What Is It SOAR? (Security orchestration, Automation & Response)
What is SOAR and what are its goals?
The SOAR acronym, upon its expansion, implies Security orchestration, Automation & Response. The term refers to the collection of software/tools that help a business to amass the stats and data related to upcoming or hidden security dangers and provide an appropriate response without much human involvement.
SOAR exists to reduce cybersecurity-specific challenges, communication issues, and response time. By acting as a centralized place for all security-specific discussion and notification management, the SOAR platform aims to alleviate threat detection and resolution/mitigation.
SOAR in action
Different SOAR security operational stages aim at a different goal. Here is how they are processed:
It aims to bring contrasting applications together with the help of APIs or need-based integrations. This integration of software/tools primarily takes firewalls, vulnerability scanners, intrusion detection, outside threat intelligence feeds, endpoint protection products, SIEM platforms, and intrusion prevention systems.
When so many tools are keeping an eye on threats and collecting data, detection is quick and appropriate. However, this isn’t without any loopholes. At times, the alerts and data become too much to handle - making automation an essentiality
It handles the orchestration data and analyzes it so that continual and fully automated processes are created. These processes swap the manual expert-driven operations.
The replacement processes are usually ticket-checking. log analysis, auditing, and threat scanning. When SOAR handles these operations, they become fully automated and standardized. The core of security automation are ML and AI.
It can decode the data and extract useful insights from it, and even make appropriate recommendations. Also, it plays a crucial part in forming the future response strategy.
One key aspect of automatiing cyber-safety process is the playbook that features pre-configured automated procedures. It’s possible to integrate various SOAR playbooks to handle intricate procedures. Let’s understand the function of a playbook with the help of an example.
Suppose an URL is spotted in an email during a scan, a playbook will come into action, restrict that email usage, notify the team about the presence of the URL, tag the URL as a potential phishing attack, and even block the source IP. Based upon the playbook’s actions, SOAR tools will automatically launch an investigation immediately.
Lastly, we have a security response. It offers a unified platform to analysts using which they can easily plan a response, keep an eye on the threats, and report the action/mitigation details. Actions like threat intelligence sharing, case management, and reporting are also part of security response.
Why is SOAR important?
With each passing day, cyber threats and dangers are growing at a rapid pace. Organizations have to struggle hard to ensure that no threats are coming near organizational data.
However, the advanced techniques that cybercriminals use & the stubbornness that present-day cyber threats bear make threat management tougher than ever. Companies have to look for an efficacious and viable security approach that is only possible with SOAR.
SOAR is important because it allows your team to quickly manage, handle, and fix threats automatically. Handling this task manually is highly tedious and tends to be inefficient as every aspect of monitoring isn’t possible. Manual handling leaves room for errors and inaccuracies as well.
There is a huge gap between your need vs. available talent/professionals. This gap either forces organizations to limit their threat monitoring or put an extra burden on available talent. Both situations are not good as quality threat monitoring is absent.
Wait! We are not done yet. Present-era organizations are having a tough time having access to all sorts of tools and technology that early and adequate threat monitoring and response delivery demands. With new threats popping up now and then, one might have to upgrade the owned technology frequently, which is both time and investment-consuming.
SOAR software offers a unified solution to all these and many more threat-monitoring hassles. With one tool, an organization can easily orchestrate and automate threat detection & monitoring while creating an instant response. When implement effectively, the SOAR platform grants unmatched abilities, like -
- Integrating threat intelligence, IT & security solutions.
SOAR tools make it easier to combine everything that is working towards cybersecurity. Be it threat intelligence tools or security tools, SOAR merges all of them and improves data collection and analysis. The best part of this integration is that it’s not platform specific. Tools and solutions from multiple vendors can be paired without any glitches. This stops the cybersecurity team from juggling extensively.
- Unified monitoring
When everything integrates into a single place, it’s possible to do unified monitoring. You will be able to track and observe threats from a single place.
- Quick response
An integrated overview of threats and security intelligence leads to quick responses and remedies. Security teams don’t have to wander between platforms to gather useful details. Whatever information they need will be present in a single place which saves time and effort while improving response delivery.
- Improved Intelligence
One can deal with cyber-threats effectively when detailed insights are obtained. SOAR implementation makes this possible by capturing data from firewalls. SIEMs, anti-virus software, intrusion detection system, and many other security solutions. When such extensive data is by your side, it’s impossible to miss any single threat and become prey to a cybercriminal.
- Insightful communication and reporting
When all crucial information is in one place, the security team remains updated with the security trends and can pass on urgent information to the concerned department immediately. All the teams can track workflows, send reports, and contrive responses without any delays. This continual communication further paves the path of real-time reporting as any threat is updated as it takes place.
- Better decisions in less time
SOAR platforms are designed with fewer complexities. They don’t have a confusing interface that only requires a seasoned hand. With tons of pre-built features like playbooks, automated alerts, real-time reporting, and a drag-and-drop interface, SOAR platforms have become everyone’s favorite as they make anyone competent enough to deal with security threats. Without investing much time and effort, SOAR users can make result-driven decisions.
From the above text, it’s clear that the SOAR platform equips an organization or individual so much so that it’s impossible that any threat gets unnoticed and causes any serious damage. This is what businesses of the present day are seeking. Hence, if you’re dealing with mission-critical data by any means, you must think of using SOAR platforms today
SOAR vs. SIEM
We won’t blame you if you find SOAR and SIEM very much similar or even use them interchangeably. Many others do the same because both these platforms are used widely for early and real-time threat detection. But, they stand poles apart.
SIEM is limited to threat data collection, spotting deviations, and ranking the threats as per their severity level. All these actions are required for the effective functioning of SOAR.
SOAR platforms utilize the data that SIEM collects for creating threat management and incident responses.
It has expanded capabilities as compared to SIEM. For instance, SIEM won’t be able to integrate with advanced tools,e.g., firewalls and intrusion-detectors.
The maximum assistance one can experience with SIEM is timely threat alerts. SOAR goes beyond that and uses automation to sort the alerts, rank them, and even fabricate powerful responses using AI/ML that directly or indirectly aid automation.
SOAR is an extension of SIEM. Businesses that find their SIEM incompetent will go for SOAR. But, those who are already using SOAR will have to look no further as it offers far-reaching capabilities that cover SIEM and a lot more, specific to the digital-security domain.
The adoption of SOAR has a far-flung impact. It’s effective in reducing threats and improving how you counter them. That’s not the end. If used to its full potential, a feature-rich and advanced SOAR platform that ensures various benefits, such as -
- Better data-gathering ability and security
SOAR tools come with impeccable integration abilities. Regardless of the type of tool, SOAR can pair with it and make your existing system for cybersecurity more impactful in no time.
This capability of SOAR pays off well at the time of data collection. With one single tool, you can capture data from multiple access points or security tools. For instance, you can seize data from the firewall, intrusion detection, and many other tools. When you have data in abundance, you have more details to strategize your response related to cyber issues.
- Having a clear definition of incident response & management
SOAR helps you pre-define the method for responding to security-incidences using the playbook - a highly powerful tool to use when it comes to explaining your tool-specific expectations, standards for finding threat, and promoting transparency in the entire process. With such clear explanations, it’s easy for your cybersecurity professionals or teams to act as if they are clear about the aim.
- End-to-end automation
Keeping an eye on security threats is getting out of human hands as threats are diverse, extensive, and exhaustive. Even with due diligence, manual threat detection is going to be erroneous and time-consuming.
SOAR makes everything automated, from finding the threats to creating their responses. Human intervention isn’t demanded much, which makes threat intelligence quick and precise. This automation saves a huge deal of time and effort.
- Streamlined operations
SOAR brings every data so sorted that no one will have trouble finding out what has to be done and how. Starting from vulnerability detection to handling threats, SOAR promotes streamlined operations that further add up to productivity.
- Quick incident response
SOAR brings everything required to your disposal and empowers your decision-making to be so advanced that you’ll be able to take crucial decisions immediately. This reduces the aftermath of a threat.
- Real-time Operations in Synchronization
SOAR platforms are capable of sorting the alerts and forwarding them to the concerned department without any delay. Analysts are able to collaborate in real-time across the team and share the alert status and actions taken.
Even if SOAR brings a lot to the table and leverages the end-user at the maximum possible fronts, it’s not watertight.
It has obvious technical and operational flaws and challenges. Gartner has pointed out a couple of times its weaknesses in its detailed SOAR Market Guide that was launched in 2020. We did a deeper SOAR analysis using that report and hand-picked the key pointers.
Before you think of adopting SOAR completely, you must understand the hurdles you might face during the adoption journey. As pointed out by Gartner, the SOAR challenges include:
- Keeping far-reaching expectations
SOAR has been hyped so much so that most of us have started thinking of a one-stop solution for all security troubles. Often, organizations think that if they have deployed SOAR, they don’t have to be more attentive. This is where the problem starts.
Even if SOAR is implemented, the cybersecurity team should remain active and have defined use cases of SOAR. The team should be skilled enough to make sure SOAR is deployed in the right direction.
- Too much dependency on automation
The kind of automation SOAR brings is hard to overlook. While automated actions save a huge deal of time and effort, they also pave the path for leniency. Playbook dependency should be limited. Their maximum reach is defined by digital-security experts. That’s it. Beyond that, human intelligence, with automation, should work like hands in gloves to mitigate risks.
- Considering it as the replacement for human intelligence
Often, organizations end-up considering SOAR as the viable replacement for security analysts or experts, and they start hiring novices or beginners to operate SOAR. This isn’t recommended at all. SOAR users must understand that SOAR is a tool that security analysts should use to be more productive and insightful.
- Complex deployment
SOAR is a mix of many things, and it leads to obvious deployment and operational complexities. One has to sort out many things such as type of deployment, tenancy type, integration, and tons of other things. For a few, sorting out all these things could be very tedious and confusing that further leads to inappropriate or ineffective deployment.
These challenges, if not handled properly, will lead to inadequate SOAR deployment and limited functionality, which will make no sense. Hence, one must try to fix them beforehand.
SOAR Use Cases
SOAR is useful on multiple fronts. If you want to make the most of it, you need to know the key use cases that are mentioned below.
What to look for in a SOAR platform? A guide to best practices.
We have reached the end of the post, and we expect that you’re very clear with the SOAR meaning and its utility in current times. Now, before you start thinking about implementing it, you must ensure that the platform you’re using is of premium grade. But, how will you be able to ensure that?
Well, certain traits define a quality SOAR platform. Make sure that option you’re going to finalize has all of them or most of them. For your ease, we’re presenting those traits next.
- User-friendly interface
We understand that the job a SOAR platform would be handling is utterly complex and tedious. But, its interface should be complex. With the confusing interface, you won’t be able to use the tool to its full capacity. Also, its usage will become very limited. Unless you have a seasoned team member by your side, you won’t be able to churn out the maximum outcome from the deployed tool.
Both these situations aren’t in our favor. Hence, you must always stick to SOAR software that has a very user-friendly interface.
- Free trial
Saying that a user-friendly interface should be the first selection criteria isn’t enough as you won’t be able to find out the truth unless you or your team try the tool in real-time. Solutions that are not offering any free trial are of no help on this front. So, always go with a tool that is proffering a free trial.
Even if it’s for a limited time, it will help you have a real-time experience of its utility without investing any money. Some tools can offer an entirely free trial, while few may offer it with a money-back guarantee. Both are fine.
- Impressive integration
Why do we suggest using the SOAR platform? Because they can gather insightful data from a variety of cybersecurity tools and solutions.
For this to happen, it’s mandatory that the SOAR platform comes with endless integration possibilities. While there is no higher limit, the tool must work well with threat mapping, detection, intelligence, classification, monitoring, and response tools.
The higher would be flexibility for integrations, the better would be the insights and analysis of threats.
- Integration customization
Even if considerable integrations are offered, any organizational needs may demand more. Hence, customization is preferred. If you’re an enterprise having multiple security endpoints, customized integration will help you to ensure that all your requirements are perfectly met and fulfilled.
- Check out its case management abilities
Case management is crucial to make sure that threats are effectively handled. You need to check whether the picked SOAR tool has native or integrated case management capabilities. Native case management is effective but limited.
Integrated case management covers more scenarios. Also, you need to make sure that the platform you’re going to pick accepts incident documentation. Audits are crucial for case management, and the SOAR platform you’re planning to use must have in-built audit capabilities.
- Threat intelligence (TI) tool integration
As gathering cyber-safety intelligence data is a non-negotiable aspect of a SOAR tool as it proffers proof-based security understanding of various contexts like mechanism, context, implication, and many more.
SOAR tools without it are only half-good. They won‘t be able to fulfill their purposes completely. Hence, one must ensure that the tool they are going to pick is able to integrate well with TI solutions enabling automated threat detection.
- Playbook and workflow capabilities
Playbooks are here to improve the operations and efficiecy. Hence, you need to check whether it’s present in your chosen playbook. Mere presence isn’t enough. SOAR tools should also support manual and automated customized playbook tasks. When it comes to workflow, it’s highly recommended to check whether or not visual task workflows are acceptable.
- Type of deployment
The usefulness of the SOAR platform depends heavily on the kind of implementation facility it offers. For instance, on-premise tools will have limited operability as compared to cloud-based software. You also have to check the tenancy it supports. Software with multiple tenancies is far better than a single tenancy. All these factors should be kept in mind while buying the SOAR platform.
- Pricing methods
You can’t ignore the pricing part, of course. You must check out how the SOAR platform is charging you for its services. There are multiple pricing models. For instance, cost per node/per automation/per action/per endpoint and annual subscription with multiple add-ons. Each pricing method will cost you differently. You need to understand your requirements first and then find out which pricing model is suiting best.
- Training and demo
An organization will have people with various kinds of technical competencies. Some teammates find SOAR operations easy, while few can get confused.
This is where team training and demo comes into the picture. If a SOAR platform is offering professional training, learning material, and demo, it’s easy to get familiar with it.
- After-sales technical and customer care support
SOAR platforms, no matter how simple and professional they seem, can give you future troubles. Sometimes an integration may not work or a feature requires an update. Technical glitches are unavoidable and won’t cause a headache if the SOAR platform is coming with reliable after-sale technical and customer support. This saves you, as a SOAR user, from multiple headaches and hassles. This support is crucial to make sure the platform remains functional around the clock.
How effectively you’re able to handle threats depends on how useful or powerful your SOAR platform is and how clearly you understand soar definition. You need to remain highly attentive while making a choice, as a single wrong choice will put everything at risk. Keep these things in mind while selecting a SOAR tool. With these points in mind, it’s very rare to make a wrong choice.