Changing the SIEM Game

Making the investment for storage, processing and infrastructure support

For many companies, deploying security information and event monitoring (SIEM) technology to strengthen the ability to identify potential security threats has been an unreachable goal.

That might be about to change, with two of the largest public cloud service providers announcing new cloudbased offerings that include SIEM capabilities. Implementing SIEM has been a challenge because many organizations do not have the storage, processing and related infrastructure to support these applications. Many either cannot afford to make the investment or are unwilling to do so.

Now, with both Microsoft and Google announcing new services that support SIEM, the technology has suddenly become more approachable and affordable for organizations from the largest enterprises to small companies looking to bolster their cyber security postures.

Google announced a multitude of security-related capabilities for its Google Cloud Platform (GCP), including Cloud Security Command Center (Cloud SCC), a security management and data risk platform for GCP. The platform includes an Event Threat Detection service that leverages Google-proprietary intelligence models to quickly detect threats such as malware, cryptomining and outgoing distributed denial-of-services (DDoS) attacks.

Around the same time, Microsoft introduced Azure Sentinel, a cloud-native SIEM platform that provides intelligent security analytics at cloud scale. Azure Sentinel is designed to make it easy to collect security data across an entire hybrid organization from devices, users, applications and servers on any cloud using artificial intelligence (AI) to identify real threats quickly.

Multiple Benefits

With these cloud-native services, businesses can acquire the functionality and capabilities of SIEM without making the financial outlay for servers, storage and related maintenance and support. The cost shifts from capital expenditures to operating expenditures, and the economics of the cloud make pricing far more palatable even for organizations with limited security budgets.

Additionally, organizations don’t need to acquire as much, or any, of the internal expertise they would need if they were running these systems on premises. With the ongoing shortage of cyber security skills, that’s an important factor and another cost consideration. These services can also be deployed much faster than on-premises systems because the service providers are doing all the heavy lifting as far as infrastructure is concerned.

Another key advantage to cloud-based SIEM is scalability. Because of the cloud infrastructure supporting the services, organizations can easily scale processing and storage up or down as needed. Many companies have struggled with the issue of how many months’ worth of security logs to keep and how to scale storage to accommodate that. That’s not an issue with the cloud.

As a result, companies are not limited by storage capacity or number of events. They no longer need to port event logs out of the cloud environment into on-premise platforms if they have such products. There are long-term archiving solutions available. That enables companies to access past events without having to keep these records on more costly active storage.

Connectors Needed

One drawback, at least in the short term, is that these services have relatively few connectors to other technology platforms that can feed information about events and incidents. In comparison, on-premises SIEM platforms have a long list of pre-defined application programming interface (API) connectors that makes it easier to pull data such as log information from other systems.

That said, both Microsoft and Google are working hard to get as many pre-defined API connectors as possible and with the cloud, such efforts tend to move rapidly. In the meantime, organizations can build their own connectors with software development kits (SDKs) available for each of these new services. These could be used to overcome the limitation.

Companies can leverage the cloud-native SIEM services as they move into hybrid cloud environments. With the flexibility offered by these solutions, they can use one of the cloud-based services as their master SIEM platform and feed data into it from on-premises SIEM and other systems.

On the other hand, if they’re more comfortable making an onpremises offering the primary SIEM, they can then leverage the cloud-enabled services to support the on-premises platform, as long as these different environments are connected.

Moving Forward

How organizations handle SIEM comes down to what they are looking to achieve, how long they want to keep records, their level of risk tolerance, and other factors.

Some companies remain resistant to putting sensitive data in the cloud—even though the cloud in many cases has been shown to be more secure than data center environments—and therefore will prefer to maintain an on-premises SIEM as their main platform for security information and event monitoring. Others may be more concerned about keeping a long history of data or require a lot of processing power, so a cloud-native service makes more sense as the primary SIEM.

Either way, these offerings provide organizations with new options for their SIEM needs. These services represent an important step in the right direction.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2019 issue of Security Today.

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