SIEM Guide

Essential Guide to SIEM Implementation and Optimization

No company is immune to the dangers of cybercrime. As instances of sophisticated attacks grow and threaten the way organizations operate, many businesses turn to cybersecurity solutions that can effectively keep up with the massive flows of data that exist within an organization. For many, SIEM is a big part of the solution. 

A SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) system utilizes software and security experts to provide organizations with adequate threat detection and management processes in today's data-driven world. A combination of security information management (SIM) and security event management (SEM), SIEM allows cybersecurity professionals to detect and remediate threats in real-time.

Considering SIEM Options

If you're new to SIEM, determining the products you need to protect your organization can be a challenge. Some large businesses utilize an in-house security operations center (SOC) where company-owned SIEM software is used by the security team. While this was once the only option for using cybersecurity software, the start-up cost can be very prohibitive. Today, there are cloud-based SIEM options available from a variety of vendors that provide 24/7 monitoring and threat detection services.

Selecting a SIEM service isn't a decision to be taken lightly. As with any new system, you can expect considerable effort to come along with configuring the system and adopting new processes for seamless integration. While the cost of SIEM from a third-party vendor is considerably lower than an on-premise solution, it's a considerable investment.

Key Considerations When Choosing a SIEM Solution

Every organization is unique. Your security solution should align with the specific types of information handled by your company and your existing staff and workflow. Before seeking providers for comparison, it's important to know exactly how you expect your SIEM to perform and the companies that are most likely to meet those needs. Consider these features when determining the best solution for your company.

In-house or Outsourced

For many companies seeking a SIEM solution, deciding between an on-premise solution or a cloud-based one is based directly on your existing cybersecurity staff. For instance, if you already have a bustling SOC on-site, it might be worth the added expense to invest in company-owned software. However, even with a dedicated cybersecurity team, many companies add SIEM as a service (SIEMaaS) to provide around-the-clock monitoring and threat detection during off-hours. 

Basic SIEM options include:

  • On-Premises System: Hardware, infrastructure, and software are company-owned and monitored by in-house staff.
  • Self-Managed Cloud Service: Cloud-based software is provided by a vendor but managed by in-house IT or security staff.
  • MSSP Managed Service: A fully managed security solution provided by a vendor includes software managed by vendor security analysts.

Log Ingestion

All SIEM systems are designed to collect and categorize information to recognize routine behavior and isolate threats. However, the way your system consumes and identifies information is important. While a system should have the flexibility to allow users to tune the way information is processed, it should provide the ability to parse event data from most common systems without being customized.

Configuring Alerts

This is a big part of the reason some SIEM implementations fail. When a system isn't configured correctly, the result is typically too many alerts for security analysts to properly investigate. Without the ability to configure alerts, many of these alarms will be false. Any individual facing multiple false alarms will grow numb to the potential importance these alerts are supposed to represent, allowing threats to sneak into the network unnoticed.

Automation Features

The ability to eliminate burdensome manual tasks improves your SOC in more ways than one. IT and security professionals that spend hours on tedious tasks are more likely to make small mistakes or fail to notice critical issues. When these tasks are automated by SIEM software, these employee errors are eliminated. Additionally, when security professionals are freed from manual tasks, their attention can be concentrated on other essential jobs that can't be software automated. Key automation features include automatic actions that occur from trigger events and the ability for your SIEM to grow into your established rules.

Visibility/Event Correlation

One of the biggest reasons organizations adopt SIEM is the ability to have complete visibility into the entire network from a single dashboard. Many sophisticated cyberattacks enter networks through seemingly normal activities and move laterally through the network to reach sensitive information. The ability to correlate a series of actions across different logs can show a pattern of behavior that represents a real threat. 

Regulatory Compliance

For businesses and organizations in many industries, regulatory compliance is an important part of day-to-day operations and expenses. HIPAA, GBLA, CMMC, and NIST all require organizations to follow various regulations and be prepared for annual audits. If your company is subject to government compliance, learn the requirements for your organization to ensure your SIEM choice will have the capability to streamline these processes and provide audit reports.

Integration and SIEM Ecosystems

For organizations seeking cybersecurity solutions, the implementation of a SIEM system will require considerable planning and process changes. The ability to integrate your system with your company's existing software and programs is essential to avoid extra costs and additional setup processes. Learning about a SIEM provider's integration capabilities is a good way to narrow down your list before making a purchase.

Additionally, companies need to consider the entire ecosystem of the business. Your network includes access for vendors, transport, and other essential services that keep your business running. In today's workforce, that means your devices must be able to communicate in the same language or a universal language that can bridge the gap. If your new security processes lock essential services out of your network, your business won't have the ability to function as normal.

Top SIEM Vendors

There is no shortage of vendors that provide SIEM services. Yet, some have been proven to provide many of the services companies depend on for the visibility and threat detection needed to adequately protect data against active and future threats. These top SIEM vendors were listed as leaders in the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for SIEM report

  • LogRhythm: Noted for investigation properties and case management workflow, LogRhythm has features that include integration with hundreds of other IT systems.
  • Rapid7: Recognized for managed detection and response services, Rapid7 is known for its strength in identifying attacks and compromised resources.
  • Securonix: Praised by Gartner for threat intelligence and support, Securonix runs on Hadoop with an open architecture, enabling you to use a wide variety of third-party analytics tools. Securonix also includes integrated UEBA.
  • Exabeam: Praised by Gartner for long-term searchable log storage, Exabeam combines SIEM analytics with XDR to streamline security capabilities.
  • IBM: Noted for simple deployment and management of analytics, IBM offers both on-premise and cloud solutions.
  • Splunk: Recognized to support companies that need core SOC products that integrate with existing systems, Splunk offers cloud and on-premise solutions.

The ability to consider Gartner Magic Quadrant leaders for cybersecurity options provides organizations with an opportunity to compare top-rated services before choosing a SIEM solution. Other companies listed in the report include Netwitness, Logpoint, Microsoft, Fortinet, Sumo Logic, Gurucul, FireEye, Micro Focus, ManageEngine, and McAfee.

Gartner SIEM

Why SIEM Isn't an Automatic Solution

When it comes to technology, it's a common assumption that the work will be completed without human assistance. This is partially true with SIEM software. However, like all tools, your SIEM must be properly set up and used for it to provide the best results. There is no doubt that SIEM is a useful tool in today's digital data-driven world. After all, a human can't keep up with all of the entries that exist on a network on any given day. Unfortunately, the concept of SIEM capabilities often gets confused with the final results of a fully functional cybersecurity system that utilizes SIEM as one of many working parts.

SIEM capabilities include:

  • Gathering event logs and arranging the data into digestible information
  • Recognizing suspicious activity
  • Sends alerts when threats are recognized
  • Provides complete network visibility through a convenient dashboard
  • Simplification of compliance requirements
  • Eliminates cumbersome manual tasks

With all these benefits, SIEM makes sense for any organization attempting to protect data. Yet, some businesses don't get what they expect by simply purchasing and launching SIEM software. The reason for this is simple. SIEM is a tool and it's only as effective as the team that uses it. Highly effective SIEM software must be customizable to recognize unique threats in different environments. An organization that utilizes the software without taking the time to provide the right settings and data can expect limited capabilities at best. For SIEM to achieve all of its capabilities effectively, the system must have the right data and instructions. For SIEM to meet the specific security needs of your company, you must be able to tell it what to do. 

SIEM is a complex cybersecurity investment that can become a useless tool without the right preparation and implementation techniques. Unfortunately, this means a high-quality SIEM software solution may yield mediocre or even poor results for some organizations. Consider how these mistakes can impact the performance of your SIEM software.

  • Failure to consider the scope of your company and the data that must be ingested can lead to a system that is performing three times the work it was intended for.
  • Limited or nonexistent feedback during trials and implementation provides the system with no context of threats, resulting in more false positives.
  • Adopting a "set it and forget it" setup style that never allows the SIEM to grow and ingest new data leaves companies with a system that fails to reach its full potential from the beginning and becomes more useless as the business grows.
  • Failure to include stakeholders and employees in the roll-out process leaves the system vulnerable to employee error and poor cybersecurity practices.
  • Limited research leads company leaders to believe that SIEM is a complete solution that replaces valuable security and personnel needed to properly monitor the system, leading to early system failure.

Proper preparation and implementation are necessary to achieve the intended capabilities of any SIEM system. Use these tips to get the most out of your SIEM choice.

Preparation Tips Before SIEM Implementation

Setting up SIEM tools is a complex task, even for security professionals. Yet, the steps in the setup process can eliminate blind spots in your network and provide you with a customized security tool. Use these tips to help you choose the right vendor and prepare for a successful SIEM implementation.

  • Begin with a plan that takes your current security stack, compliance requirements, and expectations.
  • Identify crucial information and data sources within your organization's network.
  • Understand that SIEM won't replace humans or other security tools.
  • Ensure you have a SIEM expert on your team to lead the configuration process.
  • Educate staff and all network users on best practices for the new system.
  • Research realistic expectations and plan to leave room for adjusting configuration as needed.
  • Determine the types of data that are most critical to protect within your organization.
  • Choose the types of data you want your system to collect, keeping in mind that more data isn't always better.
  • Schedule time for test runs before final implementation.

Secrets for Success During SIEM Implementation

As an organization searching for successful cybersecurity solutions, the biggest hurdle might be recognizing that successful SIEM implementation will take time. For a SIEM system to properly identify threats within a unique network, it must be told what to do. The data introduced during the implementation process will define how the system works in the future. Take these steps to introduce SIEM to your network in a way that will produce the long-term results you need for ongoing cybersecurity that grows with your organization.

  • After the system is installed, ensure your log sources list is correctly identified and grouped.
  • Examine incoming data to make sure no events are classified as unknown.
  • Weed out unimportant data, so log collection is designed to collect security information.
  • Conduct tests to simulate real threats and define expectations for alert responses.
  • Document SIEM monitoring and maintenance tasks and processes, including new log sources.
  • Configure system reactions to alerts.
  • Provide evolving education for staff and stakeholders.
  • Learn how SIEM can be integrated with other tools for advanced threat detection and reactions.
  • Automate menial tasks to eliminate human error and utilize professional skills in areas where they'll provide more value.

Gartner SIEM

How to Use SIEM in Today's Threat Landscape

An increase in remote work across the globe provides threat actors with new resources to carry out attacks against various industries. This makes properly configured SIEM solutions that provide complete visibility of a network more important than ever. Yet, it also means that your SIEM system will be flooded with more information, more false alerts, and more potential threats(https://www.bitlyft.com/resources/what-is-soar-how-can-it-improve-detection-and-remediation). For many companies, the ability to keep up with the flood of information collected by a SIEM each day would mean hiring additional security analysts to wade through thousands of event log entries each day. Utilizing tools that work alongside your SIEM software is a better solution.

Add Value with SOAR

Automation is an essential part of any security program. As IoT devices become more common in practically every industry, the amount of information collected by your SIEM will continue to grow and change. Hiring more employees to keep up with these changes would diminish the ROI of your SIEM.

Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) is a security solution that automates processes and improves incident response. While SIEM emphasizes the importance of monitoring traffic and identifying unusual behavior, SOAR uses data to measure risks and inform security decision-making. SOAR works in conjunction with SIEM to utilize logged data and automate tedious tasks previously performed by security experts. After evaluating data, SOAR takes automation one step further by using real-world data to make intelligence-driven decisions to react to low-level threats without human intervention.

Improve Threat Detection with UEBA 

The AI capability of your SIEM helps it grow with your organization to collect more data. Yet, the same features can lead to increased false alarms. User Entity and Behavior Analytics (UEBA) monitors user behavior within the network and recognizes abnormal behavior. With the detection of behavior anomalies, the software can recognize compromised accounts, lateral movement, and ongoing threats that can be difficult to detect. UBEA is designed to recognize abnormal behavior within valid user accounts.

Many SIEM vendors offer UEBA as an add-on for the basic SIEM system. Some vendors, including Securonix, integrate UEBA into the SIEM. When UEBA is integrated with the SIEM launch, organizations gain the benefit of an early baseline for a network's normal behavior patterns. This early knowledge makes it easier for the system to quickly identify hidden threats.

Maintain Essential Ongoing Vendor Support 

An effective SIEM solution is designed to grow with your organization and the way threats advance in today's cybersecurity landscape. For this reason, updates and ongoing management are essential. Whether you invest in SIEMaaS, SOCaaS, or another solution from your vendor, ongoing assistance navigating system updates and best practices is essential. For many organizations, this ongoing support is achieved with SOCaaS that combines SIEM, SOAR, and other security solutions like UEBA into a single product.

Migrate to the Cloud

With the influx of data and connected devices constantly growing, your SIEM system will always have more data to consume and parse. For on-premise SOCs, this means increasing staff and constantly adding new infrastructure and hardware to keep up with system changes. Migrating an existing SIEM system to the cloud might seem like an extreme measure for a company with an on-premise SOC. However, it's likely to reduce costs over time. For companies seeking a new SIEM solution, up-front and operating costs are likely to be more affordable with cloud-based SIEM. 

Migrating your SIEM to the cloud can help you navigate today's cybersecurity threat landscape with these advantages:

  • Improved updating and scalability
  • Better visibility with unified monitoring and correlation of data
  • Simpler interface for an improved user experience
  • Increased flexibility to respond to a changing internal and external atmosphere
  • Integration with additional tools and plugins to provide a more complete security solution

Ongoing Value of SIEM

Like many business costs, security is an investment that brings additional value over time. While some tools and products used in IT and security quickly become outdated, SIEM is a solution that grows with an organization and often gains additional value over time. A quality SIEM system is designed to be scalable for growing companies. It can also utilize AI and continue to improve processes as new threats arise.

SIEM adds value over time with the ability to continually automate tasks. While automated tasks allow organizations to invest in SIEM without the upfront costs of hiring additional security analysts, it also encourages future growth without the costs of onboarding more security personnel. 

Usually, the biggest reason companies invest in SIEM is to avoid the costs associated with a security breach. Since SIEM systems are designed to continually take in and process data, the investment continues to pay off. As technology grows, SIEM solutions grow with it, for a continuous solution that keeps providing the same levels of security.

While SIEM isn't a plug-and-play automated solution that will eliminate all cybersecurity threats, it is a vital part of a fully functioning security system within many companies. When your SIEM is properly configured and alarms are defined to correlate with your environment, false alerts are eliminated and your automated SOAR system can actively respond to real threats. Your SIEM solution is more than a financial investment. It requires a company-wide investment in time and resources to automate systems in a way that will streamline processes and improve your overall security posture for the future. To learn more about how our cybersecurity experts can help you configure your cloud-based SIEM system and prepare for a successful implementation, talk to a BitLyft expert today.

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