Security Operations Center (SOC)

What Is a Security Operations Center?

A Security Operations Center (SOC) is a team of IT security professionals within an enterprise whose job is to manage the organization’s overall cybersecurity posture and protect against cyber attacks by monitoring, preventing, detecting, investigating, and responding to digital threats.

With phishing and fraud attacks against enterprises at an all-time high, modern enterprises operate their SOCs 24/7 to rapidly detect, investigate, and remediate cybersecurity attacks before they can cause unplanned downtime or negatively impact the customer experience. SOCs use a variety of software tools to secure internal networks and systems, monitor internal and external assets for indicators of compromise (IoCs), detect and prevent cyber threats, and respond to security incidents quickly and decisively.

Why You Need a Security Operations Center

The global annual cost of cybercrime is projected to reach $8 trillion in 2023 and increase to more than $10.5 trillion by 2025. We’re seeing a large increase in ransomware attacks, from opportunistic Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) attacks that extort victims for a few hundred dollars, to sophisticated zero-day exploits that target enterprises with ransoms in the millions. According to IBM, the average cost of a data breach is now $4.45 million.

With cyber attacks becoming increasingly common and increasingly expensive, enterprises need a well-equipped and highly skilled SOC with strong industry collaboration and vendor support to protect their internal and external digital assets against phishing, fraud, and data theft attacks.

What Does the Security Operations Center Do?

Proactive Threat Prevention

Enterprise SOC teams take proactive steps to improve the organization’s security posture and protect against potential threats. This includes implementing security policies and protocols within the organization, training staff on security best practices, implementing security tools and technologies, and patching vulnerabilities.

Threat Intelligence

SOC teams develop, gather, and share threat intelligence from a variety of sources to stay ahead of emerging cybersecurity threats. In addition to developing their own intelligence, SOCs monitor public and private threat intelligence feeds to get the newest information about emerging threats and newly discovered vulnerabilities that impact the organization’s security posture. They also collaborate with vendors and other SOC teams to exchange intelligence.

Security Monitoring

Enterprise SOCs use security monitoring software to continuously monitor the organization’s security posture. Security and event data is collected in real-time from throughout the organization’s networks, centralized in a single tool and analyzed for suspicious or anomalous activity that could indicate a security incident or data breach.

Threat Detection

SOCs analyze security data from throughout the network to identify malicious access attempts, anomalous events, or suspicious activity that indicates a threat to the organization. The ability to detect threats depends on SOCs having access to high-quality threat intelligence and security monitoring capabilities needed to detect IoCs. Threat detection is potentially the single most important responsibility of an enterprise security operations center.

Alert Management

The most sophisticated SOC teams can use numerous software tools to monitor enterprise security. Managing and prioritizing these alerts is critical to avoid overwhelming the team with false positives.

Incident Response

When a genuine security threat or breach is detected, the SOC team must respond quickly to lock out the intruder, avoid unplanned downtime, prevent data exfiltration, and limit harm to the organization. The faster the incident response, the more likely it is that damage from the attack will be minimized.

Recovery and Remediation

Following a security incident and response, SOC teams are responsible for initiating recovery protocols and restoring the affected systems to their normal function.

Security Log Management

SOC teams own the security logs and event data for enterprise networks and systems, in addition to being responsible for managing this data throughout its life cycle. That includes aggregating/centralizing the data, normalizing it, analyzing the data to extract insights, storing it for long-term use cases like root cause analysis, and deleting the data when it is no longer useful. 

Root Cause Investigation

Following a security incident, SOC agents may perform a root cause investigation to understand what caused the security incident and how to prevent the next one.


Enterprise SOC teams are often responsible for managing the organization’s compliance requirements with respect to data privacy and security.

Key Roles in the Security Operations Center

Enterprise Security Operations Centers employ cybersecurity experts in different roles to help bolster and safeguard the organization’s security posture.

A SecOps Manager runs the SOC, oversees security operations, and reports to executive leadership.

Security Engineers build and manage the organization's security architecture, especially by selecting and implementing security tools.

Security Analysts review threat intelligence, manage and prioritize alerts, and investigate security incidents to protect the organization against cyber threats. Some SOC teams divide the security analyst role into multiple tiers, where Tier 1 analysts review threat intelligence and prioritize alerts and Tier 2 analysts respond to security incidents.

Threat Hunters analyze security data to identify threats that bypass network defenses, conduct root cause analysis, and analyze long-term security data to detect Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs).

What Software Tools Do SOCs Use?

SOC teams use sophisticated software tools to maintain the organization’s security posture, monitor security logs, detect threats, and respond to security incidents. Some of those tools include:

  • Antivirus
  • Firewalls
  • Vulnerability Management Solutions
  • Identity and Access Management (IAM)
  • Security Information and Event Monitoring (SIEM) Tools
  • Network Intrusion Prevention/Detection Systems (NIPS/NIDS)
  • Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR)
  • Endpoint/Extended Detection and Response (EDR/XDR)
  • External Cybersecurity Tools

Empower Your Security Operations Center with ZeroFox

Enterprise SOC teams use software tools like NIDS and SIEM to secure internal networks against intruders, but it’s also important to monitor the digital external attack surface for evidence of threats to enterprise security. 

ZeroFox provides digital risk protection, threat intelligence, and adversary disruption to help enterprise SOC teams identify, detect, and disrupt cyber threats against public-facing digital assets.

Ready to Learn More?

View our webinar The Insider’s Playbook for External Threats: Detection and Disruption Across the Public Attack Surface to learn how forward-thinking SOC teams are using ZeroFox to monitor and respond to threats from outside the network perimeter.