5 Security Operations Center (SOC) Best Practices to Enhance Visibility Into Risk and Compliance

  • June 18, 2024

Emily Bonnie

Senior Content Marketing Manager at Secureframe


Rob Gutierrez

Senior Compliance Manager at Secureframe

A Security Operations Center (SOC) serves as the central nervous system and ongoing radar for an organization's cybersecurity efforts, continuously monitoring and analyzing security threats to safeguard sensitive data and ensure compliance.

A well-functioning SOC not only defends against cyberattacks but also plays a pivotal role in identifying and mitigating risks before they escalate. By enhancing visibility into risk and compliance, a SOC helps organizations maintain robust security practices, improve operational efficiency, and avoid costly data breaches and violation penalties.

In this post, we explore the best practices a SOC can implement to enhance visibility into risk and compliance, empowering SOCs to better protect information assets, ensure compliance, and ultimately build a more secure and resilient operational environment.

What is a Security Operations Center (SOC)?

A Security Operations Center (SOC) is a unit within an organization that addresses security issues on both a strategic and technical level. Its primary role is to assess, identify, monitor, and defend the organization against risks and security threats.

A SOC consists of information security professionals, compliance experts, and specialized technology to detect, analyze, and respond to security threats and incidents.

The Security Operations Center helps reduce organizational risk in several key ways:

Risk assessment and mitigation

SOCs identify potential security risks to an organization’s assets, including data, applications, and infrastructure, then assess the severity and potential impact of identified risks and prioritize them for remediation. The SOC also develops and implements strategies to mitigate identified risks, such as patch management, data security configurations, and access controls.

Proactive threat detection and monitoring

SOCs continuously monitor network traffic, system logs, US-CERT threat streams, and other relevant data sources for suspicious activity that could indicate a security threat. They use threat intelligence to stay informed about emerging threats and vulnerabilities, which helps organizations anticipate and prepare for potential attacks.

Incident response and management

When a security incident is detected, the SOC is responsible for a swift and coordinated response to mitigate damage and isolate cyber threats. The SOC also conducts detailed investigations into security incidents to understand their cause and impact and prevent future occurrences.

Compliance and reporting

SOCs play a key role in ensuring organizations comply with various cybersecurity frameworks and regulatory requirements to avoid legal penalties and compliance risks. Regular internal audits and audit reports generated by the SOC provide insights into the organization’s security posture, informing stakeholders and guiding decision-making. Since incident response is often a common component of many IT security/compliance frameworks, SOCs must help ensure not only security, but compliance as well.

Advisory and strategic planning

The SOC often plays a role in educating and training employees about cybersecurity risks and best practices. The SOC also provides guidance on the organization’s overall security strategy, including investment in security technologies such as continuous monitoring and GRC software. Insights gained from monitoring and incident response are used to continuously improve security measures and compliance operations. 

Organizational resilience

A well-functioning SOC enhances an organization's resilience against threats. Reducing the likelihood and impact of security incidents and promoting business continuity protects the organization’s reputation and bottom line.

5 Best practices for SOCs to enhance visibility into risk and compliance

Improved visibility into an organization’s risk and compliance posture is crucial and contributes directly to the business’s overall success. With a clear understanding of the risk and compliance landscape, company leaders can make informed choices that balance risk and reward. They can allocate resources more efficiently, improve operations by identifying process inefficiencies and redundancies, and safeguard revenue streams by reducing the costs associated with disruptions, downtime, and non-compliance fines. 

SOCs play a pivotal role in enhancing visibility into risk and compliance across the company. Let’s take a closer look at five best practices SOCs can implement to improve transparency and awareness within their organizations and drive better outcomes. 

1. Track the right metrics

Metrics like the number of alerts or incidents reported can be deceptive. A high number of alerts may seem like the SOC is actively identifying threats, but it can also indicate a lot of noise and false positives, painting an inaccurate picture of an organization’s security posture

It’s crucial that SOCs focus on the right metrics to assess performance and make informed decisions. Here are some key metrics to track:

  • Vulnerability remediation time: Monitor the average time to remediate vulnerabilities for insights into the efficiency of the vulnerability management process.
  • Patch management: Track the time taken to apply patches across systems to ensure that vulnerabilities are promptly addressed, reducing the risk of exploitation.
  • Security awareness training completion rates: Ensure employees complete security awareness training to help mitigate human-related risks, such as social engineering attacks. 
  • Mean time to detect, respond, and resolve: These metrics measure the SOC's efficiency in identifying, responding to, and resolving incidents, reflecting the overall effectiveness of the security operations.
  • False positive and negative rates: Monitoring false positive and negative rates helps improve the accuracy of threat detection and reduces the burden on SOC analysts by minimizing unnecessary investigations.
  • Vulnerability severity: How many vulnerabilities that are being monitored are actual threats? Are many vulnerabilities non-critical? Or are there multiple severe vulnerabilities? If so, what is causing the high severity? 

2. Build useful reports and dashboards

Creating comprehensive reports and dashboards enhances visibility, allowing SOCs to take a proactive approach to maintaining and improving security and compliance measures as well as facilitating executive reporting and stakeholder communications.

Key reports and dashboards include:

Compliance and audit dashboards

These dashboards display a real-time compliance status based on the performance of implemented controls mapped to specific frameworks like SOC 2, ISO 27001, HIPAA, PCI, or NIST 800-53. This provides constant visibility into your compliance posture, making it easier for security teams to maintain continuous compliance and proactively address any non-compliance issues as they happen rather than discovering them during preparation for point-in-time audits. 

These dashboards also reflect progress toward compliance with new frameworks, giving leadership a clear picture of what’s already been accomplished and how much is left to be done. With Secureframe, organizations can also track how closely they are adhering to regulatory requirements throughout the year.

Control performance reports

GRC tools that offer continuous security monitoring capabilities enhance visibility into security controls, allowing team members to understand the specific measures that have been put in place and ensure they’re functioning as intended. This clarity allows teams to identify potential misconfigurations and vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, reducing the risk of data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage.

Using automated tools to monitor control dashboards in real time can also provide organizations with a much more dynamic view of control effectiveness and the strength of their overall security posture. 

In fact, as a result of Secureframe’s continuous control monitoring and other automation capabilities, Secureframe users reported a range of benefits including:

  • Saved time and resources obtaining and maintaining compliance (95%)
  • Improved visibility into security and compliance posture (71%)
  • Reduced costs associated with a compliance program (50%)

Risk reports

Risk reports detail the organization’s risk landscape and often include a risk library of identified risks, risk treatment plans, mitigation strategies, and progress on risk reduction efforts. This report makes it easier for internal and external stakeholders to understand the organization’s risk profile, how risks are being prioritized, and the specific steps the SOC team has taken to manage and reduce organizational risk. 

Some tools, such as Secureframe, integrate risk reports into their risk management offerings. For example, Secureframe’s risk register allows users to view risk histories to easily demonstrate to auditors and other stakeholders the steps they’ve taken to strengthen their security posture. Risk dashboards also allow SOCs to visually monitor their progress in reducing risk with heat maps, summary tables, and trend charts to clearly demonstrate the impact of their risk management initiatives. 

Incident response dashboard

An incident response dashboard provides real-time insights and status updates on cybersecurity incidents and the SOC's response efforts. It consolidates and displays critical information about ongoing and past incidents, helping SOC managers and stakeholders understand the current threat landscape, track incident handling progress, and make informed decisions about resource allocation and process improvements. 

Tracking incident response provides SOCs with a tool for post-incident analysis, providing a feedback loop for continuous improvement. Refining processes allows the SOC team to adapt and evolve based on current and emerging threats. 

Vulnerability management dashboard

Similar to a risk management report, a vulnerability management dashboard provides an overview of an organization’s open vulnerabilities and the SOC’s efforts to remediate them. Alerts for vulnerabilities and misconfigurations make it easier to escalate. 

Some GRC platforms allow teams to assign owners to specific controls and remediation tasks, further enhancing visibility and accountability into vulnerability management efforts. For example, Secureframe allows teams to assign control owners and integrates with JIRA to create and assign tickets for remediation tasks. Comply AI for Remediation uses artificial intelligence to auto-generate fixes for infrastructure as code so SOC teams can easily copy, paste, and deploy fixes to their cloud environment. The Vulnerabilities Tab also simplifies vulnerability management by pulling in data from sources like AWS Inspector and Github Dependabot to give clear visibility into vulnerabilities from multiple resources in a single view. 

3. Conduct more frequent risk assessments

Traditionally, risk assessments are conducted on an annual or quarterly basis. But recent trends show an increasing number of organizations performing them more frequently, likely due to the increasingly dynamic nature of the cybersecurity landscape. 

More frequent risk assessments, conducted on a monthly or even weekly basis, help SOCs be adaptable, identifying and addressing new risks promptly. Up-to-date risk profiles also allow SOCs and their organizations to more effectively allocate resources to the areas of highest risk, as well as improve and refine the risk management process to make them more efficient and effective.  

Automated risk assessments can be conducted with the click of a button in Secureframe, making it faster and easier for teams to conduct frequent assessments, stay on top of emerging risks, and ensure their risk response strategies stay effective. Secureframe’s risk assessment tool uses an AI-powered workflow to intelligently generate an inherent risk score, treatment plan, and residual risk score so SOCs can improve their risk awareness and response. 

4. Leverage technology to automate processes and workflows

SOCs can significantly enhance their efficiency and effectiveness by leveraging automation and artificial intelligence technologies to streamline and standardize routine manual processes, automate workflows, and reduce human error. Security solutions and automation tools allow SOC teams to focus on more complex, high-priority initiatives with direct business impact. 

For example, SOC teams receive 4,484 alerts and spend nearly three hours a day manually triaging alerts — yet 83% of security analysts say those alerts are false positives and not worth their time. AI-powered security tools can automatically analyze and triage security alerts based on severity, relevance, and context, reducing the number of false positives and prioritizing genuine threats. 

Similarly, GRC automation tools can automatically generate compliance reports, track personnel acceptance and adherence to security policies, and pinpoint failing controls and non-compliance issues before an audit, significantly reducing the time and effort required for audit prep. Secureframe’s Vulnerabilities Tab gives customers a bird’s eye view of vulnerabilities across their tech stack, pulling in data from sources like AWS Inspector and Github Dependabot to surface all vulnerabilities from multiple resources in a single view. 

In addition, automating repetitive and mundane tasks reduces SOC team burnout, allowing SOC analysts to focus on developing advanced skills and engaging in more challenging and rewarding work such as incident analysis and forensics, security architecture strategy and development, and policy and procedure development. 

5. Foster collaboration and information sharing 

Fostering collaboration and information sharing across organizations is crucial for SOC analysts to enhance the overall security posture and ensure coordinated and efficient responses to potential threats. 

Cross-functional teams that include members from IT, compliance, legal, and other business units can create a comprehensive approach to security and a widespread understanding of its significance to the organization’s success. 

Frequent communications across multiple channels also enhance visibility across the organization. SOC teams can establish Slack channels, internal newsletters, open office hours or Q&A sessions, and accessible reports and dashboards for real-time updates and information sharing. By sharing tools, data, and intelligence across departments, SOC teams can ensure everyone has access to the necessary resources for effective risk management.

SOC analysts can also foster relationships with other security professionals to share experiences and best practices and stay updated on industry trends. Professional associations such as ISACA, ISC2, or SANS Institute can be invaluable resources to participate in information sharing and establish partnerships.

Leveraging automation to improve SOC performance

Security and compliance automation tools can significantly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of Security Operations Centers (SOCs), providing numerous benefits that translate into a stronger impact on the overall business. 

Here's how tools like Secureframe can help:

Advanced risk management

Secureframe’s end-to-end Risk Management solution makes it easy to identify, manage, and mitigate risk so you can build and maintain a strong security compliance posture. 

Automatically assess risks with Comply AI, track risk history, and link risks to specific controls to align your risk management and compliance requirements. Advanced machine learning intelligently suggests control mappings to risk assessments, helping organizations assess their residual risk and build a strong risk management program. Our platform also includes a risk library with NIST risk scenarios that organizations can easily add to their risk register for tracking. 

Secureframe also simplifies third-party risk management, making it easy to continuously monitor and track your vendors’ security and compliance posture so you can do business with minimal risk. Access vendor profiles, vendor risk assessments, document attachments, and vendor history logs within the platform to continuously monitor vendor risk. 

Efficient compliance and audit management

Our platform supports dozens of in-demand frameworks out-of-the-box, plus custom frameworks. 200+ deep integrations automatically collect evidence and continuously monitor control performance to ensure your organization stays compliant with framework and regulatory requirements. Track your real-time compliance status and progress towards new frameworks, easily manage audit evidence in your Evidence Library, quickly generate and manage compliant policies with genAI, conduct security awareness training within the platform, and save hundreds of hours on preparing for regular audits. 

Clear visibility and simplified reporting

Secureframe includes advanced reporting features and dashboards for multiple aspects of your GRC program, including risk reports, compliance dashboards, vulnerability dashboards, and vendor risk monitoring, enhancing visibility and simplifying communication with key stakeholders. 

Risk dashboards provide a holistic view of your organization’s risk profile. Visually monitor your progress over time with heat maps, summary tables, trend charts, and more to easily communicate the health of your risk management program to executives, auditors, and other stakeholders.

Compliance dashboards show a clear snapshot of your compliance status and give quick insights into any failing controls or misconfigurations for proactive compliance management. Vulnerability dashboards also pull in data from across your tech stack to provide a comprehensive view of all vulnerabilities in one place. 

Secureframe also simplifies asset management by providing a single view for you to track and manage employee computers, cloud resources, and code repositories by automatically pulling information from your integrations, like endpoint management platforms, Cloud Service Providers (CSP), and version control tools.

Easier multi-framework compliance

As organizations grow, so do their security and compliance needs. Secureframe can easily scale to accommodate increased data volumes and complexity, ensuring that SOCs can manage larger and more intricate environments without a proportional increase in workload. 

All Secureframe-authored frameworks utilize common controls where possible to ensure a sleek compliance program. That means you can access a full list of controls that apply to your organization and see which framework requirements and tests are mapped to each of your controls directly in the Secureframe platform.

Comply AI also scans your control library and automatically suggests the most appropriate controls for the different frameworks you are managing. Easily review and add recommended controls to new or existing frameworks to save time, and ensure accuracy and consistency across your compliance efforts.

In a recent survey by UserEvidence, 89% of Secureframe users said the platform helped sped up time-to-compliance for multiple frameworks, and 92% said they reduced time spent on manual tasks. 

See how Secureframe can help your SOC deliver greater business value by scheduling a demo today. 

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About the UserEvidence Survey

The data about Secureframe users was obtained through an online survey conducted by UserEvidence in February 2024. The survey included responses from 44 Secureframe users (the majority of whom were manager-level or above) across the information technology, consumer discretionary, industrials, financial, and healthcare industries.