Why Continuous Monitoring is an Essential Component of a Cyber Security Program

Publication date: Apr 13, 2020

Last Published: Dec 15, 2022

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Organizations today are exposed to more security challenges than ever before, and even the largest enterprises in the world have a tough time defending themselves against the never-ending onslaught of threats that are testing their security teams on a daily basis. 

As more business infrastructure gets connected, Juniper Research expects the average cost of a data breach in 2020 to exceed $150 million. Small and mid-size organizations are especially vulnerable because they often lack the resources that would allow them to detect and mitigate threats in a timely manner. 

In light of this reality, as well as increasing regulatory pressure, organizations are exploring increasingly sophisticated methods to reliably defend themselves, which is why around-the-clock security monitoring provided by a security operations center (SOC) has been growing in popularity. 

The Anatomy of a Security Operation Center 

The term security operations center encompasses several different but closely related things: the security experts who operate in shifts and spend their time analyzing logs, traffic, and data from multiple sources, the technologies used by them, and the processes put in place to detect and resolve security incidents.  

In presentations and promotional materials, SOCs are often portrayed as war rooms with monitors stretching from floor to ceiling, displaying threats in real-time as they emerge from a single point on a map and spread around the globe.  

While captivating, this depiction is just one of several common models for deploying a SOC. For many small organizations, the SOC is a single security expert sitting behind a couple of monitors and using readily available security tools. 

Because the cost of building a SOC can be quite high, many organizations are turning to Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP) that offer SOC services, such as intrusion detection, malware and spam protection, or VPN management, on an outsourced basis. 

Regardless of which deployment model a business chooses, it needs a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) system to aggregate logs from across different security tools to get the big picture view of its security events. A SIEM can be seen as the foundational technology of a SOC, functioning as a single pane of glass and enabling enterprise-wide monitoring of IT systems and user accounts.

Next-generation SIEMs go well beyond mere log aggregation, featuring advanced machine learning capabilities, behavioral analytics, and SOC automation, among other capabilities. Other technologies used in SOCs include governance, risk and compliance (GRC) systems, Network Traffic Analysis (NTA) tools, and Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFW), just to give three examples. 

24/7 security operations command center (SOC)

Top 3 Benefits of a Security Operation Center

With cybersecurity playing an increasingly important role in the day to day operations of organizations large and small, having a SOC can provide multiple benefits:

  • 24×7 cybersecurity: Because cybercriminals work around the clock, organizations can’t afford to allow their network infrastructure to be undefended when the IT personnel goes home after a day of work. Continuous monitoring delivers non-stop monitoring and reliable protection against security threats. While staffing an SOC can be expensive, and maintaining it even more so, organizations with tighter budgets can subscribe to a SOC-as-a-service and enjoy all the benefits of continuous monitoring at an affordable price. 
  • Shorter incident response times: According to a Ponemon Cost of Data Breaches report, the mean time to contain (MTTC) a breach was 66 days, with a range of 10 to 164 days. Even though organizations spend large sums of money on cybersecurity tools, they are often unable to process the alerts they produce in a timely fashion. With a SOC, organizations can identify potential threats in real-time and mitigate them before any damage occurs. 
  • Regulatory compliance and customer trust: With sweeping privacy laws like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), organizations are under even more pressure to protect the sensitive data of their customers. A single data breach can result in an irreparable loss of customer trust, which may force the business to close its doors. The ability of a SOC to provide continuous network and security monitoring is essential when it comes to safeguarding customer data and meeting stringent regulatory requirements. 

Of course, there are many other benefits of having a SOC, such as improved monitoring or reduced complexity of security investigations. Together, they provide an important competitive advantage, which can be the difference between a business succeeding or failing. 

Consider Continuous Monitoring For Your Organization

Cyberattacks have become common events for organizations of all sizes, and dealing with them is now the top priority of most IT departments. To improve the detection of security incidents, many organizations are betting on continuous monitoring and analysis of data activity.

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