It’s no secret that IT teams have their work cut out for them. Cybersecurity teams across the world must deal with a continual flood of alerts as the threat landscape becomes ever more complex. This constant demand on the IT team leads to a relatively new phenomenon called “alert fatigue”. This is when team members become desensitized or burnt out by an overwhelming number of alert notifications. This results in alerts either being missed, ignored, or having a delayed remediation response.
SOAR and SIEM solutions attempt to alleviate some of these pressures. They are designed to reduce the overall number of alerts, and triage the ones that remain. Through logging and automation, they can reduce the number of incidents that IT teams are left to deal with. So, how do SOAR and SIEM solutions work? And do you need both for your business?
What Is SOAR?
SOAR stands for security orchestration, automation, and response. It is an amalgamation of software tools that help to manage threats and vulnerabilities by improving processes and response times. According to Gartner, three vital components of any effective SOAR solution include: threat and vulnerability management, security incident response, and security operations automation. A single platform is used to coordinate and automate tasks between users and security tools. Such an advanced level of coordination, automation, and execution can greatly reduce security a team’s workload, without sacrificing quality. Your organization’s security posture is enhanced by allowing for quick responses to incidents and alerts, as well as to observe network activity in greater detail.
SOAR has three key features:
This feature allows for the sharing of information across the entire network, which results in improved coordination when dealing with incidents and breaches. By covering threat and vulnerability management, SOAR is able to help resolve cyberthreats. Orchestration tools will leverage automation to improve workflow and remediation actions.
With IT teams stretched more than ever, removing manual or repetitive tasks from their remit can greatly improve your teams’ efficiency and morale. Instead of wasting time on menial, repetitive tasks (which limits productivity), teams can channel their efforts into more important tasks that require human intelligence. These might be strategic or investigative research tasks. Automation reduces the time it takes to detect and respond to these repetitive incidents and any instances of false positives. SOAR solutions have automation playbooks to detail how they will react to a known scenario, ensuring that the incident is handled automatically and appropriately.
While automation and orchestration are a large part of a SOAR’s remit, its response capabilities are just as important. Analysts can leverage orchestration and automation tools in order to respond to threats as quickly and efficiently as possible. By using the platform’s consolidated dashboard, they can plan, manage, and coordinate threat response as threats emerge. Analysts can make use of extensive reporting features, which provides reviews, case management, and threat intelligence.
Altogether, these three “facets” of SOAR help teams develop strategies, monitor the network, collate data, execute, and coordinate remediation plans in response to threats.
What Is In A SOAR Solution?
In its explanation of SOAR, Gartner states that SOAR solutions are a specifically designed combination of “incident response, orchestration and automation, and threat intelligence platform management capabilities’ delivered in a single solution. In practice, SOAR solutions consist of security incident response platforms (SIRPs), security orchestration and automation (SOA), and threat intelligence platforms (TIPs). Capabilities of SOAR include:
- Case and incident management
- Incident logging
- Playbook management
- Play and workflow automation
- Threat intelligence (TI) aggregation
- Threat intelligence (TI) visualization
- Alert enrichment
SOAR aggregates data from a range of sources, including SIEM platforms, EDR, intrusion prevention systems, firewalls, behavior analytics, and vulnerability scanners.
You can read our guide to the top ten SOAR solutions here.
What Is SIEM?
Short for security information and event management, SIEM is a collection of tools that log all information and event data that occurs within the network. This information can then be processed into a readable format for IT teams to leverage when completing threat detection and incident response tasks. SIEM aggregates data from a range of sources including networks, host systems, applications, infrastructures, and endpoints.
SIEM can be split into two sides: security information management (SIM) and security events management (SEM).
SIM collects and stores log data for future analysis and reporting. SIM tools collect a broad range of information from your network – including shutdowns, breached capacity limits, and file changes – and stores it for potential future analysis. This information is collated by SIM tools, and accessed via a single, centralized console, for easy access and analysis. Any information can be easily exported for further reporting, analysis, and auditing.
SEM works in a very similar way to SIM solutions, except that the focus is on event monitoring and logging. SEM tools will collect information on any system events and alerts for further analysis on any developing or potential security risks.
SIEM monitors security and analysis of events and incidents in real-time, whilst logging and storing all data for comprehensive reference. Teams can use this logged information to find, contextualize, then remediate threats. Overall, SIEM is designed to provide easy access to readable, digestible data, while also helping to reduce incident response times through automation.
What Is In A SIEM Solution?
SIEM, in its simplest form, is a logging tool. It aggregates and logs all event and incident data across your network, pulling this information from a wealth of sources – these include host systems, infrastructure, applications, endpoints, and third-party security tools. Data is saved and catalogued in a centralized repository where information is tagged and sorted for easy browsing and identification. You can think of SIEM as taking in the jumbled information gathered at endpoints, then processes it into something that your IT teams can understand and act upon.
Many modern SIEM solutions can leverage network threat intelligence, from the SIEM provider, thereby enhancing visibility and analysis. Other features that the platform usually includes are: log management capabilities, event correlation and analytics, compliance management and reporting, and asset discovery. Some SIEMs offer EDR capabilities as well.
You can read our guide to the top 10 SIEM solutions here.
SOAR And SIEM: A Side By Side
SOAR was created as a consolidated product, designed to address the gaps that SIEM doesn’t fill. While it seems as though SOAR goes beyond SIEM in terms of what it can offer – remediation and automation capabilities, in addition to the logging and reporting functions of SIEM – this doesn’t mean SIEM is without value. SIEMs offer robust reporting and logging tools to provide round-the-clock monitoring and extensive reporting functionality. Despite being excellent at catching data, larger organizations have had their problems in the past with implementing SIEM network wide consistently and issues with scaling the solution as the company grows.
In Gartner’s 2022 SOAR market guide, it was noted that SOAR remains popular with large security teams that wish to have automated processes for known and well-established threats. Playbooks and incidents are a big selling point of SOAR solutions, as they help to improve consistency, efficiency, and productivity. Main use cases center around vulnerability management, threat intelligence, incident response, threat hunting, monitoring, and detection.
What Are The Strengths And Weaknesses Of SOAR?
- Reduced workload and alert fatigue
- Improved and speeds up threat detection, management, and response
- Reduced complexity
- More accurate threat intelligence
- Automation enables scalability
- Enhanced collaboration between work teams
- Standardized playbooks
Weaknesses of SOAR include:
- Complex to onboard and run
- Integrating with existing security stack can be complex
- Often expensive to purchase and deploy
What Are The Strengths And Weaknesses Of SIEM?
There are a few things to consider with SIEM before making a purchase. The strengths of having a SIEM solution include:
- Centralized reporting from a consolidated dashboard
- Enables real-time incident response after finding potential threats
- Insights for compliance reporting and auditing
- Proactive threat detection
- Helps with compliance
- Decreased remediation time
And some of the weaknesses of SIEM include:
- Alert fatigue brought on by false positives – potentially due to improper configuration
- Long implementation time
- High cost to purchase, install and deploy
Which One Do I Need For My Business?
For most organizations, it seems as though the answer is one or the other. SOAR is a highly complex, robust, and, often, expensive product that is best suited to larger organizations or MSPs. A SIEM solution is more accessible to a wide range of organizations and company sizes.
While the two solutions perform different functions – it can feel as though SOAR has more to offer than SIEM – both solutions have a lot of value together and independently of each other. They are different solutions, with different strengths and weaknesses.
SOAR Use Case
SOAR solutions are most popular with security operation centers (SOCs) in larger companies that have the time, resources, and finances to dedicate to it. SOCs help to protect organizations from cyberthreats, with analysts performing round-the-clock monitoring of the network with immediate investigation into alerts
So, what does SOAR mean for SOCs? The threat landscape is forever changing and becoming more complex. SOAR does a good job of doing the “heavy lifting” for overly stretched IT teams. SOC teams often don’t have the time or resources to investigate every incident that occurs on the network. Many of these alerts are false positives. Remediating these tasks can be very repetitive, yet care and attention is needed throughout. SOAR helps to reduce this workload by automating response workflows and security processes, correlating siloed tools, managing threats, and assessing alerts before communicating them to admins.
While SOAR brings a lot to the table, Gartner noted that many of SOARs capabilities can be found in SIEM, XDR (extended detection and response, and email security tools. These include incident and case management, orchestration and automation, and the operationalizing of threat intelligence. Gartner suggest that organizations looking to implement a SOAR solution need to introduce it to an already mature process in order to get the most out of their solution.
SIEM Use Case
SIEM has a lot to offer in terms of developing logging capabilities and presenting it to your team in a digestible way through graphs and notifications. Its main goal is to make IT teams’ lives easier by filtering and prioritizing alerts so your team members can focus on the most pressing concerns. Some users comment that SIEM tools have caused alert fatigue from false positives. This can be mitigated by ensuring you have the correct solution for your organization. You want a robust solution with a low-to-no rate of false positives, and to ensure the platform is configured correctly.
SIEM works well when integrated with additional security products like XDR and EDR. When fully integrated into your security stack, the solution can be very powerful. SIEM is regarded as an important element in cybersecurity – without it, organizations must manually collate network data, and compile it into a digestible format. Through extensive visibility, it can detect new threats. Incident management is enhanced by allowing teams to visualize an attack’s route through the network, thereby identifying compromised sources and risk areas. It can analyze malicious activity and create timelines of attacks, helping the organization to understand how a threat operates – this, in turn, can be crucial for remediation.
Often used in the same sentence, there are some distinct differences between SOAR and SIEM solutions. Both have a lot to offer organizations that experience a large number of alerts and incidents on a daily basis. SIEM and SOAR are both robust products with a lot to offer when it comes to managing these alerts and incidents. A SOAR solution is more suited to larger organizations and MSPs – it is often integrated into MDR stacks – whereas a SIEM solution can be more accessible, and benefit organizations of all sizes.
By and large, SOAR is still seen as an advanced version of SIEM. While SIEM works best in conjunction with other security tools, SOAR goes one step further with its automation and orchestration features already built in.