SIEM stands for Security Information and Event Management. SIEM tools provide real-time analysis of security alerts generated by applications and network hardware.
There are 50+ SIEM solutions on the market and this guide will help you identify the right one for your organization.
Here is our list of the best SIEM tools:
- Datadog Security Monitoring EDITOR’S CHOICE A cloud-native network monitoring and management system that includes real-time security monitoring and log management. Comes with over 450 vendor integrations out-of-the-box. Start on a 14-day free trial.
- SolarWinds Security Event Manager (FREE TRIAL) One of the most competitive SIEM tools on the market with a wide range of log management features.
- ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer (FREE TRIAL) A SIEM tool that manages, protects, and mines log files. This system installs on Windows, Windows Server, and Linux.
- Splunk Enterprise Security This tool for Windows and Linux is a world leader because it combines network analysis with log management together with an excellent analysis tool.
- OSSEC The Open-source HIDS Security system that is free to use and acts as a Security Information Management service.
- LogRhythm NextGen SIEM Platform Cutting-edge AI-based technology underpins this traffic and log analysis tool for Windows and Linux.
- AT&T Cybersecurity AlienVault Unified Security Management Great value SIEM that runs on Mac OS as well as Windows.
- RSA NetWitness Extremely comprehensive and tailored towards large organizations but a bit too much for small and medium-sized enterprises. Runs on Windows.
- IBM QRadar Market-leading SIEM tool that runs on Windows environments.
- McAfee Enterprise Security Manager Popular SIEM tool that runs through your Active Directory records to confirm system security. Runs on Mac OS as well as Windows.
What is Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)?
SIEM is an umbrella term for security software packages ranging from Log Management Systems to Security Log / Event Management, Security Information Management, and Security Event correlation. More often than not these features are combined for a 360-degree view.
While a SIEM system isn’t foolproof, it’s one of the key indicators that an organization has a clearly defined cybersecurity policy. Nine times out of ten, cyber attacks don’t have any clear tells on a surface level. To detect threats, it’s more effective to use the log files. The superior log management capabilities of SIEMs have made them a central hub of network transparency.
Most security programs operate on a micro-scale, addressing smaller threats but missing the bigger picture of cyber threats. An Intrusion Detection System (IDS) alone can seldom do more than monitor packets and IP addresses. Likewise, your service logs only show user sessions and configuration changes. SIEM puts these systems and others like it together to provide a complete overview of any security incident through real-time monitoring and the analysis of event logs.
What is Security Information Management (SIM)?
Security Information Management (SIM) is the collection, monitoring, and analysis of security-related data from computer logs. Also referred to as log management.
What is Security Event Management (SEM)?
Security Event Management (SEM) is the practice of network event management including real-time threat analysis, visualization, and incident response.
SIEM vs SIM vs SEM – what’s the difference?
SIEM, SIM, and SEM are often used interchangeably but there are some key differences.
|Security Information Management (SIM)||Security Event Management (SEM)||Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)|
|Overview||Collection and analysis of security-related data from computer logs.||Real-time threat analysis, visualization and incident response.||SIEM, as the name suggests, combines SIM and SEM capabilities.|
|Features||Easy to deploy, strong log management capabilities.||More complex to deploy, superior at real-time monitoring.||More complext to deploy, complete functionality.|
|Example Tools||OSSIM||NetIQ Sentinel||SolarWinds Log & Event Manager|
SIEM’s basic capabilities are as follows:
- Log Collection
- Normalization – Collecting logs and normalizing them into a standard format)
- Notifications and Alerts – Notifying the user when security threats are identified
- Security Incident Detection
- Threat response workflow – Workflow for handling past security events
SIEM records data from across a users’ internal network of tools and identifies potential issues and attacks. The system operates under a statistical model to analyze log entries. SIEM distributes collection agents and recalls data from the network, devices, servers, and firewalls.
All this information is then passed to a management console where it can be analyzed to address emerging threats. It’s not uncommon for advanced SIEM systems to use automated responses, entity behavior analytics and security orchestration. This ensures that vulnerabilities between cybersecurity tools can be monitored and addressed by SIEM technology.
Once the necessary information reaches the management console, it is then viewed by a data analyst who can provide feedback on the overall process. This is important because feedback helps to educate the SIEM system in terms of machine learning and increasing its familiarity with the surrounding environment.
Once the SIEM software system identifies a threat, it then communicates with other security systems on the device to stop the unwanted activity. The collaborative nature of SIEM systems makes them a popular enterprise-scale solution. However, the rise of pervasive cyber threats has made many small- and mid-sized businesses consider the merits of a SIEM system as well.
This change has been relatively recent because of the substantial costs of SIEM adoption. Not only must you pay a sizeable amount for the system itself; you need to allocate one or two members of staff to oversee it. As a result, smaller organizations have been less enthusiastic about SIEM adoption. But that has begun to change as SMEs can outsource to managed service providers.
Why is SIEM Important?
SIEM has become a core security component of modern organizations. The main reason is that every user or tracker leaves behind a virtual trail in a network’s log data. SIEM systems are designed to use this log data in order to generate insight into past attacks and events. A SIEM system not only identifies that an attack has happened, but allows you to see how and why it happened as well.
As organizations update and upscale to increasingly complex IT infrastructures, SIEM has become even more critical in recent years. Contrary to popular belief, firewalls and antivirus packages are not enough to protect a network in its entirety. Zero-day attacks can still penetrate a system’s defenses even with these security measures in place.
SIEM addresses this problem by detecting attack activity and assessing it against past behavior on the network. A SIEM system has the ability to distinguish between legitimate use and a malicious attack. This helps to increase a system’s incident protection and avoid damage to systems and virtual property.
The use of SIEM also helps companies to comply with a variety of industry cyber management regulations. Log management is the industry-standard method of auditing activity on an IT network. SIEM systems provide the best way to meet this regulatory requirement and provide transparency over logs in order to generate clear insights and improvements.
The essential features of SIEM Tools
Not all SIEM systems are built the same. As a result, there is no one-size-fits-all. A SIEM solution that’s right for one company may be incomplete to another. In this section, we break down the core features needed for a SIEM system.
Log Data Management
As mentioned above, log data management is a core component of any enterprise-scale SIEM system. A SIEM system needs to pool log info from a variety of different data sources, each with their own way of categorizing and recording data. When looking for a SIEM system, you want one that has the ability to normalize data effectively (you might need a third-party program if your SIEM system isn’t managing disparate log data well).
Once the data is normalized, it is then quantified and compared against previously recorded data. The SIEM system can then recognize patterns of malicious behavior and raise notifications to alert the user to take action. This data can then be searched by an analyst who can define new criteria for future alerts. This helps to develop the system’s defenses against new threats.
In terms of convenience and regulatory requirements, having a SIEM with extensive compliance reporting features is very important. In general, most SIEM systems have some kind of onboard report generating system that will help you to conform to your compliance requirements.
The source of requirements of the standards that you need to conform to will be a major influence on which SIEM system you install. If your security standards are dictated by customer contracts, you don’t have much leeway on which SIEM system you choose — if it doesn’t support the required standard, then it won’t be any you’re used to. You may be required to demonstrate compliance to PCI DSS, FISMA, FERPA, HIPAA, SOX, ISO, NCUA, GLBA, NERC CIP, GPG13, DISA STIG or one of many other industry standards.
If a breach or attack occurs, you can generate a report that details how it happened extensively. You can then use this data to refine internal processes and make adjustments to your network infrastructure to make sure it doesn’t happen again. This uses SIEM technology keeps your network infrastructure evolving to address new threats.
Fine Tuning Alert Conditions
Having the ability to set the criteria for future security alerts is essential for maintaining an effective SIEM system through threat intelligence. Refining alerts is the main way you keep your SIEM system updated against new threats. Innovative cyber-attacks are emerging every day, so using a system that’s designed to add new security alerts stops you from getting left behind.
You also want to make sure that you find a SIEM software platform that can limit the number of security alerts you receive. If you’re inundated with alerts your team is going to be unable to address security concerns in a timely manner. Without fining tuning alerts you’re going to be subjected to sifting through masses of events from firewalls to intrusion logs.
An extensive SIEM system is no good if you have a poor dashboard behind it. Having a dashboard with a simple user interface makes it much easier to identify threats. In practice, you’re looking for a dashboard with visualization. Straight away this allows your analyst to spot if any anomalies are occurring on the display. Ideally, you want a SIEM system that can be configured to show specific event data.
The best SIEM tools
Before choosing a SIEM tool, it’s important to evaluate your goals. For example, if you’re looking for a SIEM tool to meet regulatory requirements, generating reports will be one of your foremost priorities.
On the other hand, if you want to use a SIEM system to stay protected against emerging attacks, you need one with high functioning normalization and extensive user-defined notification facilities. Below we take a look at some of the best SIEM tools on the market.
What should you look for in an SIEM tool? We reviewed the SIEM market and analyzed tools based on the following criteria:
- A system that gathers both log messages and live traffic data
- A log file management module
- Data analysis utilities
- The ability to report to data protection standards
- Easy to install with an easy-to-use interface
- A trial period for assessment
- The right balance between functionality and value for money
Operating System: Cloud based
Datadog is a cloud-based system monitoring package that includes security monitoring. The security features of the system are contained in a specialized module. This is a full SIEM system because it monitors live events, but collects them as log file entries, so it operates both on log information and on monitoring data. The service collects local information through an agent, which uploads each record to the Datadog server. The security monitoring module then analyzes all incoming notifications and files them.
- Real-time threat detection
- Full security visibility with 450+ integrations
- Start detecting threats immediately with default rules mapped to MITRE ATT&CK framework
- Datadog scored 4.6/5 in Gartner survey of IT customers
- 14 day free trial
- Wealth of functionality can be a little overwhelming initially
Security events trigger alerts in the console for the service. The console also gives access to all event records. Logged messages are indexed and retained for 15 months. They can be accessed for analysis through the Datadog console, or extracted in order to be imported into another analysis tool.
The offsite processing capabilities reduce the processing demands on your infrastructure. It also makes it very easy to monitor remote networks. The analysis service has a pre-defined set of rules that will automatically detect known attack vectors.
The pool of detection rules gets updated automatically by Datadog when new attack strategies are discovered. This means that the system administrators don’t need to worry about keeping security software up to date because that process happens automatically on the cloud server. It is also very easy for a systems administrator to create custom detection and mitigation rules.
- Real-time security event detection
- Over 450 vendor integrations
- Observe metrics, traces, logs and more from one dashboard
- Solid out-of-the-box pre-configured detection rules
Datadog is available on a 14-day free trial.
Datadog is our top choice. It offers a menu of specialist modules and all of them can be deployed individually or as a suite. You get greater functionality by combining modules, which are all able to share data about the monitored system.
Get 14 Day Free Trial: datadoghq.com/product/security-monitoring/
Operating System: Windows
In terms of entry-level SIEM tools, SolarWinds Security Event Manager (SEM) is one of the most competitive offerings on the market. The SEM embodies all the core features you’d expect from a SIEM system, with extensive log management features and reporting. SolarWinds’ detailed real-time incident response makes it a great tool for those looking to exploit Windows event logs to actively manage their network infrastructure against future threats.
One of the best things about the SEM is its detailed and intuitive dashboard design. The simplicity of the visualization tools makes it easy for the user to identify any anomalies. As a welcome bonus, the company offers 24/7 support, so you can contact them for advice if you run into an error.
- Automated log searches for breaches
- Live anomaly detection
- Historical analysis
- System alerts
- 30-day free trial
Good-looking interface with lots of graphical data visualization fronts a powerful and comprehensive SIEM tool that runs on Windows Server. The real-time incident response makes it easy to actively manage your infrastructure and the detailed and intuitive dashboard makes this one of the easiest to use on the market.
Get 30-day Free Trial: solarwinds.com/security-event-manager/
Operating System: Windows and Linux
The ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer is a SIEM tool because it focuses on managing logs and gleaning security and performance information from them.
The tool is able to gather Windows Event log and Syslog messages. It will then organize these messages into files, rotating to new files where appropriate and storing those files in meaningfully-named directories for easy access. The EventLog Analyzer then protects those files from tampering.
The ManageEngine system is more than a log server, though. It has analytical functions that will inform you of unauthorized access to company resources. The tool will also assess the performance of key applications and services, such as Web servers, databases, DHCP servers, and print queues.
The auditing and reporting modules of the EventLog Analyzer are very useful for demonstrating data protection standards compliance. The reporting engine includes formats for compliance with PCI DSS, FISMA, GLBA, SOX, HIPAA, and ISO 27001.
- Gathers Windows Event logs and Syslog messages
- Live intrusion detection
- Log analysis
- Alert mechanism
ManageEngine has produced three editions of the EventLog Analyzer, including a free version, which gathers logs from up to five sources. ManageEngine offers a 30-day free trial of the Premium Edition.
A network-based version, called the Distributed Edition is also available. Both versions are available on a 30-day free trial basis.
Operating System: Windows and Linux
Splunk is one of the most popular SIEM management solutions in the world. What sets it apart from the competition is that it has incorporated analytics into the heart of its SIEM. Network and machine data can be monitored on a real-time basis as the system scours for potential vulnerabilities and can even point to abnormal behavior. Enterprise Security’s Notables function displays alerts that can be refined by the user.
In terms of responding to security threats, the user interface is incredibly simple. When conducting an incident review, the user can start with a basic overview before clicking through to in-depth annotations on the past event. Likewise, the Asset Investigator does a fine job of flagging malicious actions and preventing future damage.
- Real-time network monitoring
- Asset Investigator
- Historical analysis
You need to contact the vendor for a quotation so it’s clear that this is a scalable platform designed with larger organizations in mind.
Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, and Mac
OSSEC is the leading host-based intrusion prevention system (HIDS). Not only is OSSEC a very good HIDS, but it is free to use. HIDS methods are interchangeable with the services performed by SIM systems, so OSSEC also fits into the definition of a SIEM tool.
The software focuses on the information available in log files to look for evidence of intrusion. As well as reading through log files, the software monitors the file checksums to detect tampering. Hackers know that log files can reveal their presence in a system and track their activities, so many advanced intrusion malware will alter log files to remove that evidence.
As a free piece of software, there isn’t any reason not to install OSSEC in many locations on the network. The tool only examines the log files resident on its host. The programmers of the software know that different operating systems have different logging systems. So, OSSEC will examine Event logs and registry access attempts on Windows and Syslog records and root access tries on Linux, Unix, and Mac OS devices. Higher functions in the software enable it to communicate across a network and consolidate the log records identified in one location into a central SIM log store.
Although OSSEC is free to use, it is owned by a commercial operation – Trend Micro. The front end for the system is downloadable as a separate program and it isn’t perfect. Most OSSEC users feed their data through to Graylog or Kibana as a front end and as an analysis engine.
- Log file management
- Support package option
- Free to use
The behavior of OSSEC is dictated by “policies,” which are activity signatures to look for in the log files. These policies are available for free from the user community forum. Businesses that prefer to only use fully supported software can subscribe to a support package from Trend Micro.
See also: The Best HIDS
Operating System: Windows and Linux
LogRhythm have long established themselves as pioneers within the SIEM solution sector. From behavioral analysis to log correlation and artificial intelligence for machine learning, this platform has it all. The system is compatible with a massive range of devices and log types. In terms of configuring your settings, most activity is managed through the Deployment Manager. For example, you can use the Windows Host Wizard to sift through Windows logs.
This makes it much easier to narrow down on what is happening on your network. At first, the user interface does have a learning curve, but the extensive instruction manual helps. The icing on the cake is that the instruction manual actually provides hyperlinks to various features in order to aid you in your journey.
- Log file management
- Guided analysis
The price tag of this platform makes it a good choice for medium-sized organizations looking to implement new security measures.
Operating System: Windows and Mac
As one of the more competitively priced SIEM solutions on this list, AlienVault (now part of AT&T Cybersecurity) is a very attractive offering. At its core, this is a traditional SIEM product with built-in intrusion detection, behavioral monitoring, and vulnerability assessment. AlienVault has the onboard analytics you would expect from scalable platform.
One of the more unique aspects of AlienVault’s platform is the Open Threat Exchange (OTX). The OTX is a web portal that allows users to upload “indicators of compromise” (IOC) to help other users flag threats. This is a great resource in terms of general knowledge and threats.
- Intrusion detection
- Behavior monitoring
The low price of this SIEM system makes it ideal for small to midsize businesses looking to upscale their security infrastructure. AT&T Cybersecurity offer a free trial.
Operating System: Red Hat Enterprise Linux
RSA NetWitness Platform is one of the more middle-of-the-road SIEM options available on the market. If you’re looking for a complete network analytics solution, look no further than RSA Netwitness. For larger organizations, this is one of the most extensive tools available on the market. However, if you’re looking for a product that’s easy to use, you might want to look elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the initial setup can be quite time consuming when compared with other products on this list. That being said, comprehensive user documentation will help you through the setup process. The installation guides don’t help with everything but provide you with enough information to put the pieces together.
- Network activity monitoring
- Live graphs
- Analytical tools
Operating System: Red Hat Enterprise Linux
Over the past few years or so, IBM’s answer to SIEM has established itself as one of the best products on the market. The platform offers a suite of log management, analytics, data collection, and intrusion detection features to help keep your critical systems up and running. All log management goes through one tool: QRadar Log Manager. When it comes to analytics, QRadar is a near-complete solution.
The system has risk modeling analytics that can simulate potential attacks. This can be used to monitor a variety of physical and virtual environments on your network. IBM QRadar is one of the most complete offerings on this list and is a great choice if you’re looking for a versatile SIEM solution.
- Log management
- Intrusion detection
- Analytical functions
This industry-standard SIEM system’s diverse functionality has made it the industry standard for many larger organizations. IBM offers a free trial.
Operating System: Windows and Mac
McAfee Enterprise Security Manager is regarded as one of the best SIEM platforms in terms of analytics. The user can collect a variety of logs across a wide range of devices through the Active Directory system. In terms of normalization, McAfee’s correlation engine compiles disparate data sources with ease. This makes it much easier to detect when a security event is occurring.
In terms of support, users have access to both McAfee Enterprise Technical Support and McAfee Business Technical Support. The user can choose to have their site visited by a Support Account Manager twice a year if they so choose. McAfee’s platform is aimed at mid-large companies looking for a complete security event management solution.
- Log consolidation
- Live monitoring
McAfee offer a free trial and you need to contact them for pricing.
No matter what SIEM tool you choose to incorporate into your business, it’s important to adopt a SIEM solution slowly. There is no fast track way to implement a SIEM system. The best method to integrate a SIEM platform into your IT environment is to bring it in gradually. This means adopting any solution on a piece-by-piece basis. You should aim to have both real-time monitoring and log analysis functions.
Doing so gives you the ability to take stock of your IT environment and to fine-tune the adoption process. Implementing a SIEM system gradually will help you detect whether you’re leaving yourself open to malicious attacks. The most important thing is to make sure that you have a clear view of the goals you’re looking to fulfill when using a SIEM system.
Throughout this guide, you’ll see a variety of different SIEM providers offering vastly different end products. If you want to find the service that’s right for you, take the time to research the options available and find one that aligns with your organizational objectives. In the initial stages, you’ll want to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
Preparing for the worst-case scenario means you’re equipped to address even the harshest attacks. Ultimately, it’s better to be overprotected against cyber attacks than to be under-protected. Once you’ve chosen a tool you want to use, commit to updating. A SIEM system is only as good as its updates. If you fail to keep your logs updated and refine your notifications, you’re going to be unprepared when an emerging threat strikes.
If your organization is not ready to take on the challenges of deploying a SIEM tool, or if your budget strictly prohibits it, you can outsource your SIEM needs to a co-managed SIEM or a managed SIEM provider. Check out our post on the best managed SIEM solutions.
The Best SIEM Vendors
- Datadog Security Monitoring EDITOR’S CHOICE
- SolarWinds (FREE TRIAL)
- ManageEngine (FREE TRIAL)
- AT&T Cybersecurity
What is the SIEM process?
The “SIEM process” refers to a company’s strategy towards data security. SIEM tools are an important element in that strategy, but the way in which the tools are integrated into working practices are dictated by data security standards compliance requirements.
What is SIEM as a Service?
Cloud-based software includes the server that runs the software and also storage space for log data and is called “Software as a Service” (SaaS). SIEM as a Service (SIEMaaS) is a SIEM form of SaaS and higher plans will include the provision of expert data analysts as well as the IT resources.
What is a security event?
A security event is an unexpected use of a system resource that indicates the unauthorized use of data or infrastructure. The individual event might seem harmless but could contribute to a security breach when combined with other actions.
What is log parsing in SIEM?
Log parsing restructures existing data for use in security analysis in SIEM. Key data will be extracted from regular log files that are sourced from different record-keeping systems, unifying the event information that arises from several sources.
How much does SIEM cost?
SIEM systems come in many configurations and range from open-source implementations for starting or medium businesses right through to multi-user license packages more suitable for larger enterprises.
Datadog Security Monitoring
SolarWinds Security Event Manager
ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer
LogRhythm NextGen SIEM Platform
AT&T Cybersecurity AlienVault Unified Security Management
RSA NetWitness Platform
IBM QRadar SIEM
McAfee Enterprise Security Manager