SIEM: Sprint or Marathon?

Winning a marathon requires dedication and preparation. Over long periods of time. A sprint requires intense energy but for a short period of time. While some tasks in IT Security are closer to a sprint (e.g., configuring a firewall), many, like deploying and using a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution, are closer to a marathon.

What are the hard parts?

  1. Identifying the scope
  2. Ingesting log data and filtering out noise events
  3. Reviewing the data with discipline

Surveys show that 75% of organizations need to perform significant discovery to determine which devices, platforms, applications and databases should be included in the scope for log monitoring. The point is that when most companies really evaluate their log monitoring process, most of them don’t really know what systems are even available for them to include. They don’t know what they have. Additionally, 50% of organizations later realize that this initial discovery phase is not sufficient to meet their security needs. So, even after performing the discovery, they are not sure they have identified the right systems.

While on-boarding new clients, we usually identify legacy systems or firewall policies that generate large volumes of unnecessary data. This includes discovery of service accounts or scripts with expired credentials that appear to generate suspicious looking login failures. Other common items uncovered include network health monitoring systems which generate an abnormal amount of ICMP or SNMP activity, backup tools and internal applications using non-standard ports and cleartext protocols. Each of these false positives or legitimate activities add straw to the haystack(s), which makes it more difficult to find the needle. Every network contains activities that might appear suspicious or benign to an outside observer that lacks background on everyday activities of the company being monitored. It is important for network and security administrators to provide monitoring tools with additional context and background detail to account for the variety of networks that are thrown at them.

Reviewing the data with discipline is a difficult ask for organizations with a lean IT staff. Since IT is often viewed as a “cost center,” it is rare to see organizations (esp. mid-sized ones) with suitably trained IT Security staff.

Take heart — if getting there using only internal resources is a hard problem, our SIEM Simplified service gets you there. The bonus is the cost savings compared to a DIY approach.