MDR vs. SOC: What’s the Difference?

Managed Detection and Response (MDR) and Security Operations Center (SOC) are crucial components of a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. While they share the analogous objective of detecting and responding to security incidents, there are some fundamental differences between them.
A Security Operations Center (SOC) is a security command center with a team of internal Infosec professionals who monitor, analyze, and respond to security incidents. Most SOCs operate 24/7, with employees working shifts to monitor activity, detect abnormal behavior, and mitigate threats that might otherwise pass under the radar. 

Key Features of SOCs

Continuous Monitoring: SOC teams continuously monitor network traffic, systems, alerts, and other data sources to identify potential threats or breaches.

Incident Response: SOC teams follow established incident response processes to contain, mitigate, and resolve security incidents, minimizing the impact on the organization.

Log Management and SIEM: SOC often utilizes Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools to collect, correlate, and analyze security event logs from various systems, helping to identify patterns or indicators of compromise.

Compliance: SOC helps ensure organizations remain compliant with security standards and best practices such as ISO 27001x, the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF), and GDPR

MDR is an outsourced end-to-end solution encompassing people, processes, and technology to deliver security outcomes. It combines advanced threat detection technologies, skilled analysts, and incident response capabilities to deliver comprehensive security monitoring, detection, and response. 

Key Features of MDR

Continuous Monitoring: MDR providers utilize advanced technologies, such as AI, machine learning, and behavior analytics to detect potential threats and anomalies across an organization’s network and endpoints.

Threat Hunting: MDR analysts actively search for signs of advanced threats or hidden indicators of compromise that may have evaded traditional security controls.

Incident Response: MDR services include incident response capabilities, where experienced analysts investigate and respond to security incidents.

Reporting and Guidance: MDR services provide regular reports and insights on detected threats, incident response activities, and recommendations for improving security posture.

Differences between MDR and SOC

MDR and SOC offer continuous monitoring and analysis, threat intelligence and detection, reporting, and incident response protocols. However, there are some stark differences.

Ownership: SOC is typically an in-house security center with a dedicated space, equipment, and staff. MDR is an outsourced solution that third-party IT security professionals handle.

Logging: SOC relies on SIEM tools for network security supervision. MDR typically employs intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) that allow data to be collected across multiple security layers. 

Scalability: MDR allows organizations to access various advanced technologies. A SOC doesn’t scale as easily as manual processes often remain stagnant, analysts burn out, and upgrades are expensive.

Proactive vs. Reactive: While both SOC and MDR aim to detect and respond to security incidents, MDR often takes a more proactive approach by actively hunting for threats and conducting ongoing analysis, whereas SOC primarily focuses on monitoring and responding to events.

Cost: Establishing and maintaining an effective SOC requires significant investment in infrastructure, tools, and skilled personnel. MDR allows organizations to leverage the expertise and resources of an external provider without the upfront investment.

What’s Better: MDR or SOC?

SOC and MDR both offer a robust approach to cybersecurity. SOC provides an internal capability for monitoring and responding to security events, while MDR offers an outsourced service with scalable threat detection expertise and solutions.

Organizations must assess their needs, resources, and risk tolerance to determine the most suitable method for their security posture. When combined, SOC and MDR are the perfect blend of outsourced security personnel and tools that can act as an extension of an in-house IT security team.

Businesses large and small contend with a growing number of devices, each adding to attack surfaces. At the same time, most enterprises face a cybersecurity skill gap and resources shortages. Cybersecurity staffing is particularly troublesome for small and mid-sized businesses.

As a human-centric subscription-based 24x7x365 Managed XDR service, CylanceGUARD® provides the expertise and support businesses need. CylanceGUARD combines the comprehensive expertise embodied by BlackBerry Cybersecurity Services with AI-based Endpoint Protection (EPP) through CylanceENDPOINT. In short, CylanceGUARD provides business with the people and technology needed to protect the enterprise from the modern threat landscape.