What Is SIEM Software? Definition, How It Works, and How To Choose the Right Tool

By Omkar Hiremath on January 27, 2021

The modern world is advancing in every respect, and technology is advancing even faster. And now that companies handle most of our confidential data, how can we be sure what we share is safe?

To earn our confidence, companies must implement powerful security systems. Many use SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) tools to protect our most important and sensitive data. But what exactly is SIEM? How does it work? And what SIEM tools are best for your security needs? In this guide, we cover SIEM basics and review some of the top SIEM tools on the market today.

What Is SIEM?

SIEM is a software solution designed to closely analyze a company’s information security system. It uses a set of tools to analyze activity across the entire IT infrastructure. The following are some of the standard features of SIEM software:

  • Monitoring a company’s information security in real time
  • Event management and logging for various activities
  • Close analysis to identify event patterns and add value to the collected data

SIEM is built to conduct this process in two phases:

  1. The first phase collects data that can be used to identify and analyze security vulnerabilities
  2. The second phase uses tools to identify patterns that can yield useful insights while keeping a close watch on the information security infrastructure as a whole

How SIEM Works

The main focus of SIEM is the creation of a set of rules that can be used to identify any security threat.

  • Data collection is the primary aim. The data from activities such as login sessions and malicious attacks or threats are fed to the SIEM software.
  • The next step is the devising of rules or conditions ideal for the best-case and worst-case scenarios based on previous data related to threats and vulnerabilities.
  • After this, SIEM analyzes the data and findings and looks for ways to correlate events. These insights are then converted into important, actionable tasks for better security.
  • Visual dashboards provide users with a better understanding of various problems or threats. Alerts are sent as necessary if anomalies or threats are detected while monitoring the infrastructure and applying advanced analysis in real time.

Although the main purposes of SIEM tools are threat identification, the creation of actionable insights, and monitoring for any possible risks, various tools provide other additional features such forensics, log data collection, response workflow, alerts, notifications, etc.

Why SIEM Is Important?

Security information and event management is the most important piece of security infrastructure in any organization. And SIEM can help an organization manage its security by simply making use of security data using the tools included.

Let’s look at an example. Suppose there’s an organization designed to handle a lot of confidential data and the data is subject to many security threats and malicious attacks. And finally, one day a breach is successful, and the organization’s security team needs to know exactly what happened.

The first course of action will be the identification of the malicious event itself. The security team might spend a great deal of time and energy trying to figure this out. Specifically, the organization will spend much time analyzing security log data for anomalies or anything seemingly suspicious.

This is where SIEM plays an important role. A security team with a good SIEM software can identify the security threats in advance. They will have been notified of any threats or anomalies before a problem even materializes. So not only can SIEM help an organization to recover from any setbacks, it can also produce actionable insights to help prevent future threats from materializing as well.

Benefits of SIEM

  • SIEM results in increased efficiency. This is due to early detection of security threats.
  • Threat analysis identifies potential security threats before they even materialize, preventing damage to the company’s security infrastructure.
  • By identifying potential threats in advance, countermeasures can be devised to minimize damage.
  • Security management costs are reduced since SIEM can take care of most vulnerabilities by itself.
  • Long-term log reports and event management can add value to future insights.
  • Alerting and monitoring features detect and issue warnings about threats in real time.
  • SIEM also boosts IT compliance.

Limitations of SIEM

Despite the plethora of benefits we get from SIEM solutions, there are a few limitations worth mention. The collected log data can be large and difficult to analyze. If the data is too noisy, your analysis might be inaccurate. Noisy log data also might include irrelevant information, adding no value when you study it.

Cost is another limitation. A SIEM solution can be expensive to set up. Sometimes it even requires adding to the workforce because some tools require experts to analyze the data and detect anomalies.

There are, however, several things you can do to make up for these limitations.

Best SIEM Software

The following are some of the leading security information and event management tools available on the market today:

  • SolarWinds Security Event Manager (SEM) is a lightweight, ready-to-use, and affordable security information and event management system. It comes with features like compliance reporting, cyber threat intelligence feeds, automated incident response, forensic analysis, and file integrity monitoring among many other features.
  • Splunk Enterprise Security is a security solution designed to improve response time with features like continuous monitoring and multi-step investigations.
  • IBM QRadar helps security teams accurately detect and prioritize threats across the enterprise. Additional features include compliance management, real-time threat detection, etc.
  • McAfee Enterprise Security Manager provides fast and accurate SIEM and log data management. Additional features include advanced threat intelligence, real-time visibility, etc.
  • ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer provides in-depth analytical ability to improve network security. Additional features include log forensics, database auditing, IT compliance, etc.

How to Choose the Correct SIEM Software

Your organization will need to consider certain parameters, depending on your requirements and other various factors.

  • Some organizations only look to SIEM for compliance.
  • Organizations looking for security management need to evaluate how efficiently a prospective SIEM software identifies security threats.
  • Depending on the kind of data an organization has to deal with, priorities may change. An organization with much data will definitely need a SIEM software.
  • Organizations producing smaller amounts of data can opt for another option. But in any case, a company handling a lot of confidential data needing protection from any security vulnerabilities or threats will definitely need a SIEM for its advanced threat detection capabilities.
  • Some SIEM tools require other dependencies that add a lot of expenditure.
  • Some organizations choose to use two SIEMS, one for compliance and another for detecting security threats in real-time and incident response features. They do this mainly because they want to avoid creating noise in the data.

This post was written by Omkar Hiremath. Omkar uses his BE in computer science to share theoretical and demo-based learning on various areas of technology, like ethical hacking, Python, blockchain, and Hadoop.

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