SIEM Correlation Rules Overview

As enterprises contend with mounting threats to their cybersecurity, the pressure is on managed services providers (MSPs) to leverage sophisticated tools to protect their clients’ networks, systems, and sensitive information. To do so, an increasing number of MSPs are turning to security information and event management (SIEM) tools that can aggressively monitor digital environments for cybersecurity events and ongoing irregularities.

In fact, experts predict that spending on SIEM technologies will increase to $5.93 billion by 2021. While SIEM tools initially came to scale as part of larger log management and government compliance initiatives, the integration of machine learning and big data capabilities means businesses across multiple industries are choosing to capitalize on these powerful tools.

How can SIEM benefit a business?

With SIEM technology, organizations benefit from the combination of security event management (SEM) and security information management (SIM) functionalities. These dual capabilities, taken together, help cybersecurity professionals stay proactive rather than reactive. In this way, IT can respond to developing threats while simultaneously analyzing sensitive information on a regular basis in order to spot any potentially malicious activity.

While the best SIEM platform for your team will depend on the organization’s specific needs, it’s imperative that today’s businesses have a suite of advanced cybersecurity tools at their disposal. Because they collect, naturalize, and, importantly, correlate data from across organizations, SIEM tools combine a rigorous cybersecurity standard with a level of flexibility needed to account for variations in workflow, network architecture, and more.

If your clients are looking to invest in new cybersecurity tools, it’s important to consider how SIEM technology can help the organization. Whether you’re worried about one-time attacks that can breach the system or less detectable issues that can cause lasting damage, these tools can offer the business the protection it needs.

How does SIEM work?

SIEM tools rely on data flows from across your organization to develop a real-time picture of potential threats. The sources of this wealth of data include servers, network hardware, operating systems, and other cybersecurity mechanisms such as antivirus software and firewalls. By relying on these varied aspects of your digital environment, SIEM platforms are able to develop a wide-ranging idea of what’s happening at every level of your business.

Once these sources collect data, that information is often fed to a central analytical processor that can store it and begin making heads or tails of it. While many SIEM tools run all data streams through that central analytical processor, some are beginning to take advantage of edge computing capabilities to off-load some processing to the origin points of data.

Regardless, once that information is available, SIEM monitoring tools begin working to identify, categorize, and analyze it. This process involves sorting through various data streams to make sense of possible cybersecurity incidents and events. For example, these tools might look at multiple log-in attempts from the same IP address so that they can determine whether it’s just a forgetful employee or an ongoing attempt to breach your system.

At the same time, SIEM technology also combs through troves of log files to spot potential irregularities. If any activity falls outside of predetermined rules, SIEM tools will flag it to suggest further review, allowing you to make the final call on whether the item is a security threat.

While each SIEM product varies, these alerts—as well as general system updates—are typically collected in a central point of reference, like a dashboard. This setup allows users to gain a better understanding of their digital environment’s status at a glance, respond to threats promptly, and make any changes to their SIEM configuration, as needed.

What is SIEM correlation?

Correlation is one of the key components of any effective SIEM tool. As information from across your digital environment feeds into a SIEM platform, that platform uses correlation to identify any possible issues. It does so by comparing sequences of activity against preset rules that may have been set by the SIEM vendor or custom created by you and your team.

The above example of repeated failed log-in attempts is a typical instance in which correlation comes in handy. While that information may not look threatening to the naked eye reading through reams of data, SIEM tools with the requisite correlation rules in place will be able to identify a potential threat and issue an alert.

For those new to the platform, setting up SIEM correlation rules may seem daunting. After all, SIEM tools will generally only be looking for what you tell them to look for, so creating rules that anticipate actual threats is a must. Thankfully, many SIEM products come with correlation rules already prepared. You’ll need to run through these to determine which make sense for the business, and you’ll also have the option of enabling your own correlation rules as you see fit.

It should also be noted that it’s possible for SIEM monitoring tools to turn up false positives, so striking the right balance here is important. If you set up your correlation rules in such a way that they’re turning up too many false positives, you may be wasting time going down rabbit holes. If you go too far in the other direction, however, you risk letting malicious activity carry on without an adequate and timely response.

In this way, SIEM correlation rules allow cybersecurity professionals to augment these tools so they work for each business’s specific needs. A particular SIEM product may offer clients the same type of protection and the same features, but it’s up to MSPs to deploy these tools so they’re maximally effective for each business.

Is SolarWinds a SIEM?

SolarWinds® Threat Monitor offers MSPs full SIEM capabilities. The product collects near real-time log notifications from security assets throughout your network and analyzes them against known threats. By doing so, this tool develops an accurate picture of security operations throughout your organization, allowing the platform to pinpoint threats as they develop.

As logs are collected and stored, they’re analyzed for potentially malicious activity both at the event and underlying informational levels. If anything seems amiss or fails to fit correlation rules properly, Threat Monitor will generate alerts so you can investigate the issue, determine whether or not it’s a false positive, and respond accordingly. The platform can also be configured to try neutralizing attacks on its own through its connections with other security assets across your system and network.

A detailed dashboard design makes it easy to visualize what’s happening throughout the digital environment. Additionally, SolarWinds has made it easy to follow reporting mandates and various laws. Through a number of different templates included in Threat Monitor, it’s possible to maintain compliance with legislation and initiatives that include HIPAA, PCI DSS, SOX, ISO, and more. If you have any concerns, SolarWinds also offers around-the-clock support, helping with any errors, issues, or questions that arise as you integrate the product into your system.

What is the best SIEM?

As previously explained, the best SIEM monitoring tool for a client is going to depend on their specific needs. Are they looking for easy integration with Windows event logs? Do they need you to manage their SIEM platform in a larger IT environment? Do you want the most in-depth, nitty-gritty dashboard UI possible?

Your answer to these questions will affect what SIEM monitoring tool is the best pick for you and your team. As you figure this out, take the time to experiment. Check which vendors offer free trials, try open source versions of products before opting for the full commercial package, and ask plenty of questions.



Interested in learning more about SIEM solutions? Explore our product suite to see how you can improve SIEM security and monitoring.

Want to stay up to date?

Get the latest MSP tips, tricks, and ideas sent to your inbox each week.

Loading form....

If the form does not load in a few seconds, it is probably because your browser is using Tracking Protection. This is either an Ad Blocker plug-in or your browser is in private mode. Please allow tracking on this page to request a trial.

Note: Firefox users may see a shield icon to the left of the URL in the address bar. Click on this to disable tracking protection for this session/site