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What Is SIEM And How To Choose The Right Tool

Locks protecting a gate to portray the idea of SIEM

Understanding, Selecting and Using SIEM

One of the hurdles faced by organizations regarding cybersecurity isn’t just establishing protective measures. It’s also managing the sheer deluge of information regarding security events occurring on any given day. Because of the volume and complexity, businesses often seek out options to simplify the process. One of those options is SIEM, a valuable tool for cybersecurity teams.

SIEM stands for “security information and event management,” primarily a software/server platform for administrators. The idea is to monitor, manage, and flag events regarding cybersecurity during operation hours. Organized SIEM allows teams and staff to respond quickly to potential intrusions, or otherwise monitor cybersecurity infrastructure from a convenient application. Generally, in-depth logs are generated automatically, creating reports for analysis to identify potential security problems in a network.

As you can imagine, a tool like this is invaluable. If your enterprise needs to renovate its structure for IT security, then SIEM software or services are potential solutions. Of course, with any tool, choosing the right one is critical. Does it fit into your budget? Is it accessible? Does it require training to use? How extensive are its features? These are a handful of questions you might have when looking for an appropriate SIEM solution or service.

In this article, then, we’ll identify a few key traits of good SIEM software in hopes you identify the best model for your enterprise.

Why SIEM?

If you aren’t convinced, there are a few other reasons to incorporate SIEM into your organization. Threats facing IT cybersecurity are numerous and evolving, so without proper response, damage caused by intrusions, service attacks, and malware are devastating. Additionally, more information is accessible online, such as customer data, user logins, financial information, and so on. If you’re an online vendor, you’re also responsible for the security of online transactions which falls under various regulations (such as HIPAA if you’re a healthcare practice).

Some essentials you can consider for SIEM include:

  • Your SMB is scaling up and introducing more servers/systems, so the need to track and understand incoming traffic grows.
  • You routinely deal with cyber attacks and/or malware, but lack a cohesive strategy to prevent future issues.
  • You don’t have a comprehensive way to understand how attacks are occurring, or you lack a reporting system.
  • You lack the necessary staff to manage SIEM yourself.

A SIEM platform, then, allows your teams to develop accessible reports which were otherwise too difficult to create due to labor/time constraints. The result is a better-prepared staff, who can act on specific flags or events correlating to cybersecurity threats. SIEM can also deploy automated responses to risks based on past logs, essentially “learning” about dangerous behavior. Said logs lead to an efficient cybersecurity defense which – in combination with other tools – creates a robust, practical line of defense.

As we’ve discussed, managing SIEM is done through software. In some cases, however, an organization can choose to utilize a managed-service provider to fill in the gaps. A third-party, in this context, provides all the same monitoring applications as the software, like malware detection and traffic monitoring. Third-parties can offer a range of different services while drawing from a team of experts which, in some cases, are not accessible.

Applications, on the other hand, are managed by the organization itself, typically overseen by IT cybersecurity experts. This is a better option for businesses seeking direct control of their resources with experienced IT teams behind the wheel.

Deciding which option is better suited for your business comes down to identifying your own needs and scale of the service or software.  Consider other factors as well before you begin adopting SIEM tools (if you haven’t already):

  • SIEM is a slow process which requires the creation of automated logs. To develop useful reports, this process can take several weeks before your enterprise sees “the big picture.”
  • Remember there exists a variety of SIEM software platforms – some are paid and others open source. Each has its own set of uses, UI, and learning curves.
  • Expect to fine-tune your approach to cybersecurity slowly. SIEM is about identifying malicious behavior patterns and building defenses against them.

With proper expectations, you can learn and take advantage of SIEM software/services and set goals for your business.

Key Traits of Good SIEM

With a better understanding of SIEM, it’s also important to identify good qualities associated with services and software. While there are various SIEM platforms, all have different uses. Some are better suited for larger businesses, while others suited to smaller organizations. However, there are still quality traits congruent with SIEM, regardless of scale.

Events Feed

A good SIEM platform can intelligently identify addresses, behavior, IP’s, and websites associated with malicious attacks and dangerous third-parties. An aspect of efficient cybersecurity requires the latest data to prevent attacks; event management services should have this quality as an integral part of their application.

Additional Forensics

Another positive quality to SIEM services is the ability to acquire additional data about security events beyond log compilation. The forensics capabilities of the SIEM service in question will vary based on the service itself, but any additional report is useful. For example, details like extra traffic information such as the origin of said traffic, or details about how said traffic was created (was it via a mobile device, where was its location point, what did it try to connect to, etc.)

Appropriate Scaling

As we’ve discussed before, SIEM solutions work differently based on the size of the organization. Therefore, good SIEM will fall under your financial needs. It’s important to identify how the resources scale (in the case of a third-party, do they offer multiple servers for different data storage, flexible price plans, etc.) to best make use of them. You don’t want to spend more or less than what’s needed.

Accessible Interface

Never underestimate the value of a convenient interface. Ease-of-use is a virtue, allowing management and IT specialists alike to access SIEM tools without navigating a clunky UI. Since cybersecurity thrives on timely, accurate responses, it’s important to navigate program tools as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Log Reporting

Quality SIEM services should also provide extensive log reports covering multiple networks, such as systems used for accounting or management. All logs should be in a readable, coherent format, as data by itself is not actionable or useful. This format should be usable by all relevant departments, assuring staff can – again – act on data presented. In other words, the easier a report is for an IT analyst to use, the better off your organization is.

Threat Reporting

Like log reporting but more specific to an intrusion event. A threat report details the extent of how a malicious attack occurred, when, how, and what was lost (if relevant). These are of critical importance, as they demonstrate what areas your enterprise is weakest at, allowing you to build better strategies for preventing future intrusions.

Conclusion

In today’s modern business world, IT safety and security determines a great deal of success. Though there are plenty of tools, software, and services to assist with this, SIEM is one of the fundamentals. By generating accessible logs, comprehensive reports are created to better an organization’s defenses. It is better in cybersecurity to remain proactive when dealing with cyber threats, and SIEM – either through software management or third-party – allows you to achieve this proactivity.

You can read more about SIEM and other cybersecurity subjects at CyberDefenses.

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CyberDefenses Inc.

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