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Blog | Dec 27, 2019

Calculating the True Cost of a SOC

Originally posted in Infosecurity Magazine on December 19, 2019

In today’s complex and sophisticated world of digital transformation, organizations realize that security is a foundational component. However effectively assessing security technologies can be challenging, especially in a highly fragmented vendor landscape.

This can lead to buying technology they cannot fully implement or use, adding complexity and frustration to an already difficult situation. Fortunately, there are options – and your company doesn’t have to go it alone.

Hard Technology Choices
Vendors are sometimes less than candid about how many people a company really needs to realize Return-on-Investment (ROI) from many of today’s security technologies. Under-staffed IT and security teams can create more security risk than most companies realize.

For one thing, some cybersecurity products need more dedicated personnel with security skills than they advertise. Companies purchase security technology and often fail to understand what it truly takes to effectively implement and operate that said technology in order to mitigate risk. For many security technologies, the total cost of ownership is often higher than anticipated.

In addition, businesses often must choose between focusing on security or on compliance. While the two should be aligned, the reality is that they often are not when there is insufficient budget to accomplish both objectives.

Gartner has underlined that how much an organization spends on IT is not the sole measure of IT effectiveness and is not necessarily a gauge of successful IT organizations. A company may be spending the same amount as its peer group but may have different goals (e.g. regulatory compliance versus increased security) or have a different risk profile or risk tolerance.

To top it off, there are a myriad of software products and solutions to choose from, which can make it difficult to select the right technology. In fact, one study found that some companies are using more than 75 different security vendors and products as they struggle to achieve a healthy balance between security and functionality. Despite all of these tools in use, there are still gaps.

Security’s Total Cost of Ownership
When creating a security strategy, it is critical to start by truly understanding the TCO of the technology being assessed. Security solutions often get sold based on features and capabilities, but that ignores the matter of staffing and employees.

Many of the options out there require more full-time employees dedicated to the effective operation of a particular technology which can quickly drive up costs. Finding the employees with the right skillsets can also be a significant challenge.

Infosecurity Europe found in a 2019 poll that the biggest challenge to cybersecurity recruitment is a lack of skills. Specifically, threat intelligence, technical skills, incident response and forensic investigation are in short supply. Moreover, the (ISC)2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, 2019 estimates a shortfall of more than four million cybersecurity professionals worldwide and over 300,000 in Europe. The report notes that 65% of organizations have a shortage of cybersecurity staff.

Setting up an in-house Security Operations Centre (SOC) means gathering the appropriate tools, intelligence and people together to create an integrated solution that can withstand the test of time. It also needs to scale as quickly as the threat landscape changes. This is no straightforward undertaking. CISOs across industries frequently bemoan the lack of time and budget needed to find the right candidates. In some cases, the recruitment itself process can become overwhelming resulting in a considerable distraction from a CISO’s primary function - safeguarding their organization’s systems, data, assets and intellectual property.

To staff a SOC on a 24/7 basis requires a minimum of 10-12 people. Employees get sick, take holidays and sometimes resign unexpectedly, and in order to ensure 24/7 coverage, you need a lot of people.

After locating, hiring and retaining the cybersecurity professionals to staff a SOC, here are some of the advanced security tools and capabilities required to start building your own SOC today:

  • Threat Intelligence Subscriptions
  • Next-Generation IDS/IPS
  • Vulnerability Scanners
  • SIEM Platform
  • Forensic Tools
  • Endpoint Forensics and Detection

Counting the Cost
One aspect of the cost analysis is taking a look at what help a security solution or vendor can offer you. Just because you don’t have the full-time, dedicated staff needed for one solution doesn’t mean there are not other options available to you.

There are Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and other security solutions providers that can provide the tools you need while also supplying the skilled individuals. Many MSPs have strong partnerships for SOCs, for example, which can be a far more affordable route for many organizations than trying to take on the challenge of building a SOC in-house.

The fragmented vendor landscape and the promises of competing technologies can present a real risk when purchasing a security solution. It’s not as simple as checking off the appropriate boxes and then moving on. The reality of today’s modern security landscape is that adversaries are highly sophisticated and preventative point solutions, while foundational to security good security hygiene, are routinely exploited.

The additional ability to detect adversarial behavior and critically, respond with business context to a potentially disrupting event, is an essential and often overlooked element.

Calculating ROI is essential to the security solution decision-making process. In addition to the actual technology costs, how many people will you actually need, and what skills must they have? How available are the staff that you require with that particular expertise? Have you considered augmenting an in-house approach with partners with relevant and available skills and capabilities? If so, providers exist to help strengthen your security posture with both personnel and expertise.

Determine your Total Cost of Ownership based on your current internal resources, and that will help you understand what option works best for your organization.

Alex Jinivizian

Alex Jinivizian

Vice President, Strategy and International Marketing