What is SIEM? How do SIEM tools work?

As more industries in the world move their services and systems online, detection of intruders, before they can do any damage, is more important than ever before. Due to this, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) software and tools were created. SIEM refers to the tools used by companies to detect threats, ensure compliance, and manage any other security issues in their online environment. These tools work in real-time, meaning intrusions or malware within the system can be detected and dealt with as soon they occur.

What is SIEM?

SIEM was created by combining Security Information Management (SIM) and Security Event Management (SEM). SIM focuses on the collection of data in log files, for analysis and reports on systems, combining logs with threat intelligence. SEM deals with real-time security events, provided by Intruder Detection Systems (IDS), firewalls, and antivirus systems, by alerting the individuals who can deal with the event. The combination of SIM and SEM into SIEM allows for real-time event detection, logging of said events for future use, and correlation of the events from all the sources available to track the path of the intrusion. In general, SIEM systems tend to follow a four step process:

  1. Data Collection: The information collection tools, such as loggers, firewalls, etc, collect real-time data from sources such as network devices, domain controllers, and routers. This information then moves to the next step.
  2. Data Aggregation: The data is now correlated into similar events, to make it easier to analyze for humans. The SIEM software and tools also make the information more easily usable and readable by humans, to streamline the process.
  3. Analyzation: The data is now analyzed for threats to notify the IT administrators. Using a number of analytics, potentially dangerous data is separated from non-problematic data, and IT administrators are notified of the potential threats.
  4. Identify and Fix the Breaches: The breaches found via the collection and analyzation of the data are identified and patched. This final step ensures that future data collection will not find these breaches again.

SIEM tools and software have a variety of capabilities available to users. Along with monitoring IT infrastructures and detecting threats, SIEM systems give security teams time to act against the threats before they can do any real damage. Alerts to breaches, collection of data into logs for future auditing, and normalization of the data all assist IT administrators in their maintenance of IT infrastructures. SIEM tools also provide a great way to automate protections in a system, ridding companies of the issue of human error when hunting for threats.

SIEM Uses and Advantages

SIEM can be used in almost any organization in any field. All online systems face threats at some point or another, thus SIEM tools would alert organizations to threats before they can cause any issues. SIEM software is also a great tool to ensure compliance is met. Increasing regulations and compliance standards are requiring stronger security measures to be put into place, security measures that SIEM tools and software offer. Another use for SIEM systems is to mitigate insider threats. Detecting and reacting to insider threats is made extremely easy with any of the SIEM tools in place.

SIEM includes a number of other advantages, including:

  • Increased efficiency in detecting and reacting to threats
  • Reduced costs and impact due to compromises
  • Prevention of current and future attacks with logging
  • Real-time event notifications, allowing for swift responses to attacks
  • Reduction of security and staffing costs
  • Help with complying with standards and regulations


Complying with industry standards and regulations is necessary for any organization, and SIEM can help with that. Every type of compliance can be reached with SIEM tools and software, and a good example of this is Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). One of the many requirements for PCI DSS is the ability to detect unauthorized network connections. Organizations seeking PCI DSS compliance must also search for insecure protocols and inspect traffic throughout the network. SIEM has methods of reaching all of these requirements by tracking the network traffic, monitoring entry points into the network, and fixing any breaches that are found.

The Next Generation of SIEM

The next generation of SIEM promises to provide even earlier detection and more advanced detection methods. Using a technology called User Event Behavioral Analysis (UEBA), artificial intelligence and deep learning will help detect threats earlier than ever before. UEBA uses patterns of human behavior to help detect insider threats, targeted attacks, and fraud. Another element of next generation SIEM is Security Orchestration and Automation (SOAR). SOAR integrates with organizations systems and automates the incident response of breaches in security. If SOAR were to detect malware within the system, the appropriate team members would be notified, and SOAR would begin to take steps to stop the malware from compromising the systems.