What is SIEM (Security Information and Event Management)?

IT security plays a major role in modern companies. Cyber criminals have become skilled at spotting even the smallest security gaps to steal sensitive data, inject malicious software, or cripple entire company networks. In addition to financial losses that can range into the millions, these issues also threaten the reputation of a company. If it becomes public knowledge that data security is not faring well, the negative effects on the trust of potential new customers and existing customers should not be underestimated.

SIEM systems promise to prevent this scenario by detecting suspicious events and current attack trends. What is security information and event management, what advantages does it offer your company, and how exactly does it work?

What is SIEM?

The abbreviation SIEM stands for Security Information and Event Management, a combination of the two concepts SIM (Security Information Management) and SEM (Security Event Management). Together they form a software-based concept that enables a holistic view of IT security. A SIEM system always takes company-specific requirements into account by providing clear, individual definitions of which processes and events are relevant to security, the kind of responses they require, and the priority of these responses. For this reason, security information and event management can also be understood as a comprehensive set of rules for applicable security standards and guidelines for maintaining quality in the IT operations of a company.

Note

Preventive security measures such as the establishment of a company-wide SIEM system are important for the long-term IT success of a company. However, it is equally important that you are prepared for an emergency. For example, an IT emergency handbook regulates responsibilities and solution strategies in the event of complete failure of a company’s IT structure.

How does SIEM work?

The aim of security information and event management is to be able to react to threats as quickly and precisely as possible. IT managers therefore have a powerful tool that enables them to take action before it is too late. For this purpose, SIEM systems try to make attacks and attack trends visible in real time by collecting and evaluating customary messages, alarm notifications, and logfiles. Various devices, components, and applications of the company network serve as sources, such as the following:

  • Firewalls (software and hardware)
  • Switches
  • Router
  • Server (file server, FTP server, VPN server, proxy server, etc.)
  • IDS and IPS

Software agents – autonomously working computer programs that are specially designed for the transfer of data – ensure that this wealth of data is collected and forwarded to a central SIEM station. In order to reduce the amount of data to be transferred, pre-processing of the information by the agents is included in many systems.

On the one hand, the information is stored and structured in the central SIEM station and, on the other, the different pieces of data are put into communication with each other and are analysed on this basis. Typical bases for analysis and evaluation include concretely defined rule sets, AI, technologies – especially machine learning – and correlation models.

Note

Correlation models are used in security information and event management for establishing correlations in the recorded log information and security events that have occurred. For example, there are models for the structural analysis of the input data that generate an event graph with direct and indirect relationships between the individual events.

You can then visualise and clearly inspect the various evaluation results and key figures on a dashboard, which you can usually design individually and thus optimally tailor to the requirements of your company. You will receive immediate notification for data or events detected by a SIEM system that pose an imminent threat to computer security – usually via email.

The advantages of security information and event management at a glance

Security-critical incidents in the modern IT environment cannot be completely avoided. However, early detection and recording of dangers increase the chance of minimising any damage as much as possible. A SIEM system provides the perfect basis for this. In particular, a real-time response to recorded security events is one of the key strengths of such a solution: The automated algorithms and AI tools detect dangers at a time when ordinary security measures often do not work, if at all.

Note

The dedicated server from IONOS also relies on SIEM. All server resources that are billed to the minute are monitored in real time with this solution to ensure maximum protection.

Another advantage of a good SIEM solution is that all security events are automatically documented and archived in a tamper-proof manner. This makes it easier to prove that applicable laws on data security and data protection have been observed and complied with properly. Security information and event management can therefore play a decisive role in the context of an individual, internal compliance plan.

Finally, a SIEM system also helps to optimise human resources: Due to the high degree of automation that is linked to the real-time monitoring and analysis, IT employees can focus on other tasks. Alternatively, the need for personnel can be significantly reduced.

Where is SIEM used?

A SIEM solution enriches the IT security system of any company that does not just want to react to current and future cyber threats, but prefers to prepare in advance. In particular, companies that deal with sensitive customer data or rely on smooth IT operations often depend on security information and event management for this reason. The following two practical examples illustrate just how much this effort can pay off.

Practical example: brute force attack

A user unsuccessfully tries to log in to various applications in the network. After several failed attempts, they are still able to log in to one application. Of course, this could simply be an employee who actually forgot their login data and who finally managed to log in through trial and error. It could, however, be an attacker and the attack is referred to as a brute force attack. A SIEM system records such access methods reliably, and gives you the opportunity to prevent further login attempts in good time.

Practical example: VPN access attempts

Remote access via a VPN is not uncommon among many company networks. It is all the more important that attacks aiming to take advantage of the structure of these virtual private networks are exposed. If, for example, there are a large number of attempts to log in to the VPN network from different locations within a short period of time, a security information and event management solution could classify this as suspicious activity.


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