Defining Autonomous SOC: How Tomorrow’s SOC will Augment Analysts

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It’s an ever-changing and ever-evolving threat landscape out there today. Bad actors are smarter, more sophisticated, and better at evading detection. Security teams are also facing a barrage of overwhelming information, continually expanding the stream of alerts that must be reviewed, triaged and investigated.

It’s clear that SOC analysts need help — and in addition to looking at process and people improvements, many are turning to technology, too. A global survey of more than 1,000 security professionals cites emerging technologies such as workflow automation, artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, and machine learning as keys to staying ahead of the volume and severity of cyberattacks. Almost 40% say workflow automation and implementing advanced analytics are needed to help overworked SOC analysts keep pace with today’s threat landscape.

Empowering analysts with automation is at the very core of the autonomous SOC — the modern SOC’s North Star. Let’s take a deeper dive into what the autonomous SOC is, and what it’s not.

What Is the Autonomous SOC?

The autonomous SOC builds on top of AI embedded in today’s security stack. Through more powerful AI and ML-based automation, SOC teams can “hand off” the repetitive and thankless tasks that consume so much of their daily workload. Automating mundane SOC tasks will protect the time of the security team and enable them to focus on hunting, investigating and responding to the threats that matter most to their business.

Automating routine tasks gives analysts more time for training and development. It enables them to collaborate with experienced colleagues on the critical work of identifying and stopping the most dangerous threats.

This is critical in the face of the security worker shortage and burnout today. A recent report shows that the average time to fill a SOC position is 7 months. And 71% of SOC professionals said that they’re likely to quit their job, with the top reasons being information and work overload, lack of tool integration, and alert fatigue.

In the end, organizations get a team of better-trained, more experienced analysts who have greater job satisfaction. Analysts will be elevated from risk commentators to risk advisers.

What the Autonomous SOC Isn’t

Despite common misconceptions that automation’s intention is to replace humans entirely, that is not — and never will be — the goal of the autonomous SOC. Automation, AI and ML will likely never entirely replace the need for human decision-making in security operations. There will always be a human component to SOCs because there are things that machines can’t do. The human mind can use abstract thinking to bypass defenses and penetrate a target network that technology tools simply cannot discern.

At its heart, the vision for the autonomous SOC is focused on how these tools can help analysts better understand the battlespace they’re operating in to stop complex attacks quickly. Transforming traditional SOCs into autonomous SOCs is a process — human involvement will change over time, but they’ll never be left out of the equation.