A Beginner’s Guide to SIEM

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A Beginner’s Guide to SIEM

IT environments of any organization around the world are constantly under threats of cyberattacks. To stay safe and miles ahead of potential attacks, organizations continually tighten security regulations and focus on reducing their attack surfaces. Constantly improving security is no easy feat and is very challenging. What could help security teams is including SIEM software in their security arsenal. But what is SIEM, and what’s in it for security teams? 

What is SIEM?

SIEM or Security Information and Event Management systems are security and auditing systems with multiple analysis and monitoring components. When deployed correctly, these components can help an organization detect and remediate threats. A well-rounded SIEM system consists of the following elements. 

  • Log Management (LMS): Tools for log aggregation, unification, and storage.
  • Security Information Management (SIM): Systems that focus on collecting, analyzing, and managing data related to security from various data sources. DNS servers, firewalls, antivirus apps, and routers are a few of such data sources.
  • Security Event Management (SEM): Proactive monitoring and analysis-based systems that include data visualization, event correlation, and alert generation. 

A SIEM solution merges all of these components to automatically collect and process information, store it in a centralized location, compare various events, and generate reports and alerts. 

Why is it important?

Cyber-attacks and threats to our IT environments and computer systems are not going away any time soon. From good old phishing and malware attacks to the latest coin mining, ransomware, and zero-day attacks, threats to our applications, infrastructure, and data are pretty frequent and constantly on the rise. Attackers are getting smarter by the day, due to which most of these attacks go unnoticed – often for several months. What can prove very successful against such attacks is an effective threat detection system and thorough network monitoring. Aggregating data from different data sources and correlating between events is now crucial in helping us keep fighting the good fight.

Additionally, governments worldwide are tightening compliance requirements to protect their citizens’ data, leaving the onus on developers to build a super-secure solution and maintain strict compliance. Only a comprehensive set of security controls with proper monitoring, threat detection and remediation, auditing, and reporting can meet all these requirements. A SIEM system facilitates all of that. 

How does a SIEM solution work?

At the outset, a SIEM solution collects event and log data from host systems, security devices, and applications across an IT environment and consolidates data from these multiple data points in one location. Post consolidation, the data is sampled against preset security rules, analyzed in real-time, and sorted into categories such as malware activity, successful and failed logins, and other potentially malicious activities. When the system detects any potential security problems, it creates alerts. Organizations can prioritize these alerts using preset rules. For example, a user account generating 100 failed attempts across two minutes of login-related activity would be flagged and alerted as a high-priority event. Alternatively, you could categorize another account with ten failed attempts in ten minutes as suspicious but set to a lower priority. The first scenario could be a brute-force attack in progress, while the second one could just be a forgetful user. 

Benefits of SIEM

A well-rounded SIEM solution has plenty of benefits that help strengthen an organization’s security posture. Some of these benefits commonly seen across different solutions include:

  • A holistic view of an organization’s information and technology security
  • Data convergence from disparate sources of security and log data
  • Standardization of log data generated in different formats
  • Augmentation of log data with additional attributes by sampling them against security rules
  • Making your machine data indexable, searchable, and easily accessible
  • Stay compliant with real-time and continuous visibility
  • Faster detection and remediation times
  • Visualization of raw log data to quickly identify threats, vulnerabilities, and patterns

What to look for in a SIEM solution

A SIEM solution can accelerate threat detection and responses to threats while enabling SecOps to reduce attack surfaces and mitigate risks to IT environments. Although a good SIEM solution provides plenty of benefits, you need to be tactful while picking one. 

  • First, assess your security and business objectives. If your business requires that you maintain compliance with several regulations while staying secure, be sure to pick a solution that helps you do both with relative ease. 
  • Understand the real TCO (total cost of ownership) of the SIEM solution you’re evaluating. Depending on the vendor’s licensing model, you might end up paying a lot of storage tax for something as essential as storing your data for longer durations. Read through the fine print and see if your vendor lets you retain data for as long as you wish to, without costing you a fortune. 
  • Evaluate the data analytics capabilities of the SIEM solution. A SIEM solution is no good if it cannot identify, correlate, and analyze the knowns and unknowns of your environments and data. Bonus points if the solution has machine learning and AI capabilities. Although machine learning and AI are relatively new, they are essential in helping the solution learn to identify threat patterns automatically and adjust to new data without human input. 
  • Evaluate the ease of integration and automation of the SIEM solution. Your SIEM solution should be easy to integrate with all your existing data sources and incident management systems, no matter how disparate or distributed they are. 
  • See how resource-intensive the solution could be. Avoid solutions that require trained staff to set up, operate, and manage.
  • Assess the solution’s reporting capabilities. Your SIEM solution should be able to display security-related information and events in a human-readable format. The more dashboarding, visualization, graphing, and textual reporting capabilities the solution possesses, the better your team comprehends and uses that information. 

Conclusion

When it comes to information and IT infrastructure security, no amount of preparedness, planning, tools, or measures is ever enough. The numerous benefits of a SIEM solution makes it worthy of an investment and inclusion in your security arsenal. It helps you automate log monitoring, correlating log and event data, identifying patterns, alerting, and providing data for compliance. If you’re considering investing in a SIEM solution, look for tools that help you perform all of these functions through a single interface rather than taking a fragmented approach.

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