Guide to SIEM and Log Management Solutions
With the risk of data breaches constantly on the rise, data security is a high priority for modern business. Keeping sensitive and financial information of customers and employees is essential for companies, especially in the healthcare and financial industries. However, knowing what to look for to identify a breach can be a challenge. That’s where log monitoring and SIEM solutions can help — by gaining insights into a security systems’ health through comprehensive monitoring, companies can identify and react to threats as they arise.
While log management and SIEM are often mentioned together, these two systems offer very different features and benefits. Understanding the unique capabilities of each solution is essential to finding the right security monitoring system for your business.
What Is Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)?
In learning about SIEM, one of the first questions companies often ask is, “What does SIEM mean?” SIEM is short for security information and event management. It’s a comprehensive security solution that helps businesses manage their secure information and monitor security events within their networks. The term SIEM was coined in 2005, and the technology is the culmination of several computer security techniques and technologies combined. Some of the most critical techniques SIEM builds upon include:
- Log Management (LM): Log management involves the collection and storage of log files from a business’ operating systems and software applications.
- Security Event Management (SEM): Security event management monitors systems in real time, correlating events and providing a holistic view of a system to help identify threats.
- Security Information Management (SIM): Security information management systems store, analyze, manipulate and report on security records.
- Security Event Correlation (SEC): Security event correlation systems track sequences of events that indicate a potential threat and alert administrators when these events occur.
Each of these technologies individually will only do so much, and just shows a narrow view of a business’ network. Together, however, these technologies result in a SIEM solution that is greater than the sum of its parts.
SIEM Features and Capabilities
SIEM products are best defined by the following features and capabilities:
- Aggregation: SIEM systems collect security logs from applications and operating systems across a network, but also collects any relevant contextual data, including identity information and vulnerability assessments.
- Organization: Once collected, SIEM systems convert the data of collected logs into a consistent format that it can use, then organizes these logs into categories for easy reference and recollection.
- Correlation: SIEM products compare and relate events to one another using rule-based, statistical or algorithmic correlation, among other methods. Usually, these systems focus on correlating historical data, but many SIEM solutions offer real-time correlation to some extent.
- Alerts: Security information and event management systems often send out messages to administrators using email, SMS or SNMP messages so that they are alerted to issues as quickly as possible.
- Prioritization: Multiple features within the SIEM solution, including correlation and prioritization algorithms, highlight the most important security events, prioritizing them over less critical events that affect fewer systems.
- Visibility: SIEM solutions come with monitoring dashboards and display operations that security analysts and personnel can use to view their business’ network in real time while also allowing easy access to historical data.
- Reporting: Reports are essential for compliance purposes, and scheduled reporting functions are a staple of SIEM, covering all the historical data generated by the SIEM system. These reports can be customized for compliance purposes or generated for internal use.
In total, SIEM solutions provide wide, detailed views of your company’s security system health in real time, giving your security analysts and personnel the best tool possible to do their jobs effectively.
Benefits and Drawbacks of SIEM Solutions
SIEM benefits vary across organizations since each organization has a unique set of needs for each SIEM system. However, all organizations tend to benefit from:
- Streamlined Compliance: While security is often a huge concern for corporations implementing SIEM, many other businesses, especially those in the financial and healthcare industries, choose SIEM systems to help them streamline their compliance reporting. While log management systems can be used for this purpose, SIEM systems organize and compile all pertinent logs needed for compliance reports, saving hours of time and effort as well as costs and fees associated with noncompliance.
- Improved Breach Detection: While SIEM systems are not security systems themselves, they can boost the security offered by firewalls and other enterprise security controls. SIEM systems are extremely adept at detecting breaches, primarily through their robust algorithms that identify even small indicators. With correlation and prioritization algorithms, SIEM software can find and notify administrators of breaches as they are happening, even if the breaches seem small. This saves a great deal of time and money that would otherwise be spent recovering from undetected security breaches.
- Efficient Incident Handling: If a breach does occur, SIEM systems can increase the efficiency with which incidents are handled. When an incident occurs, a SIEM system notifies the incident handler of where the breach occurred and which systems it affected. The system can also help stop attacks that are still in progress and contain compromised systems. This makes it easier for incident handlers to take control of the breach.
These benefits of SIEM tools enable organizations of all industries to take control of their logs and make the most of them. However, SIEM systems are not appropriate for all businesses, and they do have their drawbacks. Two main things to consider about a SIEM solution include:
- Requires Personnel: Even though SIEM solutions are somewhat automated, the results they offer are meaningless without personnel. From responding to threats to identifying false-positives and other noise, security analysts are needed to keep operations running smoothly.
- Needs Configuration: SIEM solutions need to be configured to function properly within an organization. If not configured properly, the SIEM solution may not get a full view of your business’ network, leaving portions vulnerable to attack.
What Is Log Management?
Everything in your enterprise’s network generates logs, which document the activities and events that occur within applications and operating systems in a network. According to Solutions Review, an enterprise can easily generate over 10 terabytesof plain-text data per month. Finding and managing all these logs manually can be extremely labor-intensive, and the larger your business, the less manageable these logs become. This is where log management solutions can be useful.
Log management systems handle your logs for you, identifying what logs need to be pulled, how and where these logs are stored and for how long. On top of these basic functions, some log management systems also analyze and report on logs. Not only do these functions make it easier for security personnel to identify and react to potential security breaches, but they also make it easier to compile reports for compliance audits, which are particularly important for businesses in the financial and healthcare industries, as well as government agencies.
Log Management Features and Capabilities
Log management systems are most strongly defined by the following features and capabilities:
- Log Data Collection: Log management systems collect all logs from systems within a network, including operating systems and applications.
- Efficient Retention: Log management systems need to be efficient at retaining gigabytes and terabytes of log data while also making it easy to retrieve for quick access.
- Searching: Searching functions are the primary way in which logs are retrieved. These functions are essential for use in log forensics and investigation when something goes awry.
- Log Indexing: Log indexing is a method that can significantly speed up log searches with keywords or Boolean search capabilities.
- Reporting: Reports cover all the data collected by a log management system and organize the data into documents that can be used for compliance, security or operational purposes.
These features make log management tools important for security, compliance and general operational purposes in small to mid-size businesses.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Log Management
One of the first steps to creating a protocol for security analysis is determining how to manage your logs. Logs, of course, are messages generated by computers that show how a device or application functions. They come from many kinds of hardware and software — almost every device with a computer can make logs. One detail logs can track is when users attempt to or successfully log in.
- Compiles Extensive Data: The logs collected by log management systems are essential by themselves, but also come with contextual data that allows for a more detailed understanding of what occurred during the event. This can include the systems affected, the people involved and other factors.
- Simplifies Compliance: Many log management systems come complete with compliance reports that can be used for reporting to HIPAA or PCI-DSS, among other regulatory agencies. These reports make it easier for businesses to maintain compliance with national regulatory entities.
These two factors make log management systems invaluable for businesses looking to stay on top of their security. However, there are significant drawbacks to log management systems that should be taken into consideration:
- Lack of Automation: Even small companies can generate huge volumes of data at a very fast rate. Without an automated system to identify problems within the data as they arise, keeping on top of these logs requires significant time and labor. Often, instead of using the data to its fullest extent, many smaller businesses opt to collect logs without viewing them regularly, leaving themselves more vulnerable to breaches and missing out on the potential offered by log management.
- Potential Data Variability: Depending on the log management system, logs collected by the system may appear in a variety of formats, making it difficult to get through them all efficiently or compile them into reports.
In short, log management can be beneficial as a component of a larger system but is not a viable security tool for large businesses or businesses with little to no IT security staff.
How Do SIEM and Log Management Differ?
Log management and SIEM are closely related to one another, but as separate systems, they differ on three primary levels. The key differences stem from:
- Focus: The primary focus of SIEM is security, while log management is more focused on the collection and storage of logs in general. While SIEM uses logs for security, its focus and primary purpose goes beyond basic log management.
- Automation: SIEM systems possess several automated functions, including aggregation, correlation, alerts and reporting, minimizing the amount of labor needed to maintain the system. On the other hand, log management offers only aggregation and reporting. Without automated correlation and alert functions, log management systems require significantly more labor to glean any meaningful security information.
- Real-Time Analysis: SIEM systems offer real-time analysis of data as it comes in, powered by robust analytical software that can handle large amounts of data. Log management systems cannot offer this, however, due to the lack of automation and because analytical personnel cannot keep up with incoming data to gain real-time insights.
These factors are the major things to consider about each system when choosing between a SIEM software and a log management solution. However, companies also need to consider the capabilities and concerns of their own business. When assessing whether to go with a SIEM software or a log management solution, there are four major factors to take into account:
- Responsiveness: Your organization must be able to respond quickly to alerts produced by a SIEM system to benefit. If your organization does not have personnel available to respond to threats as they occur, the alerts provided by the SIEM system won’t be effective.
- Monitoring Capability: SIEM systems are not perfect — they still result in false-positives and can be affected by noise within the network. To make the most of the system, your organization needs a team dedicated to ongoing monitoring of your SIEM system. Otherwise, your SIEM may not reach peak effectiveness.
- Customization Ability: SIEM systems have to be customized to function properly — out-of-the-box systems will rarely work for businesses. If your business is unable to customize and tune the system or hire a consulting firm to do it for you, you won’t see the benefits offered by SIEM solutions.
- Data Volume: If your company has a small network that produces limited logs per day, a log management system may be more appropriate than a SIEM system, unless you are looking to SIEM for another purpose besides security monitoring.
Considering these factors and the recommendations of organizations like Solutions Review, smaller organizations will typically turn to log management as a preferred solution, while larger organizations look to SIEM systems. However, organizations should still allow themselves some flexibility — even businesses planning to stick with a log management system for a while should pick one that integrates with a SIEM solution so that they have options in the future. That is exactly what you get with BlackStratus products.
Why Choose BlackStratus?
With a SIEM system and a robust log management software, your business can get the best of both worlds, receiving detailed network logs and a security monitoring system that will bring your network security to the next level. If your company is looking to improve its cybersecurity, BlackStratus offers comprehensive SIEM and log management solutions. LOGStorm, SIEMStorm and CYBERShark are intelligent log management systems designed to provide invaluable system security measures for organizations of all industries. Our systems offer:
- Network Monitoring: Visualize your network security health in real time. BlackStratus systems offer advanced analytical and correlation technology that identifies threats as they arise, allowing your business to respond quickly.
- Scalable System: Businesses are made to grow, and you need a system that can grow with you. BlackStratus’ programs are highly scalable and provide consistent service through a secure cloud network, so your organization doesn’t need to invest in additional hardware to have the system work effectively.
- Event Logging: The event logging system offered by BlackStratus automatically logs incidents from all network devices, encrypts them for security and optimizes them for rapid recollection. Each log is stored for 12 months in the system.
- Compliance: Possibly the most critical feature of BlackStratus’ systems is compliance. Our systems are compliant with major regulatory institutions, ensuring that your data is secured properly at all levels, and also include pre-configured compliance reporting tools for HIPAA, PCI-DSS and FISMA, among others.
Get Started with BlackStratus
Choose the right SIEM or log management software for your business. Learn more about BlackStratus’ software solutions today by calling 844-564-7876, contacting us online or requesting a demonstration of one of our software solutions through our contact forms for SIEMstorm, LOGStorm and CYBERShark.