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DevOps Glossary

SIEM vs Log Management

What is SIEM vs Log Management?

In the early days of cyber security, technological innovation centered around the development of preventive tools that could stop cyber attacks as they happened. Tools such as host-based or network-based intrusion detection systems, firewalls, and anti-virus software are built to secure the network against attacks, but what happens when these systems fail?

Today's cyber attacks are often so sophisticated that without the proper tools, IT organizations may not even realize that an attack has taken place. This reality is why an increasing number of IT organizations are relying on their log files as a means of monitoring activity on the IT infrastructure and maintaining awareness of possible security threats.

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) and Log Management are two examples of software tools that allow IT organizations to monitor their security posture using log files, detect and respond to Indicators of Compromise (IoC) and conduct forensic data analysis and investigations into network events and possible attacks.

IT organizations must understand the features and capabilities of SIEM vs Log Management tools before choosing which option best complements their existing IT security infrastructure.

SIEM vs Log Management Definitions

To make an accurate comparison between SIEM vs Log Management software tools, we should clearly define each of them along with some additional terminology that figures prominently into the discussion.

For starters, the key difference between SIEM vs Log Management systems is in their treatment and functions with respect to Event Logs or Log Files. A log file is a file that contains records of events that occurred in an operating system, application, server, or from a variety of other sources. Log files are a valuable tool for security analysts, as they create a documented trail of all communications to and from each source. When a cyber attack occurs, log files can be used to investigate and analyze where the attack came from and what effects it had on the IT infrastructure.

A Log Management System (LMS) is a software system that aggregates and stores log files from multiple network endpoints and systems into a single location. LMS applications allow IT organizations to centralize all of their log data from disparate systems into a single place where they can be viewed and correlated by an IT security analyst.

A SIEM software system incorporates the features of three types of security tools into a single application.

  1. Security Event Management (SEM) tools are very similar to LMS. They include functionality for aggregating log files from multiple systems and hosts, but they are geared towards the needs of IT security analysts instead of system administrators.
  2. Security Information Management (SIM) software tools are used to collect, monitor and analyze data from computer event logs. They typically include automated features and alerts that can be triggered when predetermined conditions are satisfied that might indicate that the network is compromised. SIM tools help security analysts automate the incident response process, reduce false positives and generate accurate reports on the organization's security posture.
  3. Security Event Correlation (SEC) software is used to sift through massive quantities of event logs and discover correlations and connections between events that could indicate a security issue.

SIEM tools combine all of these functionalities into one application that acts as a layer of management above existing security controls. SIEM tools collect and aggregate log data from across the IT infrastructure into a centralized platform where it can be reviewed by security analysts. They also deliver on SIM features such as automation and alerts, and the correlative capabilities of SEC tools.

Today's SIEM tools are leveraging modern technologies such as machine learning and big data analysis to further streamline the process of investigating, detecting and responding to security threats.

SIEM vs Log Management: What's the Difference?

Now that terms have been clearly defined, the difference between SIM vs Log Management software tools should be obvious.

SIEM software tools combine the functionality of three types of legacy security monitoring tools: SEM, SIM and SEC. Log management systems are very similar to SEM tools, except that while SEM tools were purpose-built for cyber security applications, LMS tools are more geared towards the needs of someone in a systems analyst role who might be reviewing log files for a purpose besides maintaining security.

If your sole requirement is to aggregate log files from a variety of sources into one place, a log management system might be the simplest and most effective solution for you. If your job is to maintain security of a complex and disparate IT infrastructure using the most cutting-edge security monitoring tools available, you should be looking at SIEM software.

SIEM vs Log Management: Capabilities and Features

We can describe the difference between SIEM vs log management tools in terms of the core features offered by each application. Log management tools are characterized by:

  1. Log Data Collection - LMS aggregates event logs from all operating systems and applications within a given network.
  2. Efficient Retention of Data - Large networks produce massive volumes of data. LMS tools incorporate features that support efficient retention of high data volumes for required lengths of time.
  3. Log Indexing and Search Function - Large networks produce millions of event logs. LMS systems have tools like filtering, sorting and search that helps analysts find the information they need.
  4. Reporting - The most sophisticated LMS tools can use data from event logs to automate report on the IT organization's operational, compliance or security status or performance.

SIEM tools typically have all of the same features as LMS tools, along with:

  1. Threat Detection Alerts - SIEM tools can identify suspicious event log activity, such as repeated failed login attempts, excessive CPU usage, large data transfers and immediate alert IT security analysts when a possible IoC is detected.
  2. Event Correlation - SIEM tools can use machine learning or rules-based algorithms to draw connections between events in different systems.
  3. Dash-boarding - SIEM tools include dash-boarding features that enable real-time monitoring, Dashboards can often be customized to feature the most important or relevant data, increasing overall visibility of the network and enabling live monitoring in real-time by a human operator.

Sumo Logic Complements or Replaces Your Existing SIEM Tool

Sumo Logic offers cutting-edge security analytics functionality, helping organizations secure their hybrid cloud environments with incident response and threat detection capabilities and enhanced forensic investigations. Sumo Logic can replace your legacy SIEM tool, or complement it with features like machine learning and big data analysis.