Illustration of a number of analysts determining which alerts are false, benign, or positive, as if in a Secure Operations Center

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: The Mindset of a SOC Analyst

As the cybersecurity landscape grows in complexity, the role of a Security Operations Center (SOC) analysts becomes increasingly vital. SOC analysts are tasked with detecting and responding to threats to an organization's digital assets. When it comes to investigating alerts, a SOC analyst's mindset is critical for ensuring an organization's safety and security: SOC analysts must approach every alert with the assumption that it is a real threat until proven otherwise. This "guilty until proven innocent" mindset is crucial; failure to thoroughly investigate an alert can have severe consequences, including expensive data breaches or network compromises. Regardless of actual threat level, a diligent mindset and careful investigation can reveal much about the overall health of your organization’s cybersecurity.

Alert investigation

It is essential to be thorough when it comes to investigating alerts. SOC analysts must examine every piece of evidence and look for any signs of malicious activity, including: reviewing logs and network traffic, examining system and user activity, and checking for any suspicious login attempts or data access. The SOC analyst must also consider the context of the alert, such as the time of day or the user account that triggered it. By piecing together all available information, the SOC analyst can determine whether the alert is a genuine threat or a false positive.

This "better safe than sorry" approach is particularly important when it comes to alert investigation. By treating every alert as a potential threat, the SOC analyst ensures they don’t overlook any critical indicators of malicious activity. Even if an alert ultimately turns out to be benign, investigating it thoroughly can provide valuable insights into an organization's security posture and potential vulnerabilities. Therefore, SOC analysts should approach every alert with the same level of urgency and dedication, regardless of how insignificant it may seem at first glance. In doing so, they protect and secure their organization against cyber threats. 

The benefit of false and benign positives

There are three possible outcomes to a threat investigation: False positive, benign positive, and true positive. False positives are alerts that may suggest a potential threat but are eventually proven to be harmless. On the other hand, benign positives are alerts that indicate legitimate activities or processes, often mistaken for malicious activity. It's crucial for SOC analysts to distinguish between benign and malicious activities to avoid wasting valuable resources and negative impacts on the overall security posture of the organization, strengthening the defense against true positives as well.

Learn from our past

Maintaining documentation of past issues is critical to investigating current alerts. Analysts should be prepared to learn from previous threats and share their findings with their team. This documentation should include all steps taken during the investigation as well as the rationale behind closing the alert. By doing so, analysts can have a clear record of what was done and why, which can be useful when encountering similar threats in the future. 

Moreover, in cases where an alert is determined to be a false or benign positive, documenting the reasons behind this determination is equally important. Doing so helps to improve the accuracy of the detection system, minimize occurrence of false alarms from and prevents the SOC from wasting valuable time and resources. Keeping a detailed record of investigations is an essential aspect of effective threat management and operational efficiency for a SOC.

Together we are stronger

SOC analysts cannot work in isolation, as the nature of their work demands collaboration with other members of their team. Senior analysts and incident responders are some of the professionals that SOC analysts must work closely with. Through collaboration, SOC analysts can share information and insights that may prove useful in investigating alerts. Collaboration ensures a consistent approach to handling alerts, which can help to reduce the likelihood of missing potential threats.

The value of collaboration among SOC analysts cannot be overstated. In an environment where new threats are emerging daily, collaboration fosters a sense of unity and shared responsibility. Through collaboration, SOC analysts can leverage each other's strengths and expertise to identify and resolve potential security incidents swiftly. This, in turn, enables organizations to maintain a strong security posture and stay ahead of potential cyber threats. Your organization is always stronger with a cohesive, collaborative SOC team.

In conclusion, the SOC analyst mindset is critical in ensuring the security of an organization's digital assets. SOC analysts must treat every alert as a potentially dangerous situation until they can prove otherwise. False positives are common, but SOC analysts cannot become complacent and must thoroughly investigate every alert. Documentation and collaboration are also essential to the SOC analyst's role, ensuring that alerts are investigated thoroughly and consistently. By adopting the mindset of being "guilty until proven innocent," SOC analysts, like those at MPGSOC, can help to ensure that an organization's digital assets remain secure.


Demi Marshall
Mack Sutton – Graphic Design

More from Our Cybersecurity Experts