Cybersecurity is a 24×7 job. Since hackers don’t work 9 to 5, neither can we. In fact, many attacks are purposely initiated at the beginning of a weekend or holiday to maximize the opportunity before they are discovered.
Many organizations have realized the difficulty of handling cybersecurity internally, whether it be hiring staff with the right expertise, purchasing expensive software solutions or configuring those solutions to send alerts effectively. These challenges prompt organizations to partner with outsourced managed security service providers (MSSPs) to handle the burden and reduce upfront cost. Institutions look to MSSPs for cybersecurity solutions, including outsourced Security Operations Centers (SOCs), to provide them with the tools and expertise to remain secure.
A Layered Approach to Cybersecurity
Organizations should take a layered security approach to maximize protection efforts and ensure that if one piece of technology fails, another layer can pick up what was missed—or in some cases breached.
A layered security approach often consists of two components: prevention and detection. Prevention tools consist of commonly known cybersecurity solutions such as firewalls, spam filters and anti-virus software. These tools are configured to block potentially malicious traffic and code.
But what happens if something does get past those prevention tools? That is when detection becomes critical.
What is a SIEM?
Almost all technology devices and software produce event logs, which are a history of all events occurring on that system. These logs record events like successful or failed logins and connections to internet sites and can be used to find anomalies and potential breaches. Historically, regulators expected humans to review these logs and look for issues. But many devices produce hundreds of these event logs per second, making it nearly impossible for a human to find the needle in the haystack.
That’s where a Security Incident Event Management (SIEM) solution is most powerful. A SIEM, if configured correctly, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to collect and holistically review these event logs across a technology environment, detecting anomalies and alerting on them.
When you visit a doctor, it’s important to relay all your symptoms, so the doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis. A SIEM does the same thing for an IT environment by looking across your entire IT environment to diagnose possible security threats. A SIEM can ingest logs from onsite equipment like firewalls and servers, software like anti-virus solutions and even cloud-hosted services like Office 365.
While a SIEM is a powerful cybersecurity detection tool, it can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase. A SIEM can also require countless hours to configure and maintain. Some organizations that have purchased SIEM solutions may never have the time or expertise to investigate the majority of alerts their SIEM produces. And when alerts go unchecked, organizations risk the chance of a small incident becoming a major breach.
SIEM as a Service
For these reasons, many organizations have turned to managed SIEM solutions, or SIEM as a Service (SIEMaaS). In a SIEMaaS model, an organization collects all event logs and sends them over a secure connection to an outsourced SIEM. This SIEM then produces alerts that are directed back to the internal IT team or to an outsourced SOC for investigation and review.
An outsourced SIEM is fine-tuned and managed by a vendor’s SOC, which significantly reduces the time burden on internal IT and turns the cost into an ongoing operational expense instead of a large upfront investment.
To enhance security further, many outsourced SOCs also offer incident response. This is known as a Security Operations and Response (SOAR) solution, and in this case, SOCs will respond to critical alerts and stop active threats.
Historically, SIEM solutions were very expensive and mainly used by larger organizations. Smaller organizations found themselves wondering if the benefits of a SIEM outweighed the expense and effort. SIEMaaS removes the barriers to entry and offers affordable options for organizations of all sizes. The holistic nature of SIEM makes it one of the most critical layers of security, as it is one of the few options to merge traditionally segregated systems.
It is not uncommon for SIEMaaS solutions to ingest billions of logs and produce thousands of alerts per month, requiring an entire security team to work around-the-clock to review, investigate and remediate these alerts. MSSPs invest resources to perfect their SIEM solutions to the point where only truly valuable alerts are received, removing that burden from institutions.
Embracing SIEM as Your Platform for Protection
Organizations that already use one or more advanced threat protection solutions may wonder if a SIEM is necessary. As more AI-based protection solutions become the norm, SIEM aggregates information from these disparate sources—such as endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions—to provide a holistic look at an IT environment.
On its own, EDR monitors specific endpoints, identifying anomalies and blocking malware using more advanced threat intelligence than traditional anti-virus solutions. EDR solutions also produce event logs that can be correlated and fed into the SIEM, offering enhanced insight. Other advanced threat protection solutions like intrusion prevention systems (IPS), intrusion detection systems (IDS), web filtering and advanced spam filtering also generate logs for the SIEM to analyze, demonstrating how these solutions work together to help your institution achieve a more advanced security posture.
Enhancing Your Cybersecurity Monitoring Strategy
As cybercriminals continue working to infiltrate and exploit networks, systems and data, it’s more important than ever that you leverage tools to strengthen your organization’s cybersecurity posture and ensure you have a comprehensive view of your IT environment. With the ability to detect and respond to threats, SIEMaaS delivers advanced protection and unmatched insight—enhancing your defenses against current and evolving cybersecurity risks.
Rachael Schwartz has more than nine years of experience in advising financial firms. Prior to joining CSI, she worked with some of the largest hedge funds and private equity funds in New York City as an IT and cybersecurity consultant. In her current role at CSI, she lends her expertise to community banks, helping them maximize their technology investments and increase security while reducing their operational burdens.