SIEM is an umbrella term for security software packages ranging from Log Management Systems to Security Log / Event Management, Security Information Management, and Security Event correlation. More often than not, these features are combined for a 360-degree view.
While a SIEM system isn’t foolproof, it’s one of the key indicators that an organisation has a clearly defined cybersecurity policy. Nine times out of ten, cyber attacks don’t have any clear tells on a surface level. To detect threats, it’s more effective to use log files. The superior log management capabilities of SIEMs have made them a central hub of network transparency.
Most security programs operate on a micro-scale, addressing more minor threats but missing the bigger picture of cyber threats. An Intrusion Detection System (IDS) alone can seldom do more than monitor packets and IP addresses. Likewise, your service logs only show user sessions and configuration changes. SIEM puts these systems and others together to provide a complete overview of any security incident through real-time monitoring and the analysis of event logs.
Why is SIEM Important?
SIEM has become a core security component of modern organisations. The main reason is that every user or tracker leaves behind a virtual trail in a network’s log data. SIEM systems are designed to use this log data to generate insight into past attacks and events. A SIEM system not only identifies that an attack has happened but allows you to see how and why it happened as well.
As organisations update and upscale to increasingly complex IT infrastructures, SIEM has become even more critical in recent years. Contrary to popular belief, firewalls and antivirus packages are not enough to protect a network in its entirety. Zero-day attacks can still penetrate a system’s defences even with these security measures in place.
SIEM addresses this problem by detecting attack activity and assessing it against past behaviour on the network. A SIEM system can distinguish between legitimate use and a malicious attack. This helps to increase a system’s incident protection and avoid damage to systems and virtual property.
The use of SIEM also helps companies to comply with a variety of industry cyber management regulations. Log management is the industry-standard method of auditing activity on an IT network. SIEM systems provide the best way to meet this regulatory requirement and provide transparency over logs to generate clear insights and improvements.
SIEM’s primary capabilities are as follows:
- Log Collection
- Normalisation – Collecting logs and normalizing them into a standard format)
- Notifications and Alerts – Notifying the user when security threats are identified
- Security Incident Detection
- Threat response workflow – Workflow for handling past security events
SIEM records data from across a users’ internal network of tools and identifies potential issues and attacks. The system operates under a statistical model to analyse log entries. SIEM distributes collection agents and recalls data from the network, devices, servers, and firewalls.
All this information is then passed to a management console, where it can be analysed to address emerging threats. It’s not uncommon for advanced SIEM systems to use automated responses, entity behaviour analytics and security orchestration. This ensures that vulnerabilities between cybersecurity tools can be monitored and addressed by SIEM technology.
Once the necessary information reaches the management console, it is then viewed by a data analyst who can provide feedback on the overall process. This is important because feedback helps to educate the SIEM system in terms of machine learning and increasing its familiarity with the surrounding environment.
Once the SIEM software system identifies a threat, it then communicates with other security systems on the device to stop the unwanted activity. The collaborative nature of SIEM systems makes them a popular enterprise-scale solution. However, the rise of pervasive cyber threats has caused many small- and mid-sized businesses to consider the merits of a SIEM system as well.
This change has been relatively recent because of the substantial costs of SIEM adoption. Not only must you pay a sizable amount for the system itself, but you also need to allocate one or two members of staff to oversee it. As a result, smaller organizations have been less enthusiastic about SIEM adoption. But that has begun to change as SMEs can outsource to managed service providers.
Limitations of SIEM Applications as a Full Data Security Ecosystem
SIEM applications provide limited contextual information about their native events, and SIEMs are known for their blind spot on unstructured data and emails. For example, you might see a rise in network activity from an IP address but not the user that created that traffic or which files were accessed.
In this case, context can be everything.
What looks like a significant transfer of data could be completely benign and warranted behaviour, or it could be a theft of petabytes of sensitive and critical data. A lack of context in security alerts leads to a ‘boy that cried wolf’ paradigm: eventually, your security will be desensitised to the alarm bells going off every time an event is triggered.
SIEM applications are unable to classify data as sensitive or non-sensitive. They, therefore, are unable to distinguish between sanctioned file activity from suspicious activity that can be damaging to customer data, intellectual property, or company security.
Ultimately, SIEM applications are only as capable as the data they receive. Without additional context on that data, IT is often left chasing down false alarms or otherwise minor issues. Context is vital in the data security world to know which battles to fight.
The biggest issue we hear from customers when they use SIEM is that it’s challenging to diagnose and research security events. The volume of low-level data and the high number of alerts cause a ‘needle in a haystack’ effect: users get a warning but often lack the clarity and context to act on that alert immediately.
Ten Best SIEM Tools
Datadog Security Monitoring
Datadog is a cloud-based system monitoring package that includes security monitoring. The security features of the system are contained in a specialised module. This is a complete SIEM system because it monitors live events, but collects them as log file entries, so it operates both on log information and monitoring data. The service contains local information through an agent, which uploads each record to the Datadog server. The security monitoring module then analyses all incoming notifications and files them.
Security events trigger alerts in the console for the service. The console also gives access to all event records. Logged messages are indexed and retained for 15 months. They can be accessed for analysis through the Datadog console or extracted to be imported into another analysis tool.
The offsite processing capabilities reduce the processing demands on your infrastructure. It also makes it very easy to monitor remote networks. The analysis service has a predefined set of rules that will automatically detect known attack vectors.
The pool of detection rules gets updated automatically by Datadog when new attack strategies are discovered. This means that the system administrators don’t need to worry about keeping security software up to date because that process happens automatically on the cloud server. It is also effortless for a systems administrator to create custom detection and mitigation rules.
SolarWinds Security Event Manager
In terms of entry-level SIEM tools, SolarWinds Security Event Manager (SEM) is one of the most competitive offerings on the market. The SEM embodies all the core features you’d expect from a SIEM system, with extensive log management features and reporting. SolarWinds’ detailed real-time incident response makes it an excellent tool for those looking to exploit Windows event logs to manage their network infrastructure against future threats actively.
One of the best things about the SEM is its detailed and intuitive dashboard design. The simplicity of the visualisation tools makes it easy for the user to identify any anomalies. As a welcome bonus, the company offers 24/7 support, so you can contact them for advice if you run into an error.
ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer
The ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer is a SIEM tool because it focuses on managing logs and gleaning security and performance information from them.
The tool can gather Windows Event log and Syslog messages. It will then organise these messages into files, rotating to new files where appropriate and storing them in meaningfully named directories for easy access. The EventLog Analyser then protects those files from tampering.
The ManageEngine system is more than a log server, though. It has analytical functions that will inform you of unauthorised access to company resources. The tool will also assess the performance of critical applications and services, such as Web servers, databases, DHCP servers, and print queues.
The auditing and reporting modules of the EventLog Analyser are beneficial for demonstrating data protection standards compliance. The reporting engine includes formats for compliance with PCI DSS, FISMA, GLBA, SOX, HIPAA, and ISO 27001.
Splunk Enterprise Security
Splunk is one of the most popular SIEM management solutions in the world. What sets it apart from the competition is that it has incorporated analytics into the heart of its SIEM. Network and machine data can be monitored on a real-time basis as the system scours for potential vulnerabilities and can even point to abnormal behaviour. Enterprise Security’s Notables function displays alerts that can be refined by the user.
In terms of responding to security threats, the user interface is straightforward. When conducting an incident review, the user can start with a basic overview before clicking through to in-depth annotations on the past event. Likewise, the Asset Investigator does a fine job of flagging malicious actions and preventing future damage.
OSSEC is the leading host-based intrusion prevention system (HIDS). Not only is OSSEC a very good HIDS, but it is free to use. HIDS methods are interchangeable with the services performed by SIM systems, so OSSEC also fits into the definition of a SIEM tool.
The software focuses on the information available in log files to look for evidence of intrusion. As well as reading through log files, the software monitors the file checksums to detect tampering. Hackers know that log files can reveal their presence in a system and track their activities, so advanced intrusion malware will alter log files to remove that evidence.
As a free piece of software, there isn’t any reason not to install OSSEC in many locations on the network. The tool only examines the log files resident on its host. The programmers of the software know that different operating systems have other logging methods. So, OSSEC will review Event logs and registry access attempts on Windows and Syslog records and root access tries on Linux, Unix, and Mac OS devices. Higher functions in the software enable it to communicate across a network and consolidate the log records identified in one location into a central SIM log store.
Although OSSEC is free to use, it is owned by a commercial operation – Trend Micro. The front end for the system is downloadable as a separate program, and it isn’t perfect. Most OSSEC users feed their data through to Graylog or Kibana as a front end and as an analysis engine.
LogRhythm NextGen SIEM Platform
LogRhythm has long established itself as a pioneer within the SIEM solution sector. From behavioural analysis to log correlation and artificial intelligence for machine learning, this platform has it all.
The system is compatible with a massive range of devices and log types. In terms of configuring your settings, most activity is managed through the Deployment Manager. For example, you can use the Windows Host Wizard to sift through Windows logs.
This makes it much easier to narrow down on what is happening on your network. At first, the user interface does have a learning curve, but the extensive instruction manual helps. The icing on the cake is that the instruction manual provides hyperlinks to various features to aid you in your journey.
AT&T Cybersecurity AlienVault Unified Security Management
As one of the more competitively priced SIEM solutions on this list, AlienVault (now part of AT&T Cybersecurity) is a beautiful offering. At its core, this is a traditional SIEM product with built-in intrusion detection, behavioural monitoring, and vulnerability assessment. AlienVault has the onboard analytics you would expect from a scalable platform.
One of the more unique aspects of AlienVault’s platform is the Open Threat Exchange (OTX). The OTX is a web portal that allows users to upload “indicators of compromise” (IOC) to help other users flag threats. This is an excellent resource in terms of general knowledge and threats.
RSA NetWitness Platform
RSA NetWitness Platform is one of the more middle-of-the-road SIEM options available on the market. If you’re looking for a complete network analytics solution, look no further than RSA Netwitness.
For larger organizations, this is one of the most extensive tools available on the market. However, if you’re looking for a product that’s easy to use, you might want to look elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the initial setup can be pretty time-consuming compared with other products on this list. That being said, comprehensive user documentation will help you through the setup process. The installation guides don’t help with everything but provide enough information to put the pieces together.
IBM QRadar SIEM
Over the past few years or so, IBM’s answer to SIEM has established itself as one of the best products on the market. The platform offers a suite of log management, analytics, data collection, and intrusion detection features to help keep your critical systems up and running. All log management goes through one tool: QRadar Log Manager. When it comes to analytics, QRadar is a near-complete solution.
The system has risk modelling analytics that can simulate potential attacks. This can be used to monitor a variety of physical and virtual environments on your network. IBM QRadar is one of the complete offerings on this list and is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a versatile SIEM solution.
McAfee Enterprise Security Manager
McAfee Enterprise Security Manager is regarded as one of the best SIEM platforms in terms of analytics. The user can collect various logs across a wide range of devices through the Active Directory system.
In terms of normalization, McAfee’s correlation engine compiles disparate data sources with ease. This makes it much easier to detect when a security event is occurring.
In terms of support, users have access to McAfee Enterprise Technical Support and McAfee Business Technical Support. The user can choose to have their site visited by a Support Account Manager twice a year if they so choose. McAfee’s platform is aimed at mid-large companies looking for a complete security event management solution.
Benefits of SIEM
SIEM is the solution that provides a compelling method for detecting the threats, reporting in real-time and long-term analytics of the security events and logs. This tool is handy for safeguarding organisations of all sizes.
The benefits are as below:
- Prevention of Potential threats
- Increased in the efficiency
- Cost Reduction
- Reduction in security breaches
- Compliance with IT
- Better log analysis, reporting, and retention
SIEM solutions have the ability for collecting event logs from multiple devices and applications. They are allowing the IT staff to identify, review, and respond to various potential security breaches very fast. When you are placing the threat in the early stages, it will ensure the organisation is suffering from the minor impacts.