If there’s one thing that sets good incident-response teams apart from not-so-good ones, it’s planning. It may sound like an oversimplification, but ensuring you’ll have what you need before an incident happens makes all the difference. And nowhere is this more critical than when it comes to easy access and availability of log data.
Log information represents the only sensory input we have for past activity on our networks. And no matter how much real-time information any security data management system claims to provide, the bulk of any incident investigation will be spent dealing with events that have already transpired. The ability to store information and to access it in a meaningful way will be what makes or breaks incident response capabilities.
The only way to know what’s normal on a network is to gather as much information as possible on day-to-day activity and then look for anything that demonstrates deviation. This type of data monitoring, sorting, filtering, and correlation requires a highly specialized system known as SIEM, or security information and event management. SIEM is a welcome combination of what used to betwo separate product categories: SEM (security event management), which dealt with security event monitoring, correlation, and notification, and SIM (security information management), which dealt with the long-term storage and analysis of security data.
SIEM products are designed to serve as a warehouse for all the security alerts and logging information from a company’s disparate systems, providing both real-time access to current alert information and the ability to correlate recent incidents with others over time. Companies considering a SIEM product should ask themselves the following questions:
1. What do we expect from a SIEM system?
The worst thing you can do when purchasing any security product is to allow the vendor to define your requirements. Before you let a salesperson through the door, clearly define your expectations for a SIEM system.
Are you planning to use it as the cornerstone of a 24x7 security monitoring system? Will it be used to manage insider threats? Are you aiming to correlate attacks against your borders at multiple facilities? Is it simply a means of checking off some boxes on a compliance audit?
If compliance is a driving force in your search for a SIEM system, you probably have even more homework to do. SIEM systems vary widely here: Some fully embrace compliance with sets of built-in compliance-specific correlation rules, reports, and dashboard-type functionality; others include a few basic reports and claim they’ll support your compliance initiative.
To read the other nine questions -- and to get some advice on how you can store security data without breaking the bank -- download the full report on evaluating and implementing SIEM technology.
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