This might just be one of the best ways to break into the field of cybersecurity.
However, the path to becoming a SOC analyst is no easier than attaining one of the more complex positions in cybersecurity. With this article, we aim to help you glean a better understanding of what you need to know to become a SOC analyst as well as what to expect once employed as one.
This article will discuss what you need to know to break into the role of a SOC analyst and its different tiers based on experience and scope of responsibility. In addition, this article will discuss the soft and hard skills of what it takes to be a SOC analyst. Aside from the fundamental skills, this covers the ideal certifications for a SOC analyst. By the end of this article, it is not surprising to know that a SOC analyst is a very financially rewarding career high in job security.
What is a SOC Analyst?
A security operations center (SOC) analyst is a frontline cybersecurity professional. These groups will either serve a single entity exclusively or be used as an outsource security for multiple clients.
SOC analysts serve as metaphorical watchdogs while simultaneously advising on information security. The dual role of a SOC analyst involves observing systems and networks for any signs of a digital attack before offering preventive methods to their employers and team that can be employed.
This means that SOC analysts are required to be:
- capable of installing security tools
- detect and investigate suspicious activity
- support auditing and compliance teams
- develop new security strategies
Analysts are expected to attend to the concerns and alerts from users and security software. This unfortunately results in many SOC analysts having to sift through several false positives to find the real threats. However, these responsibilities are strictly for the lowest rung on the SOC analyst ladder.
3 Different Levels of a SOC analyst
SOC analysts are divided into 3 different levels of experience and responsibilities:
- Tier 1 – Triage: SOC triage analysts usually have the least amount of experience, and being tasked with simple monitoring and logging responsibilities. When an issue falls outside the scope of their skills and responsibilities, the issue is passed along to the next tier.
- Tier 2 – Investigation: SOC are the mid-level experts who identify the exact nature of a threat. They must determine the threat’s origin, the extent of the damage , and how deeply it has infiltrated the affected systems. Then they are expected to guide the response.
- Tier 3 – Threat Hunting: They are apex of SOC analysts. These SOC analysts are threat hunters who respond to the most complex threats. They also review data forensics and telemetry on threats that have not been flagged as malicious by security software.
The responsibilities and role of SOC analysts at any tier are not designed as a career but to provide the data surveillance and frontline response needed for information security. Even with this qualification, there are still requirements to be met before you can be employed as a SOC analyst.
Soft and Hard Skills of a SOC analyst
Many positions can divide their required skill set into a series of learnable hard skills that are critical to the position and a series of soft skills that are based on the type of person you are and cannot be taught.
The soft skills expected of a SOC analyst are:
- Collaboration: SOC analysts work in teams to identify threats and respond to them. This can lead to any countermeasure attempts failing due to a poorly timed response.
- Critical Thinking: SOC analysts need to be able to look at the logic behind an issue and implement effective solutions that relate to the multiple layers of the threat itself.
- Inquisitiveness: SOC analysts never stop learning and upskilling since their field never stops changing. Being the metaphorical Jedi of the cybersecurity field, they need to be able to seek out more information as the field evolves and never stops.
- Pressure Resistance: SOC analysts need to be able to work despite these unexpected stressors and make calm, level-headed decisions even as data is being lost.
These skills are not the sort that can be taught. They are a natural aspect of the individual. They can be powerful tools in your journey to become a SOC analyst and break into the profession of cybersecurity. The hard skills of a SOC analyst are not dissimilar from more intensive cybersecurity positions. Many professionals require a similar skill set to succeed:
- Network Defense: These skills are crucial to SOC analysts who set up firewalls and procedures to defend a network from cyberattacks and unauthorized activity.
- Computer Forensics: Often required of upper-tier analysts such as threat hunters, is the process of investigating and analyzing recovered information from a machine or network to determine where a threat origin. This information helps with legal proceedings.
- Incident Response: Typically, it is all about being able to respond to a threat in a timely and effective manner. For SOC analysts that deal with threats as they manifest, the ability to do so is key to succeeding professionally.
Combining these soft and hard skills in your work as a SOC analyst, regardless of tier, will result in you becoming a prime example of the profession. Yet, even with all these skills, it does not end here.
Seeking extracurricular certifications in tools and skills relevant to the field is becoming more commonplace. Certifications are becoming mandatory for employment to ensure any new staff has the necessary knowledge and skills of specific aspects of the role to make them the perfect employees. For SOC analysts, there are more than a few ideal certifications:
CompTIA Network+: The CompTIA Network+ certification educates aspiring professionals in networking and how computers communicate with other devices. This certification also educates the holder on tools used to troubleshoot network issues, network security practices, and infrastructure.
CompTIA Security+: Coming from CompTIA again, the Security+ certification educates you on system vulnerabilities, risk management, and cryptography. With this certification, you will understand the installation and configuration of systems while also securing them.
CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst: Another certification from CompTIA. Are we sensing a pattern here? The Cybersecurity Analyst certification will educate you on how to protect systems, develop threat-detection tools, analyze data to pinpoint vulnerabilities, and determine the impact of the threat that infiltrated your system.
CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner: The Advanced Security Practitioner certification from CompTIA will help you learn even more about fortifying a system against threats. With it, you will gain an understanding of how to expand security domains, anticipate defensive needs, data interpretation, and minimizing security vulnerabilities.
CompTIA Security Analytics Expert: This certification is reserved for experts who have already earned multiple CompTIA certifications. Serving more as a compendium of your overall knowledge, this certification is a badge presenting potential employers your understanding of the material and makes you an appealing prospect for hire.
EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker: The Certified Ethical Hacker certification educates you on how to identify patch weaknesses in a network and gives you the insight you will need to think like the hackers you are attempting to foil. This is one of the most valued certifications in cybersecurity due to this insight.
Certified Security Analyst Training: The Certified Security Analyst Training certification will teach you how to conduct penetration tests realistic enough to prepare you for actual assaults. The program teaches about the tools you will use to conduct tests on a network’s security.
GAIC Information Security Fundamentals: The GAIC Information Security Fundamentals certification is an introductory lesson in how to understand cryptography and cybersecurity technologies. This particular certificate will serve as evidence of your ability to understand threats to information resources, implement network protections, and diversify your strategies to do so.
GAIC Security Essentials Certification: The GAIC Security Essential certification is an intermediate-level certification that will educate you on crucial skills on how to implement security for a plethora of online applications. This certification will help you understand how to develop contingencies for threat management, penetration testing, vulnerability scanning, developing active defenses, and the application of cryptography.
Certified Information Systems Security Professional: The Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification comes from the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2 which provides aspiring professionals with advanced training. This training will help you understand how to mitigate vulnerabilities in systems based online, ethics, and threat investigation.
|Name of Certification||Description|
|1||CompTIA Network+||This certification educates aspiring professionals in networking and how computers communicate with other devices. It teaches the tools used to troubleshoot network issues, network security practices, and infrastructure|
|2||CompTIA Security+||In this certification, you are taught the following; system vulnerabilities, risk management, and cryptography. You will also have an understanding of the installation and configuration of systems while also securing them.|
|3||CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst||This certifiation educates you on how to protect systems, develop threat-detection tools, analyze data to pinpoint vulnerabilities, and determine impact of the threat that infiltrated the system.|
|4||CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner||You will learn in depth about fortifying a system against threats, learn how to expand security domains, anticipate defensive needs, data interpretation, and minimizing security vulnerabilities.|
|5||CompTIA Security Analytics Expert||This requires a erequisite of acquiring multiple CompTIA certifications. This also serves as a badge representing potential employers your understanding of the material.|
|6||EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker||One of the most valued certifications in cybersecurity wherein you will learn how to identify patch weaknesses in a network.|
|7||Certified Security Analyst Training||You will be conducting realistic penetration tests to prepare you for actual assaults and it will also teach you about the tools used to conduct tests on a network's security.|
|8||GAIC Information Security Fundamentals||This serves as an introductory lesson on understanding cryptography and cybersecurity technologies. It is also a testament of your ability to understanding threats to information resources, implement network protections, and diversify your strategies.|
|9||GAIC Security Essentials Certification||This intermediate level certification aims to educate you on implementing security for a plethora of online applications. It teaches you how to develop contingencies for threat management, penetration testing, vulnerability management, vulnerability scanning, developing active defenses, and application of cryptography.|
|10||Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)||This certification is issued by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium or the (ISC)2. This certification will provide advanced training to help you understand how to mitigate vulnerable systems based on online, ethics, and threat investigation.|
These certifications can serve as outstanding tools to highlight your skills and abilities as a potential SOC analyst while also marking you as a potential hire for upper-level cybersecurity positions. With them, you can advance from a rookie SOC analyst to a tier 3 threat hunter.
While this should never be the motive for your career of choice, the salary of a SOC analyst is not something to scoff at. As of 2023, the average base salary for a SOC analyst in the United States of America is $90,000.00 per year in which the average salary for an entry level position is at $65,000. The most experienced SOC analysts earn up to $136,363.00 annually.
While a base salary is not necessarily indicative of how much you might earn as an analyst, it is a good frame of reference for the potential. Your payment will vary depending on who you work for and wherein the country you work in.
The Final Byte
The role of a SOC analyst can serve as a diving board into a much more lucrative career in cybersecurity. SOC analysts need to be team players who can respond to threats and react accordingly. Despite its consideration as an excellent position for neophytes in the field of cybersecurity it is by no means an easy job to do.
You will need education and certifications galore to successfully navigate the career without stumbling and causing further damage. The salary you are liable to earn as a SOC analyst might tempt you to pursue the career with little real knowledge of what it entails. However, if you are serious about a career in cybersecurity, it is the perfect and most likely first step to do so.
Ultimately, SOC analysts are the backbone of the cybersecurity field upon which all other positions are built.
If after reading this article you find yourself potentially interested, you should take the first step needed into your future cybersecurity career, by checking out our Online Cybersecurity Certification Program!