SIEM Technologies - Streamline Your System Security Management
SIEM Technologies - Streamline Your System Security Management
As far back as memory takes us, there has always been the need to safeguard the information within and outside of an enterprise from growing cybersecurity threats.
What is SIEM?
Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) software are one of the top innovations in security technology. It involves the process of collecting, analyzing, and acting on security-related events, alerts, and reports. It doesn't just focus on a single issue. Rather, it aggregates activity from all resources within an organization to detect any malicious activity within the IT infrastructure.
Although the concept of SIEM is relatively new, it was developed on two already existing technologies - Security Event Management (SEM) and Security Information Management (SIM). SEM is a software solution that analyzes log and event data in real-time to provide event correlation, threat monitoring, and incidence response. On the other hand, SIM collects, analyses, and reports on log data.
The extended scope of this technology can be quite complex to handle and requires the skills of specialized IT technicians. Nonetheless, every stakeholder in a business or organization needs to understand the basics of how SIEM affects the enterprise. Hence, we will give a breakdown of how SIEM works.
How SIEM Functions
Security Information and Event Management works primarily in a five-step process.
Data is at the base of how the technology functions, so SIEM starts off collecting data from servers, network devices, domain controllers, firewall logs, antivirus events, etc. It gathers immense amounts of data throughout an organization's system and networks.
The next step involves aggregating the data that has been collected. It stores and consolidates the data, so it is easily accessible to personnel.
Then comes analysis. SIEM analyses network behavior as well as user behavior. It monitors all activity on a centralized platform, from failed and successful logins to malware activity and other categories of sorted data.
The software picks up unusual activity during the analytics process. For instance, 100 failed login attempts in less than 5 minutes is an eyebrow-raiser and will most likely be flagged as an attempted attack.
Finally, such detected anomalies will trigger security alerts since they signal potential security issues. This alert capability allows IT personnel to be more proactive in fighting external threats early on or even preventing them in the first place.
The need to provide a holistic view of an organization's information security has driven this technology's adoption. With the SIEM tools available on the market, not only are businesses able to get a comprehensive security solution, but they are also able to meet the compliance requirements of regulatory standards like HIPPA, PCI DSS, and SOC, among others.
The top SIEM tools feature advanced analytics and intelligence capabilities to detect malicious activity more accurately. The dominant solutions in the industry include ArcSight ESM, IBM QRadar, and Splunk.
This Security Information and Event Management tool uses an open architecture to collect and analyze data from an organization's security technologies, operating systems, and applications. A salient point of this tool is that it is capable of gathering data from a vaster range of resources than most other similar products.
The system detects and alerts personnel about perceived threats, and for more accurate reports, it is designed to integrate third-party threat intelligence feeds.
What's more, the software can launch an automatic reaction to combat malicious activity upon detection. IT specialists will find ArcSight very useful as its structured data can be utilized outside of the host platform as well.
The smart features embedded in this IBM product are capable of picking up the dynamic nature of ever-changing threats. QRadar can collect log events and data from network devices, applications, operating systems, and user activities within a business information system. Its capabilities do not stop there, but extend to network flow data from cloud-based applications, making it a solid solution for integrating extensive logs across critical systems.
Designed with the latest security assessment technology, this SIEM also supports threat intelligence feeds from third-party apps and analyses data in real-time to promptly stop attacks.
However, it can be complicated to effectively set up this SIEM tool since its complex capabilities come with equally complex architecture.
Available as a cloud service or an in-house security operations center, Splunk is a popular security solution designed as enterprise-level software. This means it isn't exactly the go-to for SMBs. The scale of capabilities makes it one of the pricier solutions, but it benefits large organizations because it supports as many third-party integrations as are required.
Splunk SIEM provides real-time threat monitoring and rapid investigations. An impressive feature is the visual representations in the form of graphs and charts.
As one of the oldest SIEM tools, it has proven reliability for detecting the diversity of advanced security threats. And like other modern SIEM solutions, it also supports threat intelligence feeds.
Advantages and disadvantages
Almost every security expert will recommend adding SIEM, and it’s not just a trend that they follow blindly. Using SIEM solutions certainly has multiple benefits for the end-users. For instance:
It will make you more insightful to spot a cybersecurity threat
The organization’s survival in the present era of cyber threats depends on how smartly they are dealing with a security issue. They need to keep an eye on every data and traffic that is reaching and going out from their system. SIEM becomes a single source of truth for all your data and security policies. It provides collective information in a single place and makes you more insightful.
When you have access to every security-related data, it’s easy to react and create a remedial solution. This swiftness empowers an organization so much so that they do early detection of threats and can limit the damage.
Hold over diverse security threats
As SIEM has data from all sorts of platforms or tools you use, it is very useful to spot a zero-day attack as well. It’s flexible enough to be configured for spotting activities that can occur because of the presence of an attack instead of an attack only. This ability makes it an ideal fit to spot zero-day threats that can reach your system via spam, anti-virus software, or firewalls.
Informative forensic analysis
The use of SIEM makes your forensic investigation so informative that you will manage to find out when, how, and where a breach happened even if a cybersecurity solution fails. You can have detailed forensic logs that are useful in insurance claims and lawsuit handling.
We agree that SIEM use is non-negotiable in the present day, but it’s not always a winning game. There are certain limitations of this tool, and you must be aware of them before you start SIEM deployment.
The first disadvantage of having a SIEM tool is that it’s not for novices. It’s complex, and one needs great technical competency and deeper IT system understanding to find out how it works. So, you’re not ready for it if you don’t have skilled IT professionals to handle it.
Next comes the high cost. Its implementation, training, upgrade, and many other things are meant to be cost-consuming. Depending upon the size of the network and implementation scale, one might end up spending millions of dollars on its implementation.
You need time for the effective SIEM deployment. It can take months to make it fully functional. So, if you’re looking for a quick security solution that SIEM is not, you should watch out for it.
Sometimes, the alerts it sends or shares are too much to handle. The worst part is that many of these alerts could be fake.
Differences Between SIEM and Other Security Technologies.
While other security tools provide only one security service, SIEM's capabilities consolidate different security technologies together. The major SIEM features span threat or anomaly detection, investigation, and time to respond. Several additional features exist, including:
Basic security monitoring
Log data storage and tracking
Security incident detection
Advanced threat detection
Forensics and incidence response
Notification and alerts
Threat response workflow
Dashboards and visualizations of data patterns
SIEM Vs. SOAR
The existing purpose of SIEM is collecting, storing, and analyzing the varied data coming from multiple resources and assisting the SOC team. SOAR may or may not exist with SIEM and aims to mechanize the repetitive yet important processes.
SIEM makes the SOC team insightful, while SOAR allows end-users to save time and effort while they are carefully examining unforeseen hazards or security threats.
Both are handling jobs that are beyond human capacity and tend to be erroneous when handled manually.
SIEM serves as an organized and centralized platform for all data types. SOAR augments the efficiencies of SIEM by automating critical tasks so that alert fatigue, errors, and inaccuracies are not there in SIEM operations.
An organization seeking improved threat detection and protection often combines SOAR and SIEM.
SIEM Vs. XDR
SIEM is often linked with XDR, which is Extended Detection and Response. XDR exists to improve the threat management abilities of an organization as it involves tools and techniques that are useful for early & quick threat figuring out, investigation, and devising remedial solutions.
As far as comparison with SIEM is concerned, XDR does have dissimilarities. For instance, SIEM can store or process as much data as the end user wants. But, XDR is restricted. It can only deal with a specific amount of data at a time.
Now, this has both positive and negative impacts. Let’s talk about positive outcomes first. When data is limited, the analysis tends to be quick and highly accurate. SIEM can take ages to complete the analysis if the dataset is huge. XDR has better scope of threat detection as it has fewer data to handle.
The negative aspect of this limited data access is that XDR won’t be preferred or doable to detect a threat at a large scale. You won’t be able to predict the reach of the threat. Data is in abundance in SIEM tools. So, they can predict the far-reaching impact of a threat.
Difference Between a SIEM and A Log Management Tool
The capabilities of a log management tool are:
Log data collection from all operating systems and applications within a network
Efficient retention of high volumes of data for extended time lengths
Filtering and sorting of event logs as well as a search function for easy location of the required information
Reporting on the operational, compliance, or security status of an organization's IT infrastructure.
A log management software (LMS) simply collects logs and events for storage, which is only one aspect of SIEM functionality. While LMS tools were designed to assist systems analysts in reviewing log files for reasons not specific to security, SIEM tools cater to cybersecurity applications.
Also, SIEM software is fully automated while a log management system is not.
Difference Between a SIEM and A Security Information Management (SIM) Product
SIM and SIEM are two concepts that are often used interchangeably in the area of security management by those who are unfamiliar with these products. Although they possess similarities, there are significant differences between their capabilities. SIM software specializes in the following:
Collection and storage of log files in a central repository
Normalizing and cleaning up logs to reduce network bandwidth congestion
Flexible analysis and reporting of log data
Reporting for compliance with security regulatory standards like HIPPA, PCI, VISA CISP, etc.
As it focuses on the collection and storage of logs, it bears a striking resemblance to log management. SIM can be defined as a log management tool built for security. Once again, this tool is only a part of SIEM technology.
Another major difference is that SIM's event and data correlation is based on historical analysis, while SIEM processes are carried out in real-time. Hence, preventing an imminent threat would only be possible with SIEM.
Difference Between a SIEM and A Host-Based Security Tool
Host-based security tools are used for detecting security threats against an application or system. They usually focus on the traffic on the server or network interface card (NIC). Their basic capabilities are:
Compiling and analyzing traffic data
Signature-based monitoring to detect known cyber attack signatures
Anomaly-based monitoring to detect unusual network and user behavior
A host-based intrusion detection system (HIDS) is one of the most prominent security technologies for detecting malicious activity. Their architecture allows them only to detect and report vulnerability exploits. On the other hand, a SIEM will go further to take preventive action against the cyberattack. While a SIEM is an active security tool, a HIDS is passive.
SIEM is also more of a network-based application since it focuses on incoming and outgoing traffic through network devices, firewalls, routers, etc.
Difference Between a SIEM and An Asset Management Tool
Asset Management is a system that enables companies to track all IT assets like servers, routers, firewalls, printers, computers, and other connected devices in real-time.
Here's an overview of what an asset management tool does:
It stores details and documents for each asset.
It allows analysts to detect all systems connected to the network easily.
It helps prioritize system issues to be tackled.
It provides a long-term perspective of asset costs.
For large organizations, monitoring thousands of assets on a spreadsheet would be a hassle for employees. With asset management software, the work is made a hundred times easier. However, the scope of this tool is often limited to operational performance rather than detecting security threats within an organization. It only indirectly influences security since a list of all IT assets provides a basis for vulnerability checks.
Difference Between a SIEM and Application Monitoring and Control (AMC) Software
Application Monitoring and Control software monitors and controls the activity of applications in a network.
The practice of application control restricts unauthorized applications from executing in ways that put data at risk. Hence, it ensures the privacy and security of data transmitted between systems.
The capabilities of AMC software include:
Ensuring complete records processing from start to finish
Ensuring that only valid data is input and processed
Providing an authentication mechanism for application systems
Allowing authorized access only to approved business users
Ensuring the integrity of data feeds entering the application system
Judging by the scope of coverage, AMC products are useful in reducing the risks of malware and unauthorized third-party intrusion since they eliminate unknown and unwanted applications in the network.
However, SIEM offers a more comprehensive security solution. It pulls together data from disparate security tools and includes data from network security devices and security applications. It also possesses the intelligence to counter attacks automatically. SIEM often utilizes data from AMC products.
Difference Between a SIEM and An Audit Management Tool
The applications of SIEM are mutually exclusive from Audit Management software. The latter helps companies streamline their audit processes and comply with internal policies and regulatory standards.
It automates audit-related tasks for accurate and complete documentation of data.
It schedules audits across different departments simultaneously.
It implements, analyses, and reports audit results.
It allows real-time amendments, even while a program is running.
It facilitates storage of audit results for easy access and comparison
Audit management is often used for quality management, and its primary applications are in the health care, pharmaceutical, and food and beverage industries.
The software can also be used to gather, store and provide data on security events, in which case it could serve as a resource for SIEM processes.
SIEM Within an Enterprise
The use of Security Information and Event Management systems in enterprises today was prompted by the need to combat ever-evolving cybersecurity threats and the need for compliance with regulations. Some businesses choose to operate two separate SIEM solutions – one for compliance and the other for data security. The reason for this is that the system is very resource-intensive, and this way, an enterprise gets the most value for each purpose.
Smaller enterprises find it more difficult to run SIEM precisely because of this. Since SMBs are restricted by monetary resources, they are unable to bear the costs of maintaining the software and hiring the talents to keep it running on an ongoing basis. A cheaper alternative to running on-premise SIEM is having it delivered as software as a service from outsourcing providers. However, considering the sensitive data involved, not many companies are keen on running analytics on the cloud.
SIEM Deployment Concerns
This product is a valuable aspect of any modern security infrastructure. Its capabilities can do a great deal of good for your security. However, due to the complexity of the software, successfully deploying SIEM is not always guaranteed. In the worst-case scenario, it could end up complicating your security environment and creating new issues.
Here are the major limitations to the system:
Delayed Setup Time
Security Information and Event Management isn't instant software. Many businesses don't realize that it takes a long time to implement. There is an extensive discovery and planning phase where objectives need to be identified. All current assets need to be accounted for, and this will require investing in the appropriate software if not already available.
An implementation stage will include the actual deployment of SIEM systems and processes as well as thorough testing of all assumptions made during the discovery and planning stage.
This is followed by a controlled deployment stage where all SIEM processes, procedures, and operations are rolled out over time. And it is done gradually to guarantee seamless integrations and optimal configurations.
Taking all that into account, it usually takes several months to install SIEM that works effectively. A lack of adequate planning and coordination at the start will negatively impact the bottom line.
The Need For Specialized Staff
Although many of the SIEM processes are fully automated, it still requires skilled analysts for configuration and optimization. SIEM deployments can require as many as eight full-time security analysts to enable it to run effectively. With the shortage of experienced security specialists, businesses have a hard time sustaining SIEM deployments.
Furthermore, SIEM technology provides alerts of security threats in real-time, and taking advantage of this feature requires round-the-clock monitoring. This only compounds the staffing problem because regular employees do not have the required training to keep up with the technical processes. As a result, many departments experience burnout not long after deployment.
A Never-Ending Improvement Phase
The work is never really complete with SIEM processes. After the initial deployment then comes a continuous improvement phase of monitoring and fine-tuning the system.
There is always a need to adapt to new security policies and compliance procedures. Besides, organizational structures do not remain constant, and even small-scale changes could cause a ripple effect throughout the entire business. In that scenario, SIEM will have to be optimized to accommodate the changes and maintain effective security performance.
This continuous maintenance implies continuous costs, bringing us to the next limiting factor of SIEM.
Cost of Maintenance
Although relatively new, SIEM software accounts for over $2 billion of global spending on enterprise security. Annual costs for a business running the application can go from tens of thousands to over $100,000, depending on the size of the organization. This includes software and hardware costs, as well as personnel costs to implement, manage and monitor the system.
Hiring skilled talent doesn't come cheap, and in-house training of employees entails more spending. It's no wonder that small companies choose not to invest in it at all.
Going down the path of SIEM integration will add to a business's list of things to manage. For this reason, deciding whether to deploy SIEM is a complex matter that requires a review of your current security posture and a long-term commitment. Many organizations find their progress stalled or abandoned midway. When you consider the investment expensive, a failed Security Information and Event Management will certainly leave an impact on the business’s ROI.
The Problem of Limited Contextual Information
A major issue among SIEM customers is the difficulty in diagnosing and researching pertinent security events. SIEM applications are unable to distinguish sensitive and non-sensitive data, so they are only as capable as the data they receive.
For example, the system could indicate a rise in network activity from an IP address without revealing the user responsible for the traffic or the files that were accessed. The incidence, in reality, could be one of two things - either critical data theft or an authorized transfer of data. If the latter were to be the case, the lack of context in the security alert would have sent the IT team on a wild goose chase.
Unable to distinguish between seemingly suspicious sanctioned file activity and actual malicious threats, the alarm gets constantly triggered. This would eventually desensitize the security team to system alerts, thereby harming the value of the SIEM application.
Maximizing The Value of Your SIEM
To maximize the value of your SIEM, you need to know which battles to fight. SIEM provides out-of-the-box solutions like dashboard widgets, alert reports, saved searches, etc. However, unlike an antivirus solution that caters to a universal problem of stopping malware, we've established that the use of SIEM is much more context-dependent.
To derive continuous value, the software has to be customized to an organization's specific problem and evolving needs.
The SIEM administrator gets this done by creating a profile that defines the behavior of enterprise systems, both under normal conditions and pre-defined security incidents. Luckily the system allows every business to fine-tune the default rules, alerts, reports, and dashboards embedded in the software. In this way, defining the company's use case(s).
In a typical example of a business concerned about trader fraud, the SIEM administrator can write a correlation rule to alert on activities that exceed the average trade value by a certain percentage over some time.
Then There Are Next-Gen SIEMs
Where traditional SIEMs are still unable to solve the problem of lack of context, lagging incidence response, and security workflows, modern SIEMs feature advanced technologies like User Event Behavioural Analysis (UEBA) and Security Orchestration and Automation (SOAR).
Below are the benefits of next-gen SIEMs
Complex Threat Identification
Modern SIEMs feature automatic behavioral profiling that can detect advanced attacks such as insider threats, targeted threats, and fraud. Thanks to UEBA, SIEMs can achieve this by leveraging AI and deep learning techniques to monitor human behavioral patterns.
Asset Behavior Analysis
The ability to detect behavioral patterns extends to critical assets within the organization. SIEMs can learn the unique patterns of network devices and discover any unusual activity that may suggest a threat.
Ability to Thrive on Data
Organizations get bombarded with tons of data every day, and the amount keeps increasing. Modern SIEM solutions thrive the more data is pumped into them. More data provides analysts greater visibility into the activities. Consequently, IT personnel are more effective in responding to threats.
Increased Flexibility and Scalability
As an organization grows, so does its need for systems capable of adapting to the increased scale. SIEMs have the improved capability to grow as business changes over time. They can be deployed on-premise or in the cloud, with the possibility of a hybrid option.
With the infusion of machine learning and AI components, some SIEMs allow shorter implementation times and low maintenance resource requirements.
Enhanced Investigation and Incidence Response
SOAR enables next-gen SIEMs to integrate with enterprise systems and perform automatic incident responses on affected resources before the hacker can launch an attack. Since attackers search for key assets in a network using IP addresses, credentials, and machines, SIEMs can detect this lateral movement by analyzing data across the IT infrastructure. Then, interacting with other security technologies, the system automates the initial steps of incidence response.
Reduces Security Staff Requirements
The enhanced automation of modern SIEMs eases the burden on security analysts. Its machine learning capabilities enable it to manage the bulk of its processes without the need for manual input. With the increased threat detection, context awareness, and behavioral analysis, SIEM greatly cuts down the need for security staff. And less staff implies reduced costs of maintenance.
Detection Without Rules or Signatures
Many times, correlation rules still lack the context to identify complex attacks. Unfamiliar incidents may also go unnoticed if traditional SIEM isn't customized for that purpose. Moreso, sophisticated hackers can launch attacks that bypass known signatures.
New SIEM platforms utilize machine learning to detect incidents without pre-defined attack signatures. It also comes equipped with default use cases like detecting insider threats and meeting compliance standards, so both the system and the IT analysts are more productive as soon as the logs are collected.
Guarantees Stable Pricing Models
SIEM pricing is often unpredictable when based on data usage. Businesses can't forecast the increase in data volume, so they are unable to estimate the total cost of maintaining the system. With modern SIEMs, the pricing model is based on the number of devices sending logs. So by keeping track of your IT assets, you can predict the cost of ownership. It is also easier to manage costs of increasing hardware capabilities when the SIEM security needs to scale.
SIEM Best Practices
SIEM solutions are powerful, effective, viable, and prevent huge threats and security flaws. But, it’s only possible when it’s used as per best standards and in an upright manner. The best SIEM implementation practice is ensuring that it aligns well with your organizational needs. Have a look at what goes in to make this sure.
Gauge your requirements and plan SIEM enablement process accordingly
Give yourself enough time to find out what you want from your SIEM tool.
What are your specific goals? What kind of jobs do you want to hand over the SIEM tools to? All these questions should be asked firsthand to ensure that SIEM implementation is as per your requirements.
SIEM is not an easy tool to implement. If you make any wrong move, things can mess up very badly later on. So, play wise from the beginning only.
Review and update it regularly
The security landscape changes frequently, and it’s utterly unwise to have a SIEM tool deployed and not optimize it to the need of the hour. You must regularly review the system and make changes to it accordingly.
Pre-define the processes
For effective results, it’s recommended to define rules for alert generation and the tool’s response. This must be done to ensure that there is no alert fatigue and you’re receiving only useful alerts.
Always hire the best talent
Let’s admit it! SIEM is complex, and you can use it fruitfully with mediocre IT talent. You need experts by your side. If you have them already, reserve sufficient time and resources on their training and knowledge enhancement.
Conclusion - Why You Need SIEM?
In this era of continuous technological innovation, enterprises have more data to collect than ever before. This makes it all the more important to have a central security solution to keep track of behavior and security events. Despite the limitations of SIEM, many enterprises have had great success with their SIEM deployments.
With the introduction of next-gen SIEMs, the capacity to sift through massive quantities of data and discover connections between events is even more advanced. Tempered with good understanding and a commitment to maintenance, properly deployed SIEM adds tremendous value to an enterprise's security infrastructure.
How to choose the right SIEM tool for your organization?
The selection of a SIEM tool should be based on the organization's specific security requirements, budget, and available resources. At this g2.com resource, you can find a tool that meets your needs
Which are the popular SIEM tools available in the market?
Some of the popular SIEM tools are Splunk, IBM QRadar, AlienVault, McAfee Enterprise Security Manager, LogRhythm, ArcSight, and Graylog.
How does SIEM detect and respond to security incidents?
SIEM uses various techniques like correlation rules, anomaly detection, machine learning, and behavioral analysis to detect security incidents. Once detected, it triggers the automated response or alerts the security team to take further action.
What are the benefits of using SIEM?
SIEM offers several benefits, such as real-time threat detection, automated response to security incidents, regulatory compliance, improved incident response times, and better visibility into network activity.
What is security information and event management?
SIEM is a security approach that combines security event management and security information management into a single framework. It uses log monitoring, threat intelligence, and behavioral analytics to detect and respond to security incidents.