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What is SIEM?

​​In an age of big data and connected devices, security information and event management (SIEM) is one of the key priorities for businesses of all sizes.

At a time when data is everywhere, and cyber threats are growing, security information and event management is more important than ever. This is where information management meets security as companies seek to manage their incident response, compliance requirements, security, and analytics. With businesses increasingly hanging success on how they manage their data, every business will need to get its head around leveraging security information and event management (SIEM) to elevate their security posture.

How Does SIEM Work?

SIEM delivers next-generation cybersecurity functionality for businesses in real-time. It covers the key challenges of modern cybersecurity: from threat intelligence to managing events and incident response. It brings together two disciplines—security information management and event management (SEM) and offers real-time analysis of security operations across your IT infrastructure.

The SIEM software matches events against rules and analytics engines and uses globally gathered threat intelligence information to provide security teams with insight into security incidents and a track record of activities within their IT ecosystem. By providing event data, security analytics, data aggregation, and reporting, it helps teams develop a secure and robust incident response.

As technology and the threat landscape have evolved over the years, SIEM has leaped to the forefront of business priorities. According to Industry Research, security analysts expect the market to grow 12% year on year between 2020 and 2034 driving revenues of $3.94bn.1

SIEM Tools

A SIEM solution collects event data generated by applications, security devices, and other systems in your organization. It covers all sorts of intrusion detection data including antivirus events, malware activity, firewall logs, and other issues bringing it all into one centralized platform for real-time analysis. It serves to aggregate information from disparate systems and categorizes them in a clear and highly visible way.

When the system identifies a threat detection event, it triggers an alert giving it a defined threat level based on pre-set rules. It might offer a threat level from one to ten depending on the nature of the event. For example, one failed login might be trivial, but multiple attempts within a very short space of time could be a sign of an attempted attack. Using automated software, it filters these alerts, presenting them in clear dashboards from which threat detection action can be taken.

SIEM Solution Use Cases 

SIEM has multiple security monitoring use cases including data management, regulatory compliance, and threat detection. 

Some of the most common include:

  • Compliance: Compliance regulations are getting tighter. The arrival of frameworks such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) place more pressure on IT security and data management operations. Organizations must leverage the collection and normalization of data to keep data safe and to provide information to regulatory bodies about the measures they have taken to prioritize enterprise security. As a result, SIEM is increasingly important not only for large organizations but for businesses of all sizes.
  • Visibility: Bringing all that data into one place enhances visibility and gives users a single location from which to view all their security information. Collection of data from applications, devices, and other systems feed into this place, issuing alerts each time an event is triggered. It provides a real-time snapshot of security data and incoming threats.
  • Data aggregation: SIEM increases the visibility of log data by bringing it all into one place from which it can be analyzed and sorted. With security information management (SIM), businesses can organize, compare and correlate disparate data to improve threat detection and incident response time.
  • Threat detection: Using data from global events, software can improve the detection of threats in emails, cloud resources, apps, and external threats by identifying issues that existing systems would miss. It can be used for entity and user behavior analytics which analyses activities and triggers security alerts as soon as it detects anything out of the ordinary.
  • Cybersecurity management: SIEM technology manages how organizations react to the latest attacks. Security analytics provide real-time updates and threat intelligence feeds, alerting the security operations center (SOC) to prioritize and develop a prompt response. This may include workflow management to expedite investigations and generate instructions to respond to each incident. 
  • Log management and analysis: By aggregating all log data on security incidents, managers can extract all sorts of insights to detect overall trends, assess systems, and detect weaknesses in their IT infrastructure. It helps businesses provide an overview of their infrastructure allowing them to continually improve their response mechanisms.
  • Internal threats: Businesses need to look in as well as look out. Insider threats—either through malicious or mistaken actions of employees—remains one of the most serious threats. Even so, many businesses remain vulnerable. SIEM software allows organizations to continuously monitor their employees and raise alerts when it detects any abnormal activity.
  • Internet of Things: Businesses and devices are becoming more connected, harnessing Internet of Things (IoT) technology to deliver a more connected enterprise. However, this creates additional security vulnerabilities. Connected devices create endpoints, each of which represents a security threat. SIEM software can monitor these endpoints issuing alerts when it detects suspicious activity.

Ultimately, this is about building intrusion detection capability and creating a more robust, sustainable, and secure system for organizations to work from.

The Problem of Legacy Systems

Of course, there is nothing new about SIEM. It’s been with us since the early years of the millennium. Many businesses will already be doing—or think they are doing—an adequate job. However, there is a world of difference between legacy management systems and next-generation SIEM. The latest SIEM systems come with a host of improvements and updates—leveraging on machine learning, which leaves legacy systems hopelessly outmatched. Even so, some companies are slow to upgrade, either because they don’t understand they have a gap in their capacity, or because they lack the internal expertise and internal competence to deliver a reliable implementation.

The first stage is to understand where legacy SIEM is limited. Compared to the latest systems, it had a number of limitations including:

  • Poor data management: SIEM software was unable to process all of the relevant data which meant its view was somewhat limited.
  • Inefficient: Software was complex and inefficient making the whole process cumbersome and hard to operate.
  • Labor intensive: New technologies are supposed to automate processes and save time. Legacy systems do the opposite, weighing security teams down with time-wasting work as they filter through the many false positives produced.

In comparison, next-generation SIEM tools are faster, smoother, more efficient, and more powerful. They offer quicker integration including cloud and on-premises infrastructure. It’s more scalable with capacity available as and when needed. It offers real-time visualization to understand the most dangerous risks and security issues and provides complete visibility over all pertinent data. In-depth data analysis and auditing allow users to study entity behavior analytics and spot patterns in multiple instances. It can customize workflows allowing security teams to develop customized security solutions based on their most pressing requirements.

How Does a SIEM Solution Work?

Those organizations asking themselves whether they need to upgrade their SIEM capabilities will need to move quickly to keep up with the shifting threat landscape. Not only is the threat evolving and becoming more complex, but competitors are upgrading their capacity. In the digital environment, the gap between the haves and have-nots can quickly become a chasm.

As the growing emphasis on digital due diligence shows, that chasm can easily become insurmountable. Increasingly, investors are looking at a company’s digital adoption before deciding whether to invest. In some cases, they may determine that a business has fallen so far behind as to compromise its value even if short-term performance looks good.

The question, therefore, is not if, but how you should upgrade. This can be a delicate process and can easily go wrong. It’s important to adopt a customized step-by-step process that helps to identify the right solution for your business.

  • Investigate requirements: The first stage is to look at the current state of your SIEM and see where it needs to improve.
  • Get expert help: Your business may not have the internal expertise available to address all these challenges, in which case it pays to consult external experts. They can offer an expert assessment of your needs and design an appropriate solution.
  • Begin with a pilot run: It’s always worth having a dry run to collect as much data about performance as possible.
  • Continuously refine: Once up and running you should continuously review your system against current best practices. The threats are evolving, and technology is improving. You’ll have to keep moving in order to keep up with the competition.

The Future

As we move into the future, technology is progressing rapidly. Automation will increase as providers seek to minimize the labor requirements produced by SIEM. Automating processes such as incident analysis and reducing the occurrences of false positives will be critical in optimizing performance. Spending on the cloud will increase with more cloud providers offering SIEM support and services offering cloud-specific SIEM deployment.

Behavioral analytics will become more sophisticated and, as its capacity scales, will take on an increasingly prominent role in security provisions. The ability to monitor networks and detect altered or suspicious activity will help firms create more secure systems and a faster, more robust, response.

Could You Improve Your SIEM?

SIEM, therefore, is moving to the top of businesses' priority lists. Tighter data regulations, Sarbanes Oxley (SOX)compliance requirements, and the proliferation of digital technology mean this is something that businesses of all sizes—from small start-ups to established corporations—will have to get their head around. With next-generation platforms incorporating user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) and security orchestration arriving on the market, the potential gap between the best and the rest is growing which could prove to be a key determinant of business performance.

Here at UpGuard, we can help you implement a robust and effective SIEM plan. Our experts can assess your requirements and help you design a cybersecurity solution specifically tailored to your requirements. With our expertise, you can create a solution specifically designed for the challenges of the digital age.

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