SOC vs. MDR: Which cybersecurity service does your business need?

Cyberthreats have become increasingly prevalent and sophisticated, making it more challenging for businesses to safeguard their data and assets. This is why many companies outsource their cybersecurity requirements by using either a security operations center (SOC) or managed detection and response (MDR) service.

In this blog, we’ll discuss what SOC and MDR are and their key differences to help you decide which cybersecurity service is right for your business.

What is SOC?

A SOC service is provided by a dedicated team of security experts who conduct 24/7 network monitoring and threat response. They mainly rely on a log management tool called a security information and event management (SIEM) solution.

SIEM works by collecting security-related data from multiple sources, including log files, network traffic, and system events, and then normalizing and correlating these data to identify security incidents. The software then generates real-time alerts for security administrators to investigate and take action on.

What is MDR?

An MDR service is handled by a dedicated security team that conducts continuous monitoring, detection, and response to security threats. However, MDR providers primarily use an intrusion detection system (IDS) and an intrusion prevention system (IPS) instead of SIEM.

An IDS examines packets of data traveling across a network to detect malicious activity, such as unauthorized access or malware. When an IDS identifies suspicious activity, it sends an alert directly to security analysts for review and investigation. Meanwhile, an IPS takes immediate action to block the malicious activity, preventing it from reaching its intended target.

Some MDR providers use IDS/IPS alongside SIEM, so they can get a more comprehensive view of an organization’s security posture. When all three security solutions are used together, IDS/IPS can detect and block known threats in real time, while SIEM can help identify more complex or subtle attacks that may be harder to detect. Moreover, SIEM can help organizations understand the context of security events, such as the origin of an attack or the systems or data that were targeted.

It’s important to note, however, that without input from IDS/IPS, a SIEM solution may not be able to detect attacks or suspicious activity until after these have occurred.

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How are SOC and MDR different?

While SOC and MDR have a lot in common, they also have key differences.

Types of threats detected

When it comes to detecting threats, many security solutions use one or any combination of these methods:

  • Signature-based detection – compares the network traffic or data against a database of known signatures or patterns of malicious activity
  • Anomaly-based detection – monitors the network for behavior that deviates from the normal or expected patterns, which could indicate potential threats that may not match existing signatures
  • Heuristics-based detection – uses rules or algorithms to identify potentially malicious behavior

Many SIEM solutions rely on signature-based detection and anomaly-based detection, whereas IDS/IPS solutions typically use all three types of detection methods. This is why, compared to SOC, MDR can provide better protection against zero-day threats, which are new and previously unknown vulnerabilities that have not yet been identified and patched.

Cyber incident response

In a SOC service, response to a cyber incident depends on the actions of security experts. In contrast, the IPS used in an MDR service can take immediate action against a cyberthreat without requiring input from security experts.

Moreover, SOC experts respond to cyberthreats once these have been detected, while MDR experts also hunt for threats regularly to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities.
Level of cybersecurity expertise
SOC analysts typically have a broad range of security expertise and are tasked to monitor and respond to security events. MDR analysts, on the other hand, typically have more specialized and advanced expertise in threat detection, incident response, and forensic analysis. For example, unlike SOC analysts, MDR analysts can reverse engineer ransomware and other malicious codes.

Should your business use SOC or MDR?

While a SOC service can provide some level of protection against cyberthreats, an MDR service offers a more effective and comprehensive solution to deal with today’s sophisticated and constantly evolving cyberattacks.

For reliable MDR services, Seattle-based organizations can turn to Interplay. For over 20 years, we have been helping businesses in Seattle secure their critical company data and IT systems — we are ready to do the same for your organization. Reach out to us today.