The days of single-layer neural networks have long passed. Today, small to medium-sized enterprises have complicated IT networks with multiple endpoints, tools, and processes. The security needs of growing businesses call for specialized technology that delivers effective protection while uncomplicating the network.
Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) is an indispensable component of robust cybersecurity. While SIEM technology has been around for over a decade, it has evolved into a foundational security solution for organizations of all sizes. This popularity is demonstrated by SIEM’s growing market size, which is currently touching 8.1% CAGR.
This blog, covering the A-To-Z of SIEM tools, has something for everyone, whether you are a cybersecurity beginner or an IT security consultant looking for advanced SIEM know-how. We’ll take you from the basics of what SIEM is and what it does to pointers on what to look for in a SIEM provider and how to leverage your SIEM tool for optimal performance. Feel free to skip to the part that interests you!
How Does SIEM Work?
Why Is SIEM Important?
Capabilities of SIEM
Benefits of SIEM
Best Ways To Build SIEM Use Cases
Compliance Management with SIEM
How to leverage your SIEM solution?
What should you look for in a Managed SIEM provider?
ACE Managed SIEM
Table of Contents
What is SIEM?
Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) combines the IT legacy tools – SIM (Security Information Management) and SEM (Security Event Management). Many modern SIEM tools have also integrated Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR), and User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) technologies to enhance automation and threat detection capabilities.
SIEM tool’s core function is aggregating and correlating data on all security events occurring within an IT environment. It collects log data from several sources, including network endpoint devices, servers, routers, network sensors, firewalls, and other network security products. Doing so provides a comprehensive view of the entire network infrastructure and all ongoing activities on a centralized platform. SIEM tools work within on-premises and cloud-based infrastructures and integrate all entities within a network.
How Does SIEM Work?
The first step in SIEM’s functioning is collecting log data and other security-related data from your entire network into a centralized platform. This is done by SIEM “agents,” which are programs running on all security systems responsible for analyzing and exporting the data into the SIEM. Several applications and security programs also have built-in export capabilities that SIEM tools can utilize for importing data.
Some SIEM tools tap into third-party threat intelligence feeds to stay updated on the latest attack tactics and recently identified threat signatures. This integration with global threat intelligence platforms allows SIEM solutions to detect the latest attacks.
The second step is the analysis of collected data and event correlation. The volume of data is too huge for human beings to sort, which is the primary selling point of SIEM tools. SIEM tools apply advanced data analytics to generate meaningful insights and efficiently organize security data collected from the entire network.
SIEM’s event correlation capabilities create detailed data patterns that help quickly locate the affected locations and potential network damage. Security teams significantly improve their mean time to detect (MTTD) and mean time to respond (MTTR) with SIEM’s threat intelligence and insight.
Why Is SIEM Important?
Ask yourself this: Is it possible for a single person, or even a team, to analyze a vast volume of logs from various distributed event sources in real-time? No, it’s not. This is why SIEM is so essential. It provides real-time monitoring and tracking of all network activities on a single platform. No other tool will give you detailed information on what’s happening in your network in real time, along with in-depth analysis.
With SIEM tools, you can detect and block malicious actors before they have a chance to damage the business gravely. Advanced capabilities like machine learning and user behavior analytics help security teams detangle the web of log data.
SIEM is a highly efficient tool when configured in the right way. Security teams need automation and ML-powered analytics for impactful threat response in the age of complicated networks with multiple entry points and a widespread attack surface.
Capabilities of SIEM Tools:
SIEM performs various interconnected functions to give you unparalleled network visibility. Key SIEM capabilities are:
1. Log Management
Log data collection is the primary activity of SIEM tools. Real-time log collection maximizes network security by providing information on what’s happening in the network at that exact moment.
2. Real-time Monitoring & Alerting
Another significant capability of SIEM is the real-time factor. Log collection, data analysis, and alerts – all of it happen in real-time. You can also customize alerts to suit your business operations. SIEM also allows you to employ pre-defined alert rules and tiered alerts across multiple teams.
3. Event Correlation & Threat Intelligence
Powered by advanced machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence, SIEM tools correlate all the collected log data to create a detailed pattern of events. In the case of security events, event correlation provides intelligence on the attack path, entry point, affected files, programs, or systems. It helps security teams respond to threats more accurately while reducing the threat response time.
4. User Entity and Behavior Analytics (UEBA)
SIEM tools have evolved into their “next-gen” avatar to incorporate UEBA. UEBA delivers a unique perspective to event data by connecting it with the activity of users and network entities. Behavior that deviates from the standard norm is immediately flagged, and an alert is raised. UEBA uses machine learning to determine typical behavior and prioritize risks based on the degree of deviation from that standard.
5. AI-powered Automation
The latest SIEM tools are equipped with powerful automation capabilities that save time, human effort, and resources while providing error-free analytics. Deep machine learning regularly adapts to dynamic network behavior and changing business requirements and simplifies complex network data into meaningful threat intelligence.
5. Compliance Management
One of the most attractive capabilities of SIEM solutions is the help it provides with managing IT and security compliance requirements. Owing to its data collection and normalization capabilities, SIEM tools are placed perfectly for verifying compliance data across different aspects of the business. SIEM tools generate real-time compliance reports for HIPAA, PCI-DSS, GDPR, and SOX.
Benefits of SIEM
Companies of all sizes gain a lot from implementing SIEM solutions. A tool that enhances operational efficiency by automating resource-intensive tasks, prioritizing alerts, and providing real-time network monitoring will bring a host of advantages to any organization. Some of the significant benefits of SIEM tools are:
Empowers Security Operation with Real-time Threat Recognition
Round-the-clock monitoring and real-time alerts are significant boons for security teams. SIEM’s real-time monitoring and proactive alerts reduce the time and effort taken by security operations teams in responding to threats. Because SIEM gathers data from the entire organizational network on a centralized platform, it improves interdepartmental coordination on security and user behavior.
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SIEM also sorts through millions of data points in no time, analyzing complex data quickly to produce insightful intelligence. The same task, if performed by security teams, would require extensive time and resources and be prone to human error. And doing all that in real-time would be impossible without a SIEM.
Enhanced Network Visibility Eliminates “Dark Spaces”
Multi-layered, widespread networks often develop “dark spaces,” i.e., network areas or segments that evade monitoring attempts and stay hidden from security operators. Hidden threats lurk in such network dark spots and can move laterally across the network without being detected.
SIEM aggregates log data from every security system in your network and sheds light on the hidden spots that would otherwise go unmonitored. SIEM tools give you a comprehensive view of what’s happening in your network. Without SIEM, security teams have to grapple with fragmented network information and lack the big picture.
Protection From Advanced and Unknown Threats
New-age cyber threats are evolving at an alarmingly rapid pace. Most security solutions have limited threat detection capabilities. On the other hand, SIEM solutions use integrated threat feeds for a global attack perspective and can detect advanced and unknown threats.
With behavior analysis, SIEM prevents modern-day security concerns like insider threats and privileged access abuse. SIEM tools are also quipped against other attacks like phishing, SQL injections, DDoS attacks, or data exfiltration.
Detailed Forensic Investigations Optimizes Threat Response
When security analysts don’t have to spend long hours sorting event data and analyzing it for intelligence, threat response time is automatically reduced and optimized. SIEM provides detailed investigation and event correlation reports, which create a clear picture of past events. Security teams can effectively analyze what happened during the incident and respond accurately.
SIEM Deployment Types
SIEM solutions can be deployed in multiple ways. You should choose the right deployment strategy depending on your business operations, organizational structure, availability of resources, internal capabilities, and budget.
The in-house SIEM setup gives organizations complete control and ownership over their SIEM solution. The organization purchases hardware, software, and licenses and is responsible for every step in the implementation process. There is zero third-party involvement. This approach is taken by large organizations with extensive internal and financial resources. The costs and human efforts required for managing an in-house SIEM are no small matter.
With the universal adoption of cloud computing technology, this model has gained incredible traction in the last few years. Also called could-SIEM or Managed SIEM, the SIEM-as-a-Service model requires minimal internal responsibility and involvement. The SIEM solution is hosted on a third-party cloud and is subscription-based. This model is ideal for smaller businesses with limited in-house capabilities and budget constraints.
Common SIEM Use Cases
The only way to measure the return on investment (RoI) of any security solution implementation is to quantify its impact based on specific parameters. If you don’t have clear use cases for your SIEM solution, it will be a waste of money, time, and effort. Here are some common use cases for SIEM solutions.
Detecting Insider Threats
According to Verizon’s data breach investigation report, three out of five data breach incidents are caused by insider activities. Insider threats can go undetected for months or even years. These threats are difficult to detect, as there is minimal behavioral change and no signature-based marking. SIEM’s advanced user entity behavior analysis helps security teams detect and block insider threats.
SIEM can help in detecting compromised user credentials and alert the administrator if any user changes or escalates their access privilege. SIEM’s event correlation function establishes a connection between user behavior and network traffic to detect anomalous communication or signs of a compromised user.
Identifying Privileged Access Abuse
Gaps in organizational access control policies lead to the complicated problem of privileged access abuse. Users who have access to critical IT systems get the leeway to compromise business operations because they have greater access than their job profile demands.
SIEM’s round-the-clock monitoring feature reports on any suspicious access to critical data. It also keeps a check on third-party violations and vendor access. SIEM can report on data or system overexposure which can pose a business compromise risk.
Detecting Trusted Entity Compromise
The most common attack tactic is to take control of user credentials or trusted hosts within the network and carry out attacks without getting detected. US companies take up to 260 days on average to detect a compromised entity within their networks.
SIEM can identify suspicious user account activity and alert investigators in a timely manner. Server anomalies can also be easily detected by creating a baseline of server activity and sending alerts in case of deviations from the baseline. Also, anti-virus monitoring and network device monitoring are crucial steps for preventing this type of attack.
Interconnected devices have become the lifeblood of modern organizations. A wide range of industries, from healthcare to manufacturing, depend on network-connected devices for all critical processes. Internet of Things (IoT) devices lack comprehensive in-built security features, making them highly vulnerable.
SIEM tools can be configured to help with IoT vulnerability management, data flow management, and identifying at-risk and compromised devices. DDoS attacks, the most common tactic used against IoT devices, can be blocked with SIEM security.
Best Ways to Build and Manage SIEM Use Cases
The only way to utilize the full prowess of your SIEM solution is to define, implement, and track your use cases. Follow the below-mentioned steps to ensure you get the most out of your SIEM tool.
- Clearly define the SIEM requirements and scope. Identify the most important assets and network areas that need to be protected. Optimize your solution against the specific threats your business is most vulnerable to. Lastly, ensure compliance and security policies are clearly established.
- Carefully choose the valuable data sources that will identify the threats within your use case. Consider all characteristics of the data sources, such as location, verbosity level, data type, data point, and how frequently the data is overwritten. Make sure all the data sources communicate correctly. Use help from the source vendor for proper integration.
- Customize the SIEM correlation rules that will govern data aggregation. The alerts and flags you will receive shall depend on the pre-set rules and defined baselines. This is inarguably the most important step in implementing effective SIEM use cases.
- Constantly test your SIEM rules and fine-tune them as you go along. Your first attempt at implementing a use case probably won’t go smoothly. Check for post positives and false negatives. Your aim in this process should be to reduce false alerts while catching the maximum number of threats.
- SIEM is not a solution you can set and forget. You need to constantly monitor performance to ensure the SIEM is working as it should. You need to stay proactive in a changing threat landscape.
Compliance Management with SIEM
Now we come to the most common and beneficial use case of SIEM – compliance management. Regulatory compliance requirements vary from one organization to the next depending on the industry, internal processes, and user data collection. Below are a few of the most common compliances.
HIPAA is a US compliance for organizations that work with health information. It covers healthcare organizations of all sizes, insurance providers, and even manufacturers of healthcare devices. SIEM can help with HIPAA compliance by simplifying the security management process, monitoring employee access to protected information, detecting security events and threats, and providing audit control management.
PCI DSS Compliance
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) secures credit cardholders from data theft. This regulation is applicable to any organization that involves credit card processing. SIEM can be customized to provide network perimeter security, user identity protection, and data system security.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European framework for protecting the privacy and personal data. SIEM tools can be configured to verify and provide proof that user data is being treated in a secure manner. Certain SIEMs also provide records of data processing, GDPR logging, and breach notifications as add-on features.
Latest trends shaping the future of SIEM
AI is still in its nascent stage. It’s assured that as AI technology develops, it will bring greater cognitive capabilities to SIEM technology. We can expect enhanced decision-making and more intuitive processing in SIEM’s future. The development of AI technology will consequently lead to greater automation and a hands-free approach to security.
How to leverage your SIEM solution for the best performance?
Here are a few SIEM best practices to ensure your grand security investment bears fruitful results.
- As discussed in the previous use cases section, identify your needs first. Then ensure that your organizational requirements are aligned with the scope of the SIEM tool. Setting up appropriate use cases is crucial.
- Identify all business compliance requirements and ensure your SIEM is equipped to monitor, audit, and report as per those standards in real time.
- Catalog and classify all assets and external vendor presence within your IT network. This is essential for managing log data and monitoring network activity.
- Assign a dedicated SIEM administrator with a team to ensure proper monitoring and maintenance.
- Evaluate if your team has the skills and bandwidth required for managing a solution as elaborate as SIEM. If not, don’t hesitate to reach out to a managed security service provider (MSSP). The right MSSP adds tons of value to your security posture.
What should you look for in a Managed SIEM provider?
We’ve discussed the benefits and functionalities of a standard SIEM solution, so you already know the features and capabilities your SIEM solution should have. In addition, here are a few tips on how to select the right managed SIEM provider.
- Check if the provider has co-managed options. If not, verify the extent of control you will have over the collected data.
- Ask for sample reports. It’s crucial for SIEM providers to give you meaningful intelligence you can act on. You will not be able to make the best use of the SIEM tool if the reports are incomprehensible to your team.
- Check if the provider is capable of customizing the SIEM solution to your specific business needs and compliance mandates.
ACE Managed SIEM: The hassle-free detection tool you need
If you’ve decided to go the managed SIEM route, ACE is here for you! With 14+ years of experience in providing cloud services and security to clients all over the globe, ACE managed SIEM simplifies threat detection and response like no other.
You get real-time security alerts with in-depth forensic analysis and actional threat intelligence on a single platform. ACE’s customizable threat dashboard is purpose-built to ensure protection against industry-specific threats and emerging attack tactics. MITRE ATT&CK mapping ensures context-based threat management and effective responses.