Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM) has been widely adopted and used to manage cybersecurity events. As a result, the SIEM market is expected to grow by approximately 25% over the next five years as the need for cybersecurity automation increases. Even though the market is expanding, the cost of SIEM has remained relatively flat.
All of the top SIEM tools ingest and analyze massive amounts of security event data from a wide range of other systems, like firewall software, network routers, and intrusion detection and prevention software, to name a few. It’s effectively impossible for a human being to keep track of multiple security device logs, so SIEM organizes, analyzes, and creates alerts for security operations to follow up on. The overarching advantage of SIEM is the ability to perform quick, accurate detection and identification of security events that help avert cyber disasters by alerting analysts to impending attacks.
SIEM can be combined with Security Orchestration Automation and Response (SOAR) for additional benefits. Many think that SOAR and SIEM are one and the same, but there is a difference between SOAR and SIEM which you should understand before moving forward with purchasing either one of them.
The Advantages of SIEM
SIEM systems help the Security Operations Center (SOC) function effectively. In particular, they enable:
Faster, more efficient SecOps: With a SIEM sifting through millions of data points, SOC analysts can quickly get a handle on what’s happening using analysis templates to quickly analyze log and threat intelligence data, which radically cuts down on the destructive impact of a cyberattack. Without a SIEM, security analysts would have to interpret multiple security device logs and data sources, such as threat intel feeds, by hand. In addition to burning people out - which is itself a big problem - it slows the incident response process down significantly. You can configure your SIEM tool to respond to incidents in real-time, potentially saving your company from data loss or worse.
More accurate threat detection and security alerting: SIEM systems can leverage their extensive data sets to detect and identify threats more accurately than would be possible using individual security data streams. They also have the ability to enrich security event data and offer critical context to incident alerts. For example, a SIEM can correlate a threat signature detected in one device log with a threat found on another log.
Improved security data: SIEMs aggregate security data, improving the potential for it to be analyzed and used in incident response workflows. This can also result in better visibility over the entire security landscape in the enterprise. The SIEM also typically normalizes security. In its raw form, the multiple data streams feeding into the SIEM have different schemas and fields. It’s not normalized. For example, data about users originating from network logins, email servers, databases, and mobile devices might all take different forms. This creates a problem for data analysis and event correlation. The SIEM is able to reformat the data, making it consistent for incident analysis and response processes. Data storage is a related benefit. The SIEM can store normalized security data for extended analytics and reporting. This may also help with compliance.
Better network visibility: SIEM log management and aggregation make it easier to get an overview of the network. Indeed, given the complexity and diversity of modern networks, a network can easily have “dark spaces.” This means that as the network scales, network managers and security teams lose visibility into what’s actually happening with databases, servers, devices, and third parties. Hackers look for dark spaces on networks. It gives them a place to hide persistent threats and move laterally across digital assets without being detected. SIEM mitigates this risk by collecting security event data from everywhere in the network. It then stores and analyzes it in a central place. SIEM log analysis can shine a light on these dark spaces, so to speak.
- Improved compliance: Regulations and compliance frameworks such as HIPAA invariably require logging of security data as a key control. SIEM systems fulfill this role, easing the attestation process with pre-set compliance reporting templates that streamline the compliance process.
Disadvantages of SIEM
Organizations that struggle with SIEM systems generally have difficulty with a few well-known problematic aspects of the technology.
Cost: SIEM systems can be rather expensive. Even so, the benefits can outweigh the cost to provide a positive ROI (return on investment).
Effort to configure: SIEM systems almost always need costly external resources to install and configure. That process can take a long time, too. The time to value can lag, causing organizational and budget challenges.
- Dedicated security resources for monitoring: Once up and running, SIEM systems need dedicated staff for operations and continuous tuning. Without constant updating, a SIEM can become “noisy,” generating excessive alerts - to the point where they may even be ignored by the SOC.
SIEM systems are potentially highly valuable additions to a SOC. They correlate security data feeds, enabling them to detect serious security incidents in time to take action. They then facilitate an effective, fast response by the SOC team. At the same time, SIEM software can take significant time to set up and to adjust the alerts and responses. Embarking on a SIEM project represents a serious commitment of time and resources on the part of the security team. It should be undertaken with rigorous planning and realistic budgeting in order to ensure long-term success.