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SIEM software basics and use cases for IT administrators

Security information and event management products use algorithms to stop cyberattacks in their tracks, but they also offer other workflow benefits for admins.

With the growing number of devices in an IT ecosystem, security information and event management is a necessity for administrators to stay on top of system vulnerabilities and attack surfaces and to efficiently respond to cyberattacks.

Through information aggregation from servers, physical and virtual storage, PCs, and smartphones, security information and event management (SIEM) software helps keep security measures manageable.

To protect their systems, IT administrators must understand how SIEM software works, why they should consider implementation and the potential use cases.

How does SIEM software work?

SIEM software organizes security data in one place for IT administrators to monitor. The software draws data from all devices, including host systems, applications and security tools. It then analyzes the data and alerts admins to address attacks on the system in real time.

SIEM software uses heuristic algorithms based on probabilities to address different types of attacks, such as zero-day exploits, distributed denial-of-service attacks or brute-force attacks. With a system baseline, the software can implement pattern matching, log aggregation and analysis to pinpoint abnormal activity.

These tools work with company policies to establish what actions should be taken against malicious files. Based on these algorithms, the software initiates an automated response to an attack as it occurs, such as blocking or offloading potentially malicious or performance-reducing traffic, while maintaining standard operations. In doing so, it also sends out an alert to administrators and logs further information. This enables admins to find out what actions led up to a breach, where it came from and how far it spread in the organization.

SIEM software use cases and benefits

SIEM software has often been used for data reports and malware protection, but its algorithms can also help investigate attacks by recording additional information about security events. It pulls data from all the devices and normalizes it so administrators can analyze typical use patterns. This is more effective than signature-based antivirus software because it cuts down the time admins must spend wading through data logs and alerts.

SIEM software has often been used for data reports and malware protection, but its algorithms can also help investigate attacks.

Additionally, SIEM software identifies malicious activity within the organization by comparing typical network or user behaviors. It also finds unnecessarily encrypted traffic. SIEM tools can figure out where an attack came from and identify the attack targets.

These functions create more benefits for SIEM administrators. SIEM's ability to automatically react to security issues helps reduce their workloads. Their time can be spent on more big-picture initiatives because the software makes workflow changes that stop malicious activity or create alerts for manual intervention.

Furthermore, companies using machine learning and artificial intelligence can add to the SIEM software capabilities by increasing the data used to find cyber and ransomware attacks. This can add to the accuracy and speed at which the software responds to potential attacks and programmed event alerts.

This was last published in June 2018

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