SecOps – Bridging Security & IT Operations To Proactively Address Security Concerns

March 16, 2022

There was a time when cyber-attacks were unheard of, and cyber-criminals weren't innovating continuously to find novel ways of breaking into an IT system. But today is different. As security attacks grow, the need to combine Security and Operations teams to provide a comprehensive security framework has become paramount.

Although combining Security and Operations (SecOps) is the step forward, it still isn't widely followed. A report by Dark Reading found that 28% of the organizations bring the Security team at the beginning of the projects only when the project is critically important. Furthermore, most of the respondents agreed that the security teams are often not consulted at all during the initial phases. But this doesn't mean the trend towards adoption of SecOps is in anyways receding. A Forbes Insights report concluded that almost half the surveyed companies planned to combine security and operations teams to fortify the security of their essential applications.

What is SecOps?

SecOps is a collaborative effort between IT security and operations teams that unites tools, processes, and technology to maintain enterprise security while reducing risk. As a perceived harmful cyber-attack can affect an organization's best security tools by restricting or shutting down essential application's running time, it is crucial to address security threats that may undermine the working of an organization. SecOps is a methodology that aims to do just that by operationalizing and hardening security across the software lifecycle.

Generally, cloud-hosted applications have a development team, an operations team, and an IT security team. IT organizations face numerous problems, the most common is establishing an effective collaboration between these teams. The role of a development team is to build new updates and program patches; the operations team is responsible for performance management, whereas the security team maintains the security framework to preempt security risks. Since the roles of these teams are very different from each other, it is very easy for these teams to work independently without much collaboration with each other. This working in silos leads to various security and operational issues. Let's understand this by an example- If a development team works without any collaboration with the security team, it can build an unstable patch. The operations team will then be left to manage the performance of a sub-optimal patch update. And in trying to push a sub-optimal patch, they might create various security issues.

 Benefits of SecOps:

 Adopting a SecOps methodology has many benefits:

  • Return on investment: Compared to the traditional security environment, SecOps provides a higher Return on investment.
  • Security and operations become streamlined: Priorities are managed and consolidated more effectively, communication and information are integrated, and tools and technology are linked.
  • Reduced resources: Key security protocols are done automatically for all streamlined security plans, and effective responses are orchestrated.
  • Fewer cloud security issues: Fewer security breaches, vulnerabilities, and security distractions contribute to a safer security environment.
  • Fewer app disruptions: Lesser configuration errors are caused, and modifications in application code are linked to deployment rules.
  • Better auditing procedures: Vulnerabilities that were observed can be addressed proactively. Policies for adhering to appropriate standards are checked and enforced automatically.
  • Earlier detection and prioritization: SecOps prefer to check smaller, more constructive sections rather than large batches or entire programs all at once
  • Increased transparency: Increased ties and collaboration among development, security, and operations can lead to increased transparency.
  • Security improvements: SecOps enhances security to DevOps' programming and operational elements.

Role of a SecOps Center

Constant Network Monitoring-

SecOps teams monitor the network around the clock to immediately be aware of impending security threats. Advanced tools are used to point out statistically inappropriate behaviour in the systems.

Incident Response and Remediation-

One significant role of a SecOps team is to respond to any incurred threat immediately. Network monitoring tools generally detect the incidents before the ill-effects spill onto the end-users. The team is expected to take remedial actions and perform damage control (restore lost, affected and compromised files).

Forensics and Root Cause Analysis-

After a security breach or another unexpected event, it is imperative to make sure why it took place. This investigation is necessary to avoid any such attacks in future. Various log data and other pieces of information are thoroughly analyzed to determine the source of the breach.

Threat Intelligence-

To keep attackers at bay, the team needs to be prepared at all times. It must possess the knowledge of the newest security technologies and trends in cybercrimes. Cybercriminals are ever innovating, and the team needs to be a step ahead of them to have an actionable plan to counter the attacks. This preparation method involves SecOps teams collaborating within as well as with other teams of various industries. 

It is also essential to have methods in place to prevent and proactively respond to threats. Thus, it is necessary to periodically maintain and update the existing security systems and security policies. 

Key roles/positions on a SecOps team

The structure of an organization's SecOps team defines its success in preventing cyber-attacks. Putting roles together piecemeal without an overall strategy will lead to an incoherent response. Instead, an organization requires a well-coordinated SecOps team with defined roles covering the full spectrum of cybersecurity threats and attacks. 

5 key roles for every Security Operation Center (SOC) team:

  • Incident responder - is the 1st responder to hundreds of security threats/alerts received every day. He is responsible for configuring and monitoring the security tools.
  • Security investigator - is responsible for identifying affected hosts and evaluating terminated processes. It is also a part of his duty to identify sources of attacks and methodologies used.
  • Advanced security analyst - is responsible for conducting vulnerability tests and performing security analysis. He is responsible for assessing the security framework and fixing potential security lapses.
  • SOC manager - is responsible for hiring and training the staff. As a manager, he is also in charge of allocating resources and managing the team.
  • Security engineer/architect - is a specialist whose responsibility is to maintain security aspects in the design of the information systems. 

SecOps roadmap with AI tools Integration

Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) have found their way into SecOps tools, and organizations should aspire to automate as many functions as possible.

There are numerous SecOps and SOC automation use cases, including incident detection, response, analysis, landscape analysis, emergent threat mitigation, human SOC analyst augmentation, and security training gamification.

Teams can use automated functions to compile data on security incidents, assign risk scores, cluster for similarities, differentiate and prioritize distinct kinds of threats, recommend response or remediation steps, and more.

SecOps teams benefit from automation by achieving awareness of the current state, understanding what could happen, and a plan of action. Increased threat vectors, such as IoT devices, necessitate SecOps teams having the outlook that AI can provide – insight that assists in detection and prevention. Automation also frees humans from time-consuming, manual tasks, focusing more on SecOps strategy.

More and more enterprises are now adopting SecOps as a cost-effective way of developing applications. Companies incorporate security into their entire business process by implementing SecOps from the start. This approach ensures that requirements are fulfilled, and systems are designed with safety. This "shift left" enables security to work together to set up a security system. It also pushes members of the operations team to reconsider how they create and develop.

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