SIEM vs. SOAR: What’s the Difference?

When we are talking about cybersecurity, it is important to understand certain basic concepts. Many of these concepts are also important to the practice of good physical security, and today’s subject is a good example of such. A good early-warning system is essential to any secure environment, as this provides an opportunity to respond more quickly and prevent a greater percentage of attacks. Today, we are going to talk about two of the more common software solutions that can provide a warning system for your network.

What Is SIEM Software?

This is an acronym that stands for “Security Information and Event Management.” Your operating system (as well as all apps and programs) will keep activity logs showing everything that has happened relating to that system or network. However, collecting and analyzing all of these logs manually can be a serious chore. SIEM software automates the process by collecting all event logs and displaying them in a single place.

SIEM software is more than just a log collector, however. It analyzes the behavior that it sees in the logs, comparing that behavior to known patterns. If something suspicious is seen, an alert is raised. Obviously, SIEM software will generate false positives from time to time, but at least you can see that it’s sensitive enough to detect a real threat. Even if the threat is not neutralized, the logs will help with matters of accountability and response.

What Is SOAR Software?

SOAR software (Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response) is similar to SIEM software, but it performs a larger number of functions. While SIEM merely alerts all network admins to the presence of suspicious activity, SOAR can actually respond to those threats. It can do this both by using automated tools and reminders/advice sent to relevant parties.

There are many ways in which you can use SOAR to streamline or automate your threat response efforts. First of all, this software will allow you to incorporate all your security tools in a single place, allowing for a more cohesive and unified response. Better still, SOAR programs can automatically respond to known threats if programmed to do so.

For instance, if the software detects a lot of failed login attempts from a particular network user, it can automatically boot that person from the network. If the software detects a large number of users trying to connect simultaneously from the same IP range, that is an obvious red flag that indicates a botnet attack. Thus, that IP range can be temporarily banned until the threat has been properly analyzed.

How Are SIEM and SOAR Alike?

As we said from the beginning, both of these are early-warning systems that are intended to improve threat response time. The sooner the threat is identified, the better the possibility that it can be defeated. Thus, both of these software types are based on a common need.

Both of these software types begin their analytical process by collecting and collating the various logs from the system and its apps. In some ways, SOAR software is just SIEM software with more functions. Still, we would say that both of them have their uses and neither one is necessarily inferior. Both are meant to serve as the first layer of a network security system. Both are frequently used for the security of public clouds. Both of them have also proven to be very effective when used correctly.

How Do SIEM and SOAR Differ?

The main difference between these two software types can be seen in the level of human interaction they require. Obviously, SOAR software does not require as much manual attention but it does require some. Do not make the mistake of thinking that this software will automate your entire response effort because it will not. Rather, it will automate key processes based on threats that it can positively identify. For the less obvious threats, a human will still need to respond quickly to alerts.

There is no substitute for the expertise of a dedicated and educated human operator. At the same time, many organizations lack the manpower or the time to do things in this way. Thus, SOAR software serves their needs much better than a SIEM solution. So, to recap the key difference: SIEM is just a reliable “burglar alarm,” whereas SOAR is more like a total automated security system.

The Downsides Of SIEM and SOAR

Finally, let’s discuss the ways in which we might criticize these types of software. For one thing, we can obviously criticize the limited nature of SIEM software. It does nothing apart from analyzing logs and issuing alerts. While this is a good thing, many would agree that it isn’t enough. These systems will often require regular “tweaking” by IT professionals in order to get their rulesets right. Otherwise, you’re going to be getting a lot of false positives. False positives aren’t that bad, but they do waste time and effort that could be better spent elsewhere.

SOAR software, however, is not without its own problems. An automated tool will always be easier for an attacker to circumvent. Fooling a machine is a lot harder than fooling a human being who knows how to recognize a threat. An attacker could theoretically circumvent these tools by variating their methods just enough to fall outside the established attack patterns. And, as we already said, SOAR software will still require a certain amount of human input.

Conclusion

The good news is that both of these types of software are highly useful for the detection and mitigation of network threats. SIEM may require more human intervention, but that does allow for a little more fine-tuning. SOAR tools require less intervention, however, and are becoming more popular due to this convenience.

If you would like to know more, or if you need some managed IT services for small businesses, you can call PCH Technologies at (856) 754-7500. We offer the best IT services in New Jersey and we are prepared to prove that statement true.