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Cybersecurity Fundamentals

What is SIEM?

Security information and event management (SIEM) is a technological approach to monitoring and analyzing security event data. SIEM platforms enable continuous, real-time monitoring of security events while tracking and logging security data in a centralized location.

Modern SIEM platforms form the foundation of successful Security Operations Centers (SOCs). The ability to gather security event logs from every corner of the enterprise in a single platform and analyze them for signs of unauthorized activity offers valuable advantages to security teams.

Security information event management systems improve threat detection and incident response in three important ways:

  • Complete visibility. By aggregating security data and analyzing it on a single platform, analysts can prioritize and respond to threats without encountering blind spots.
  • Enhanced automation capabilities. SIEM platforms enable analysts to spend more time on threat identification and response, and less on time-intensive tasks like compliance.
  • Streamlined security workflows. Most analysts are overwhelmed with security alerts. Advanced SIEM solutions allow individual analysts to achieve more in less time.

SIEM 1.0 vs SIEM 2.0

Gartner originally coined the term SIEM in 2005. A great deal has changed since then. Early SIEM platforms were simply log management tools that included security information management (SIM) with security event management (SEM) features.

To detect threats in the enormous volume of log data collected, early SIEM platforms used a variety of static rulesets. These rules triggered security alerts when users, applications, or other assets fulfilled specific conditions.

Here are some examples of how static SIEM 1.0 rules might work in practice:

  • Trigger an alert when a single source IP fails to login to different usernames in less than one hour.
  • Trigger an alert if an authenticated user attempts to access an restricted external web resource.
  • Trigger an alert when a user logs in from a different country.

Static rules can be effective in some scenarios, but they are difficult to configure and scale in an enterprise context. SIEM 2.0 uses emerging technology and context-driven automation to radically enhance the efficiency, accuracy, and detection capabilities of security personnel.

Here are a few ways SIEM 2.0 can transform the security capabilities of a well-equipped SOC:

  • Dynamic rulesets powered by machine learning. Instead of manually configuring thousands of SIEM rules by hand, SIEM 2.0 platforms can adjust their own rulesets as analysts conduct and complete investigations. This allows the entire security operations center to become more accurate and efficient over time.
  • User Entity and Behavioral Analytics (UEBA). This technology assigns a dynamic risk score to every user and asset on the network, triggering alerts when they deviate from their established behaviors. It allows analysts to catch insider threats and credential-based attacks that SIEM 1.0 systems can’t.
  • Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR). Modern incident response often requires managing many different tools and platforms. SOAR technology allows analysts to launch highly automated response playbooks using multiple security tools at once.

Why do security leaders invest in SIEM implementation?

SIEM platforms are vital for every organization facing a growing number of threats. An average SOC might process 10,000 alerts per day, and large enterprises typically deal with more than 150,000. This simply too many alerts for a team of security analysts to investigate manually.

As cybercriminals develop increasingly sophisticated tactics, techniques, and procedures, the importance of every single alert only increases. Security leaders know that one alert could mean the difference between detecting unauthorized activity early on and missing a catastrophic data breach entirely.

SIEM solutions give security teams a more efficient way to triage incoming alerts and investigate them effectively. Sophisticated SIEM 2.0 solutions provide additional tools for making the most of your security team’s capabilities.

SIEM technology used to be exclusive to large-scale enterprises that could afford to implement the most complex security solutions. However, technological advances and new managed service capabilities have made SIEM implementation accessible to organizations of all sizes — including small and mid-sized businesses.

Security leaders in every industry rely on SIEM technology to capture, analyze, respond, and report on security events in real-time because it dramatically improves their organization’s security posture. When implemented as part of the SOC Visibility Triad, it becomes the cornerstone of operational security excellence.

What exactly does SIEM do?

SIEM systems gather security data in the form of logs. Every asset in the enterprise tech stack generates these logs when performing routine operations. Your SIEM aggregates the log data and categorizes them so analysts can address high-severity security events first.

Capturing security event log data from every asset on the network requires the SIEM be connected to every asset on the network. SIEM implementation is the process of creating these connections so that every device and application in the organization sends valid, usable security data to the SIEM.

A typical enterprise SIEM use case scenario can involve a huge number of individual connections. You might need to connect your SIEM to:

  • Firewalls, including hardware firewalls, software firewalls, and cloud-hosted web application firewalls (WAF).
  • Intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS)
  • Endpoint security solutions, including Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) platforms.
  • Network hardware, including routers, switches, and servers.
  • Network traffic and security applications, including Network Detection and Response (NDR) solutions.

By aggregating all of this event data and analyzing it in one place, security teams gain deep visibility and contextualized insight into the organization’s security posture and risk profile. Context is critical for discerning between harmless false positives and potentially devastating data breaches.

Another side to SIEM: Effective log management

Your SIEM provides a single, unified solution for analyzing log data from across your organization. However, it does not come with infinite storage space for holding log data not currently in use.

Many organizations make the mistake of storing all their log data in their SIEM. While undoubtedly convenient, it’s an unsustainably expensive approach that costs more and more as the organization grows.

Some SOC personnel delete old logs to make space for new ones. This stop-gap solution can lead to significant risks — like accidentally deleting logs urgently needed to investigate a long-term security threat that has been ongoing for months.

Deploying the proper infrastructure for efficient, low-cost log management is an important part of every SIEM implementation. Security leaders that deploy efficient security log management solutions before jumping into SIEM implementation enjoy lower costs and better outcomes than those who skip this important step.

Why implement SIEM: Three critical benefits

SIEM solutions pave the way to operational security excellence, giving organizations scalable threat detection and incident response capabilities while improving three core areas of SOC operations:

  • Faster, more accurate threat response. SIEM solutions enable analysts to detect and respond to complex threats with greater speed and accuracy. They significantly improve key performance metrics like mean time-to-detect (MTTD) and mean time-to-respond (MTTR) while reducing the impact of detected data breaches.
  • Automated compliance reporting. IT teams have to track and report compliance data to demonstrate the organization adheres to industry and government regulations. This process is much easier when the relevant data has already been collected, normalized, and aggregated in a centralized SIEM.
  • Significantly reduced complexity. Consolidating event data from many different applications and network assets makes security processes much simpler than they would otherwise be. This allows analysts to automate repetitive tasks and delegate sensitive workflows to less experienced staff.

How to select the right SIEM vendor for your organization

The global SIEM market is expected to more than double in size between 2024 and 2029, with a compound annual growth rate of 17%. Such a fast-growing market is ripe for competition, and security leaders already have many different options to choose from.

Purchasing and implementing a SIEM platform can be especially challenging for organizations that don’t have the resources and specialist talent necessary to complete the process in-house. Most organizations fall into this category — even among large enterprises.

That means it’s not just about selecting a reliable, high-quality SIEM platform. You must also select an implementation consultant who can help you through the process of preparing your systems for SIEM integration, provide specialist expertise to conduct implementation, and configure your SIEM for optimal performance moving forward.

Many security leaders choose reputable managed detection and response (MDR) vendors to deploy SIEM capabilities through SOC-as-a-service contracts. This turns SIEM implementation into a scalable, manageable project headed by product experts who have the experience necessary to guarantee a positive outcome.

When comparing SIEM vendors, look for trustworthy brands that can deliver on the most important features and functionalities:

  • Seamless integration with your existing IT infrastructure. SIEM implementation is one of the most complex and challenging processes an organization can undertake. It can’t be entrusted to inexperienced security engineers, especially if you want to gain the benefits of advanced SIEM 2.0 technologies that require in-depth customization.
  • Unlimited visibility into your security posture. Many security vendors neglect to give their customers full, unlimited access to their own data. This makes improving security performance very difficult, and makes demonstrating compliance nearly impossible. Every SIEM implementation should come with complete and total visibility — without compromise.
  • Highly detailed alerts, delivered quickly. Good SIEM platforms provide alerts with depth and context. The very best leverage enhanced SOC automation to deliver these insights in near real-time. The faster analysts can view every angle of a potential threat, the more successful their investigations will be.
  • Automated incident response capabilities. SOAR capabilities allow analysts to quickly leverage multiple security tools from different vendors when addressing alerts and mitigating threats. Automation is crucial for successful security operations, but misconfigured automations can quickly spiral out of control. Deep product expertise is a must-have.

Expand your SIEM capabilities with Lumifi

As your organization grows, managing its security tech stack only gets more complex. You need unlimited visibility into your security posture and 24/7 alarm monitoring and response enhanced with high-impact automation and delivered by industry experts.

Lumifi’s managed detection and response solutions make best-in-class SIEM functionality available to organizations of all sizes. We’re prepared to guide you through every step of the SIEM implementation process and manage your SIEM directly from our SOC 2 Type II-certified Security Operations Center.

Learn more about our selection of ShieldVision MDR services and find out how we can help you take control of your security posture without giving up your data.

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