4 Best SIEM Tools for both Small & Large Organizations

by John Cirelly - Last Updated: August 21, 2021

As networks become larger and more complicated, the risk of a cyber-attack becomes more prevalent as businesses scale. Security Information and Event Management or SIEM tools help centralize and organize security events across all parts of the business. These systems help ensure best practices are being followed, configurations are correct, and alert admins as soon as suspicious activity is detected.

Here is our list of the best SIEM tools:

  1. SolarWinds Security Event Manager – FREE TRIAL Offers SIEM log professing, file integrity monitoring, and 24-hour support.
  2. Datadog Security Monitoring Provides the best mix of value, security, and ease of use.
  3. ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer Offers robust log analysis, actionable insights, and tools for manual event reviewing.
  4. OSSEC An open-source SIEM platform that collaborates with the OSSEC community to share ruleset and threat insights.

Before we dive into each of the tools, let’s take a moment to review exactly what a SIEM tool is, what it does, and why it’s so important for businesses that are poised for growth.

What is a SIEM?

A SIEM is a Security Information and Event Management tool that provides a real-time live view into the security posture of your organization across all applications and networks. It works by using agents to aggregate data from workstations and log files, and then pulls that information into a single system – the SIEM.

With this data security professionals comb through live events, stop attack attempts, and crush any infection that is attempting to spread through the network. Without a SIEM, admins would need dozens of different logins and dashboards to see the logs and events from servers and applications all across the network.

Centralization also allows administrators to keep an audit of these security events. If a breach does occur, security professionals will be able to use the historic log data collected to aid in a forensic investigation that can not only help find the source of the breach but be used in a court of law as evidence.

SIEM systems go beyond simple antivirus software by providing blanket coverage across an entire organization. With that said, SIEM tools aren’t foolproof. Threats aren’t simply blocked automatically like on a consumer PC. SIEM reports and logs need to be analyzed by both automated systems as well as trained technicians in order to get the most amount of value out of a SIEM deployment.

What does a SIEM do?

SIEM’s have a wide range of capabilities that are often made available as out-of-the-box templates, but in reality, take time to refine and customize. Since every network is different a SIEM can be configured to learn over time what threats look like, versus real user behavior.

Some common SIEM capabilities are:

  • Log collection
  • Log normalization/filtering
  • Alerts & notifications
  • Threat response workflow
  • Log graphing
  • Incident detection
  • Automated remediation

Not all SIEMs are created equal, but many will have the capabilities mentioned above in some capacity. You’ll find that some SIEMs leverage artificial intelligence more heavily than others. This can be a huge benefit if you’re dealing with hundreds of gigabytes of log files and supporting a network of many users.

SIEMs are powerful tools that can also automate threat response. If a particular action or series of actions is detected you can configure the SIEM to take a specific action. This could be as simple as locking a user account and creating a helpdesk ticket, or as complex as changing network settings to isolate a ransomware infection.

Since there are so many different variables at play. SIEMs still need to be operated by a professional. While it’s true there are many automated and machine learning features that SIEMs can use, it will only be as effective as the operator configuring it.

Should I use a SIEM?

Building a SIEM system is in fact an investment that requires time and money. As cyberattacks such as ransomware and data theft rise sharply, so does the need for organizations to protect themselves and their customers. In the past, companies wanting to implement a SIEM needed to invest thousands of dollars in hardware, and even more into staff. Today there are SIEM tools that are built in the cloud, making the implementation of a SIEM system more affordable than ever before. Even with this change in expense, smaller companies may struggle to justify allocating the funds to set up a SIEM for their organization.

In many cases, small businesses will need threat protection, but not at the level that a SIEM provides. Generally, the larger you are as an organization, the more of a target you are for an attack. Even medium-sized businesses that are expecting to grow over the next few years should seriously consider a SIEM.

It’s often during these periods of growth where lax security policies and disorganization come to haunt companies who don’t take security seriously. SIEMs are an investment in your company, your uptime, your data, and ultimately your ability to serve your customers.

Core SIEM Components

There are some core components of a SIEM that allow it to function in a way that provides blanket security coverage. We’ll touch on each of the core components that make SIEMs as powerful as they are.

Log Management

At the center of any SIEM product, you’ll have a log management core. This system will be able to intake log data from dozens of different sources, automatically scan it for security events, and then make those insights available to administrators for further action. Without log analysis, SIEMs would have vastly limited capabilities and visibility into what is happening across different servers and applications.

As you can imagine processing log data across multiple servers, vendors, and environments can be chaotic. SIEM tools have built-in filters and other features that consolidate and normalize log data so that it can be more efficiently interpreted by both artificial intelligence and human investigators.

When the data is normalized, it is often compared to events from previously recorded data. This helps the system create a baseline that is customized around how your organization operates. For instance, if Sue suddenly logs into her PC remotely at 3 am from a different country, a quick check of recent records would show this behavior as anomalous. This could fire off an alert to an administrator, or execute automation to disable her account.

Lastly, this log data can be used to help assist in audits to demonstrate compliance, or assist a cybersecurity investigation after a security incident has occurred. Many SIEM tools feature compliance reporting tools that allow admin to run a scan and report together to demonstrate compliance across an entire organization relatively easily.

For cyber crime investigations, logs often need to be parsed manually. A good SIEM tool will have features that assist in the manual investigation and make the manual review process simpler through advanced search features, log comparison, and backend scripting options.

Alerts & Notifications

A SIEM is essentially useless if it cannot communicate with staff that something is wrong. In all SIEM tools, there is some form of alert configuration and option for notifications. More advanced SIEM tools will allow for custom alerts, multiple combinations of conditions, thresholds, and variables to be set.

This is important because it can be very easy to generate false positives if alerts are misconfigured. More common than false alarms is alert fatigue. Misconfigured alerts can bombard network operation teams and help desks with insistent alerts that may get ignored over time. Many SIEM platforms have built-in intelligent alerting which works to automatically prevent this from happening.

Threat Response

Once an event has been identified it’s up to the admin to respond. Blatantly malicious actions can be resolved with automated remediation that stops it in its tracks. Manually reacting to all threats becomes unfeasible, especially at an enterprise level. SIEM tools include a combination of features that help admins automate specific responses based on severity, context, and how frequently the action happened.

For example, if a staff member just tried to send PHI in an email an action could be taken to automatically stop that from happening, alert the user, and send an email to the supervisor. If that same user were trying to move 100GB of PHI to their flash drive, the response would be much different.

Ultimately it’s up to the security team to fine-tune these rules over time. With the right SIEM tool, a proper balance can be achieved.

Dashboards

Visualization is key when it comes to keeping NOC teams, admins, and executives informed on the security of the organization. Good dashboards help give teams a general idea of what is happening, where to dive deeper, and what to prioritize next.

Different views can be created to help teams get a live look at what is happening, and compare metrics.

Dashboards can often be configured based on personal preferences but also made into a template so that teams can view insights and statistics that are relevant to their duties.

The Best SIEM Tools

There are a large number of SIEM tools and platforms to choose from, and not all are created equal. Some platforms are solely cloud-based, while others offer on-premises solutions as well. There are open source SIEM tools that might appear budget-friendly on the surface, but end up burning tons of time learning the tool and trying to get it to work how you want.

Oftentimes the best SIEM tools combine a mix of templated features that allow for customization and don’t box you into any particular vendor or solution. Having a wide variety of integrations available, as well as flexing monitoring options ensures that SIEM will be able to grow and scale with your organization over time. Below we’ll take a look at some of the best SIEM tools available today.

1. SolarWinds Security Event Manager – FREE TRIAL

SolarWinds Security Event Manager

SolarWinds Security Event Manager (SEM) offers organizations to build out their own SIEM with cross-platform monitoring capabilities spanning from Windows and Linux, across to Cisco devices. One of the most impressive features of the platform is its detailed incident response tools and log filtering abilities.

Key Features:

  • File integrity monitoring
  • 24/7 support
  • Cross-platform monitoring

Simple dashboards are able to customize exactly which metrics you need to monitor more closely, and live anomaly detection can be configured to alert teams to changes or incidents across the span of the entire network. Built-in file integrity monitoring is also a huge plus. Not only does this allow you to audit who has modified which files, but it can also detect and stop ransomware from encrypting files during an attack.

With 24/7 support you can rest easy knowing if you do have a problem or question during a potential security incident, they’ll have your back. Pricing is available both as a perpetual license and subscription.

You can test-drive SolarWinds Security Event Manager free with a 30-day trial.

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2. Datadog Security Monitoring

Datadog Security Monitoring Main-dashboard

This cloud-based SIEM tool features a suite of monitors that can be deployed across different network architectures, applications, and servers. Each sensor features an integration that allows it to collect the most data possible in that environment and then reports that back to a single dashboard. While Datadog has been known for its simple APM monitoring features, the company takes that same ease of use and applies it at scale to its SIEM offering.

Key Features:

  • Cloud-based SIEM
  • Flexible pricing
  • Done-for-you templates and rulesets

Events are monitored lives as well as tracked and stored for historical purposes. The platform arguably has one of the best user interfaces which helps organizations in even the most complex environments, allowing valuable insights to rise to the top.

Since Datadog is a cloud-based platform you won’t have to invest in any additional infrastructure, complex integrations, or lengthy onboarding processes. The SIEM tool comes with a number of out-of-the-box monitors, templates, dashboards, reports, and even rulesets that allow you to get near-instant value upon installation of the Datadog agents.

On the backend the threat detection library is continuously being updated by the Datadog team, saving you countless hours of research in the manual update process. This lets customers leverage the massive network of threat information that Datadog collects to protect its own network.

Customizing the platform is easier than completing tools as well. This is mostly imparted to Datadog’s improved user interface, and workflow approach to create custom alerts, sensors, and reports.

Pricing for Datadog is flexible, which allows you to customize your monitoring efforts and budget accordingly. For cloud-based security, monitoring pricing starts at $0.20 per gigabytes of analyzed logs per month. This features done-for-you detection rules, automated threat detection, and 15-month data retention.

You can test out Datadog free through a free 14-day trial.

3. ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer

ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer

ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer is a SIEM tool available for both Windows and Linux operating systems that helps organizations collect and analyze data, follow compliance guidelines, and visualize the current security posture of their organization.

Key Features:

  • Log analysis
  • Intrusion detection
  • Compliance auditing

The platform takes a focused approach to scraping log data from server logs as well as Windows Event Viewer, creating alerts from those logs, and then safely storing that log data for analysis.

There are a number of helpful rules and manual review tools that can be used to help protect the network and fix issues the SIEM finds. Role-based monitoring can be applied to certain areas to help discover insider threats, while monitors can be set to alert to changes on critical systems such as DHCP, DNS, or database servers.

ManageEngine was built for the enterprise but has a free version that allows small businesses to grow into their solution more comfortably. Pricing for EventLog Analyzer is customized based on the number of workstations, servers, and syslog devices you have. Additional add-ons such as Linux file server auditing, application auditing, and advanced threat analytics are also available.

You can test out the platform through a 30-day free trial.

4. OSSEC

OSSEC

OSSEC is an open-source SIEM platform that offers SIEM services for virtually any type of environment. Since the platform is open source, OSSEC is free but will come with a steep learning curve for those investing their time in the platform.

Key Features:

  • Open-source
  • Community threat sharing
  • Highly customizable

A strong community offers support when it can, and adds hundreds of new security rulesets every year. OSSEC is a great free option for smaller companies, but be prepared to be able to fix things on your own when you have issues with the platform.

Which SIEM is right for you?

We’ve narrowed it down to four of the best SIEM tools, but which is right for you?

In almost all cases SolarWinds Security Event Manager (SEM) is going to offer the best mix of value, scalability, and ease of use for small and large organizations alike. Datadog Security Monitoring is also a great option.

OSSEC is a great open-source option but comes with a steep learning curve which could cause significant downtime and possible security holes if not implemented properly.

Have you ever used a SIEM tool before? If so, share your experience with us in the comments below.