Cybersecurity was once associated with government agencies and contractors to defend the national IT and critical infrastructure. As the technology evolved, almost every organization started employing Cybersecurity professionals to protect them from growing Cyber-attacks. Cybersecurity is a multi-dimensional field with diverse career opportunities. There are different roles available for people interested in the Cybersecurity profession. One such important role is the SOC analyst job.
Security Operation Centre (SOC) is considered as the first line of defense for any IT business. It is the centralized security department having teams responsible for monitoring, analyzing, and protecting the IT and data assets of the organizations. SOC Analyst is a part of the SOC team who monitors the organization’s IT infrastructure for any potential Cyber threats and weaknesses. The SOC Analyst protects the organizations from future Cyber-attacks by addressing the existing security gaps and suggesting possible remediation.
Desired Skills for a SOC Analyst
Although experience is required to work as a Cybersecurity Analyst, the position is an equal opportunity for those who are at the beginning level of their Cybersecurity career. However, the following skills and technical knowledge is mandatory to play the SOC Analyst role.
Network Knowledge: Every organization has some sort of network to communicate, process, and store data & information. Networks are often connected with the internet which provides an expandable attack vector to the adversaries. The SOC Analyst is supposed to have the networking knowledge and expertise to monitor the network traffic, analyze the activities and find the anomalies that can lead to a Cyber-attack.
Programming and OS Administration Skills: Grip on Programming languages and system administration are also important for a versatile SOC Analyst. A SOC Analyst must be capable of interpreting the codes written in different programming languages, such as Python, C++, Ruby, Java, etc. A SOC Analyst who is well versed in programming languages can efficiently write or analyze the codes to determine the flaws, weaknesses, and backdoors in the IT infrastructure.
Forensic Expertise: Cybersecurity is a continuous process where defenders try to block or mitigate Cyber attacks by the opponents. The bad guys often succeed in breaking the security shell of target organizations. A SOC Analyst must have strong forensic knowledge and skills to trace and track the weaknesses in the deployed Cyberinfrastructure to avoid future breaches.
Penetration Testing: Although penetration testing is the arsenal of ethical hackers, a good SOC Analyst also possesses the skills of a great penetration tester. With the penetration testing suite, a SOC Analyst can expose the weaknesses and vulnerabilities that can be exploited by the hackers.
Incident Response Capabilities: Cyber breaches can happen anywhere. Hackers often manage to cross the defense barriers of even the most secure organizations in the world. This is where the incident response team plays its role. A good SOC Analyst is expected to have the incident response capabilities to minimize the damage and help organizations speed up the recovery process from a successful Cyberattack.
SOC Analyst Hierarchy
The SOC analyst position can be classified into the following three tiers.
Tier-1 SOC Analyst: The tier one or level one SOC Analyst is responsible for running the scanning tools and assessing the potential threats. The tier-1 SOC Analyst’s job is to evaluate the urgency and importance of the incident alerts and inform the tier-2 SOC Analyst. Security, programming, and systems administration are the baseline skills required for a tier-1 SOC Analyst position.
Tier-2 SOC Analyst: The tier-2 SOC Analysts are the incident responders who react to the information shared by the tier-1 SOC Analysts. They are responsible for breach investigation, assessment, and quick remediation efforts.
Tier-3 SOC Analyst: The tier-3 SOC Analysts possess the data visualization and penetration testing expertise in addition to all the skills and knowledge required to become tier-1 and tier-2 SOC Analysts. They review the vulnerabilities and assessment reports, perform penetration testing to find the potential threats and security weaknesses, and recommend the security optimization plans. The tier-3 SOC Analysts are also known as threat hunters.
Recommended SOC Analyst Certification
Although educational background helps to rate the talent, the job-ready certification is a more convenient way to evaluate the candidates for the SOC Analysts position. Following are two such certifications that can help organizations and testing agencies to assess the knowledge and expertise of people interested in the SOC Analyst job. The individuals can also apply for these certifications to get the desired SOC Analyst skills, enhance capabilities, or comply with the job requirements.
Certified SOC Analyst (CSA)
The Certified SOC Analyst (CSA) is the intermediate level certification for tier-1 and tier-2 SOC Analyst role. The EC-Council provides three days of training prior to the evaluation and accreditation process.
Certification Objectives: The EC-Council’s CSA is a combination of training and assessment process with the following learning and skills enhancement objectives.
- Gain knowledge of technologies, processes, and workflows of Security Operation Centers
- Cyber threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities awareness
- Ability to run scanners, analyze the networks, identify the anomalies, and generate alerts
- Report writing and beefing to the concerned departments
- Gain knowledge of incident response processes
- SIEM solutions information and integration knowledge
- Develop expertise to read logs and interpret the Indicator of Compromises (IOCs)
Target Audience: The target audience for this CSA certification includes the following professionals.
- Tier-1 & Tier-2 SOC Analysts
- Security Professionals
- Network Engineers
- System Administrators
- Security Analysts
Exam & Accreditation Process: The interested candidates must have a one-year technical (network | system | security) experience to join the EC-Council official training and certification process. The eligible candidates are required to pass the following exam to earn the SOC Analyst credentials.
|Exam||Certified SOC Analyst|
|Format||Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)|
|Exam Duration||3 Hours|
CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+)
CompTIA’s CySA+ is another worthy SOC Analyst certification designed with a vendor-independent approach. The CySA+ evaluates individuals through knowledge, practical and performance-based assessments in the following domains.
- Threat and vulnerability management
- Software and system security
- Incidence response
- Security operations and management
- Compliance and assessment
Certification Objectives: The CySA+ targets all SOC Analyst positions with the following assessment and training objectives.
- Ability to monitor network traffic and identify the threats
- Proactively respond to the network findings
- Gain knowledge of software and application security
- Be aware of IT regulatory compliance
- Understanding o automation and threat hunting techniques
The CySA+ certification is recommended for the following individuals and professionals.
- All SOC Analysts
- Security Engineers
- Application Security Analysts
- Threat Hunters
- Cybersecurity Professionals
- Threat Intelligence Analysts
Exam & Accreditation Process: Candidates interested in CompTIA’s CySA+ credential must take the following exam to earn the credential. A minimum of 3-4 years of hands-on experience in the Cybersecurity domain is required to avail of the opportunity. Virtual labs and e-learning facilities are also offered by CompTIA to prepare students for the desired skills and exam preparation.
|Exam||CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+)|
|Exam Format||MCQs and Performance-based Questions|
|Exam Duration||165 Minutes|
|Passing Score||750 (on a scale of 100-900)|
SOC Analyst is a highly paid dream job for many professionals. Individuals with the right Cybersecurity education and technical background can become Tier-1 SOC analysts without counting on experience. However, strong knowledge and experience are required to play a high-level SOC Analyst role. People interested in the SOC Analyst job must consider the SOC Analyst certifications and training to stand apart and be preferred by the hiring resources.