What is SOC automation? Optimize Your SOC Workflow

Orion Cassetto Orion Cassetto

SOCs (Security Operation Centers), as the heartbeat of an organization’s security program, are constantly required to evolve to meet the growing complexities of corporate networks. Within SOCs, analysts labor through intricate tasks like log analysis and event correlation, often leading to burnout and inefficiencies. SOC automation presents a pivotal solution, leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and security automation to alleviate the strain on human analysts and better streamline operations.

This guide dives into the nitty-gritty of what SOC automation is, how it works, its use cases, and discusses what you should keep in mind when you decide to hit the automation road for your SOC operations. 

What is SOC Automation and How Does it Work?

Envision SOC automation platforms as the superheroes of the digital frontier, stepping in to streamline the repetitive tasks that once burdened security teams. From managing alert triage to orchestrating incident responses and even executing threat hunting, these platforms alleviate the workload from human shoulders. For instance, gathering and consolidating events and alerts involves compiling information from diverse sources, seamlessly merging it, and sifting through it, based on predetermined rules.

Picture your security analysts liberated from the mundane task of triaging security alerts, enabling them to concentrate on the strategic aspects of safeguarding your organization. It’s akin to having a reliable sidekick to handle the routine, leaving your team as the genuine defenders against digital threats.

Now, let’s delve into the wizardry behind it. There have been many iterations of SOC automation technology, with the cutting edge developments in SOC automation –  platforms performing their enchantment by integrating AI – we’re talking state-of-the-art Gen AI – deep into the core of SOC processes and procedures. It’s not merely about automation for its own sake; it’s about choreographing a seamless dance between human intuition and artificial intelligence. These platforms don’t substitute your security team; they elevate them.

Consider SOC automation as the paramount efficiency enhancer. With rapid alert triage, prompt incident response, and proactive threat hunting, your security operations evolve into a finely tuned machine. Efficiency and effectiveness surge as monitoring, analysis, response, and resolution of security events attain a whole new level.

In this exploration of the marvels of SOC automation, we’re not merely discussing tech – we’re emphasizing the empowerment of your team, the bolstering of your security posture, and the ability to stay ahead of the game.

The Benefits of SOC Automation

Today, every SOC employs some level of automation. Security monitoring, a cornerstone function, relies on automated tools to collect and analyze data, uncovering potential threats. Additionally, auxiliary processes, like facilitating communication between stakeholders, often undergo automation. However, when it comes to more intricate tasks such as security analysis or response, manual operations remain predominant. The complexity of diverse threats demands a tailored, human touch, making manual intervention a necessity for many SOC teams. 

The integration of an appropriate automation solution within your SOC team has the potential to elevate metrics, job satisfaction, security return on investment, and various other aspects. Now, let’s unveil the many benefits that SOC automation brings to the table:

  • Rapid incident response: SOC automation doesn’t just detect security incidents; it does it ia much quicker manner than using manual traditional means. Imagine reducing the mean-time-to-detect and mean-time-to-respond, ensuring threats are tackled at superhero speed.
  • Consistency and precision: Automation ensures that security policies and responses are consistently applied, leaving no room for human error.
  • Lightened analyst workload: Free up your analysts from the monotony of repetitive tasks. SOC automation lets your team focus on the high-stakes security game, leading to a boost in work-life balance and job satisfaction.
  • Scalability at its finest: As your organization and team sizes evolve, let SOC automation seamlessly scale with the changes. No-code automation adapts to growing security demands, ensuring you’re always a step ahead.
  • Resource optimization: SOC automation becomes your strategic ally in managing alerts, and prioritizing real threats over false positives. Analysts can now invest more time in tackling high-level threats and optimizing resource allocation more precisely.
  • Cost efficiency at its core: No-code SOC automation not only streamlines processes but also slashes long-term costs. With reduced manual tasks, operational expenses take a dip, giving you more bang for your security buck.
  • Swift detection, faster response: AI-powered SOC automation processes vast volumes of alert data, cutting through the noise to spotlight true threats. By reducing false positives, it accelerates threat identification and investigation.
  • Boosted job satisfaction: In the security field, burnout is a common adversary. SOC automation steps in as the morale booster, reducing manual tasks and lightening workloads for a more satisfied and resilient security team.

The magic doesn’t stop there. SOC automation benefits go even further with systems that use the help of AI:

  • Automated alert triage: Employing AI, the system systematically scrutinizes all components of potentially suspicious alerts. It dynamically engages in a multitude of tests, ranging from dozens to hundreds, to decisively ascertain the malicious nature of an alert.
  • Impact assessment: Delve into the core of identified issues by comprehensively analyzing malicious alerts. This involves pinpointing the root cause and outlining the complete incident scope, encompassing affected users, machines, applications, and other pertinent elements.
  • Data fusion: Seamlessly integrate various data sources such as email, endpoint, network, etc.. By interweaving these sources, the system effectively traces attacks across diverse platforms, ensuring no critical details slip through the cracks.
  • Incident-specific response – The system dynamically constructs a comprehensive plan for analysts, addressing the unique containment and remediation requirements identified for each incident impact. Analysts have the flexibility to either automate or manually execute corrective measures for each security issue, ensuring a swift and efficient response.

As we explore SOC automation benefits, the fusion of human expertise with cutting-edge technology proves transformative. While nearly every SOC adopts automation, its strategic use has the power to be a real game-changer – as the transformative force propelling your security operations into a league of their own.

Use Cases for SOC Automation

Careful consideration of which SOC use cases to automate first is crucial, taking into account the distinctive requirements of your organization. A prudent approach involves initiating automation with commonplace and easily replicable security tasks before progressing to more complex ones. Alternatively, prioritizing the automation of time-consuming manual workflows allows your team to realize time savings more quickly.

In recent years, AI has undergone significant advancements, broadening its scope for potential applications and greatly reducing the effort and maintenance of the automation systems themselves. Several avenues through which SOCs can harness the benefits of automation include:

  1. Threat exploration – Automation plays a pivotal role in elevating the effectiveness of threat exploration by equipping security teams with robust tools for proactively scouring an organization’s network and systems for potential cybersecurity threats. Through automated processes, threat hunters can rapidly amass and analyze extensive datasets from diverse sources, facilitating the identification of anomalies and patterns indicative of concealed threats.
    Furthermore, automation facilitates the integration of threat intelligence feeds and contextual and behavioral information, enhancing the depth of understanding regarding potential threats. It enables the formulation of custom search queries and algorithms to autonomously sift through data, flagging suspicious activities that merit further investigation. This blend of advanced data processing, real-time analysis, and integration of external threat data empowers security teams to identify emerging threats with greater efficiency, ultimately bolstering the overall cybersecurity posture of an organization.
  2. Alert triage – AI tools are also extremely useful in processing security alerts from other popular tools by eliminating false positives, consolidating related events, and prioritizing genuine threats for further analysis. The integration of automation significantly enhances the handling of security alerts within SIEM, EDR, and other purpose-built security systems. As alerts pour in from diverse sources, automation steps in to categorize them based on their significance and nature. This initial triage empowers security analysts to direct their attention towards investigating and responding to valid threats promptly, rather than navigating through a multitude of false alerts.
    Automation extends its capabilities beyond mere alert sorting. It establishes connections between related alerts, supplements information from threat intelligence sources, and even scrutinizes user behavior against established norms to identify unusual activities. In scenarios where a true positive security incident has been identified, SOC automation can trigger corrective actions, such as isolating compromised devices or blocking malicious sources, to minimize damage and uphold stringent security controls.
    For instance, when a Splunk alert surfaces, AI may analyze the alert, classify it as a specific type of threat, dynamically select containment and mitigation steps,  initiate a ticket in ServiceNow, and notify the security Slack channel.
  3. Incident response – Today’s reality dictates 24/7 availability of security analysts, for prompt incident response. Manual incident response can be time-intensive, costly, and susceptible to human errors. Embracing automation in incident response empowers SOC teams to streamline their procedures, reduce response times, and allocate resources to more critical tasks. AI tools take this a step further by autonomously identifying and addressing threats, collecting pertinent data, and notifying relevant stakeholders. 
    For example, automating security incident response may entail configuring automatic notifications to pertinent teams upon detecting suspicious or malicious activities, triggering an automated response to shut down compromised machines, or isolating files displaying malicious behavior. 
  4. Investigating and responding to phishing threats – AI tools prove highly effective in identifying and blocking phishing attacks. With an estimated 3.4 billion malicious emails sent daily, organizations grapple with the overwhelming volume of phishing attacks, making it challenging to keep up with alerts. The automation of detection, analysis, and response to phishing attempts equips SOC teams with the capability to swiftly identify and mitigate such attacks, preempting any lasting damage. SOC automation enables the constant monitoring and response to a multitude of phishing emails without compromising valuable time or resources. 
    Consider, for example, automating the detection and response to Gmail phishing attempts. Upon the arrival of an email in a Gmail inbox, the automated workflow scans any URLs and attachments present. If malicious URLs or attachments are detected, the email is promptly deleted, and a notification is sent to a designated Slack channel.
  5. Enhancing human SOC analyst capabilities – The term “Human SOC analyst augmentation” refers to the strategic use of AI to optimize human threat intelligence and mitigation efforts. While traditional automation techniques excel in managing the sheer volume of potential threat vectors, they fall short in solving complex problems. Human analysts remain indispensable in crafting controls, elucidating threat techniques, and unveiling attackers’ motives. AI is poised not to entirely replace SOC analysts but rather to complement their endeavors and skills. As attackers continually refine their tools and techniques, human experience, nuanced understanding, and cultural or linguistic sensitivities become increasingly crucial. Given that AI learns through interactions, supervision, and validation, human analysts are key in training and optimizing the AI feedback loop. Over time, SOC analysts gradually teach AI systems to replicate and emulate their investigation, decision making, and conclusions. This improves SOC automation over time. 
  6. MITRE ATT&CK framework mapping – The inception of the MITRE ATT&CK framework aimed to systematize real-world industry insights into a standardized language of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). This organizational structure facilitates the sharing of information and recommendations among organizations, aiding in the fortification of security programs. Given the extensive scope and intricacy of the framework, comprehending, assimilating, and mapping the tactics and techniques outlined within MITRE ATT&CK into dependable and practical remediation steps can prove to be a complex and time-intensive undertaking. AI tools enable the automatic mapping of incident response efforts to MITRE ATT&CK techniques and sub-techniques in an organized and efficient manner.

Key Features to Consider in a SOC Automation Solution

Choosing the right SOC automation solutions is key, requiring a blend of agility and comprehensiveness to meet current enterprise use cases while remaining scalable for future demands and emerging threats. The ideal solution should encompass the following key features:

  1. Generative AI integration:
    • To enhance overall usability and adaptability
    • To enhance overall usability and adaptability.
    • To increase the system’s ability to handle never-before-seen alerts and threat
  2. Customization capabilities:
    • Allowing for seamless customization to meet the dynamic needs of the business.
    • Adapting to the evolving security landscape and organizational requirements.
  3. Transparency and audit trails
    • To understand exactly what actions have been taken via automation, what conclusions were made, what evidence was used or generated, etc. 
  4. Integration with existing security architecture:
    • Streamlined integration with the organization’s current security infrastructure.
    • Enhanced synergies with established security protocols and systems.
  5. Minimal maintenance overhead:
    •  Automatic management and updates that ensure continuous functionality without requiring substantial time and effort from the security team.
  6. Effortless implementation:
    • Streamlined implementation process within minutes through API integration.
    • Immediate automation of SOC processes right from the outset.

For organizations aiming to fortify their assets and elevate productivity, embracing cutting-edge SOC automation technology is paramount. This empowers SOC teams to achieve more, detect attacks efficiently, and respond with heightened rapidity. 

Discover the unparalleled capabilities of the Radiant SOC Automation Solution, designed as the Gen AI SOC co-pilot.

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