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SIEM vs Log Management: differences, features and costs

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As cybersecurity evolves, so do the methods and range of attacks. SecOps teams are continually challenged to defend an organization’s assets against internal and external threats. While SIEM software provides a holistic view of enterprise security posture and actionable incident and anomaly insights, log management tools are primarily designed to collect any type of machine-readable data and provide storage and search capabilities optimized for them.

Log management tools and security information and event management (SIEM) tools are more complementary than competitive. Yes, they largely overlap in that they both deal with event data, however, they are designed and used to address different use cases. And there are those who want the flexibility to design their own SIEM using a modern log management tool.

To provide a more comprehensive understanding of SIEMs and log management tools, let’s divide their features into three categories: features found primarily in SIEMs; features primarily found in log management; and the benefits of using the two together.

SIEM definitions vs log management

What is a SIEM?

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) is a tool that collects machine data from your IT systems, then analyzes and correlates it to detect any security threats.

What is SIEM logging?

SIEM software collects logs from multiple sources and forwards them to a central logging system. Most SIEM software has built-in integrations to retrieve logs from a wide range of systems. There may also be a repository of community-created apps or integrations for some lesser-known systems.

Common types of SIEM integrations include:

  • Officers: SIEM software log collector agents are installed on the target servers and run as separate services. These agents read the configured log files from the server to access and send the contents of these logs to the SIEM solution.
  • API connections: Sometimes SIEM solutions can access services through their API endpoints and using API keys. These can usually be third-party cloud applications.
  • HTTP event collectors: These are located on the SIEM side. Data sent by target systems can be in any format and can use specific protocols. For example, some logs can be streamed directly using the Syslog protocol. Other systems may send data over HTTP/HTTPS. HTTP event collectors can accept this traffic and extract log data.
  • Webhook: In this case, the target system uses SIEM software webhooks to send log data.
  • Custom written scripts: Engineers can run scheduled and custom scripts that collect data from source systems, then format the log data and send it to SIEM software.

What is a Log Management System?

A log management system (LMS) is a software solution that collects, sorts, and stores log data and event logs from various sources in a centralized location. Log management software systems allow IT teams, DevOps and SecOps professionals to establish a single point from which to access all relevant network and application data. Typically, this log file is fully indexed and searchable, meaning the IT team can easily access the data they need to make decisions about network health, resource allocation, or security.

Log management tools are used to help the organization manage the high volume of log data generated in the business. These tools make it possible to determine:

  • What data and information should be recorded
  • The format in which it should be saved
  • The period for which log data should be saved
  • How data should be disposed of or destroyed when no longer needed

Features and Capabilities

Main characteristics of a SIEM:

  • Data Analysis Correlation
  • Indexing data
  • Selective data sources
  • Advanced automation tools
  • Compliance reports

SIEMs are designed to filter millions of events into a few alerts using data analytics and event correlation. They are usually rich in security features which can include security incident reporting and investigation, alerts based on a certain set of rules to indicate a security incident, and reporting tools which can help with compliance . With this complexity, SIEMs can become expensive to maintain and operate. They can compromise on speed and completeness of data, as they attempt to be comprehensive in the scope of their functionality. Through their pricing models, SIEMs can pressure not to include all possible data sources.

Main features of a log management solution:

  • Reduced indexing
  • Including all data sources
  • High performance architecture
  • Long-term data retention

Modern log management tools focus on bringing in data from a wide variety of sources as quickly as possible and give users a comprehensive way to find their data as soon as it arrives. They are designed to collect and store millions of events per second, and compress and store them efficiently. Log management strengths address many SIEM issues. They provide a complete picture of all data in a system at a lower cost with less maintenance, and they are able to store it longer than a SIEM.

Benefits of using Log Management and SIEM together:

  • Make heavy use of log data
  • Can be used for threat hunting
  • Can help meet compliance requirements
  • Provide alerts and automation

1. Heavy Log Data Usage:

Both tools make extensive use of log data. SIEMs focus on storing, analyzing, and filtering this data before it reaches the end user. Log management focuses on providing access to all data and a way to easily filter and organize it with an easy-to-learn search language.

2. Threat Hunting Use Cases:

SIEMs and log management can be used for threat hunting. SIEMs typically take longer to alert users to threats and may miss some threats because they don’t have a complete set of data. Log management can alert users to threats faster and can support a more convenient and comprehensive approach to threat hunting.

3. Audits and reports:

SIEMs enforce compliance by providing audit reports. Log management helps compliance by providing low-cost data storage for long periods of time.

4. Alerts and automation:

Log management and SIEMs provide alerts and automation. Powered by real-time search results, log management takes less time than SIEMs to share alerts and trigger responses. SIEMs offer a more complex way to manage your automation response by allowing you to create playbooks of automated responses provided by the SIEM provider.

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