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Do Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) need a Security Operations Centre (SOC)?

Posted on: 2nd July 2024

In today’s world cyber security threats are a constant concern for organisations of all sizes. SMEs may mistakenly think that they are less likely to be targeted due to their smaller size, but the reality is quite the opposite. 

While large enterprises usually have the resources to maintain strong cyber security measures, SMEs are often viewed by cybercriminals as soft targets. A SOC can play a crucial part in safeguarding SMEs against cyber threats, providing essential monitoring, detection, and response capabilities. 

What is a SOC? 

A SOC employs a combination of technology solutions and a team of skilled security professionals who monitor and analyse an organisation’s security network on an ongoing basis. It’s responsible for proactively monitoring, detecting, and responding to cyber threats. It uses the latest technology solutions to continually monitor and analyse an organisation’s entire IT infrastructure - including its security network and its data – to safeguard it against cyber threats before they can cause harm. 

Why are SMEs at risk from cyber threats? 

According to a study by internet service provider Beaming, cybercrime hit 1.5 million businesses and cost the UK economy £30.5 billion in 2023. Its research also found that small businesses saw a 42% increase in breaches, and cybercrime costs rose by a staggering 400%.  

These are frightening statistics, especially when many SMEs lack the necessary resources to recover from a security breach. Some of the factors that make them so attractive to threat actors include:  

Limited security capabilities: many don’t have the advanced security infrastructure or in-house skills of larger organisations, making them easy targets.  

Valuable data: SMEs often hold sensitive data, including customer information, financial records, and proprietary information, which can be lucrative for cybercriminals. 

Supply chain vulnerabilities: often part of larger supply chains, SMEs can provide cybercriminals with a back door into larger, potentially more profitable organisations for them to exploit. 

What are the essential functions of a SOC? 

A SOC performs a number of key functions that help small businesses strengthen their cyber security defences:

Continuous monitoring: round the clock monitoring allows potential threats to be identified and addressed in real time, before any harm is caused.   

Threat detection and analysis: a SOC can detect unusual behaviour that could be a potential security threat. Identified threats are analysed to understand their nature, origin, and potential impact, so the right action can be taken.  

Incident response: this includes containing the threat, eradicating malicious activity, and recovering affected systems. Having effective incident response in place can and will stop the incident in its tracks before it becomes a security breach.  

Proactive threat hunting: SOC teams proactively identify and address vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them, which helps strengthen the business’s defences.  

Compliance and reporting: generating detailed reports on security incidents and overall security posture supports an organisation’s ability to demonstrate its compliance with relevant regulations and standards such as ISO 27001, Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).  

What are the benefits of a SOC for SMEs?  

Implementing a SOC offers SMEs a range of advantages including:  

Enhancing security posture: by providing comprehensive monitoring and incident response capabilities, it boosts the ability to defend against cyber threats. This improved security posture reduces the likelihood of successful attacks and minimises potential damage.  

Providing a cost-effective security solution: while establishing a SOC can seem like yet another extra cost of running a business, it makes good sense compared to the financial losses from a security breach. A good SOC services partner will offer scalable solutions tailored to a SME’s needs and budget.  

Enabling access to expertise: SMEs often lack the breadth and depth of in-house cybersecurity expertise of their bigger competitors. A SOC gives access to a team of highly skilled security professionals with a wealth of knowledge and experience.  

Boosting business continuity and enhancing reputation: cyber incidents lead to downtime, financial loss, and a dip in both customer trust and reputation. A SOC helps maintain business continuity by swiftly addressing security incidents and minimising any impact. 

Strengthening regulatory compliance: a SOC helps businesses that operate within a tight regulatory framework, particularly around areas such as data protection and cyber security, meet those requirements and avoid legal issues and even fines.  

What are the challenges of implementing a SOC for SMEs? 

If you’ve read this far you will know the benefits of a SOC are clear, but if you’re a small business considering implementing your own SOC, you have challenges to face, including:  

Stretched resources: finding the budget to set up a SOC can be difficult, which makes opting for a managed SOC service a much more affordable alternative.  

Complexity and scalability: breach detection involves management of complex processes and technologies that can seem daunting for SMEs. Partnering with a managed service provider simplifies this process as well as providing scalable solutions that can grow alongside the business.  

Staffing and expertise: Recruiting and retaining skilled cyber security professionals is not an easy task for SMEs, whereas a fully managed SOC service offers round the clock access to a team of dedicated experts, eliminating the need for your business to maintain an in-house team.  

Conclusion 

We live in an age where cyber security threats are increasingly sophisticated, making a SOC a vital asset for SMEs.  

Continuous monitoring, threat detection, incident response, and compliance support are all essential for maintaining a strong security posture. By leveraging the expertise and resources of a SOC, SMEs can protect themselves against cyber threats and strengthen business continuity. While the challenges are real, the benefits of implementing a SOC far outweigh the potential risks and costs associated with a security breach.  

SMEs should seriously consider investing in a SOC service to safeguard their business, secure its future growth and make sure it is properly protected against cyber threats. 

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