SIEM, SOAR: terms and acronyms can quickly become a confusing blur of indecipherable terminology for the inexperienced in cyber security.

These two security tools house similar complimenting functions in their usefulness for security operations but stand firmly as separate entities.

Let’s dive into these two technologies to understand their differences, showcasing their unique capabilities and how they ultimately stand compared to the other.

What is SIEM?

A security information and event management (SIEM) solution is an essential component of any organization’s security infrastructure. It allows the security team to maintain situational awareness and effectively prioritize alerts by aggregating, normalizing, and analyzing vast volumes of data from a variety of sources, including network infrastructure devices, host systems, operating systems, and applications.

In essence, SIEM is a centralized system that allows cyber security personnel to correlate the events of different devices across the network into a single console. It contains an event collection, correlation, and analysis engine that allows you to identify threats and perform incident response triage.

SIEM service providers offer a wide range of log management and security monitoring capabilities. Still, they are primarily focused on collecting logs from existing information systems, such as firewalls, web proxies, virtual private networks (VPNs), intrusion detection/prevention systems (IDSs/IPSs), operating systems (OSs), applications, databases – the list can go on and on.

A SIEM solution can alert an analyst or engineer when it finds an anomaly in its data, but it often needs manual tuning to understand what is regular activity versus what may be anomalous. This leads to security teams spending a lot of time managing the tool itself rather than using it to work effectively on its own.

This manual tuning, in addition to requiring human resources, may as well necessitate a larger quantity of cyber security personnel to reasonably manage the ongoing workload of a SIEM solution.

What is SOAR?

Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response, otherwise known as SOAR, is a set of tools that security teams can use to respond to cyberattacks more efficiently.

SOAR solutions help analysts and engineers save time by automating routine tasks, freeing up resources to focus on more important activities.

A SOAR solution can be programmed to automatically run scripts, execute playbooks, or triage alerts so that security teams can spend more time finding the root cause of issues and less time managing the tool.

Whereas SIEM can require additional human resources to maintain and manage, it can take massive resources to implement before becoming effective.

What’s the difference between SIEM and SOAR?

On any given day security teams are swimming in data. With so many threats bombarding a security team, they must rely on tools that can be trusted.

SOAR and SIEM share several functions, which allows one to believe that they are the same. Analyzing the similarities and differences between them can help one understand, why it’s important to have measures implemented by both tools to improve security in enterprises.

SIEM basic function: SIEM collects specified logs from the logging agents, syslog forwarding, or log sharing (Windows) on the log sources and correlates them in real-time to identify suspicious activities or anomalies that can be potential threats to the security of your network.

SOAR basic function: SOAR is a suite of technologies designed to automate and accelerate incident detection and response across multiple platforms with integrated tools that work in tandem. SOAR is an automation tool that brings together security orchestration (automation), threat intelligence feeds, case management, reporting & dashboards, and vulnerability data, all into one tool.

SOAR labor automation: SOAR tools are designed to integrate with SIEM solutions and other security tools. They automate labor-intensive processes that are part of incident response workflows such as collecting evidence or remediating the environment after an alert is triggered. In a nutshell, SOAR automates the high-value parts of incident response workflows so that analysts can focus on the more critical aspects of their jobs.

SIEM resource demands: SIEM lacks automation as it requires human intervention to tune and monitor the data which in turn makes SIEM less efficient than SOAR. Whereas SOAR enables complete automation as it automatically detects threats, generates responses and resolves the problems accordingly with proper solutions.

Although different, SIEM and SOAR Work as Complementary Services

Up until recently, SOC teams have used the SIEM as the singular window for looking into their network and performing analysis on events and behaviors. SIEM generally lacks the ability to perform automation at the analysis level which has required manpower in an industry that lacks it. SOAR has since stepped in to help solve this problem.

SIEM also generally lacked integration with other security platforms that could consolidate other rich data to prosper the analysis process, like associated VRM and threat Intelligence data.

SOAR aims to augment the SIEM in its security event response to perform automated actions (alerts, metrics, triage, etc.) that would generally be performed by SOC personnel.

And although heavily automated and generally more hands-off than SIEM when deployed, solutions of these kinds tend to require a monstrous amount of integration and configuration load when initially being onboarded to an organization’s environment.

Also, the SIEM has numerous other necessary operational functions, like log management, compliance, non-threat-related data analysis, and management. So at this point in time, SOAR can’t become a replacement for it, but instead should be used in tandem. SOAR relies on SIEM’s unique ability to correlate across all ingested logs to generate consolidated security data for SOAR to sift through and do its magic.

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