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SOC and SIEM: The Team and the Tool

  • 6 min read

What is a Security Operations Center (SOC)?

A security operations center (SOC) is a centralized unit that takes responsibility for security incidents in an organization. It’s a team of expert individuals who use technology, processes, and professional practices to monitor, detect, investigate, and respond to cybersecurity incidents.

A SOC acts as the command and control center for a company’s cybersecurity efforts. It’s equipped with advanced security tools that allow the team to monitor networks and systems, detect attacks, analyze incidents, and rapidly respond to security events. The ultimate goal of a SOC is to prevent, detect, and respond to cybersecurity threats while avoiding or minimizing damage to the organization.

A SOC can vary in size and structure, depending on the needs of the organization. Some SOCs are built in-house, while others are outsourced to third-party providers. Increasingly, organizations are building virtual SOCs, which include part-time employees collaborating without a fixed physical location, or hybrid SOCs, which combine in-house and outsourced staff.

What Is Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM)?

SIEM, or security incident and event management, is a critical part of the cybersecurity toolset. It is software that provides real-time analysis of security alerts generated by applications, security tools, and network equipment. In essence, SIEM is a management layer on top of your existing security systems that helps consolidate, interpret, and prioritize security data.

SIEM systems work by collecting log data from various sources within an organization’s IT infrastructure, including servers, firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems. This data is then aggregated and normalized to allow for efficient analysis. SIEM tools extract actionable intelligence from this data, identifying patterns that could indicate a security incident. They can correlate events across different systems, helping security analysts to identify and respond to threats more effectively.

SIEM is not just about identifying threats, it’s also about compliance. SIEM tools can automate many types of compliance reports, providing essential data for both internal and external audits.

In this article, you will learn:

What Is the Difference Between a SOC and a SIEM?

SOC is a team, while SIEM is a tool:

  • The primary function of a SIEM system is to aggregate and analyze data to identify potential security incidents. 
  • A SOC team uses the data provided by the SIEM, among other tools, to monitor and respond to security incidents.

In other words, a SOC uses a SIEM system as a part of its arsenal. The SIEM system consolidates data and generates alerts, while the SOC team investigates these alerts, determines whether a security incident has occurred, and decides on the appropriate response.

Why Does a SOC Need a SIEM System?

SIEM is a foundational technology in most security operations centers. Let’s explore the primary challenges faced by SOC teams, which SIEM helps to solve.

Limited Visibility

One of the biggest hurdles in building a SOC is achieving full visibility into the organization’s IT environment. This includes understanding all devices connected to the network, the data they hold, and the potential vulnerabilities they might have. Without this insight, the SOC team can’t effectively monitor or defend the organization’s assets. SIEM addresses this by bringing together data from the entire IT environment into one interface.

White Noise

Another challenge is dealing with the sheer volume of data and alerts generated by the security tools. This is commonly referred to as “white noise.” Sorting through this noise to identify legitimate threats is a significant challenge. It requires sophisticated tools and skilled analysts to distinguish between routine activity and potential security incidents. SIEMs can help by normalizing security events, aggregating them, and helping to prioritize them.

False Positives and Alert Fatigue

Finally, false positives and alert fatigue are major obstacles. A false positive occurs when a security tool incorrectly identifies benign activity as malicious. Too many false positives can lead to alert fatigue, where analysts become desensitized to alerts due to their frequency. This can result in genuine threats being overlooked. Modern SIEM systems use big data analytics and machine learning algorithms to reduce false positives and identify security events that matter.

Primary Uses of SIEM in a SOC Team

Here are the primary ways SOC teams use SIEM to their advantage.

Log Aggregation

In a modern IT environment, components such as servers, applications, and network devices continuously generate logs. These logs contain valuable information regarding the activities and events occurring within the system. However, the sheer volume and diversity of these logs can make it difficult for security teams to manage and analyze them effectively.

SIEM systems address this challenge by offering log aggregation capabilities. They collect logs from various sources, normalize them into a consistent format, and store them in a central location. This aggregation makes it easier for SOC teams to manage and analyze the logs. They can quickly identify patterns, trends, and anomalies that may indicate a security threat.

Moreover, log aggregation improves the efficiency of forensic investigations. In the event of a security incident, SOC teams can easily access, search, and analyze the aggregated logs to understand what happened, when it happened, and who was involved. This ability to quickly trace back events is invaluable in mitigating the impact of security incidents and preventing future occurrences.

Adding Context to Security Events

Another significant advantage of SIEM systems is the increased context they provide. SIEM systems not only collect logs but also correlate them with other relevant information such as threat intelligence, user behavior, and network activity. This correlation provides a broader context that helps SOC teams to understand the full scope and implications of a security event.

For instance, a simple log entry indicating a failed login attempt may not seem alarming on its own. However, when correlated with other information such as multiple failed login attempts from the same IP address in a short period, or a known malicious IP address, this event becomes far more significant.

This increased context allows SOC teams to make more informed decisions. They can prioritize their response based on the severity and potential impact of a security event. Furthermore, the increased context also aids in accurately identifying false positives, saving valuable time and resources.

Prioritizing Alerts

Security teams have to deal with an overwhelming number of alerts, many of which turn out to be false positives. This high alert volume can lead to alert fatigue, where important alerts are missed or ignored due to the overwhelming number of alerts.

SIEM systems help combat this issue by using advanced analytics and correlation techniques to filter out irrelevant alerts and prioritize the most critical ones. They can identify patterns and relationships between different events, allowing them to group related alerts together. This capability reduces the number of alerts that the SOC team needs to investigate, thereby improving their efficiency and effectiveness.

By reducing the alert volume, SIEM systems also help to reduce the risk of alert fatigue. This ensures that SOC teams remain vigilant and responsive to true security threats.

Automated Threat Detection

With the increasing sophistication and frequency of cyber-attacks, manual threat detection methods are no longer sufficient. SOC teams need automated tools that can continuously monitor the system and automatically identify potential threats.

SIEM systems meet this need by offering automated threat detection capabilities. They use advanced analytics, machine learning, and behavioral analysis to continuously monitor IT systems and identify anomalies that may indicate a security threat. These anomalies are then flagged as alerts for further investigation by the SOC team.

This automated threat detection not only improves the speed and accuracy of threat detection but also frees up valuable time for the SOC team. They can focus on responding to confirmed threats and improving the organization’s overall security posture, rather than spending time on manual threat detection activities.

Cloud Native Security with Coralogix

Coralogix’s security offering includes robust and cost-effective SIEM together with MxDR (managed extended detection and response) from our experienced security team. 

Schedule a demo with our team to learn more about our SIEM and all our observability offerings.

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