How does a SIEM work? You probably know that many organizations utilize a SIEM for compliance and security monitoring reasons. But how does it work? Read on to learn more about the inner workings of a SIEM. 

how does a siem work

SIEM stands for Security Information and Event Management and is a software that gives security professionals both insight into and a track record of the actions within their organization’s network. SIEM solutions provide a holistic view of what is happening on a network in real-time and assist IT teams to be more proactive in the battle against security threats.

SIEM technology has been around for more than a decade, originally developing from the log management discipline. It linked security event management (SEM) – which examines log and event data in real-time to provide threat monitoring, event correlation, and incident response – with security information management (SIM) which gathers, analyzes and reports on log data.

It is a solution that aggregates and analyzes activity from many different resources across your entire IT base.

The Need for Data Monitoring

In today’s digital market, it’s necessary to watch and secure your company’s data against increasingly advanced cyber threats. And odds are, your company has more data than ever before. There is no discussion about the fact that attacks on computer systems are steadily on the rise. Coin mining, DDoS, ransomware, malware, botnets, phishing — this is just a small list of the threats those fighting the good fight today are facing.

In addition to complicated tools being used to attack businesses – the attack surface has become much wider due to the development in data traversing our IT infrastructure. The capability to monitor all this data is increasingly becoming a challenge. Luckily, we have security information and event management (SIEM).

How Does a SIEM Work?

SIEM provides two main capabilities to an Incident Response team:

    • Reporting and forensics about security incidents
    • Alerts based on analytics that match a certain rule set, indicating a security issue

At its core, SIEM is a data aggregator, search, and reporting system. SIEM collects enormous amounts of data from your complete networked environment, consolidates and makes that data human accessible. With the data classified and laid out at your fingertips, you can study data security breaches with as much detail as needed.

However, experts say enterprise demand for greater security measures has driven more of the SIEM market in recent years. This is why Managed SIEM has gained popularity. Many IT departments are unable to spend the time necessary to draw the data out of a SIEM that will allow them to properly detect cyber threats.

A Managed SIEM forensics team will identify the activity that could identify a threat to the organization by monitoring a SIEM. The Managed SIEM team will determine the validity of the threat and begin to remediate the threat. SIEMs produce a high amount of alerts based on the fine-tuning of the SIEM. With a team of analysts monitoring a SIEM 24/7, they have the expertise to determine the priority of an alert.

Traditionally larger organizations utilize a SIEM as their foundation for the security strategy. Whether an organizations uses a SIEM or MDR it is important to have a means of monitoring activity to prevent security threats.

What are SIEMs Used For?

Security Monitoring

  • SIEMs help with real-time monitoring of organizational systems for security incidents.
  • A SIEM has a unique perspective on security incidents, because it has access to multiple data sources – for example, it can combine alerts from an IDS with information from an antivirus product. It helps security teams identify security incidents that no individual security tool can see, and help them focus on alerts from security tools that have special significance

Advanced Threat Detection

  • SIEMs can help detect, mitigate and prevent advanced threats, including:
    • Malicious insiders – a SIEM can use browser forensics, network data, authentication, and other data to identify insiders planning or carrying out an attack
    • Data exfiltration (sensitive data illicitly transferred outside the organization) – a SIEM can pick up data transfers that are abnormal in their size, frequency or payload
    • Outside entities, including Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) – a SIEM can detect early warning signals indicating that an outside entity is carrying out a focused attack or long-term campaign against the organization

Forensics and Incident Response

  • SIEMs can help security analysts realize that a security incident is taking place, triage the event and define immediate steps for remediation.
  • Even if an incident is known to security staff, it takes time to collect data to fully understand the attack and stop it – SIEM can automatically collect this data and significantly reduce response time. When security staff discovers a historic breach or security incident that needs to be investigated, SIEMs provide rich forensic data to help uncover the kill chain, threat actors and mitigation.

Compliance Reporting and Auditing

  • SIEMs can help organizations prove to auditors and regulators that they have the proper safeguards in place and that security incidents are known and contained.
  • Many early adopters of SIEMs used it for this purpose – aggregating log data from across the organization and presenting it in audit-ready format. Modern SIEMs automatically provide the monitoring and reporting necessary to meet standards like HIPAA, PCI/DSS, SOX, FERPA, and HITECH.

Benefits of Managed SIEM

There are many reasons to consider Managed SIEM including:

  • Finding and maintaining experienced SIEM/SOC Security Analysts is NOT EASY (and also expensive)
  • You could build it, but it will take much longer than outsourcing to a professional security services provider like Cybriant
  • You are getting everything from an MSSP only at a fraction of what you could spend internally
  • Scalable and Flexible
  • Greater Threat Intelligence – We’ve been doing this awhile and we’ve seen a lot of things.

Without the proper planning and expectations around people and processes up front, the odds of achieving even the minimal capabilities of a SIEM solution are slim to none.

Find out more about this on “Is Managed SIEM right for me?”

PREtect: A Tiered Approach to Cybersecurity