Standalone SIEMs are Not Effective for Real-time Response, and This is Why


With so many Managed Security Service products available, which ones will enhance your security stack? Often, organizations looking to bolster their detection capabilities and respond to security events in real-time turn to a SIEM platform. No doubt, SIEMs are powerful tools for aggregating incredible amounts of data from multiple sources in an IT environment and notifying on correlated findings. However, they can be slow to derive immediate context, especially in the event of a breach where response times are critical in preventing an attack. When building a trusted end-to-end security offering, it is vital to understand how SIEMs work, their benefits, and their limitations so you can make an informed decision on how to better secure your IT environment.

What is a SIEM?

Cybersecurity service models all provide differing levels and combinations of threat detection, response, and post-event remediation. A Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) platform provides a service model that collects raw data in a centralized platform and applies behavioral logic to trigger notifications on incidents or security events. SIEMs meld two technologies together to provide a holistic view of an organization’s information security: Security Information Management (SIM) and Security Event Management (SEM).

  • SIM: The collection of data from log files from analysts and reports on security events.
  • SEM: System monitoring and notifications on potential indicators of compromise and the establishment of correlations within data.

The overall SIEM process is a combination of data collection, rules, notifications, and data consolidation and correlation. A SIEM works to provide real-time visibility across an organization through event log management that consolidates the data across all sources of network security information, correlates the events gathered based on pre-established rules and profiles, and then notify on security events. It is designed to dig through copious amounts of logs and identify anomalous behavior or opportunities vulnerable to threat actors.

Realities of implementing a SIEM

Requires expert configuration and manual upkeep

SIEMs need to be configured properly and tailored specifically to meet an organization’s business needs and its unique threat landscapes. Many SIEMs require management from a dedicated team to review/parse logs and reports, update rules, respond to alarms, and keep the software updated. Much of this work is manual which can be a significant hit to efficiency levels. Another element to consider is the task of keeping up with a changing environment. To get maximum value from your SIEM, its configuration will need to be consistently reviewed to ensure that the platform augments data analysis rather than hindering it. Out-of-the-box SIEMs cannot keep up with dynamically changing data and must be calibrated regularly to monitor evolving types of networks.

Managing data collection, analysis, and search

The effectiveness of a SIEM is largely attributed to both the quality and amount of data that it logs and analyzes. It is easy to overload a SIEM with huge volumes of data sources that create noise and alert fatigue. If your team is busy responding to an unfiltered stream of alerts, they may miss the ones that are critical in identifying bad actors. The team would need to perform manual parsing, filtering, and consistent re-evaluation for validity. Further, a SIEM operates under the use case scenarios that you implement. In reality, there is simply no way to categorize incoming data into a simple binary of ‘malicious’ or ‘safe’. In the long term, understand that SIEMs log thousands of events daily – a monumental task in itself. As you store these ongoing logs, it can be overwhelming to keep your data organized enough to ensure efficient search capability. The more information that a SIEM must interpret, the more inefficient it is for a team to search for critical data.

SIEMs vs Real-Time Response

In the event of a security event, cutting down on response times is crucial to safeguarding sensitive data. To do so, organizations need a proactive and agile approach to real-time response. While SIEMs are good for defending against known threats within fixed parameters, their rule-based approach may not translate well for reacting to advanced threats. Since a SIEM is designed to alert on potential threats after locating evidence within aggregated data logs, their reactive model can lack the context needed to provide actionable data right away. Organizations that are unable to pinpoint anomalies in real-time will not be able to make timely decisions on how to tackle critical events. A SIEM is capable of real-time logging to provide valuable information and visibility across an IT environment, but the value is in real time data interpretation allowing for immediate action.

Pairing an MDR with a SIEM

To create a more robust security solution and ensure full threat visibility, place the power of log aggregation with a Managed Detection Response (MDR) platform. MDRs are designed to provide real time response across your IT environment, proactively threat hunt for evidence of advanced malware, and identify key indicators of compromise. Experienced MDR analysts are able to sift through SIEM reports, collecting valuable threat intelligence needed to actively search networks, detect, and detain threats that can evade typical anti-virus or anti-malware solutions. Implementing an MDR solution allows the collected data from the SIEM to be parsed for patterns and correlation that may not have otherwise been recognized.

While SIEMs are not effective for real-time threat detection and response, they are an excellent means of discovering raw data and meeting compliance expectations. One of their greatest strengths is housing the data needed to aid in investigative efforts. They can also provide great value in helping an organization build monitoring controls and improved profiles based on identified suspicious behavior. Working in tandem, a SIEM collects event logs and telemetry from various network processes, devices, and systems while an MDR can provide the real-time comprehension and response needed to deliver a well-rounded security posture.

More Information

When an attack occurs, detection and response times often determine whether the actors succeed in their efforts. With attackers acting faster than ever, investing in an around-the-clock true Managed Detection and Response (MDR) service means that you can fight back within minutes and hours, not days and weeks.

Combine both prevention and advanced tradecraft detection technologies to monitor your account activity and behavior in real-time. 24/7 active threat hunting and response service provided by experienced security analysts can detect reconnaissance activities at their earliest stages. Learn more about such capabilities at Blackpoint Cyber.

Guest blog courtesy of by Blackpoint Cyber. Read more Blackpoint Cyber posts here.