Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Implementing SIEM

While assessing my infrastructure, I came to the conclusion that it is time to start making work of a few things:

  • increasing operational efficiency by selective and targeted automation of log review, thereby freeing up valuable human resources to work on more interesting projects;
  • increasing (near) real-time situational awareness of my infrastructure;
  • increasing the ability to conduct log-based forensics;
  • increased scrutiny and enforcement of log retention policies.
Note that compliance is missing in this list. Partially that is because doing these things well will lead to an increased compliance posture, and partially it is caused by the fact that I do not have compliance regulations that require me to implement technologies like this.

Anyone familiar with the field will see that this a textbook use case to start looking for a log management solution, an event management solution, or maybe even a full SIEM.

Since I have done SIEM projects in a previous job, I was a little reluctant to start a new one. SIEM projects typically involve many operational groups, which makes them complicated to execute, and the SIEM market is generally on the pricey side. Adding a SIEM will also add a layer of complexity, if done wrong.

However, after some consideration, I decided that it was time to do start a new project. In order to avoid wasting my time, I built several go/no-go decisions into my expected timeline.

Like many IT projects, a SIEM project is not something that can be rushed. From the point of project initiation, I decided to take 1 year to go through the process of research, budget acquisition, requirements formulation, scoping, vendor presentations, contract negotiations, etc. to the point where a product has been purchased and implementation could start.

Twelve months is a long time, but it is necessary to take the time and to do it right. Once you commit to a SIEM product, you had better take it serious, or else it will fail.

While I am now at about 3/4 of my project, and my potential vendor list has been narrowed down quite a bit, I have not yet made a final selection about which product/vendor to select, if I select one at all.

After an overdose of sales rep speak ("single glass pane", "drill down", "30 thousand feet overview", "customizable dashboard", etc.), I can say that most products that I have reviewed have made some nice progress since I looked at them 5 years ago. Interesting to see is that, while I followed the same evaluation process back then, the outcome is completely different this year. That difference can be explained by a combination of market movements, a different workplace, SIEM technologies maturing, and a better understanding on the implications of doing something like this on my part.

The SIEM market seems to be developing nicely, and is slowly reaching a level of maturity.

It seems that I am not the only one thinking about these things lately. The guys over at Securosis have been posting a nice series of posts on SIEM selection, as has Rocky DeStefano over at Security Operations by Visible Risk. In the midst of this, Andrew Hay takes a job at the 451 Group as the Senior Analyst primarily responsible for the SIEM, Log Management, GRC, Forensics, Vulnerability Analysis, and Penetration Testing portfolios; the Gartner Group decided to release is 2010 magic quadrant for Security Information and Event Management; and LogLogic announced that they are cutting their pricing in an attempt to push the market towards a more cost effective solution for SEM/SIEM.

We live in interesting times.

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