What Is SecOps (Security Operations)?

SecOps is an approach that combines security and operations teams to ensure continuous protection. It's a strategic alignment between two crucial operational arms of an organization. This integration aims to streamline workflows, promote collaboration, and reduce disconnects that can lead to security vulnerabilities.

Amit Sheps
December 10, 2023

What Is SecOps? 

SecOps is about fostering a culture where security is everyone’s responsibility. This mindset goes beyond the technical aspects of cybersecurity and delves into the human factor, which is often the weakest link in the security chain. Everyone in the organization, from the C-suite to the newest hire, should understand their role in safeguarding the organization’s data.

It’s also important to note that SecOps is an ongoing, dynamic process that evolves with the changing threat landscape. Just as cybercriminals are continuously refining their strategies, so too must organizations constantly adapt their SecOps strategies to stay one step ahead.

This is part of a series of articles about DevSecOps.

In this article:

Key Principles of SecOps 

Proactive Defense

One of the core principles of SecOps is proactive defense. This means not waiting for a security incident to occur before taking action. Instead, you should be constantly on the lookout for potential threats and vulnerabilities, and taking steps to mitigate them before they can be exploited.

Proactive defense involves more than just installing the latest antivirus software or setting up a firewall. It requires conducting regular risk assessments, staying abreast of the latest threat intelligence, and regularly testing and updating your security controls. You must build a robust security posture that can withstand attacks, not just react to them.

Continuous Monitoring and Response

Another key principle of SecOps is continuous monitoring and response. This involves constantly keeping an eye on your assets to detect any signs of malicious activity. Continuous monitoring provides real-time visibility into your security posture, allowing you to identify and respond to threats as soon as they arise.

In addition to watching your systems 24/7, continuous monitoring also involves analyzing the data you collect to identify patterns and trends that could signal an impending attack. This can include anything from a sudden spike in network traffic to a series of failed login attempts.

Collaboration Between Security and Operations Teams

The third principle of SecOps is collaboration between security and operations teams. This is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of SecOps, as it breaks down the silos that can lead to security gaps. By working together, security and operations teams can ensure that security is integrated into every stage of the operational process.

Collaboration requires regular meetings and shared tools, as well as fostering a culture of transparency and mutual respect, where each team understands the other’s roles and responsibilities. It’s about creating a unified front against the common enemy of cyber threats.

DevSecOps vs. SecOps 

While SecOps focuses on the collaboration between security and operations teams, DevSecOps takes it a step further by integrating security into the development process. This approach ensures that security considerations are taken into account from the earliest stages of software development, rather than being bolted on at the end.

While both approaches share the common goal of improving security, they differ in their scope and implementation. SecOps typically involves a broader range of operational processes, while DevSecOps is more focused on the development process. However, both approaches are complementary and can be used together to create a comprehensive security strategy.

Core Components of a SecOps Framework 

Incident Response

Incident response involves planning for and responding to security incidents. This includes everything from detecting and analyzing the incident to containing it and recovering from it. A well-planned incident response strategy can greatly reduce the damage caused by a security breach.

In a SecOps framework, the cycle usually begins with detection tools flagging a security incident. Members from both security and operations teams are alerted. Security experts may handle the initial analysis, determining the nature and scope of the breach, while operations staff might be involved in assessing the impact on critical business systems. 

Containment strategies are also formulated collectively. Security may work on isolating affected systems to prevent further intrusion, and operations might focus on maintaining business continuity during this phase. Finally, both teams collaborate in the recovery phase to restore and validate system functionality for business operations. Lessons learned are integrated into future response plans.

Vulnerability Management

Vulnerability management involves identifying, assessing, and mitigating vulnerabilities in your systems and software. This is a crucial aspect of proactive defense, as it allows you to address weaknesses before they can be exploited by attackers.

The practice of vulnerability management in a SecOps environment is continuous and integrated. Security teams often use automated scanning tools to identify vulnerabilities in software and hardware. This information is shared with the operations team, who then assess the practical implications, like potential downtime or impact on performance. 

Both teams prioritize the vulnerabilities based on their severity and the critical nature of the affected systems. Patching or remediation activities are scheduled and executed collaboratively to minimize disruption while maximizing protection.

Threat Intelligence

Threat intelligence involves gathering and analyzing information about current and emerging threats. It is often in the form of an intelligence feed that collects data from various cybersecurity sources. This can help you stay ahead of cybercriminals by anticipating their tactics and strategies.

In a SecOps organization, threat intelligence is a shared resource between security and operations teams. Security teams filter and analyze this data to identify emerging threats or attack patterns. They pass actionable insights to the operations team who can then make informed decisions about configuring firewalls, updating intrusion detection/prevention systems, or other protective measures.

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

SIEM systems collect and analyze security-related data from across your organization to provide real-time visibility into your security posture. This can help you detect threats early and respond swiftly to minimize damage.

In a SecOps framework, SIEM serves as the central nervous system for security and operations teams. Security teams set the parameters for what constitutes a security event and then work with operations to align these with operational metrics. 

Endpoint Detection and Response

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) involves monitoring endpoints (such as user devices) for signs of malicious activity. It focuses on the edge of the network, where there’s a high risk of exposure. EDR solutions can help you detect and respond to threats that have bypassed your other security controls.

In a SecOps environment, security teams usually configure the EDR software, defining what types of behaviors or anomalies should trigger alerts. These alerts are also visible to operations, who understand the system baselines and can therefore provide context to the alerts. 

When a threat is detected, security may take immediate steps to neutralize it, while operations ensure that the measures taken do not disrupt essential services. Both teams engage in a post-incident review to refine future EDR settings and responses.

Best Practices for Implementing a SecOps Approach

Here are best practices that will help you implement SecOps in your organization.

Integrate and Centralize Tools

A common challenge in SecOps is the use of disparate tools that do not communicate with each other. This makes it difficult to get a unified view of your security posture.

To overcome this challenge, opt for integrated solutions that can provide real-time visibility into your security operations. These tools should be able to collect, analyze, and correlate data from various sources to detect threats and vulnerabilities.

Centralizing your tools will help streamline your operations. It will reduce the time and effort required to manage multiple tools, allowing your team to focus on more strategic tasks. It will also provide a single source of truth, making it easier to make informed decisions.

Regularly Review and Iterate on Processes

Conduct regular reviews to assess the effectiveness of your SecOps process. This could involve analyzing performance metrics, conducting vulnerability assessments, and soliciting feedback from your team.

Based on these reviews, make necessary adjustments to your processes. By regularly reviewing and iterating on your processes, you can ensure that your SecOps remains effective and relevant in the face of evolving cyber threats.

Emphasize Continuous Training and Skill Development

The world of cybersecurity is dynamic, with new threats and vulnerabilities emerging on a regular basis. Therefore, your team needs to stay updated with the latest trends in the field. This includes both security and operations professionals.

Invest in regular training programs that focus on different aspects of cybersecurity. Encourage your team to attend webinars, conferences, and workshops to expand their knowledge. This will help them understand the current threat landscape and equip them with the skills to respond effectively.

You should also foster a culture of learning within your organization. Encourage your team members to pursue relevant certifications and courses. This will not only enhance their skills but also boost their morale and job satisfaction.

Stay Updated with Compliance and Regulatory Requirements

Compliance is a crucial aspect of SecOps, and should be emphasized as a joint responsibility of security and operations teams. Compliance standards and regulations are constantly evolving, so it’s essential to stay updated with the latest requirements.

Start by understanding the regulations that apply to your industry and geography. This could be the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for businesses operating in the European Union, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for healthcare providers in the United States.

Next, establish processes to ensure compliance. This could involve conducting regular audits, implementing controls, and establishing operational processes that support compliance requirements.

Amit Sheps
Amit is the Director of Technical Product Marketing at Aqua. With an illustrious career spanning renowned companies such as CyberX (acquired by Microsoft) and F5, he has played an instrumental role in fortifying manufacturing floors and telecom networks. Focused on product management and marketing, Amit's expertise lies in the art of transforming applications into cloud-native powerhouses. Amit is an avid runner who relishes the tranquility of early morning runs. You may very well spot him traversing the urban landscape, reveling in the quietude of the city streets before the world awakes.