Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
What is security information and event management (SIEM)?
Security information and event management (SIEM) is a powerful integration of two security systems: security information management (SIM) and security event management (SEM). Before delving into the details of SIEM, it’s crucial that you first understand the two systems it combines.
What is SIM?
Security information management is a technology initially introduced for IT teams to manage their logs. It refers to the collection of log files and their storage in a central repository for later analysis. Essentially, SIM is a log management solution that focuses on storing, analyzing, and reporting log data.
Its primary function is to collect and store logs in one place for IT administrators to access if needed. The focus is mainly on storing, analyzing, and reporting the saved log data.
What is SEM?
Security event management involves real-time data processing that monitors, correlates, and notifies you about security events that occur regularly. In SEM, you work with the collected logs, identifying, gathering, monitoring, and correlating them to make sense of the information. It’s focused on processing live data and actively identifying security events.
SIEM combines SIM and SEM
While SIM and SEM are distinct areas, they were merged to create a unified solution known as SIEM. The terminology may vary, but both aspects of log management and real-time event processing are encompassed in this combined solution.
SIEM collects relevant data from various sources, identifies deviations from the norm, and takes appropriate action. It’s a tool that collects, aggregates, and normalizes data, analyzes it according to preset rules, and presents the data in a human-readable format.
Organizations have historically relied on log management, but it has limited capabilities, lacks real-time monitoring, and can’t provide sufficient analysis. SIEM resolves these deficiencies by collecting logs from all parameter devices and endpoints within the organization’s infrastructure into a centralized repository for analysis and alert generation.
For example, when a potential issue is detected, a SIEM system might log additional information, generate an alert, and instruct other security controls to halt ongoing activities. While SIEM adoption in large enterprises was primarily driven by compliance with payment card data security standards like PCI DSS, concerns over advanced persistent threats have prompted even small organizations to implement SIEM.
Most SIEM systems work by deploying collection agents to gather security-related events from end-user devices, servers, network equipment, and specialized security equipment such as firewalls, antivirus systems, or intrusion prevention systems. These collectors forward events to a centralized management console where security analysts sift through the data, connect the dots, and prioritize security incidents. Having a unified view of all security-related data makes it easier for organizations to identify patterns that deviate from the ordinary.
SIEM solutions consist of a number of components involved in security information management. Let’s explore them in more detail so you can see how they work and fit together.
SIEM solutions rely on data aggregation from multiple sources to analyze an incident. This involves collecting logs directly from systems or through forwarders. These logs contain a series of recorded events that provide a historical activity overview. The SIEM system then uses specialized software to analyze and categorize the events based on severity. Threat intelligence and historical analysis are applied to determine actionable events while ignoring low-threat ones. SIEM collectors connect directly to systems for log retrieval, while forwarders use agent software to transmit events to the SIEM solution.
Threat intelligence in cybersecurity involves the collection of information on past, current, and potential future cyber threats. This data is then analyzed to assess its relevance and potential impact on the organization. The information collected regarding past, current, and potential future cyber threats is essentially threat data. This threat data serves no purpose if its relevance is not understood, but it becomes useful when the threat data is analyzed and relevant information is extracted.
Threat intelligence comprises an up-to-date list of threats shared by various organizations, including security companies. It enables systems to identify patterns and detect potential compromises resulting from the latest threats. Given that different attacks emerge daily, with new ones constantly emerging, staying informed about the latest attacks is crucial for early visibility when such attacks occur.
SIEM systems have developed advanced analysis methods that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to analyze threat data. These techniques help determine which aspects of the data should be considered actionable intelligence and which parts may be questionable.
Security event correlation
Security event correlation involves identifying patterns in the data collected by SIEM systems to detect potential security threats. If suspicious patterns are found, they are flagged, enabling security analysts to conduct further investigations and take necessary remedial actions.
Advanced analytics can include behavior analysis by examining the data collected by the same solution. For example, if an employee’s expected behavior is to only log in during work hours but they have recently been logging in during the middle of the night, this activity can be investigated to determine if it is legitimate or if the employee is attempting to access unauthorized information.
Dashboards and reporting
All SIEM solutions provide dashboards for easy visualization of the threat landscape, offering indicators of system-wide activities. These dashboards also facilitate reporting, allowing organizations to track the number of identified threats over a defined period. This helps organizations assess the level of threats faced over time.
Threat hunting is crucial as new threats continually emerge. By utilizing search analysis tools provided by the SIEM solution, security analysts can query the collected data to determine if any previously unknown threats have affected the organization. This analysis helps identify the impact on the organization over recent months or even years.
In the event of a breach, organizations need to promptly ascertain when the breach occurred, what information was compromised, and whether the perpetrators are still present within the organization’s systems. Forensics involves analyzing the data collected over a period of time to reconstruct the sequence of events leading to the breach, including initial attacks, breach timing, and post-breach activities. Similar to forensic investigations depicted on police TV shows, cybersecurity forensic analysts piece together the details of an intrusion and breach in an organization’s system.
Why use a SIEM?
Most organizations have robust perimeter defenses, including firewalls, endpoint protection, intrusion prevention systems (IPS), and more. These measures strengthen perimeter security. However, many small and medium-sized organizations have not adequately prepared for the possibility of a breach occurring despite these defenses. A SIEM enables organizations to proactively detect and respond to security incidents by serving as an early warning system. Real-time alerts provided by the SIEM help minimize potential damages and reduce the dwell time of malware within the network. By identifying and isolating breaches early on, organizations can develop remediation plans without disrupting their operations.
Moreover, a SIEM offers valuable reporting capabilities, including compliance reporting and executive dashboard reporting. These reporting features effectively communicate the security operations organization’s success to the wider company.
What is a SIEM tool used for?
Security information and event management (SIEM) is a tool that collects, analyzes, and correlates security events and data from multiple sources within an organization’s IT infrastructure. It offers continuous real-time monitoring, threat detection, incident response, and compliance reporting.
Why do we need SIEM?
SIEMs enable businesses to quickly improve their cybersecurity posture by identifying and responding to security incidents. It enables proactive threat hunting, gives visibility into potential threats, aids in meeting regulatory compliance standards, and facilitates the investigation of incidents and resolving them.
What type of company uses a SIEM solution?
Using a SIEM solution has advantages for businesses of all sizes and sectors. SIEM tools are typically more likely to be implemented in larger organizations with complex IT environments, high volumes of security events, and strict compliance requirements, but more and more small and medium-sized companies are taking advantage of this technology. SIEM usage is more common in sectors handling sensitive data, including finance, healthcare, government, and e-commerce.
What is the future of SIEM tools?
SIEM tools are expected to evolve in the future to meet the challenges of cybersecurity and emerging technologies. We expect further integration with machine learning and artificial intelligence to improve threat detection and incident response. Due to their scalability and flexibility, cloud-based SIEM solutions will keep growing in popularity. Additionally, it is likely that SIEM tools will include more sophisticated analytics capabilities to enable proactive defense tactics and provide better insights into security incidents.