SOCs vs. AFCs: What’s the Difference?

SOCs vs. AFCs: What’s the Difference?

From Reactive to Proactive: Moving from a Security Operations Center (SOC) to an Advanced Fusion Center


Since the first computer virus crept across a network more than 40 years ago, IT security has had to evolve to protect companies’ and customers’ IP, sensitive data and other digital assets from increasingly frequent and insidious cyberattacks. This evolution resulted in the integrated security model with which most companies are familiar today: security operations centers, or SOCs. SOCs are based on threat detection, analysis and response, making it a largely reactionary security strategy: wait for an external threat to occur, analyze the threat, respond to the threat.


Over the past decade, companies across the business spectrum from retail and manufacturing to healthcare and banking have embraced innovations like cloud technology, artificial intelligence, advanced analytics and Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives in order to better serve their customers through increased customization and enhanced customer experiences.


Unfortunately, many of the new technologies that allow businesses to become more agile and market responsive are riddled with security vulnerabilities that increase operational complexity and offer cyberattackers a bigger target. Meaning that if your security model is built around simply responding to threats as they happen, you’re going to have your hands full. And the result? Undetected security breaches, loss of data and IP, and increased costs to recover from attacks and strengthen security in the future.


Luckily, there’s a solution, though it may seem counterintuitive: leverage the very technological innovations that currently threaten your security model to improve it.


Of course, this requires a shift not just in technology, but also in thinking. For years, advances in technology have often been perceived as threats to a company’s security rather than opportunities, due to the reactionary nature of the SOC model. But a modern approach to cybersecurity replaces this reactive model with an agile one that delivers proactive, preventive and predictive capabilities—the Advanced Fusion Center, or AFC. Instead of a one-size-fits-all security strategy, the AFC is a tailored solution designed around technology and aligned to a company’s unique business model, technology stack and risk tolerance.


SOCs vs. AFCs: 3 Key Benefits and Differences


An Advanced Fusion Center can benefit your company in three key ways over your existing security operations center:


  1. Enhance speed, agility and responsiveness to security threats
  2. Reduce operational and security costs
  3. Increase business scalability


These benefits are in turn based on three primary ways that SOCs and AFCs differ from each other:


The first difference between SOCs and AFCs is that AFCs are built around technology, leveraging innovation and automation to streamline and strengthen security, whereas SOCs are built around people who must manually deploy technology to thwart attacks. For instance, SOCs require staff to constantly monitor and respond to known threats, while AFCs employ automation and artificial intelligent to proactively seek out and prevent potential attacks, both known and unknown. This focus on building around technology results in increases in speed and responsiveness and reduction of operational security costs.


Data is another differentiating factor. SOCs are typically limited to data from log sources, and they lack integration for tools and workflows, forcing staff to manage multiple consoles and reports. An AFC uses APIs to pull and analyze data from a variety of business sources, which it then fuses into accessible dashboards for ease of both management and reporting.


Perhaps most importantly, AFCs enable comprehensive security coverage across all domains: on-site, cloud, email and mobile. This allows companies to scale their security along with their business as new technologies are introduced. SOCs, on the other hand, primarily secure endpoints and networks, forcing companies to limit their use of cloud and mobile technologies for fear of security threats, which can significantly impact the potential for business growth.


Making the Switch: Moving from a SOC to an AFC


Ready to stop fearing innovation and start embracing it to advance both your business and your cybersecurity program? Then it’s time to evolve from your existing SOC to an agile, scalable AFC by following proven best practices for Advanced Fusion Centers.


Download Optiv’s The Security Operations Journey to Maturity White Paper and discover proven best practices for evolving your SOC to an AFC.

Eric Graham
Senior Director, NGSOC | CISSP, CISM
Eric Graham is an experienced technology visionary builder of high performing teams. Prior to Optiv, he was the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at a large managed services company specializing in healthcare. As the Senior Director of Advanced Fusion Center, he continuously strives to bring a holistic mentality to security by bringing departments together to improve their organization’s security posture. He also has a focus on applying automation, orchestration, and machine learning to improve and standardize security outcomes.