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Understanding the Fundamentals of SIEM in Cybersecurity

SIEM technology is critical to business operations in a world of tighter data regulations and severe consequences for security breaches. Choosing and deploying the right system requires extensive research and ongoing effort to optimize performance.

A SIEM can reduce risk by filtering massive amounts of log data and identifying, prioritizing, and acting on alerts. But what exactly does this software do?

Real-time Monitoring

One of the most essential functions of a SIEM system is real-time monitoring. Unlike previous security tools that only focused on endpoints, SIEM monitors all aspects of the network and can detect anomalies much more quickly. This can help prevent hackers and malware from gaining access to sensitive information. It also improves compliance because it ensures that all systems are being audited.

It also provides a bird’s-eye view of the network, making identifying and prioritizing threats easier. The system identifies and analyzes event logs, presenting them on real-time clear dashboards. In addition, it offers automated software to stop attacks in progress and a comprehensive audit trail.

This functionality can be combined with other security tools like user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) to improve threat detection. UEBA uses machine learning to record regular activity to create a baseline and identify unusual behavior, which can be detected more quickly. It can also help reduce false positives by eliminating human error by analyzing thousands of events in a fraction of the time that a security analyst would.

A successful SIEM implementation requires a team of experienced staff to implement, maintain and fine-tune the tool. It is a complex solution that can be very costly. It also relies on the organization to set clear security goals and compliance objectives and identify a roadmap for evolving capabilities, including UEBA and security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR). These plans can include a list of digital assets to be monitored, incident response plans, and workflows.

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Data Correlation

Now, what is SIEM in cybersecurity? SIEM collects logs and information from systems and security solutions throughout the network and combines and normalizes it. This allows for comparisons across different sources and platforms so that analysts can detect threats, attacks, and vulnerabilities. The information is stored and made available through a dashboard so that security teams can identify and address issues quickly to avoid data loss or breaches.

In the past, SIEM tools relied on rules to analyze the recorded data and generate alerts for action by security teams. This resulted in many false positives making it challenging to know what threats need addressing.

Today’s next-gen solutions use artificial intelligence to help understand the nature of security events and their context within an organization’s system. This enables them to make more informed decisions about what warrants an alert and what doesn’t. For example, an error message on a server could be correlated to a failed login attempt on an enterprise portal, leading to an alert for a potential breach.

When selecting a SIEM solution, security teams should determine the immediate needs of their organization and plan to scale up functionality to account for projected growth and their level of security maturity. This might include starting with essential event correlation, then moving on to UEBA (user and entity behavior analytics) and SOAR (security orchestration, automation, and response). In addition to these capabilities, many of today’s best-in-class solutions offer a variety of integrations for advanced threat protection.

Incident Response

After aggregating and normalizing data, a SIEM solution looks for indications of threats in the collected log data. This can include looking for predefined issues (as outlined in policies) and using predictive analytics to detect patterns of attacks like DDoS attacks, SQL injection, phishing campaigns, and so on.

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If a SIEM solution spots a potential threat, it will alert the security team. This can be done through integrations with ticketing and bug reporting systems and messaging applications. For example, if the SIEM solution spots an attack on a website or an attacker attempts to encrypt files, it can generate an alert that gets forwarded to the right person in the IT team to take action.

The next step in incident response is containing the threat and eradicating any affected systems. This is where a SIEM can come into play, as it provides the information and tools needed to stop an attack, minimize damage, and restore any affected systems. It can also identify and analyze the root cause of an attack to strengthen defenses against similar threats in the future. Additionally, next-gen SIEM solutions can integrate with enterprise systems to automate some of these steps by detecting an alert and performing the necessary actions without human intervention. This is often referred to as security orchestration and automation response or SOAR.

Automated Response

A SIEM’s centralized dashboard allows security teams to view correlated data and respond to threats quickly. This is in contrast to other cybersecurity tools that require the user to find and interpret data individually, which can be more time-consuming and less effective.

When an incident occurs, SIEM can automatically execute pre-planned steps to contain and mitigate the impact of the threat. For example, if the system detects a ransomware attack, it could remotely shut down affected systems before attackers encrypt your data. These automated response capabilities are becoming a key component of next-gen SIEMs, which are also integrated into fully-fledged security orchestration and automation (SOAR) tools.

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Today’s top SIEM solutions include advanced analytics and machine learning to provide greater insight. They also offer automated tasks and enhanced context that can alleviate the strain on resource-constrained security analysts.

SIEM can ingest and comb through massive logs to spot anomalies that might signal an attack. For instance, a single failed login might be trivial, but several failed attempts simultaneously indicate an attack in progress. A top-tier solution would flag this as a significant event and alert security personnel accordingly. This crucial function helps shorten the time a security team takes to detect and identify threats.