Automating Threat Detection and Incident Response with SOAR

With cyber threats becoming more advanced and targeted, security teams struggle to keep up. Manual and siloed security processes lead to slow threat detection and incident response. Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) solutions aim to automate repetitive tasks, orchestrate workflows, and accelerate incident response. Read on to understand what SOAR is, its key capabilities, top use cases, and how to implement SOAR effectively.

What is SOAR?

SOAR is a solution category that helps security teams modernize operations by:

  • Orchestration: Integrating security tools into workflows for centralized processes
  • Automation: Streamlining manual tasks for faster processing
  • Response: Accelerating incident triage, investigation, and remediation

Key drivers for SOAR adoption include increasing volume of alerts, dwell time and data breaches. Top use cases span across the security operations lifecycle:

  • Data Collection: Centralized logging and metrics ingestion
  • Threat Detection: Rules and analytics for detecting anomalies
  • Incident Response: Automated triage, enrichment and remediation
  • Threat Hunting: Proactive identification of advanced threats

Leading SOAR solutions include Microsoft Sentinel, IBM Resilient, Splunk SOAR, Rapid7 InsightConnect, Swimlane, etc. Many SIEM solutions now offer integrated SOAR capabilities.

SOAR Architecture and Components

A SOAR solution typically consists of the following core components:

  • Orchestration Engine – Aggregates and normalizes data from security tools. Provides connectors to integrate APIs.
  • Process Automation – Library of prebuilt playbooks that automate security processes using workflows.
  • Incident Management – Central console to visualize, investigate and manage security incidents.
  • Reporting and Analytics – Dashboards, reports and analytics for visibility across security lifecycle stages.
  • Threat Intelligence – Ingest threat intel feeds and check IOCs. Help determine risk and prioritize incidents.
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An effective SOAR solution should have out-of-the-box content and extensibility to custom-build automation. Cloud-based solutions provide infinite scalability and high availability critical for security operations.

Top Benefits of SOAR Adoption

SOAR aims to help SOC analysts work smarter by providing the following key benefits:

  • Accelerated Incident Response – Automate repetitive tasks to reduce MTTR and dwell time. Respond faster with automated playbooks.
  • Improved Analyst Productivity – Let SOAR handle the bulk of Tier 1 work to allow analysts to focus on skilled tasks.
  • Enhanced Threat Visibility – Collect, correlate and contextualize security data for better decision making.
  • Reduced Operating Costs – Optimize resources needed to run security operations with automation.

Use Cases for SOAR-driven Security Automation

Now let’s explore some key use cases where SOAR can help improve threat detection and response.

Automated Incident Triage and Assignment

Tier 1 analysts spend the majority of their time on manually assessing, tagging, documenting and assigning security incidents. SOAR solutions like Swimlane allow creating rules that run automatically on incident creation to update priority, categorization, severity, and ownership fields based on attributes like source, type and category. This helps accelerate initial incident response steps in a consistent manner while allowing analysts to focus on in-depth investigations.

Enriching Incidents with Threat Intelligence

To understand the risk associated with a security incident, analysts need to gather threat intelligence related to  IOC s like file hash, IP, domain or URL. Fetching such contextual data manually from threat intel platforms is time-consuming. SOAR solutions like Demisto enable automating threat intel lookup from various feeds and services to enrich incidents. The findings help accurately label severity, guide response playbooks, and prioritize actions.

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Security Tool and Process Orchestration

SOAR helps bridge silos between detection and response tools across end users, networks, cloud, identities and apps. For example, Rapid7 InsightConnect provides hundreds of plugins that allow orchestrating response actions across your security ecosystem via automated playbooks. This could mean adding an infected host to endpoint isolation, resetting compromised account passwords, blocking malicious URLs in proxy or coordinating with IT/Sec teams via notifications and tickets.

Automating Repetitive Remediation Tasks

Entry level SOC analysts spend lots of time on performing repetitive actions like disabling users, reimaging endpoints or isolating servers. SOAR solutions like IBM SOAR come with prebuilt playbooks that can automate such remediation tasks across your environment. This reduces MTTR allowing faster containment.

Proactive Threat Hunting

Beyond reacting to alerts and incidents, SOAR also enables automating threat hunts for suspicious activities across networks, endpoints, and the cloud. Security teams can build playbooks that proactively scan for IoCs, anomalous access attempts or policy violations. By regularly and automatically hunting across the environment, you can discover stealthy threats that might have evaded regular detection methods.

Implementing a SOAR Program

Here are some best practices to follow for effectively implementing SOAR:

  • Start with automating repetitive manual tasks to showcase benefits
  • Focus first on critical security processes with the highest friction
  • Increase scope gradually instead of replacing all manual work at once
  • Get input from SOC analysts on bottlenecks before building playbooks
  • Encourage the security team to enhance playbooks with regular feedback

Measure key metrics before and after SOAR adoption like MTTD, MTTR, analyst workload, cases per analyst, etc. This will showcase SOAR ROI to leadership and help secure steady budget.

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The Future of SOAR

SOAR solutions have evolved from simply orchestrating security workflows to providing advanced AI and ML driven automation capabilities. Below are some key innovations in this space:

  • Predictive and prescriptive analytics to forecast and guide response
  • Automated root cause analysis to speed up investigations
  • Natural Language Processing for conversation-driven automation
  • Robotic Process Automation to emulate user actions
  • No-code platforms for analyst-driven playbook customization

As threats continue to increase in volume and complexity, SOAR will play a pivotal role in building the next-gen Security Operations Center. Machines and automation will handle the bulk of the repetitive tasks allowing analysts to focus on high-value alerts. SOAR will continue to accelerate detection and response through contextual automation.

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