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What is SIEM? How It Works, Best Practices for Implementation & More

by Chris Brook on Wednesday July 20, 2022

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Learn about Security Information and Event Management or SIEM, how an organization can get the most out of its SIEM technology and best practices for implementing a solution in this blog.

SIEM, or Security Information and Event Management, is a type of software solution that provides threat detection, real-time security analytics, and incident response to organizations. It’s a popular IT security technology that’s widely used by businesses of all sizes today.

SIEM tools perform many functions, such as collecting data from multiple sources and analyzing it to find abnormal patterns that may indicate a cyber-attack. SIEM aggregates events and generates alerts accordingly.

How Does SIEM Work?

SIEM software typically offers four primary functions:

1. It collects data from multiple sources. These sources could be servers, network devices, domain controllers, firewall logs, audit trail records, antivirus/antimalware events, etc.
2. It aggregates data and finds patterns. It normalizes the regular flow in the organization and marks it safe.
3. It examines data to detect abnormal patterns. These patterns are considered threats and are closely inspected.
4. According to the findings, it discovers security breaches and generates alerts that allow the organizations to look closely into the matter.

The alerts that SIEM generates can help with forensics related to security incidents. The alerts can also indicate a possible security issue that may lead to a cyber-attack.

SIEM identifies the normal and abnormal behaviors in an organization by studying its data and usage patterns. For example, if someone logs into their account every once in 10 minutes, this might be considered normal. But a user trying to login 100 times in just a few seconds might indicate a brute force attack. This is how SIEM detects and flags potential security threats and attacks.

Benefits of SIEM

Not all SIEM solutions are built the same. Depending on the vendor, an organization can get several benefits from its SIEM technology. Here are some of those benefits:

  • A central solution to collect data and find red flags
  • Aggregation and normalization of data
  • Generating alerts
  • Real-time analysis of the environment
  • Assigning a priority to the alert to reduce false-positives
  • Customizable and easy-to-manage dashboards
  • Allows users to search across raw data
  • Regular reporting, helping the IT security team find security incidents

Basic Features of SIEM

While SIEM solutions differ from one vendor to another, some basic features are common among all SIEM solutions. These common features include:

  • Collection of data
  • Security monitoring
  • Data normalization
  • Threat detection
  • Generating alerts
  • Incident and forensics reporting

Over the years, SIEM has evolved, with today’s SIEM solutions offering advanced capabilities. For instance, modern day SIEM combines machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) and offers detailed User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA). With artificial intelligence, it learns with each incident and keeps evolving to provide security against modern threats.

Best Practices for SIEM Implementation

Without the proper implementation of SIEM technology, it can raise an alert at each “abnormal” incident and can lead to several false positives. This can waste a lot of time and resources of the IT security team.

By following best practices, an organization can get the most out of its SIEM technology. Here are some practices to follow:

  • Understand how SIEM can benefit your organization and what your expectations should be.
  • Monitor critical resources and set up SIEM to monitor those resources.
  • Define data correlation rules so the technology can normalize data according to those rules. Also, establish policies related to IT configuration and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).
  • Recognize business compliance requirements and configure the SIEM solution accordingly.
  • Connect the SIEM technology to as many data sources so it can bring all data to a central location to monitor it.
  • Plan a test run. A test run will uncover weaknesses in the current system, which will help in tweaking the controls and policies accordingly.
  • Have an incident response plan. Just knowing when a security incident has happened isn’t enough. The organization must be prepared to handle the event.
  • Regularly review the SIEM solution and keep all security related tools properly configured.

SIEM Use Cases

SIEM can be used to detect a security incident. Here are some cases in which SIEM can be extremely beneficial:

  • Compromised user login: Hacking methods such as Brute Force, Golden Ticket, and Pass the Hash (PtH) can be identified by SIEM.
  • Cloud security event: SIEM can detect if malicious activities are carried out in the enterprise cloud environment.
  • Insider threat detection: If an employee is attempting access to sensitive information or is emailing that information to their personal account, it can be detected by the SIEM.
  • Tracking changes to the system: Critical events like deletion of audit trails or changing the audit configurations can be caught by SIEM.
  • Phishing detection: Phishing and spear phishing are major threats to all organizations. SIEM can detect which employees received the phishing email and if they clicked on a link or replied to the email. This can give enough insight into the security incident and reduce damage.

SIEM is a Valuable Tool for Organizations

Operating SIEM with a dashboard is easy. When combined with an event management system, it helps organizations get more accurate results and lowers the time wasted on false positive incidents.

SIEM software solutions can be stored on-premises in an organization or they can reside in the cloud. SIEM also detects the risk level of a given flag to help the security team prioritize their actions. This helps organizations in identifying bad actors and reducing the number of cyber-attacks.

Tags: Cybersecurity, Threat Intelligence

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Chris Brook

Chris Brook is the editor of Data Insider. He is a technology journalist with a decade of experience writing about information security, hackers, and privacy. Chris has attended many infosec conferences and has interviewed hackers and security researchers. Prior to joining Digital Guardian he helped launch Threatpost, an independent news site which is a leading source of information about IT and business security for hundreds of thousands of professionals worldwide.