics such as mean time to detect (MTTD) and mean time to respond (MTTR) enable security managers to measure SOC productivity by integrating with existing security tools. By setting the platform to automate repetitive tasks, security leaders can do more with less, empowering analysts to respond to complex attacks and focus on strategic tasks instead of slogging through false positives and low-priority alerts. Most importantly, SOAR can help alleviate overworked and understaffed security teams with the ability to apply machine learning to threat investigations and guided response.

Applying the OODA Loop Strategy to Incident Response

When implementing SOAR into their security infrastructure, many organizations turn to tried-and-true military techniques and principles as a foundation for their strategy. One such concept is called the OODA loop, a feedback cycle that stands for observe, orient, decide and act.

In the cybersecurity world, the OODA loop is used as a potent methodology to combat advanced threats by understanding the organization’s environment, gathering relevant information, translating that data into meaningful and actionable insights, devising a set of decisions and, finally, acting on the decisions to combat threats. Therefore, the design and architecture of the SOAR platform must be deployed on the fundamental principles of the OODA loop. Otherwise, the organization risks lagging behind in incident response maturity due to manual and inconsistent processes and lack of coordination.

Within the context of an OODA-inspired defense strategy, a SOAR platform helps make incident response processes repeatable and consistent and escalation of incidents simplified and seamless. It also provides analysts with a comprehensive set of tasks in the form of a guided response. Enriched insights from threat intelligence feeds and AI-based tools enable organizations to identify, contain, remediate and eradicate threats faster than adversaries can compromise enterprise data.

Another critical aspect of SOAR is the analyst’s ability to coordinate across various stakeholders and relevant departments, increasing the speed to respond. A SOAR platform also enables analysts to simulate environments with a blend of cyberthreats and cyber espionage use cases with an objective to test a cyberattack scenario where people, process and technology are well-orchestrated and prepared in advance of a potential breach. It’s no wonder this holistic approach has gained momentum over the past few years as organizations look to improve their incident response capabilities and mitigate risks long-term.

What Can a SOAR Platform Do For You?

The adoption of security orchestration, automation and response platforms will continue to scale new heights and the technology will further entrench itself in the SOC environment given its ability to combine people, process and technology, deliver instantly actionable security alerts, and provide the insights, context and sophistication needed to combat cyberthreats and build cyber resilience. A well-calibrated cyber resilience program also encompasses the adoption of detection, response and recovery frameworks.

With this level of contextual insight and actionable data, a SOAR platform can help refine threat data and provide intelligent feedback to the rules and use cases by which the organization calibrates its detection tools, helping SOC teams respond faster and more effectively manage today’s increasingly complex attacks.

Learn more about incident response and orchestration

More from Incident Response

Why Crowdsourced Security is Devastating to Threat Actors

Almost every day, my spouse and I have a conversation about spam. Not the canned meat, but the number of unwelcomed emails and text messages we receive. He gets several nefarious text messages a day, while I maybe get one a week. Phishing emails come in waves — right now, I’m getting daily warnings that my AV software license is about to expire. Blocking or filtering has limited success and, as often as not, flags wanted rather than unwanted messages.…

5 Golden Rules of Threat Hunting

When a breach is uncovered, the operational cadence includes threat detection, quarantine and termination. While all stages can occur within the first hour of discovery, in some cases, that's already too late.Security operations center (SOC) teams monitor and hunt new threats continuously. To ward off the most advanced threats, security teams proactively hunt for ones that evade the dashboards of their security solutions.However, advanced threat actors have learned to blend in with their target's environment, remaining unnoticed for prolonged periods. Based…

Everyone Wants to Build a Cyber Range: Should You?

In the last few years, IBM X-Force has seen an unprecedented increase in requests to build cyber ranges. By cyber ranges, we mean facilities or online spaces that enable team training and exercises of cyberattack responses. Companies understand the need to drill their plans based on real-world conditions and using real tools, attacks and procedures. What’s driving this increased demand? The increase in remote and hybrid work models emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the priority to collaborate and…

People, Process and Technology: The Incident Response Trifecta

Let's say you are the CISO or IT security lead of your organization, and your incident response program needs an uplift. After making a compelling business case to management for investment, your budget has been approved and expanded. With your newfound wealth, you focus on acquiring technology that will improve your monitoring, detection and analysis of data traffic. Has the incident program really improved by the technology acquisition, or is the uplift merely cosmetic? If no other changes have been…