What is a SIEM Solution?

5 min. read

A SIEM Solution is software security that allows for an overall view of activity across an entire network so that threats can be responded to quickly without businesses being disrupted. This solution is in the form of software, tools, and services that detect and block security threats.

What is SIEM?

SOC teams use a variety of tools as they peer into all of the systems they are protecting to detect and prevent a complex variety of networks and security architectures. A security information and event management (SIEM) solution alleviates some of that overwhelming pursuit by aggregating data from multiple sources and using data analytics to determine the most likely threats, freeing up the SOC team to focus on events that will most likely lead to an attack against their systems.

Why is Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Utilized?

Security information and event management (SIEM) aggregates security event data from application, network, endpoint and cloud environments and then utilizes it for security monitoring, threat detection and response, and sometimes risk scoring.

SIEM software collects, stores, analyzes and reports on log data that is generated by various systems and applications in a network. It monitors security-related activities such as user logins, file access and changes to critical system files. SIEM vendors will often include or sell additional functionality as add-ons, including user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA), and response actions via security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR).

Compliance reporting is a foundational component of SIEM with risk posture and reporting becoming a common out-of-the-box feature. Historically, SIEM was primarily an on-premises solution, but the vast majority of the SIEM market has migrated to cloud-native or hosted architectures. SIEM is and continues to be the cybersecurity system of record of the security operation center (SOC) at many organizations.

What Is a SOC?

A security operations center (SOC) is a function in a cybersecurity program that is responsible for managing threats against an organization. The SOC is responsible for identifying, investigating and remediating threats. The SOC also advises security leaders and the business on the threats the organization will or may face as the threat landscape changes.

Historically, a SOC was an on-premises collection of people and technology, but there are also instances of it being shared responsibility, particularly for low-maturity budget-constrained organizations. The modern SOC has mostly distributed personnel with a rapidly increasing use of cloud-native or hosted security tools.

There are three main SOC models organizations will use: hybrid, internal or tiered. Hybrid is a mix of internal and third-party service providers, internal being exclusively internal personnel only, and tiered having a top-tier SOC with multiple smaller SOCs that report up.

For a deep dive into a security operations center, read our article, What is a SOC?

How Does a SOC Use SIEM?

A SOC uses a SIEM solution to aggregate data from multiple sources, analyze that data and respond to security incidents. SIEM solutions can provide organizations with security visibility and access to security data, and deliver detection and response capabilities. They may automate security processes depending on the SIEM vendor’s available offerings for SOAR or support for third-party solutions.

In terms of security monitoring, SOCs and SIEMs provide different approaches to assist corporations in preventing data breaches and alerting them to potential cyberattacks.

Traditional SIEMs

In the beginning, traditional SIEMs centralized logs, alerts and events from different security tools within the environment and required compute, storage and backup management in order to store this information from a variety of systems.

This required an extensive investigation of information by a highly talented group that would have to sift through a massive amount of misleading data to find the genuine security dangers that a business faced.

Traditional SIEMs faced a number of major challenges, including:

  • Inflexible datasets that could not be analyzed, limiting efficiency.
  • Depleted staff resources due to challenges associated with maintaining and operating SIEMs.
  • A large number of false positives.
  • Could not keep up with emerging threats as technology evolved, leaving enterprises at higher risk.

The complexity of traditional SIEMs created a large amount of work for security teams, as they were required to sort through hundreds or thousands of lines of information to figure out what exactly was going on. A traditional SIEM simply lacked the automated capabilities necessary to detect threats and respond to incidents in real time, which next-gen SIEM platforms aimed to provide.

siem technology

Benefits of SIEM Solutions in the SOC

SIEM products can provide the SOC team with a "big picture" view of security events across its organization. Because SIEMs have been the only security controls that had true enterprise-wide visibility, they could identify malicious activity that was undetectable by any other single host.

Analysis capabilities of SIEM systems provide the ability to detect attacks that would not be detectable through other methods and help adjust enterprise security controls to eliminate gaps in security. Some of the top SIEM products can even prevent security breaches if they are detected while attacks are still in progress.

Limitations of a SIEM

Despite their many benefits, SIEM solutions have some significant limitations, such as:

  • Configuration and Integration: In order for a SIEM solution to provide value to an organization, it must be properly configured to connect with the various endpoints and security solutions within the network. This can be a time-consuming process for SOC analysts, which detracts from their ability to detect and respond to active threats.
  • Inaccurate or Incomplete Data: A SIEM solution relies on data collected from various sources in order to work properly. If any of these data sources are inaccurate, incomplete or not connected to the SIEM properly, it can lead to problems with the SIEM solution itself. This can make it difficult for SOC analysts to trust the data that is being provided by the SIEM solution, which can impact its overall effectiveness.
  • Rules-Based Detection Capabilities: SIEM solutions have some ability to detect attacks automatically, based on the data they collect. However, these detection capabilities are largely rules-based. So, while a SIEM may be very good at identifying certain types of threats, it is likely to overlook attacks that are novel or do not match an established pattern.
  • False-Positive Detections: SIEMs generate alerts based on collected data and analysis, but no validation of these alerts is performed. As a result, the SIEM’s alerts — while potentially higher-quality and more context-based than the data and alerts that it ingests — can still contain false-positive detections.

What Is Next-Generation SIEM?

In the modern era of advanced threats, many advanced threats have become polymorphic rather than static, meant to evade detection by continually changing their behavior. SIEM systems must be able to process more data while also recognizing distinct patterns within that data more effectively.

Many commentators predicted the demise of legacy SIEM systems due to their limitations and difficulties. However, the technology has continued to evolve as more features have been bolted onto existing products.

While SIEM systems were once designed to process only a limited number of data sources, the "next generation" of SIEM systems can process a vast amount of data (both security events and nonsecurity events) and can correlate it in an expedited manner.

FAQs for SIEM Solutions in SOC

What should a SIEM be capable of doing?

A SIEM should:

  • Be capable of analyzing, gathering and presenting information it collects from the network and connected security devices.
  • Have identity and access management applications.
  • Have tools for vulnerability management and policy compliance.
  • Consist of the operating system, application logs and database, and external threat data.

What are SIEM's limitations in a SOC?

SIEM was built for vast log collection, with security analytics bolted on after the fact. SIEMs were built to collect logs, aggregate data and analyze it, with the primary driver being compliance and the solution being big data storage and analysis. With the evolution into security analytics platforms, SIEMs continue to face their original big data challenge and further analytics, correlation, query and visualization challenges. SIEMs take a nebulous approach to identifying threats, thereby running security analytics on top of huge datasets. — Forrester, Adapt or Die: XDR Is On A Collision Course With SIEM And SOAR

Do I need a SIEM in my SOC?

For organizations that may not have the expertise or the resources to implement, manage, maintain and monitor a SIEM solution, there are other options that may be worth researching, such as managed security services (MSS) and managed detection and response (MDR) services. Central log management is a solution that can be a first step toward a SIEM and helps to provide a centralized view of log data. Log data provides a record of everyday activity across an organization and can help with troubleshooting issues and supporting broader business needs. While log management helps to aggregate log data, a SIEM provides much more capability, and therefore a business should determine what it truly needs in order to ensure the functionality meets its expectations to avoid overpaying.