CSIRT vs SOC: What Are the Differences? The key differences between the two most common security teams: Security Operations Center (SOC) and Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT)

CSIRT vs SOC: What Are the Differences?

An effective security strategy requires a solid team, best practices, tools, and technologies. Each organization applies these factors in a different way. Some companies can make do with a one person operation, while others need a team. 

Security Operations Centers (SOC) and Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRT) are two of the most common security operations. While CSIRT is focused on incident response, a SOC is usually broader in its scope. Read on to learn about the key differences between these two security operations.  

What Is Incident Response and Why Do You Need a Team?

Incident response is a methodology for organizing the process of responding to security events. Companies usually create a team or department to carry their incident response practices. 

An incident response team consists of security analysts, as well as human resources and management professionals. A cross-functional incident response team ensures that the organization has the right mix of talent required to effectively respond to security threats. The team often has a leader (usually the CISO) and technical staff. 

The evolution of security teams

Thirty years ago, companies would rely on their IT staff to carry on security practices. Then in the 1990s companies started to form their first SOCs, centralizing security tools and personnel. However, the amount of security breaches in the last decade has shown that SOCs are not enough and that companies need a proactive response to threats. 

At a certain point, it became standard practice to utilize dedicated response teams, and then CSIRT teams were introduced. The growth in number and sophistication of cybersecurity attacks drove organizations to start adding CSIRTs, as part of SOCs or independently. 

Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) Overview

CSIRTs consist of a team of security experts responsible for receiving, analyzing and responding to security incidents. Incident response teams, as they are also called, can from within the SOC or they can be monitored by the SOC. In other cases, these teams can function independently, according to the company’s needs. These teams can be formally organized or an ad-hoc team, according to the frequency your company faces threats. 

How CSIRTs Work?

The core of CSIRT work is incident management. Incident management consists of three main functions: reporting, analysis, and response. The key for an efficient incident management within a CSIRT is to quickly respond to an incident. This can minimize the damage via containment and recovery solutions. Some of the activities a CSIRTs team perform may include:

    • Incidents analysis—the incident response team analyzes the threat. Response teams often use threat intelligence tools to gather information about attack patterns and techniques. They assess the severity of the threat and the impact it may have on the organization, choosing a way to respond. 
    • Incident prevention, detection and response—the team then proceeds to carry on containment and remediation measures to prevent further damage. 

 

  • Forensic investigation—this involves investigating the causes of an attack, establishing the attack timeline and lessons learned.

 

  • Security strategies development—CSIRTS develops security strategies, alone or in collaboration with other departments. The team can also assist other teams in the organization with threat prevention.

A CSIRT aims to minimize the damage caused by security incidents by responding as quickly as possible to threats. CSIRTs not only respond to the attack in progress but also prevent and carry on forensic on incidents. Other responsibilities of a CSIRT may include:

  • Ranking alerts 
  • Coordinating strategies
  • Notifying stakeholders about incidents

SOC Overview

SOC stands for Security Operations Center.  A SOC is the facility where a team carries on security tasks. The term SOC also refers to the team responsible for the organization’s overall cybersecurity. SOC has a broader meaning and scope than CSIRTs. 

The SOCs responsibilities can include prevention, incident response, compliance and risk management. The core functions of a SOC include:

  • Data collection and correlation—SOC teams usually leverage threat intelligence solutions such as Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) to provide context and correlate data. A SOC may gather metrics for operational security purposes and assist other departments.
  • Threat detection—part of the work of a SOC team is identifying anomalies and detecting threats. This may include threat hunting capabilities and the use of behavioral analysis tools and techniques. 
  • Monitoring—security analysts in a SOC monitor the security of the network, users, and systems. . 

Key Differences

Both types of teams share a similar range of tasks. While CSIRT and SOC capabilities and responsibilities can overlap, each team aims for specific and different goals. 

CSIRTs look at incidents with a hands-on perspective, acting immediately to stop the threat and prevent damage. SOCs, on the other hand, usually involve a broader perspective. While SOCs can get involved in incident response, it usually happens when there is no dedicated team available. You can find below the main differences between both types of teams in terms of capabilities and structure.

SOC

  • Threat detection—monitors and detect threats. 
  • Alert triage—analyzes and prioritizes alerts.
  • Structure—usually operates alone without sharing information with other SOCs. 
  • Incident management—SOCs can take responsibility for incident management when there is no CSIRT. In companies where there are both teams, the SOC assists the CSIRT with threat intelligence. 

CSIRT

  • Incident management—focuses on effective and quick incident response. Develops and refines the incident response plan. 
  • Structure—CSIRTs usually are structured under other CSIRTs or SOCs. It can be organized regionally or nationally. 
  • Threat detection—CSIRTs typically receive threat intelligence from the SOC. The CSIRT team also leverages threat intelligence solutions to detect threats. 

What’s Better: a SOC or CSIRT Team?

Both teams are complementary. Combining a SOC and a CSIRT can help make the most of a cybersecurity department. Since it is not possible for all companies to have both a SOC and a CSIRT, organizations can choose the structure that works best for them. As long as organizations maintain standard security practices, they can create their own team. 

 

Gilad David Mayaan

About Gilad David Mayaan

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/giladdavidmaayan/

View all posts by Gilad David Mayaan

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