Adding security tools into company network infrastructure is necessary for detecting problems, but it doesn’t necessarily correlate to strong security outcomes. Rather, security teams need the right tools that will cover every type of risk assessment, detection and/or prevention. 

Two of those tools—Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) and Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR)—are essential to deploy a successful cybersecurity system, but there are misconceptions surrounding their functions, similarities, and differences. 

In fact, while they address the same security issues, and there is some overlap in functionality, SIEM and SOAR can’t be used interchangeably.

What is SIEM?

SIEM software collects security log data from multiple systems, analyzes and categorizes it, and then uses the information as intelligence indicating a potential cyberattack in near real-time. 

The security tools from which SIEM aggregates data include firewalls, anti-virus/anti-malware software, intrusion detection systems, and network appliances. Whenever there is any suspicious activity, the SIEM tool creates an alert. 

Managing these alerts is what makes the SIEM valuable. Typical SIEM systems have to process hundreds of security tools that generate thousands of potential security events per second. No human can handle that amount alone, and the number of false positives are otherwise overwhelming. As a recent Dataversity article noted, “The key ability of a SIEM is to filter through all the data and prioritize security issue alerts, making security more manageable.”

What is SOAR?

Gartner, which coined the term, defines SOAR as “technologies that enable organizations to take inputs from a variety of sources (mostly from SIEM systems) and apply workflows aligned to processes and procedures.” Orchestration is the key term here, conducted through integration with other security technology to derive the desired outcome, that is then achieved through automation. 

In SOAR systems, the collected data is assessed for risk values and security decisions are determined according to that value. The security system can then respond to any potential problems before they can impact the network and business operations.

SIEM vs. SOAR

Simply put, while SIEM collects, analyzes, and correlates data to generate efficient real-time alerts, SOAR handles the response to, and remediation of, those warnings.

However, SIEM can only generate the alerts. It is up to security analysts to determine if the alert is true or a false positive and then begin any investigation or remediation steps. 

On the other hand, SOAR “provides lessons about the security admin skill set required to complete an investigation path,” according to TechTarget. SOAR also offers greater efficiency to the entire cybersecurity process and can reduce burnout risk for security teams.

The winner? SIEM and SOAR

While there are those who think that SOAR will eventually stand-alone and replace antiquated SIEM models, the best security comes when SIEM and SOAR work together. SIEM sends the alerts about potential threats, which triggers an automated response through the SOAR system. At that point, the SOAR solution uses a combination of automation and human interaction to guide mitigation, using the data intelligence already stored within the system.

“Both SIEM and SOAR intend to improve the lives of the entire security team, from the analyst to the CISO, by increasing the efficacy of the SOC (Security Operations Center) and mitigating vulnerability to the organization,” reviewer Marcus Gaither stated in Peerspot.

Standing alone, SIEM can overwhelm SecOps teams with false positives and create alert fatigue. Paired with SOAR, these actions can be handled more efficiently, while seamlessly orchestrating the data generated across hundreds of security tools.

Learn more about how SIEM, SOAR and other security solutions fit into your organization’s cybersecurity program. 
 

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