Does an organization need a SIEM or a SOC? Before deciding between the two, one needs a deeper understanding of the costs, risks, and functions of each. From there, it’s always important to take a company’s unique goals, budgets, and needs into account. 

Defining SIEM and SOC

SIEM - Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) is a cybersecurity technology that provides an organization with visibility and identifies malicious or suspicious activity on networks, systems, applications and databases. It does so by parsing activity through predefined rules and correlation (or threat) intelligence. When properly leveraged, a SIEM empowers security teams to quickly investigate and remediate potential threats on internal networks.

SOC - A Security Operations Center (SOC) is a facility that contains cybersecurity people, processes, and technology. Its job is to protect IT infrastructure and networks by proactively hunting for known (and unknown) threats, as well as responding to incidents and remediating them when they occur. You can either operate your own SOC, or you can leverage them ‘as-a-service’ from a provider like Digital Hands.

Security monitoring and threat detection are essential to having a secure IT infrastructure. Without this essential component, your organization is effectively blind to any cyber threats, attacks, infiltrations, or malicious activity by employees.

To get security visibility over networks and infrastructure, many organizations are persuaded to buy an expensive SIEM platform. Then, they typically begin to filter all of their system logs through it, build up some security-altering playbooks and rules, and keep their fingers crossed.

The reality is that discovering threats, breaches, and attackers is a lot harder than it may seem. Realizing a return on a SIEM investment is even harder.

Unless a large organization operates a fully fleshed-out and well-funded cybersecurity team, it is extremely difficult to derive substantial value from SIEM technology. To maximize the value that a SIEM provides, an organization needs experienced people, mature processes, comprehensive analytics, and automation. 

In short, the SIEM is the glue that holds a well-functioning SOC together, but you need a SOC built around your SIEM if there is to be anything worth holding together in the first place. Two general IT guys won’t cut it.

Issue: Data 

Anyone who works as a cybersecurity analyst will tell you that the volume of data generated by different endpoints, servers, and devices can be overwhelming. The problem only gets worse as the footprint of an IT infrastructure expands. 

SIEM platforms are easily the most data-hungry tool in a security operations center. On average, large organizations generate more than a billion logs each day, which needs to be fed into the SIEM for storage, while subsequent analysis is necessary to detect threats. 

If you don’t have dedicated analysts sifting, sorting, and analyzing this data, then neither your SIEM nor all of that data is much use to an organization. 

Issue: Alerts

Manually sifting through enormous amounts of data will not get a business anywhere. What they need is to create a robust set of rules to govern the data and alert the right parties when a potential threat is detected. 

Most SIEMs come pre-configured with a standard set of alerts. The organization builds its own alerting rules on top of that base. However, the problem with alerts is one of quality and quality. They tend to give a mix of low and high-fidelity alerts that do not tie different alert events together and help zero in on a threat. 

Also, most SIEMs do not perform any sort of analysis on the alert behavior, which leaves you with a huge threat detection gap the team needs to fill. 

Quantity can also become an issue if a team is not constantly on top of the thousands of alerts that are generated by a SIEM daily. With a well-staffed SIEM analyst team, it can still be difficult to triage through the alerts. Even if all one did was focus on the critical severity alerts, the constant flow can be difficult to stay on top of. 

If a team lacks even a little bit from understaffing or overwork, a cybersecurity incident will inevitably occur and investments into a SIEM platform and team won’t count for much.

Issue: Threat Correlation 

Alerts are often generic. Leveraging a SIEM properly is all about ‘asking it the right questions’ to work out which alerts contain the best threat information. 

Therefore, you must mature your alert rule processes and evolve to the point where a SIEM can leverage machine learning and advanced analytics to handle the volume of alerts as well as threat correlation. Only your team, combined with experience, can work out the right questions. Eliminating false positives is a huge task in and of itself, which does not help correlation.

Issue: People

It’s ideal to have a good team of experienced analysts managing a SIEM to derive the most value from it. Still, people can be an issue, as there are never enough of them. With so much data and so many alerts, as well as all of the system tuning and process refining, there are simply never enough people to do it all. 

No matter what the size of an organization, this problem tends to exist because people never have enough bandwidth to deal with everything. Organizations buy SIEM technology and hand it over to their cybersecurity team, but they are still expected to handle all of their existing duties as well - responding to threats and remediating cybersecurity issues.

It's simply too much work to handle. Managing a SIEM and staying on top of alerts requires full-time analysts dedicated to the task. Those analysts have to be experienced in dealing with users, networks, endpoints, servers, applications and databases. But typically, an analyst is experienced in just one or two of those fields, meaning you need a mixed team with varied experiences.

Factor in the development experience necessary to build out dashboards, drill in analytical tools, and machine learning, and it’s just too much work for one or more people to handle while they are also dealing with the daily workflows of a cybersecurity team.

Back to the SOC

The only real way to deal with a SIEM is to double down on security operations investments and build out a fully functional SOC team to handle the workload. Building out a SOC is a complex process that requires a wide range of different skill sets and analysts who can tie it all together and mature a SOC into a functioning security operations center.

A proper SOC, like the two we operate at Digital Hands, provides 24-hour monitoring and coverage, integrates threat hunting and intelligence capabilities, and handles incident response. The SOC team also needs the authority to act quickly to remediate issues before they become a crisis. 

Needless to say, building out this capability in-house can be hugely expensive, time-consuming, and resource-intensive. That’s why many organizations choose to outsource it all to an experienced MSSP like Digital Hands. We have been operating SOCs for more than a decade with extensively matured people, processes, and technology. 

Furthermore, we have experience working with a wide range of different customers, so we have the proven ability to adapt our SOC and SIEM to individual cybersecurity requirements.

Final Thoughts

SIEM vs SOC - which do you really need? The final answer may be that you need both.

A SIEM doesn’t make as much sense without a fully fleshed-out SOC team to support it, and a SOC isn’t much of a SOC unless it has a SIEM to provide it with visibility. Investing in a SIEM will not solve all of your cybersecurity monitoring and threat detection problems. 

If your organization is serious about threat-hunting, detection, and reducing exposure to data breach risks, working with an MSSP who provides SOC as-a-service is an ideal way to control investment costs while getting the functionality, skills, and talent required to protect an organization. 

Contact Digital Hands

For the vast majority, leveraging an MSSP is a much more sensible option than buying a SIEM and building a SOC in-house. If you have any questions about SIEM and how the technology fits into a SOC, get in touch with the Digital Hands team. Our experienced analysts will have all the answers you need. 

If you or your partners are looking for a competent provider to ensure that you are making the right moves with cybersecurity, call Digital Hands at (855) 511-5114 today.

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