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Building a Railway SOC: Enhancing Cybersecurity for Safer Operations

Yaniv Mallet
Yaniv Mallet
Lead Cybersecurity Architect
Given rising cyber threats, railway operators must prioritize cybersecurity and implement Security Operations Centers (SOC)
Cyber Week Recap: Cybersecurity Must be a Higher Priority in Rail as Threat Landscape Evolves

The railway industry boasts a rich history of efficient operations management. However, in the face of increasing cyber threats in the modern world, it has become imperative for railway operators to prioritize cybersecurity. 

This blog post aims to delve into the significance of a Security Operations Center (SOC), or what can also be described as a Cyber Security Operation Center (CSOC), in safeguarding operational rail tech environments. We will explore the unique challenges of building a Railway SOC, including the importance of rail knowledge and collaboration with the Operational Control Center (OCC).

The Role of SOC

As cyber threats evolve, relying solely on security products and solutions is no longer sufficient. Achieving cybersecurity resilience demands real-time visibility of assets, correlation of information from multiple sources, and actionable response capabilities. This is where the SOC comes into play. A SOC continuously monitors an organization's network, investigates potential security incidents, and collaborates with various teams during event management. In the rail industry, a SOC should actively monitor alerts, stay updated on the latest Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI), and comprehensively understand network assets, vulnerabilities, and risks.

Considerations for Building a Railway SOC

Building and implementing a SOC tailored to the railway industry involves unique considerations. Notably, the industry faces challenges related to the cybersecurity talent shortage and the expanding attack surface. Many organizations opt for outsourced SOC services, such as Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) and Managed Detection and Response (MDR) services, to tackle these issues. Automation, particularly through Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) solutions, is also being leveraged to alleviate the workload on Tier 1 analysts. Additionally, adopting a cloud-based strategy can enhance flexibility and collaboration with MSSPs.

Unique Challenges for Railway SOC

The implementation of a SOC in an operational rail tech environment presents distinctive challenges. Railway systems comprise various technologies from different vendors, featuring a mix of legacy and modern systems. Consequently, cybersecurity professionals must immerse themselves in rail tech environments and understand the connections and dependencies between systems.

Another critical factor is the operational culture of the Operational Control Center (OCC). The SOC and OCC must establish clear communication channels, define the chain of command during major incidents, and ensure a shared understanding of rail tech operations and cybersecurity terminology. 

Best Practices for Railway SOC Implementation

To implement a successful Railway SOC, a comprehensive approach is necessary. Key steps include acquiring skilled cybersecurity personnel with deep knowledge of railway technologies, conducting thorough training on rail-specific cybersecurity alerts and threats, fostering seamless cooperation between the SOC and OCC, and developing tailored playbooks with context-aware recommendations.

It is important to balance the size of the SOC team based on the organization's operational strategy and business hours. Tools and technologies used in the Railway SOC should be adapted to OT/ICS networks and seamlessly integrated with existing management systems. A gradual approach to scaling up monitoring and management, focusing initially on critical operational rail tech systems, is recommended. Ultimately, a well-designed Railway SOC provides enhanced visibility, threat detection, and compliance management while ensuring the safety and security of railway operations.

Final Words

In conclusion, establishing a Railway SOC is paramount to effectively address the evolving cyber threats railway networks face. By combining real-time visibility, information correlation, and actionable response capabilities, a Railway SOC can enhance cybersecurity resilience and ensure the safety and security of railway operations. Following best practices, including acquiring skilled personnel, fostering collaboration with the OCC, and implementing tailored procedures and technologies, railway operators can establish a comprehensive and effective SOC that provides enhanced threat detection, compliance management, and safeguards rail. 

Originally published
July 27, 2023
July 27, 2023

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