CSIRT e SOC Piergiorgio Venuti

CSIRT and SOC: Differences between incident management and security monitoring

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Introduction

The protection of corporate information has become an essential necessity for any organization. To achieve this goal, having teams specialized in IT security is essential. But what are the differences between a CSIRT and a SOC? And how can they complement each other?

In this article we will analyze CSIRT and SOC in detail, highlighting similarities and differences between these two fundamental cybersecurity structures. We will understand when it is preferable to have one or the other and how to make them cooperate best.

CSIRT: Respond to IT incidents

We have already covered in depth [in un articolo dedicato] what CSIRTs are and what their tasks are. Summing up:

A CSIRT (Computer Security Incident Response Team) is a team focused on responding to IT incidents that may occur in an organization.

Its main tasks are:

  • Detect, analyze and classify incidents
  • Contain accidents and limit their impact
  • Recover compromised systems
  • Share information about detected incidents
  • Identify countermeasures to prevent future attacks

The CSIRT comes into action in the event of concrete incidents such as data breaches, ransomware, DDoS attacks or targeted intrusions. His mission is to bring the situation back to normal in the shortest time possible.

To operate best, a CSIRT follows rigorous playbooks and established operational procedures, such as those defined by NIST in the “Computer Security Incident Handling Guide” publication.

SOC: Monitor security 24/7

The SOC (Security Operation Center) has a different focus than the CSIRT. This is a facility dedicated to proactively monitoring IT security.

The SOC is organized as a command and control center that operates 24/7 to:

  • Monitor infrastructure, applications, endpoints, network traffic etc. looking for threats
  • Collect, aggregate and analyze security alerts generated by different technological solutions
  • Identify and report anomalies that could indicate a cyber attack
  • Perform threat hunting to identify malicious activity that is not automatically detected
  • Escalate confirmed incidents to CSIRT for response

While the CSIRT comes into play during an incident, the SOC constantly works to prevent and detect them in the early stages. A mature SOC operates according to established processes, such as those defined by the MITER ATT&CK framework.

Differences and similarities between CSIRT and SOC

Let’s try to summarize the main differences between CSIRT and SOC:

CharacteristicCSIRTSOC
ObjectiveIncident responseProactive monitoring
TimingActivated during an accidentOperational 24/7
ActivityDigital forensics, containment, remediationMonitoring, alert analysis, threat hunting
ProcessesIncident handlingSecurity monitoring

The two structures share some fundamental aspects:

  • They are based on teams of professionals who are experts in cybersecurity
  • They use cutting-edge technologies such as SIEM, malware analysis, threat intelligence
  • They operate according to rigorous processes based on best practices and industry frameworks
  • They work to protect company information and systems from cyber attacks

In summary, CSIRTs and SOCs have different but complementary purposes and are united by cybersecurity skills, methodologies and objectives.

The teams within a SOC

Let us now examine in more detail the different teams and roles that we can typically find within a Security Operation Center:

Security analyst

They are the beating heart of the SOC. They monitor security monitoring systems, analyze and triage alerts to identify potential incidents. They require excellent technical and analytical skills.

Threat hunter

They perform proactive threat hunting to identify sophisticated threats undetected by automated systems. They analyze endpoints, networks and raw data for malicious activity.

Incident responder

CSIRT members responsible for investigating and responding to full-blown incidents detected by the SOC. They intervene to contain, eradicate and recover from the attack.

Malware analyst

Specialize in reverse-engineering analysis of malware, suspicious files, and attack artifacts to understand their intent, capabilities, and lineage.

Security engineer

They deal with the implementation, management and tuning of security monitoring solutions such as SIEM, IDS and endpoint detection. They guarantee the quality of the data.

Data analyst

Responsible for extracting insights from big data collected by security solutions. They apply data science techniques to identify patterns and anomalies.

When is a CSIRT or SOC necessary?

What are the criteria for understanding whether a company needs to equip itself with a CSIRT, a SOC or both?

It depends on several factors:

  • Size and IT complexity of the organization
  • Sensitivity of the data processed
  • Budget available
  • Security maturity level
  • Risk appetite
  • Sector of activity and regulatory context

In general:

  • Large, complex companies need both SOC and CSIRT
  • SMEs with critical assets should equip themselves with at least a CSIRT
  • Regulated industries such as finance benefit greatly from a SOC
  • An MSSP can offer managed SOC and CSIRT services to address the lack of internal expertise

The ideal is to integrate CSIRT and SOC for end-to-end protection that covers prevention, monitoring and incident response.

How to integrate CSIRT and SOC

Finally, let’s look at some best practices to ensure that CSIRT and SOC collaborate closely and effectively:

  • Establish clear handoff and coordination procedures between the two facilities
  • Unify tools, data and technological platforms as much as possible
  • Organize periodic alignment meetings
  • Create joint working groups for specific projects and initiatives
  • Avoid organizational silos and promote fluidity of communication
  • Promote job rotation and exchange of skills between teams
  • Share lessons learned and best practices through centralized knowledge bases
  • Train collaborations through exercises and simulations
  • Create a culture of trust and transparency among teams
  • Define clear performance indicators and common objectives
  • Provide both functions with managerial support at the highest levels

CSIRT and SOC: Conclusion

CSIRT and SOC are two fundamental components of a modern cybersecurity strategy. The first focused on incident response, the second on proactive security monitoring.

Despite the differences in roles and responsibilities, it is important that the two structures collaborate closely by sharing skills, technologies and processes. The integration makes it possible to cover all phases of cybersecurity in an end-to-end way: from prevention to detection and finally to incident response.

Organizations should carefully evaluate the need for a CSIRT and/or SOC based on their security maturity level and risk profile. Adopting a graduated approach and investing adequately in these fundamental capabilities allows you to drastically raise the level of cyber resilience.

For organizations without in-house expertise, outsourcing to qualified providers of services such as SOCaaS and full CSIRT can effectively fill security gaps. With trusted partners like [NOI], you can gain world-class incident monitoring and response capabilities. It’s never too late to protect your digital business!

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