MDR vs. SOAR vs. SOC—How to Choose an Effective Cybersecurity Solution

If you run a business, you should probably be concerned about cybersecurity. Recent years have seen more cyber-attacks than years prior, and as the internet continues evolving more opportunities for attacks arise. You may think your data is safe if you regularly update and patch your software, but unfortunately that isn’t complete protection in today’s cybersecurity landscape. If you were fined by a regulatory agency for a data breach, it would be hard to argue that you used industry best practices in protecting data. In addition, if you consider potential losses suffered from the breach itself, the cost of a security event can become astronomical, especially for SMB's. And even if your business has cybersecurity insurance, your claim would likely be denied for following outdated security protocols. Today, we’ll go over some advanced cybersecurity solutions and discuss which one may be a good fit for your company's needs.

Here's What Your Business Should Know About MDR, SOAR, and SOC:

What Is the Difference Between a MDR, SOAR, and SOC?

You may have heard of a MDR or SOAR or SOC in conversations about cybersecurity. These solutions are intended to improve your company’s cyber posture but can be difficult to differentiate. Each includes similar security benefits but they vary in cost and deployment. It’s important to understand what each offers before investing in a solution for your business.  

  • MDR stands for Managed Detection and Response.
  • SOAR stands for Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response.
  • SOC stands for Security Operations Center.

An SOC can operate in two ways: in-house and outsourced. An in-house SOC usually includes at least one full-time cybersecurity expert. An outsourced SOC is often referred to as SOC as-a-service, which would be a more cost-effective solution as opposed to an in-house SOC. SOC as-a-service is typically priced by the number of users in an organization and would include a team of experts who continuously monitor and analyze security incidents. You send data logs to your provider, they sort through them and send significant issues back to you to fix. Unlike an in-house SOC team, instead of responding to security incidents, they pass along information to the company whose in-house IT team can then take remediation steps based on that information.

An MDR is an outsourced security team that looks a lot like an SOC as-a-service offering, and in fact, Managed Detection and Response evolved out of SOC as-a-service. They provide continuous monitoring and detection of security events, but they also provide a remediation path to such events (unlike SOC as-a-service). This means that you can rely on your provider from the beginning to the end of a security incident, and they provide 24/7 coverage to detect and respond to security alerts. An MDR will be response-focused, and they will utilize a complex, holistic understanding of your organization to best serve its needs. This means you can also rely on an MDR provider to keep your security framework up to date with the latest best-practices specific to your industry and compliance regulations. MDR providers often work in the cloud and on-premises as needed.  

A SOAR solution solution is technology that uses machine learning to collect, sort, and analyze data and then respond to security threats based on predetermined rules called a “Playbook.” SOAR can be faster and more comprehensive than a SOC and MDR, as it removes the element of human error from the equation and can quickly compile all data connected to an organization. However, a team with cybersecurity expertise will be needed to manage SOAR software during and after deployment. AI (Artificial Intelligence) is still in its nascent stage, so false flags can occur in SOAR as the machine continues learning. SOAR solutions can also offer benefits like employee training, API interpretation between platforms, and automation of tasks beyond security.

How do I choose the right solution for my business?

Whether or not you already have a cybersecurity plan in place, it’s worth assessing the actual security needs of your business, as well as costs associated with different cybersecurity options to find the most effective solution for your business.  

An MDR is usually the recommended option for small to medium-sized businesses, as it provides a holistic solution for a fraction of the cost of an in-house SOC. At iCorps, we like to think of it as a happy medium between a SOC and SOAR solution. An MDR is also a great option for businesses whose data is subject to regulation, as outsourced security experts stay up to date on all regulatory requirements and industry-specific best practices across industries. Businesses entering the cybersecurity market will find MDR is their best bet for similar reasons. Having an MDR team on your side will give you peace-of-mind in case of an audit from a regulatory agency. MDR offers the most intelligent and contextualized analysis and response, meaning it'll be more likely to eliminate false (non actionable) alerts, which inevitably saves money and time. 

An investment in a SOAR solution is a great idea for businesses who already have an SOC in place. Again, a SOAR solution still requires some back-end management, but it can seriously help teams that deal with a lot of data in a lot of separate places. The automation of repetitive tasks frees up time for a security team to focus on more important and proactive security tasks that require human intelligence. And depending on where you presently manage your data, a SOAR solution may only be a few clicks away from deployment, as combination SOAR and SIEM solutions are being developed to work within already existing SIEM solutions. For example, check out Microsoft’s new solution Sentinel, which is housed in Azure. The chart below shows how SOAR technology (Microsoft Sentinel) interacts with preexisting security solutions (Microsoft Defender).

azure-sentinel-and-other-services blog image

SOAR solutions are typically priced by the amount of data or users a business deals with, and this is true of MDR services as well. Typically, SOAR will be less cost-effective than an MDR because it requires labor to deploy and maintain, but a combination of SOAR with an outsourced solution may be a good strategy for businesses seeking a full security solution that includes immediate responses to security events. 

An in-house SOC is often the most expensive of the options previously discussed. This is because an SOC will almost always include at least one full-time employee, who you’ll have to pay for labor, as well as whatever software they need to manage the company’s security. Businesses who invest in an in-house SOC tend to enjoy fast response times to security events and highly contextualized and personalized security frameworks, but they will pay more for it. These businesses are usually mid-market enterprises. An outsourced SOC is generally cheaper because the labor and software costs are tied up in a predictable package, however you’ll still need someone in-house to conduct remediation efforts in the case of security events.   

When deciding which direction to take, consider the following questions: 

  • What technology do you already use? Certain MDR’s and SOAR solutions rely on specific integrations that sometimes don’t connect across platforms. Having a clear understanding of your current cybersecurity environment is an important first step in deciding how to advance your security measures. This includes an understanding of how users, workflows, and endpoints interact in your organization.

  • What are you willing to spend on cybersecurity? How much would be at risk if a data breach occurred? 

  • What regulations is your company subject to? Does your data need to be handled in a specific way? If the answer is yes, you’ll likely want to outsource to an SOC as-a-service or an MDR to be sure you’re compliant, especially if you have a small team with limited resources.  

  • Ask yourself if your in-house team can provide 24/7 monitoring. If not, an outsourced solution will provide better security than an in-house SOC.  

  • If you’re interested in SOAR, ask yourself if your organization has the capability to implement and maintain the technology. If not, an MDR will be able to provide you with the most comprehensive security without requiring multiple solutions.  

  • What do you want from a cybersecurity solution? Do you already have a framework in place and want to make your team as efficient as possible? Are you interested in automating tasks beyond security? If so, investing in a SOAR solution will up your security game.  

Investing in a Cybersecurity Solution is Worth it

While each of these listed options offers something a bit different, they can all improve a company’s security posture dramatically. Cybersecurity attacks cost businesses an estimated $6.9 billion dollars in the US last year, and most businesses say they’re unprepared for an attack. Introducing cybersecurity solutions to your company may seem like an expensive and daunting task, but our experts are here to make it straightforward. Whether you need an endpoint solution or an entire overhaul of your cybersecurity policy, contact iCorps for a free consultation!  

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