What to Look for in a SIEM Provider

Zach DeMeyer
March 2, 2023

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) plays a significant role in any security program. SIEM aggregates and analyzes data from across your company’s users, endpoints, networks, cloud infrastructure, apps, and more to provide visibility. This, in turn, enables the critical processes of detecting and analyzing suspicious behaviors that pose a threat to your business.

If you want to add SIEM to your technology stack, it’s important to understand your needs and use cases to find the best solution. In this blog, we've compiled everything you need to look for when evaluating SIEM providers and questions to ask before selecting the one that's right for you.

Key SIEM features to seek out

Not all SIEM solutions are created equal. Understanding how different providers approach different features helps you make the right choice for your business. Some crucial features of SIEM to look for include:  

Retention periods

Retention periods are how long your collected data is stored, which is a cornerstone function of SIEM. SIEM providers offer a wide variety of retention periods. Many regulations require at least a year of log retention to demonstrate compliance. Knowing your specific requirements, it’s best to find an option that fits those needs.

Integrations and data sources

Your SIEM is only as good as the data it ingests. The best SIEM option for you is the one that integrates across the various applications, infrastructure, endpoints, and other resources in your environment. That way, you can point each of those assets to your SIEM and begin collecting data without too much configuration work on the front end.

Reporting capability

With so much data coming in from your various systems, your SIEM must be able to keep up with it all. It’s imperative that you can properly aggregate and display this data in a way that is easy to consume and understand. This is especially true if you are a service provider managing visibility across multiple client organizations simultaneously.

The right SIEM will be able to manage large volumes of both data ingested and alert outputs to keep you informed as your business scales.  It will also provide you with both pre-generated and customizable reports and dashboards showing key data points like failed login attempts, access attempts by geolocation, or whatever other indicators you need to track. That way, you can easily hone in on potential threats, quickly review after-action information, and effectively prove compliance to regulatory auditors. These reports can also be of use when demonstrating the efficacy of your security program to your board of directors, investors, insurance carriers, or clients.

Detection coverage

With data flowing properly into the SIEM, the next factor is how it’s analyzed. Your SIEM needs to be able to detect potential threats across all of your data sources. The best SIEMs have detection rules, both preconfigured and custom, that  analyzes data to detect threats, including lateral movement across environments. Using these rules, your team will be better equipped to identify threats including:

  • Compromised user credentials
  • Insider threat actors
  • Lateral compromise
  • Persistent threats
  • Data exfiltration

With the right rules in place, you'll ensure your business is prepared to defend against today's advanced threat actors.  

Continuous improvement via ML

Today’s top SIEMs integrate advanced analytics, driven by machine learning (ML) engines, to detect both known and unknown security threats.  ML engines identify deviations from baseline behavior, such as lateral movement, so your team doesn’t have to constantly crunch data.

One use case for leveraging ML to analyze mass quantities of SIEM data is ransomware detection. For example, by analyzing static file attributes across an entire environment, ML identifies if a file is malicious or benign. This also applies to low-level system attributes, finding if ransomware has been installed and is making changes to system operations, or worse, moved laterally to other systems. Additional techniques like behavioral signal analysis depend on ML to streamline the examination of other processes to root out in-memory attacks and more.

Case management methods

How do you prefer to learn about potential security breaches? Knowing when something triggers a rule is important, but you don’t want to get bogged down by endless notifications. Instead, have your SIEM notify you only when a situation constitutes an actual security event.  SIEM solutions with case-building and management features aggregate rule data into a single overview, making it easier to see the entire effect of an event across your environment. This approach even combines smaller triggers with other correlated ones that may constitute a larger threat to facilitate quicker detection and prompt immediate response.

From there, your SIEM should also streamline the investigation process. For example, if you can add comments to alerts, you can share feedback with other team members or your MDR provider. Beyond that, establishing process trees and event timelines allow you to further your investigations and better understand both the root causes and extent of a breach.

Ease of use

Capping all of this off is the actual usage of the product itself. An option with the best of all the above categories will be useless if you can’t implement it properly because the product is too complex or poorly designed.

SIEM takes so much time to properly deploy, configure, and optimize that it can practically be a full-time job. Find a SIEM that makes visibility, detection, and investigation easy, so you don’t drown limited security resources in menial tasks.  Some providers even offer a managed SIEM, supported by dedicated detection engineering teams who actively seek out threats based on detection rules, third-party reports, machine learning, and active threat hunting. These options take even more legwork off your plate while also improving your security posture overall.

Asking the right questions

Finding a provider that offers the features you need is an important first step, but your due diligence isn’t done yet. Here are some questions to ask to further narrow down which SIEM provider is right for you:

  • How often do you update to accommodate for new threats?
  • Is it a managed SIEM?
  • How does your SIEM handle cases and assist with investigations?
  • How long does it take to set up?
  • What level of support do you provide?
  • How can your SIEM address my compliance needs?
  • How does your SIEM help us manage security incidents?
  • What capabilities does your SIEM include to power forensic investigations?

You know your requirements best, so ask more questions specific to your precise scenario to gauge how a SIEM will fit your needs.  You must advocate for your business’s security posture and ensure that the SIEM provider can meet your use cases.

Next steps

Once you’ve decided on the right SIEM for you, the next step is to ensure it is implemented properly. The right data must be ingested, and detection rules must be in place to ensure full threat detection coverage. Read on for our SIEM implementation guide to get started building your visibility engine.

For a full overview of how to leverage SIEM for complete threat detection and visibility, download our eBook.

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