The path to becoming a SOC Analyst: Interview with Anusthika Shankar

To learn more about the essential components of becoming a Security Operations Center (SOC) analyst, we interviewed Anusthika Shankar, an analyst at CyberProof. She gave her perspective on cybersecurity’s importance and what every SOC analyst should be an expert in, to best succeed.  

In the context of today's digital landscape, why is cybersecurity so important? 

Anusthika: In today's digital landscape, the importance of cybersecurity cannot be overstated. Organizations are constantly under threat from malicious actors who aim to exploit vulnerabilities and gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. 

What does the role of a SOC analyst entail, especially in terms of growth and understanding? 

Anusthika: As a SOC analyst, the role goes beyond just being an acronym. The role is a platform for growth, enabling individuals like me to gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter. The starting point for every person working in a SOC is analysis, and by approaching our work from multiple angles, we can enhance our knowledge and proficiency in investigating incidents. 

SOC analysis encompasses various areas of knowledge. By mastering networking, endpoint analysis, log analysis, Active Directory (AD) analysis, cloud computing, tool-based analysis, and continuously enhancing our skill set, we can be ready to protect organizations from cyber threats and contribute to maintaining robust cybersecurity postures. 

How foundational is networking knowledge to SOC analysis? 

Anusthika: Networking forms the foundation of cybersecurity. A solid understanding of network concepts is essential for SOC analysts. By mastering network analysis and network architecture, we can effectively identify and troubleshoot network issues. 

To become proficient in network analysis, it's crucial to focus on areas such as network topologies, addressing, protocols, and networking devices. Familiarizing yourself with firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), and virtual private networks (VPNs) is also vital. Hands-on experience, using virtual labs or physical equipment, and utilizing online networking tools can greatly enhance analysis skills. 

How does understanding an organization's network architecture benefit a SOC analyst? 

Anusthika: Understanding an organization's network architecture/infrastructure is essential to enhancing security posture. It involves knowing the products used for network setup, how network devices are configured, which connections are allowed or blocked, access to custom applications, sensitive ports, and external user connectivity. 

Endpoint security and Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR) seem to be critical aspects of SOC analysis. Can you discuss its significance? 

Anusthika: Absolutely. Endpoint security is a critical aspect, as analysts need to protect their organizations' networks and sensitive data from various threats. Endpoints, such as computers and mobile devices, are often the primary targets for cyberattacks. This means that being familiar with endpoint security tools such as EDR, antivirus, and anti-malware software, vulnerability scanners, and patch management tools is essential.  

EDR solutions provide real-time visibility into endpoint devices, enabling us to detect and respond to incidents promptly. They use advanced threat detection mechanisms like behavioral analysis and machine learning to identify suspicious activities. 

How does log analysis fit into the responsibilities of a SOC analyst? 

Anusthika: Log analysis plays a key role in incident response and forensic investigations. By examining logs generated by various systems and applications, we can detect anomalies, suspicious activities, and signs of compromise. SOC analysts should become familiar with common log formats and log management tools. They should also develop skills in anomaly detection, correlation analysis, and threat hunting. Filtering out noise from logs is essential to focus on the essential data for analysis. 

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools like Splunk, Microsoft Sentinel, and QRadar are widely used for log analysis. SOC analysts should practice parsing and searching logs using different log management tools and techniques. 

Active Directory (AD) seems integral to many organizations. How does it factor into SOC analysis? 

Anusthika: AD is a critical component of most organizations' identity and access management systems. For SOC analysts, understanding key concepts such as domains, users, groups, and permissions is essential to effectively monitor and secure AD. AD serves as a centralized identity and access management tool, enabling system administrators to manage user accounts and access resources across the organization.  

By analyzing AD logs, we gain valuable insights into user and system behavior within an organization. This proficiency in analyzing these logs helps detect anomalies and potential security threats. Additionally, understanding Group Policy allows us to identify security policy violations that may lead to security incidents. Furthermore, AD includes tools like Group Policy and security baselines, which can be used to reduce an organization's attack surface. All these aspects make AD a focal point in SOC analysis, ensuring effective security incident investigation and mitigation. 

With the rise of cloud computing, how has SOC analysis adapted? 

Anusthika: The cloud revolution has expanded our scope. Grasping the unique security challenges of cloud computing is essential for our role. 

With the widespread adoption of cloud services, it's imperative for SOC analysts to monitor and analyze data from both cloud environments and traditional on-premises systems. This means understanding the unique security challenges posed by cloud computing. 

How do you approach using specific tools for SOC analysis? 

Anusthika: While using specific tools and technologies is essential, it's equally important to be tool agnostic to avoid missing security incidents and vulnerabilities. This requires an in-depth understanding of various tools, tool integration, and a mix of commercial and open-source solutions. 

Anusthika, can you explain the concept of threat hunting in SOC analysis and how it ties into incident response? 

Anusthika: Proactive threat hunting involves actively searching for potential threats or indicators of compromise within an organization's network. Leveraging threat intelligence feeds, conducting security assessments, and utilizing advanced detection techniques enables SOC analysts to identify and mitigate emerging threats. Additionally, SOC analysts play a critical role in incident response - investigating, containing, and remediating security incidents promptly. Swift analysis, identification of affected systems, and collaboration with relevant teams are essential for effective incident response. 

Lastly, how can SOC analysts ensure they stay updated in this ever-evolving field? 

Anusthika: Continuous improvement is key. The field of cybersecurity is ever-evolving, and SOC analysts must continuously improve their skills and knowledge. Staying up to date with the latest attack techniques, emerging vulnerabilities, and industry best practices through training, certifications, and industry events is crucial. 

Interested in joining CyberProof's team of cybersecurity experts? Check out our open opportunities.