SOAR an essential part for security operations

October 2019 Editor's Choice, Cyber Security, Security Services & Risk Management

According to Gartner[1] security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR) incident management solutions are gaining visibility and real-world use. Early adoption is said to be driven by the need to improve security operations centres. What security teams need to work out is how these solutions can support and optimise their broader operations.

A 2018[2] study commissioned by Demisto delved deep into the most serious issues including: the rise in alert volumes, a serious skills gap and the use of siloed tools, all combining to make security a tough sector in which to operate.

The corresponding 2019[3] study of 552 respondents focused on disclosing the specific challenges at each stage of the incident response lifecycle, how current product capabilities help overcome these challenges, and what capabilities are missing within security products today. This report served to broaden the perspective of SOAR through to the security incident response lifecycle which is a continuous process of alert ingestion, enrichment, management, investigation, response, and measurement. It is meant to act as a vendor-neutral outlook of how security teams handle incidents today. It also provides an overview of the security incident response lifecycle and the findings from each stage of the lifecycle.

The report found that as more organisations leveraged SOAR for incident response, their use of automatable playbooks also increased. In 2019, approximately 52% of respondents cited using either automated playbooks or a combined manual plus automated for implementing incident response processes. This is a stark contrast to the findings of the 2018 report which showed that 50% of respondents either didn’t have set processes in place or that the processes were rarely updated after initial implementation.

Continued reliance SIEM tools

Apparently 75% of respondents confirmed the use of SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) tools for incident ingestion and enrichment. With 66% leveraging them for investigation, while 66% confessed to using them for tracking metrics and performance.

It is interesting to note that businesses continue to prefer to rely on a bouquet of security products as opposed to any shift towards one-stop-shop offerings, with 48% citing the use of six or more security tools for incident responses. In excess of 68% of respondents stated a preference for ‘best-of-breed’ products across vendors rather than purchasing multiple solutions from the same vendor.

The need for automation

Within incident ingestion and enrichment, 56% of respondents included automated data enrichment as part of their preferred feature list, closely followed by automated prioritisation of alerts and correlation of alerts/indicators across products. It is apparent that security teams clearly require more high-fidelity data at their fingertips so that they have more time and information for decision-making.

In relation to the management of the incident lifecycle, more than 60% of respondents cited the need for tools that automatically capture information for post-incident review. 74% noted that a mobile application for incident management would be highly desirable. Only 25% of respondents reported having mobile support from their current products.

Other capabilities in demand included the ability to add notes and tags to individual artefacts – to be able to reconstruct incident timelines.

Where’s the evidence?

60% of people surveyed highlighted the lack of ‘evidence boards’ and ‘attack reconstruction’ capabilities in their current products. Investigation is a time-consuming and tool-spanning process so it’s hardly surprising that 53.4% of respondents sought a common platform for cross-team investigation and automated remote execution of actions across security tools.

Again, automation and the lack of it raised its head as 60.5% of respondents confessed to manually updating point product policies indicating that current security offerings still have a long way to go to fill that gap. Countering this, however, is the fact that 60,5% of respondents using SOAR confirmed they had no need to update policies manually.

It goes without saying that the roadmap would need to incorporate the request for industry-specific response templates with 54% of respondents saying this was big on their wish lists. Approximately 52% of respondents also wanted live run capabilities of playbooks for each incident. Moreover, the survey revealed that there is also a need for the inclusion of features capable of continued improvement and enhancing efficiencies through machine learning.

Where does SOAR fit into the SOC landscape?

SOAR products have become a critical part of the SOC (Security Operations Centre). This survey is testament to that with approximately 33% of respondents confirming they have used SOAR for incident ingestion and enrichment and roughly 28% used it for case management and incident investigation respectively. 33% said they used SOAR for response and performance measurement respectively.

With SOAR products championing so many of the features that respondents included in their wish lists, the data revealed in this survey confirms that that SOAR solutions will continue to be an essential part of security teams’ ability to perform.

For more information, contact MJ Strydom, DRS,,


[2] The State of SOAR Report, 2018 – Demisto.


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