Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Vulnerabilities / Threats

7/18/2017
10:30 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail vvv
50%
50%

SIEM Training Needs a Better Focus on the Human Factor

The problem with security information and event management systems isn't the solutions themselves but the training that people receive.

Logging solutions — or, more specifically, security information and event management (SIEM) solutions — have a bad reputation. Many implementations involve large sums of money and the promise to catch unauthorized and malicious activity. Fast forward a year or two into the deployment and often you will find upset senior management, exhausted security teams, and few detection capabilities. It isn't unheard of for organizations to swap SIEM systems every couple of years, similar to how organizations treat antivirus software.

The problem isn't with any specific SIEM solution. Instead, it's a lack of focus on people and processes. Well-trained staff can implement a strong detection platform regardless of SIEM product. This doesn't mean that all SIEM solutions are equal but, rather, that there is too much focus on products and not enough on people. Training from SIEM vendors is based on how to use their products. This is and should be required to properly use any solution, but it isn't enough. SIEM is a tool, and the focus must also be on the individual(s) wielding the tool.

By changing the focus to individuals, the core problem can start to be addressed. For example, assume you or another staff member attended training on how to catch the bad guys using a SIEM system. The focus, rather than being on maintaining/using a SIEM product, is on things such as which data sources are important, why they're important, and how to enrich those data sources so they make more sense, add context, and are more useful. The training may also include various methods to intentionally set up events to automatically send alerts on unauthorized activity. Would this individual not be better equipped to use any SIEM platform? I would argue that people who know why to use a SIEM system and what to use it for will have a much easier time figuring out how to get a SIEM platform to do what they need it to do.

The PowerShell Problem
Consider an example to illustrate this problem: PowerShell. PowerShell is a thing of beauty, allowing users to automate tasks and do things they otherwise couldn't. However, it's an attacker favorite to use against us. Many modern attacks use PowerShell to evade antivirus systems, whitelisting products, and other security technologies. Yet with a tactical SIEM architecture and proper logging, catching unauthorized PowerShell use can be simple. A properly trained individual can quickly use a SIEM platform to identify things such as:

  • PowerShell being invoked from a command line with a long length
  • PowerShell using base64 encoding
  • PowerShell making calls to external systems
  • A system performing large amounts of PowerShell calls
  • A system invoking PowerShell outside powershell.exe by using Sysmon DLL monitoring in conjunction with the specific PowerShell DLLs

Taking this further, a trained individual may try exporting all unique PowerShell cmdlets found within SIEM logs and turn around and use the result as a detection-based whitelist, a technique that is applicable across multiple data sources. They also may use the whitelist to filter out all logs unless they use an unknown cmdlet, thus severely decreasing the number of logs being collected. This simple process can detect 99.99% or possibly even 100% of PowerShell-based malware, and yet SIEM training doesn't cover this concept.

This is not a failure on part of the SIEM vendors. Their training is on how to use their product, which is necessary. The problem is that SIEM-neutral training geared toward individuals didn't exist until recently.

Remember that SIEM is a tool. Your mileage will vary dramatically, based on the individuals using the tool. If you want a successful detection platform, make sure your team is trained on the following:

  • Key data sources, including what they are, why they're important, and how to use and collect them
  • How to enrich logs and why you need to do so
  • Intentional detection techniques such as implementing virtual tripwires
  • The difference between a bad alert (high false positives) and a good alert (low or zero false positives)

If you wish to learn more, please check out the SANS course SEC555: SIEM with Tactical Analytics or research these concepts online. The more the security community gives back, the better we'll all do.

Related Content:

Justin Henderson is a SANS Instructor and course author of SEC555: SIEM with Tactical Analytics, and CEO of H & A Security Solutions. He is a passionate security architect and researcher with over decade of experience working in the Healthcare industry. He has also had ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
mfuentes
100%
0%
mfuentes,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/18/2017 | 12:34:06 PM
Spot on!
This is a great write-up that speaks directly to the disconnect between organizations and the results that they expect.  Everybody is so busy throwing money into tools and technology when they should be spending more on people and processes.

These things are not magic wands, people!  Tools are only as good as the people wielding them.
7 Truths About BEC Scams
Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer,  6/13/2019
DNS Firewalls Could Prevent Billions in Losses to Cybercrime
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  6/13/2019
Cognitive Bias Can Hamper Security Decisions
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  6/10/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Building and Managing an IT Security Operations Program
As cyber threats grow, many organizations are building security operations centers (SOCs) to improve their defenses. In this Tech Digest you will learn tips on how to get the most out of a SOC in your organization - and what to do if you can't afford to build one.
Flash Poll
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
Your enterprise's cyber risk may depend upon the relationship between the IT team and the security team. Heres some insight on what's working and what isn't in the data center.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-12855
PUBLISHED: 2019-06-16
In words.protocols.jabber.xmlstream in Twisted through 19.2.1, XMPP support did not verify certificates when used with TLS, allowing an attacker to MITM connections.
CVE-2013-7472
PUBLISHED: 2019-06-15
The "Count per Day" plugin before 3.2.6 for WordPress allows XSS via the wp-admin/?page=cpd_metaboxes daytoshow parameter.
CVE-2019-12839
PUBLISHED: 2019-06-15
In OrangeHRM 4.3.1 and before, there is an input validation error within admin/listMailConfiguration (txtSendmailPath parameter) that allows authenticated attackers to achieve arbitrary command execution.
CVE-2019-12840
PUBLISHED: 2019-06-15
In Webmin through 1.910, any user authorized to the "Package Updates" module can execute arbitrary commands with root privileges via the data parameter to update.cgi.
CVE-2019-12835
PUBLISHED: 2019-06-15
formats/xml.cpp in Leanify 0.4.3 allows for a controlled out-of-bounds write in xml_memory_writer::write via characters that require escaping.