All You Need to Know About Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Software

By on March 17, 2020

What Is SIEM Software?

Security information and event management, or SIEM, is a set of practices and tools that help organizations manage their IT operations with proper accounting of user activities, data integrity, network traffic, database availability, network and application performance, and more.

With SIEM software, IT teams can get granular visibility into their distributed environment consisting of numerous endpoints (including personal/BYOD devices), servers, networking equipment, point solutions for security (firewall, IDS/IPS, WAF, etc.), cloud and virtualized resources, and to some extent Internet of Things. The software also helps in getting a consolidated view of the entire ecosystem with unified monitoring dashboards. Further, teams use SIEM tools to meet their internal audit and compliance reporting requirements.

Most SIEM software work by collecting the logs from different devices in a central repository, normalizing and parsing the data from these logs, and correlating the information from different logs to identify suspicious or abnormal activities in a network. IT administrators can set baselines for different parameters or metrics in a network to automate threshold-based alerts. They can also set event-based rules to trigger alerts (e.g., multiple logins from the same user ID but different IPs in a short period). These alerts help various members in IT operations teams respond in real time and mitigate any threats to their operations or data.

As enterprise IT networks and systems have grown significantly in scale and complexity over the years, SIEM tools have also evolved dramatically. These days, modern SIEM tools allow you to monitor hybrid cloud environments and cloud-native applications. The tools use machine learning algorithms to analyze a large amount of data and predict threats in advance. Further, the tools also offer advanced visualization with a high degree of automation to simplify SIEM operations.

Difference Between SIM and SEM

SIM (security information management) and SEM (security event management) are an interrelated set of practices which are together referred to as SIEM. SIM focuses on collecting a wide range of log data, which is useful for cyberforensics, internal security audits, and compliance reporting. On the other hand, SEM focuses on analyzing and correlating log data in real time to find anomalies and improve threat response. These tools can offer advanced visualization, real-time awareness, and automation of IT operations.

What Are the Main Features of SIEM Software?

Log Aggregation

Log aggregation is the most basic requirement in SIEM. SIEM tools collect or ingest logs from across your distributed IT environment. You can set up log retention periods depending on your compliance or internal audit requirement. Most modern SIEM solutions collect and analyze these logs in real-time to detect and prevent the spread of a threat in a network. Further, SIEM tools offering cloud-based centralized log aggregation can help you save efforts in establishing and maintaining an on-premises server for log aggregation. Such tools can also handle spikes in log volume and can quickly scale up as your organization’s logging needs grow.

Log Normalization

As different devices produce logs in different formats, the collected log data isn’t ready for analysis. SIEM tools use normalization engines to ensure all the logs are in a standard format. The raw data from various logs is broken down into numerous fields. These fields, when combined, provide a clear view of security events to network administrators. Log normalization is a crucial step in log analysis.

Log Correlation and Threat Intelligence

A log from a single source may not reveal much. Administrators need to compare logs from different sources to identify anomalies or suspicious patterns. This is where log correlation, which is one of the most crucial features of a SIEM software, comes into play. As discussed earlier, most SIEM tools offer several log correlation rules out-of-the-box. However, you can also tweak or create your own custom correlation rules. SIEM tools also gather threat intelligence from third-party sources for correlation. This is helpful in updating your signatures and policies to counter suspicious IPs and threat vectors.

Alerts and Notifications

In modern IT setups, numerous teams share responsibilities for SIEM operations. However, constant monitoring of every aspect of the expanding IT environment is a big challenge. This is where real-time alerts can help you out. For this purpose, modern SIEM tools easily integrate with third-party notification systems like Slack, or PagerDuty. SIEM tools can be configured to raise threshold-based and event-based alerts. For instance, the tools can alert you to a successful login to a critical server after more than three failed attempts. While the feature is important, IT administrators should take due care in configuring the alert thresholds and correlation policies to avoid alert fatigue. SIEM tools offering artificial intelligence-based alerts can reduce false positives by accurately identifying the difference between suspicious user behavior and routine activities.

Visual Dashboards

Once the log event data is parsed, it can be visualized easily with modern visualization tools. However, most SIEM solutions offer built-in visualization dashboards. These dashboards can provide you with a quick bird’s-eye view of your vast IT environment. Further, the dashboards are often interactive, which means you click and drill down to individual logs for troubleshooting. A major advantage of these visual dashboards is they can help your IT team or SOC stay on top of their environment.

Compliance and Audit Reporting

SIEM solutions offer various preconfigured templates for reporting, which can give key insights about different activities and performance metrics related to your IT environment. In addition to performance metrics (MTTR, MTTD, etc.), you can also gauge security and compliance risks present within your network (e.g., the number of devices requiring software update, list of orphan privileged access accounts, etc.). Further, the tools help you meet documentation requirements for PCI DSS, HIPAA, SOX, and more.

What Are Best Practices for SIEM Implementation?

Identify Your Logging Requirements

As different organizations use a varied range of IT equipment, systems, and applications, their security and compliance-related requirements can also vary. You need to identify the scope of SIEM implementation by listing your operational priorities. Determining which devices and systems should be logged and for what duration you’ll retain the data will give you some idea about the size and capabilities of your SIEM implementation. Further, you need to determine whether you intend to use SIEM primarily for compliance reporting or intend to build SOC around it. These decisions will also help you shortlist the right tools among a range of on-premises solutions, cloud-based offerings, and managed services.

Run a POC

Proof of Concept (POC) or a pilot run of SIEM software in a restricted environment in your network will give you a fair idea about the capabilities of a SIEM solution. It will help you assess if the SIEM implementation could offer expected ROI. You can also create a runbook based on this initial testing. For optimum results, you should aim to test the SIEM solution in an environment similar to the live environment where you will eventually deploy the solution.

Configure Your Correlation Rules

Most SIEM software offer a wide range of correlation rules out-of-the-box. However, with all these rules enabled, you may receive a lot of false positives in the initial stages of implementation. You’ll have to configure these rules as per your needs and experience. Modern malware and threat actors often rely on practices to smartly avoid common correlation rules and threshold-based alert mechanisms. In such scenarios, IT security teams often depend on heuristics to identify anomalies. For instance, a significant surge or drop in log volume and longer than usual length of lines in log data is often a sign of a cyberattack.

Set SIEM Review Policies

As discussed above, threat actors are always devising new ways to exploit vulnerabilities and break into corporate networks, so you need to periodically review your security policies and update your SIEM correlation rules to keep up with the latest security trends. These reviews will not only help you identify gaps in your security but also help you reduce false positives. As IT environments are always evolving, the activity will also help you take stock of new devices added to the network, and whether these are monitored as per your SIEM policies.

Fine-Tune Your Reporting

Modern SIEM tools offer preconfigured templates for compliance reporting. You may identify the ones needed for your organization and create custom reports for different stakeholders. Automating the report generation and delivery can save numerous hours for your team. Further, you may have to tweak certain reports on critical metrics to avoid information overload.

Bolster Your Incident Response

One of the primary goals of implementing an SIEM solution is to achieve higher resilience against threats with real-time monitoring and alerts, which enable quick response to security incidents. Therefore, to make the most of SIEM, you need to have an incident response plan in place. This planning should address key questions about the roles and responsibilities of different teams during a data breach. You need to have a mechanism to assign priority and severity of security events to decide the course of remedial actions. The incident response would also list the mode of communication (email, text, etc.) during a breach, along with assigning duties to people who would report the incident to customers, regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders.

All this is necessary as the SIEM can only go so far in minimizing the impact of security events. It’s the responsibility of your security team to make the most of actionable intelligence with a proactive approach and quick response.

Top 10 SIEM Software

  1. SolarWinds Security Event Manager
  2. ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager
  3. IBM QRadar SIEM
  4. ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer
  5. SolarWinds Threat Monitor
  6. Splunk Enterprise Security
  7. Sumo Logic Cloud SIEM
  8. LogRhythm NextGen SIEM
  9. AlienVault Unified Security Management (USM)
  10. FortiSIEM

1. SolarWinds Security Event Manager

solarwinds security event manager showing events performance

SolarWinds® Security Event Manager (SEM) is an advanced SIEM solution offering comprehensive SIEM capabilities and automated response against emerging threats. It’s a lightweight solution offering a simple setup, which allows you to get started quickly. SEM comes with pre-built connectors to simplify log ingestion. You can use out-of-the-box correlation rules to join the dots across your distributed environment and find anomalies in real time. It automatically gathers threat intelligence from external sources and updates the feed on a regular basis. Based on your correlation rules, SEM also allows you to define automated responses against suspicious activities or threats. You can block IPs and USBs, kill applications, and even shut down workstations automatically. The solution also includes file integrity monitoring (FIM). It’s an ideal SIEM solution for enterprises of all sizes. To get started, you can choose the free trial of SolarWinds SEM, with full functionality for a month.

2. ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager

arcsight enterprise security manager

ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager (ESM) is a highly scalable SIEM solution from Micro Focus. It claims to be the industry’s first such solution to offer distributed correlation capability, which can help you correlate up to 100,000 events every second. Another major feature of ESM is its open architecture, which enables you to process all your security data and add context to this data. The enriched data is useful for the ESM and can be used to extract actionable intelligence with any third-party analytics tool. The solution is also easy to implement as its smart connectors enable streamlined log ingestion from 500 different devices across your network and the cloud. The solution is highly effective in advanced data analytics, visualization, and notification and alerts. However, as discussed, it’s targeted more towards large enterprises needing to analyze logs on a massive scale.

3. IBM QRadar SIEM

ibm qradar's dynamic event and flow metrics report

IBM has one of the most advanced and comprehensive security portfolios in the market. Its QRadar SIEM is a capable solution available for deployment in both on-premises and cloud environments. QRadar offers out-of-the-box integrations with more than 400 solutions and could help you make the most of your existing security infrastructure. The solution can automatically ingest, parse, and analyze large volumes of logs. It also offers simple workflows to extract real-time actionable intelligence from your logs. You can find more details about QRadar’s features and pricing here.

4. ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer

manageengine eventlog analyzer's event severity trend report

ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer is a highly capable SIEM solution offering a simple setup via a single executable file. It offers agentless log collection from a wide range of devices. The web interface for managing the SIEM solution is highly intuitive and can help your IT team in quick resolution of issues. It also allows you to rebrand your web client for specific views, which can be useful for managed services providers. EventLog Analyzer offers higher data processing speeds, and the company claims it can process 25,000 logs/second. This allows the tool to offer real-time insights and can help in expediting forensic analysis and breach investigations. You can keep track of privileged users with its privileged user monitoring and auditing feature. Further, the tool also includes built-in file integrity monitoring (FIM) capabilities. The solution is available via different subscriptions, including a free subscription, and can attract small enterprises.

5. SolarWinds Threat Monitor

solarwinds threat monitor's log activity dashboard

Threat Monitor is a cloud-based SIEM solution for MSPs offering managed network or security operations center (SOC) services to their clients distributed across multiple locations. A centralized dashboard simplifies this monitoring. Threat Monitor is also capable of monitoring hybrid cloud environments and provides a unified view of your critical resources and applications. The solution includes the most updated threat intelligence from various third-party sources, which can help in real-time threat detection and mitigation. MSPs can also rebrand Threat Monitor to suit their needs. Further, for those organizations who are new to running a SOC, SolarWinds offers a partner program where MSPs can handle client interactions while their Threat Monitoring Service Providers handle the back-end operations. Learn more about Threat Monitor here.

6. Splunk Enterprise Security

splunk enterprise security's risk analysis dashboard

Splunk is a known name in the security space and offers all basic and advanced SIEM features. Its product Splunk Enterprise Security offers real-time security monitoring with advanced machine learning-based data analytics. The product could be deployed in on-premises, cloud, and hybrid deployment modes. It supports agentless log aggregation. While initial implementation could be complex, and the solution may take some time to get used to, its built-in management features and workflows simplify routine workflows, customization, auditing, and maintenance related tasks. Splunk partners with security vendors like Fortinet, Symantec, Carbon Black, CrowdStrike, and more to collaborate and improve threat intelligence. With these partnerships, it can automate and expedite the “insight to action” cycle for enterprises. Being highly scalable, there are various subscriptions available for the product; however, the product would appear to be priced high for small implementations.

7. Sumo Logic Cloud SIEM

sumo logic cloud siem's dashboard

Sumo Logic Cloud SIEM is a cloud-based service designed primarily for cloud-native applications and hybrid and multi-cloud environments. Organizations will find Sumo Logic Cloud SIEM highly useful for meeting the security and compliance requirements for their distributed applications and virtual workloads. The solution can ingest and correlate logs and metrics from SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS environments, offering a unified view of different security, infrastructure, and application performance metrics. The solution also offers machine-learning based analytics and anomaly detection for real-time threat detection and response. With these features, the company claims to provide a 95% improvement in threat detection speed and more than 80% reduction in MTTR. To evaluate the SIEM solution, you can check out the free trial or choose among various subscription options as per your requirement.

8. LogRhythm NextGen SIEM

logrhythm nextgen siem's dashboard

LogRhythm NextGen SIEM is another popular SIEM solution offering advanced threat detection, user behavior analytics, and other common SIEM features. The solution offers flexible deployment options with both cloud and on-premises versions available for enterprises. The SIEM solution is known for its analytics and workflow automation capabilities enabling swift detection and mitigation of threats. The solution is rated favorably in Gartner and Forrester reviews. Like Splunk, the solution is built on an open platform and uses machine learning algorithms for event correlation. Organizations seeking real-time visibility into their endpoints would find LogRhythm NextGen SIEM suitable.

9. AlienVault Unified Security Management (USM)

alienvault siem's dasboard

AlienVault, which is now acquired by AT&T, offers a comprehensive SIEM solution which it likes to call “unified security management.” In addition to basic SIEM features for integrated compliance reporting and incident management, the solution offers asset discovery, intrusion detection, and vulnerability assessment capabilities in a single package. This makes it a more rounded solution, suitable for enterprises keen on revamping their SOC. Learn more about the solution here.

10. FortiSIEM

fortisiem's dashboard

Fortinet is one of the leading providers of cybersecurity software and appliances and is known primarily for its firewalls. However, the company also offers one of the most comprehensive SIEM solutions you can find in the market. There are many features like auto-discovery, CPU utilization measurement, and IoT monitoring, which you don’t really expect out of a SIEM. There might be some installation challenges, though nothing FortiSIEM’s support wouldn’t solve. You can check out the SIEM solution here.

How to Select a SIEM Software

There was a time when compliance was a major challenge due to inefficient log management practices. SIEM offered a viable solution to this challenge. However, in an environment where the attack surface is constantly growing with the addition of new physical and virtual infrastructure, applications, and cloud resources, traditional SIEM tools and practices aren’t effective. Organizations need better analytics, unified dashboards, and real-time actionable intelligence to stay on top of their expanding IT environment. That’s why SIEM tools have evolved significantly over the years and aren’t just log and compliance management tools anymore.

Still, not all organizations have similar needs, and some have already invested heavily in point solutions to develop a dependable NOC. Finding a SIEM software that handles compliance well may suit their purpose in such cases. On the other hand, some organizations would like to build their network and security operations around modern AI-based analytics solutions. Therefore, you’ll need to understand your baseline requirements to finalize the scope of your SIEM implementation and shortlist viable options. As discussed, a POC and phased deployment is a better approach to selecting and implementing a SIEM solution.

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