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Ryan Allphin
Ryan Allphin
Partner Perspectives

When Every Minute Counts: Fighting Advanced Threats With Real-Time SIEM

Survey shows that reducing time-to-detection is possible with the right approach.

In a recent study by Evalueserve for Intel Security, only 24% of companies surveyed said they are confident of their ability to detect an attack within minutes of its starting, and just under half said it would take days, weeks, or even months before they noticed. That is plenty of time for your data to be carried out the door.

According to the survey, as well as our experience investigating attacks, reducing time-to-detection is very possible. Many of the more than 450 companies surveyed have tools and technologies to deliver faster incident response. But too often, the significant signals could not be isolated from the mass of alerts being generated. When we looked for differences among the agile companies – those that could respond to an attack within minutes, and the rest – we found that real-time security information and event management (SIEM) was a fundamental distinction. Real-time SIEM can analyze security event and flow and log data fast enough for proactive internal and external threat management.

Real-time SIEM contributes to faster detection by doing more than the minimum of collecting and storing data. A proactive SIEM can rapidly correlate an enormous range and volume of alerts against external threat intelligence, abnormal versus normal activity, and threat priorities. Threats are prioritized through risk scores based on data such as asset value, patch level, location, and available defenses and countermeasures. Armed with this information, the security operations center gets a much clearer picture of the current state of assets and overall security posture, along with a heat map of the areas that require immediate attention. The organization pivots from being a gatherer of historical data to an active hunter with real-time data.

Some of this data is available via sensors and tools that are deployed today but are not communicating with the SIEM for evaluation. If organizations can begin to collect this data and process it in real time, they can shift the detection time from days and weeks to minutes. Reducing time to detection may have a longer-term impact on event volume as well. Most of the agile companies investigated fewer attacks per year than the study average, possibly indicating that the attackers have moved on to softer targets. (Caveat: Some agile companies investigated 50+ attacks last year, showing that some bad guys remain tenacious, or those companies have a special appeal to attackers.)

Our overall takeaway from the report is that security teams could make better use of the tools and options available today and should definitely chart a course that intersects with a real-time SIEM. Download your free copy of this special report at: http://www.mcafee.com/us/resources/reports/rp-when-minutes-count.pdf.

Ryan Allphin is responsible for defining and executing the strategic direction for the McAfee Security Management business, which includes McAfee's flagship product ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO), Enterprise Security Manager (SIEM), Data & Threat Intelligence Exchange, ... View Full Bio
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User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2014 | 2:47:35 PM
Re: SIEM Data Correlation
It is a foregone conclusion that proper sizing, configuration, and correlation rules must be in place for the SIEM to be effective. In addition, the security staff must also know how to use the SIEM and have a properly structured incident response plan in place. The growing complexity of internal networks with increasingly heterogeneous systems demands automation for speedier responses to threats. Unless human operators have slot machine eyeballs, it is hard to beat machine speed and efficiency.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/21/2014 | 12:29:05 PM
Re: SIEM Data Correlation

I'm glad you've seen the true impact of automated correlations by the SIEM. We see this as one of the most potent tools for uncloaking increasingly subtle attacks.  In particular, rule-less correlation can give you ways to detect threats as they develop based on what is important to your business. Factors such as alerts from a particular service or application, a group of users, or specific types of data can feed into traditional rules-based correlation for the greatest sensitivity to evolving risk – in real or near real time.

User Rank: Ninja
11/20/2014 | 8:33:55 AM
SIEM Data Correlation
I believe the below line is very pertinent.

"Some of this data is available via sensors and tools that are deployed today but are not communicating with the SIEM for evaluation. If organizations can begin to collect this data and process it in real time, they can shift the detection time from days and weeks to minutes."

I have seen organizations that have all the proper tools in place but are not leveraging a SIEM tool. In a lot of those cases the organization has the SIEM tool but instead are relying entirely on their security staff to correlate events. In these cases, I think the best advice is not to reinvent the wheel. Do the work up front to have your SIEM do the heavy lifting for event correlation. From this have your security team analyze the events. 
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