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3 Generations of SIEM

This guest blog was contributed by Craig Cooper, COO, Gurucul

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions have revolutionized the way SOC teams detect and respond to security incidents.

SIEMs have been able to achieve this through enabling proactive threat detection and more effective incident response by offering real-time visibility into security events and alerts. These systems ingest, collect, and store log data from diverse applications, networks, and systems, acting as a central data repository that supports audits, forensics, and incident investigations. As cybersecurity challenges evolve, so do SIEM solutions. In this article, we will explore the three generations of SIEM technology (Traditional, Second-Generation, and Next-Generation) and discuss the transition were in now between Second-Generation SIEM and Next-Generation SIEM.

The Early Capabilities of Traditional SIEMs

Traditional SIEMs collected and indexed log data from antivirus software and other security tools. SOC analysts could search these logs and use this information in incident response, event correlation and compliance reporting activities. Traditional SIEMs had mediocre search capabilities that made it difficult to retrieve historical data effectively and typically involved lots of filtering and knowledge from the analyst to find the information they needed. Traditional SIEMs also are (and were) incompatible with hybrid cloud, decentralized cloud, and multi-cloud environments. Although an advancement in security software, the combination of these limitations left SIEM undesirable when compared to other analytical systems like UEBA and XDR at the time. This ultimately led to necessary changes and advancements with current Second-Gen SIEM systems.

Current Second-Gen SIEM (And Why It Needs to Evolve)

The second generation of SIEMs dramatically improved on Traditional SIEMs, mainly in searchability and log correlation. However, they fell short of delivering true security analytics. While attempts were made to integrate additional technologies to bridge this gap, these platforms were still designed for on-premises log collection. Consequently, incorporating new analytical capabilities such as Network Traffic Analysis, Network Detection and Response (NDR), or User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) proved to be almost impossible, and resulted in these technologies being “bolted on” as opposed to being truly integrated.

While Second-Generation SIEMs have some improved cloud capabilities, they are still built and architected for an on-premises use case. Vendors and organizations have cobbled together various workarounds to allow these products to function in cloud environments, but these have limits. They typically struggle to handle the required data volume and to provide comprehensive visibility without manual correlation across multiple installations.

What Makes for a Next-Gen SIEM?

Next-Generation SIEM solutions aim to go beyond the traditional log storage use case. They are designed from the ground up to meet observability, compliance and auditing use cases as well as solving many of the limitations of previous generations of SIEM. The first major difference is that they’re built for the cloud. Most are cloud-native SaaS platforms designed to operate seamlessly in multi-cloud environments. Other new capabilities of Next-Generation SIEMs include support for big data architecture, enhanced threat detection through automation and regulatory compliance support.

These new capabilities of Next-Gen SIEM allow it to handle massive volumes of data by leveraging big data architecture. This enables efficient storage, processing, and analysis of log data, ensuring comprehensive visibility into security events. Additionally, by leveraging advanced analytics, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence (AI), Next-Generation SIEM solutions offer improved threat detection capabilities. Unlike previous versions that relied on rules-based systems, Next-Generation SIEMs adapt to variants of threats and provide real-time context, enabling quicker and more accurate detection of potential security incidents. The core features of SIEM have been updated as well; Next-Gen SIEM platforms offer built-in compliance frameworks, automated reporting, and comprehensive audit trails, streamlining compliance efforts for organizations.

As networks continue to evolve, it’s critical that SOC teams make sure their SIEM is keeping up. Second-Gen SIEM may work for organizations based on their needs (and how heavily they are using the cloud and the volume of data they generate), but eventually they will hit a point where it makes more sense to upgrade.By using a Next-Gen SIEM, SOC teams are guaranteeing that their networks are protected with trained ML and AI to provide real-time context and threat detection for their systems. The question facing the SOC isn’t if they should upgrade their SIEM, but when such an upgrade makes the most sense for their specific organization.


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