The similarities between the role of the Network Operation Center (NOC) and Security Operation Center (SOC) often lead to the mistaken idea that one can easily handle the other’s duties. Furthermore, once a company’s security information and event management system is in place, it can seem pointless to spend money on a SOC. So why can’t the NOC just handle both functions? Why should each work separately but in conjunction with one another? Let’s take a look a few reasons below.
First, their roles are subtly but fundamentally different. While it’s certainly true that both groups are responsible for identifying, investigating, prioritizing and escalating/resolving issues, the types of issues and the impact they have are considerably different. Specifically, the NOC is responsible for handling incidents that affect performance or availability while the SOC handles those incidents that affect the security of information assets. The goal of each is to manage risk, however, the way they accomplish this goal is markedly different.
The NOC’s job is to meet service level agreements (SLAs) and manage incidents in a way that reduces downtime – in other words, a focus on availability and performance. The SOC is measured on their ability to protect intellectual property and sensitive customer data – a focus on security. While both of these things are critically important to the success of an organization, having one handle the other’s duties can spell disaster, mainly because their approaches are so different.
Another reason the NOC and SOC should not be combined is because the skillset required for members of each group is vastly different. A NOC analyst must be proficient in network, application and systems engineering, while SOC analysts require security engineering skills. Furthermore, the very nature of the adversaries that each group battles differs, with the SOC focusing on “intelligent adversaries” and the NOC dealing with naturally occurring system events. These completely different directions result in contrasting solutions which can be extremely difficult for each group to adapt to.
A new set of problems arise, however, when the two teams become siloed, with each group focused on only half of the equation. The resulting gap, particularly in terms of data that is not being shared, perpetuates an even broader gap in the necessary knowledge to maximize the effectiveness of each team. Efforts by the SOC that fail to take into account operational requirements or efficiencies cause bottlenecks that can result in a disruption in network performance. Likewise, fingers can be pointed at the NOC for implementing network designs that leave critical resources exposed and vulnerable.
The best solution is to respect the subtle yet fundamental differences between these two groups and leverage a quality automation product to link the two, allowing them to collaborate for optimum results. The ideal system is one where the NOC has access to the SIEM, so they can work in close collaboration with the SOC and each can complement – rather than impede – the other’s duties. The SOC identifies and analyzes issues, then recommends fixes to the NOC, who analyzes the impact those fixes will have on the organization and then modifies and implements accordingly.
So, what’s the best way to achieve this cross-functional collaboration and optimization? The most important goal is to eliminate operational and/or technical silos. By leveraging a cross-silo intelligent automation platform, security incidents can be detected and resolved while events simultaneously trigger automatic changes both to security as well as network device configurations. This essentially closes the loop on cyberattack mitigation while effectively bridging the distance between security and ops teams.
As the IT environment introduces increasingly complex applications and workflows across a spectrum of systems and devices, and oftentimes in a variety of different locations, the demand for a more streamlined, holistic approach also continues to grow. The time has come to rethink the way the NOC and SOC work together. With an orchestrated approach, powered by intelligent automation, organizations will be able to close the gap between the two departments to more effectively address today’s multifaceted threats, regardless of where they happen to occur within the network.
Ayehu NG is an intelligent IT Automation and Orchestration platform built for the digital era. As an agentless platform, Ayehu is easily deployed, allowing organizations to rapidly automate tasks and processes, including interoperability across disparate solutions and systems, all in one, unified platform.
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