7 Metrics to Measure the Effectiveness of Your Security Operations

SOC metrics will allow stakeholders to track the current state of a program and how it's supporting business objectives.

Andrew Hollister, CISO, LogRhythm; VP, LogRhythm Labs

September 27, 2022

4 Min Read
Source: Pitinan Piyavatin via Alamy Stock Photo

Given the current financial climate, cybersecurity budgets may be under review, along with all other expenditures, and, in some cases, on the chopping block. One of the best ways for security leaders to protect their security operations program is to ensure alignment with the business priorities of their executive teams and boards. An important part of this is providing metrics that demonstrate the effectiveness of the program. Developing metrics for your security operations will allow your stakeholders to track the current state of the program as well as how the program supports the business objectives.

The security operations center is a business-critical function, but measuring the effectiveness of the SOC isn’t easy. Organizations may choose from a wide variety of different approaches. Speed of response in security operations is one important aspect and can make all the difference between a compromise that’s quickly contained and a catastrophic data breach. 

Therefore, starting with basic metrics such as mean time to detect (MTTD) and mean time to respond (MTTR) will enable both you and your stakeholders to gain greater insight into the operations, and to make better investment decisions, as well as demonstrate value to the executive leadership and board.

Improve Your Effectiveness

The main objective of a resilient security operations program should be lowering an organization's MTTD and MTTR to limit any damage done by a cyber incident to your organization. 

MTTD measures the amount of time it takes to discover a potential security threat. This metric helps you understand the effectiveness of your organization's security operations and your team's speed and ability to recognize a threat. Therefore, the goal is to keep this metric as low as possible in order to reduce the impact of a compromise on your organization.

Meanwhile, MTTR helps you measure the time it takes to respond to a threat once it is detected. A higher response time indicates that a compromise could lead to a damaging data breach. The goal is to speed up your response and decrease your risk, just like MTTD. 

Both MTTD and MTTR are key metrics to measure and improve your team's capabilities since it is crucial to track the effectiveness of your team as your organization's maturity grows. Like any fundamental business operation, to mature your organization you should measure operational effectiveness to determine whether your organization is reaching its KPIs and SLAs.

In addition to MTTD and MTTR, there are other metrics you should monitor to make sure that you are effectively measuring and communicating operational effectiveness.

Ensuring Security Operations Success

Here are the seven metrics you should measure to help see where your security operations program may need improvements.

Alarm time to triage (TTT): Measures the team's ability to urgently inspect an alarm. It helps you understand the level of responsiveness to threats in real time. This could indicate that your team might need additional staff to narrow its monitoring focus or that you have enough staff to take on a larger monitoring load. 

Alarm time to qualify (TTQ): Measures and indicates how long it takes an alarm to be fully investigated and qualified. TTQ helps you spot blockages and understand your team's scope when it comes to qualifying threats. 

Threat time to investigate (TTI): Measures and indicates the number of hours it takes to thoroughly investigate a qualified threat. It enables you to identify bottlenecks and understand your team's capabilities when investigating threats in an efficient manner.

Time to mitigate (TTM): Measures the length of time it takes to mitigate an incident and address the immediate business risk. TTM helps you understand how quickly your team can mitigate the issue to stop or impede an active threat. 

Time to recover (TTV): Measures the amount of time it takes to fully recover from an incident. Measuring TTV helps you figure out how quickly your security team and others involved can completely restore operations back to normalcy. Bottlenecks in operations and collaboration can also be found. 

Incident time to detect (TTD): Measures the time it takes to confirm an Incident was initially detected and ultimately qualified. TTD is a crucial indicator of security operations effectiveness as it demonstrates the time it takes to identify threats that actually resulted in incidents.

Incident time to response (TTR): Measures the duration of time it takes to fully investigate as well as mitigate a confirmed Incident. TTR is an essential measure of security operations effectiveness given that it presents the time it takes to analyze and mitigate threats that resulted in an incident.

Metrics are designed to provide insights on information about your security program's effectiveness, performance and accountability through the collection, analysis, and reporting of data. They also give you the ability to surface bottlenecks in process as well as identify where tools or processes need reworking. All business processes need to be measured in order to improve, and security operations are no different in this regard. Demonstrating effectiveness through metrics is a necessary element in showing value to the wider business.

About the Author(s)

Andrew Hollister

CISO, LogRhythm; VP, LogRhythm Labs

Andrew Hollister has over 25 years’ experience in software, infrastructure, and security roles in both the private and public sectors. He joined the LogRhythm team in 2012 with a keen interest in using machine-based analytics to solve cyber security problems. He maintains a close interest in this area, contributing content, expertise, and vision to the ongoing development of the company’s roadmap and platform offerings.

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