What is SIEM?

Security Information and Event Management Explained

Why is SIEM important?

Combining security information management (SIM) and security event management (SEM), security information and event management (SIEM) offers real-time monitoring and analysis of events as well as tracking and logging of security data for compliance or auditing purposes.

Put simply, SIEM is a security solution that helps organizations recognize potential security threats and vulnerabilities before they have a chance to disrupt business operations. It surfaces user behavior anomalies and uses artificial intelligence to automate many of the manual processes associated with threat detection and incident response and has become a staple in modern-day security operation centers (SOCs) for security and compliance management use cases.

Over the years, SIEM has matured to become more than the log management tools that preceded it. Today, SIEM offers advanced user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) thanks to the power of AI and machine learning.  It is a highly efficient data orchestration system for managing ever-evolving threats as well as regulatory compliance and reporting.

How does SIEM work?

At the most basic level, all SIEM solutions perform some level of data aggregation, consolidation and sorting functions in order to identify threats and adhere to data compliance requirements. While some solutions vary in capability, most offer the same core set of functionality:

Log Management

SIEM captures event data from a wide range of source across an organization’s entire network. Logs and flow data from users, applications, assets, cloud environments, and networks is collected, stored and analyzed in real-time, giving IT and security teams the ability to automatically manage their network's event log and network flow data in one centralized location.

Some SIEM solutions also integrate with third-party threat intelligence feeds in order to correlate their internal security data against previously recognized threat signatures and profiles. Integration with real-time threat feeds enable teams to block or detect new types of attack signatures.

Event Correlation and Analytics

Event correlation is an essential part of any SIEM solution. Utilizing advanced analytics to identify and understand intricate data patterns, event correlation provides insights to quickly locate and mitigate potential threats to business security. SIEM solutions significantly improve mean time to detect (MTTD) and mean time to resond (MTTR) for IT security teams by offloading the manual workflows associated with the in-depth analysis of security events.

Incident Monitoring and Security Alerts

Because they enable centralized management of on-premise and cloud-based infrastructure, SIEM solutions are able to identify all entities of the IT environment. This allows SIEM technology to monitor for security incidents across all connected users, devices, and applications while classifying abnormal behavior as it is detected in the network. Using customizable, predefined correlation rules, administrators can be alerted immediately and take appropriate actions to mitigate it before it materializes into more significant security issues.

Compliance Management and Reporting

SIEM solutions are a popular choice for organizations subject to different forms of regulatory compliance. Due to the automated data collection and analysis that it provides, SIEM is a valuable tool for gathering and verifying compliance data across the entire business infrastructure. SIEM solutions can generate real-time compliance reports for PCI-DSS, GDPR, HIPPA, SOX, and other compliance standards, reducing the burden of security management and detecting potential violations early so they can be addressed. Many of the SIEM solutions come with pre-built, out-of-the-box add-ons that can generate automated reports designed to meet compliance requirements.

The benefits of SIEM

Regardless of how large or small your organization may be, taking proactive steps to monitor for and mitigate IT security risks is essential. SIEM solutions benefit enterprises in a variety of ways and have become a significant component in streamlining security workflows. Some of the benefits include:

Advanced real-time threat recognition
SIEM active monitoring solutions across your entire infrastructure significantly reduces the lead time required to identify and react to potential network threats and vulnerabilities, helping to strengthen security posture as the organization scales.

Regulatory compliance auditing
SIEM solutions enable centralized compliance auditing and reporting across an entire business infrastructure. Advanced automation streamlines the collection and analysis of system logs and security events to reduce internal resource utilization while meeting strict compliance reporting standards.

AI-driven automation
Today's next-gen SIEM solutions integrate with powerful Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) capabilities, saving time and resources for IT teams as they manage business security. Using deep machine learning that automatically adapts to network behavior, these solutions can handle complex threat identification and incident response protocols in significantly less time than physical teams.

Improved organizational efficiency
Because of the improved visibility of IT environments that it provides, SIEM can be an essential driver of improving interdepartmental efficiencies. With a single, unified view of system data and integrated SOAR, teams can communicate and collaborate efficiently when responding to perceived events and security incidents.

For more information on the benefits of Security Information and Event Management and if it's right for your business, explore additional SIEM resources from IBM's security intelligence experts.

Detecting Advanced and Unknown Threats
Considering how quickly the cybersecurity landscape changes, organizations need to be able to rely on solutions that can detect and respond to both known and unknown security threats. Using integrated threat intelligence feeds and AI technology, SIEM solutions can successfully mitigate against modern-day security breaches such as:

  • Insider threats - Security vulnerabilities or attacks that originate from individuals with authorized access to company networks and digital assets. These attacks could be the result of compromised credentials.
  • Phishing attacks - Social engineering attacks masquerading as trusted entities, often used to steal user data, login credentials, financial information, or other sensitive business information.
  • SQL Injections - Malicious code executed via a compromised webpage or application designed to bypass security measures and add, modify, or delete records in an SQL database.
  • DDoS Attacks - A Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack designed to bombard networks and systems with unmanageable levels of traffic, degrading performance of websites and servers until they are unusable.
  • Data exfiltration – Data theft or extrusion is commonly achieved by taking advantage of common or easy-to-crack passwords on network assets, or through the use of an Advanced Persistent Threat, or APT.

Conducting Forensic Investigations
SIEM solutions are ideal for conducting digital forensic investigations once a security incident occurs. SIEM solutions allow organizations to efficiently collect and analyze log data from all of their digital assets in one place. This gives them the ability to recreate past incidents or analyze new ones to investigate suspicious activity and implement more effective security processes.

Assessing and Reporting on Compliance
Compliance auditing and reporting is both a necessary and challenging task for many organizations. SIEM solutions dramatically reduce the resource expenditures required to manage this process by providing real-time audits and on-demand reporting of regulatory compliance whenever needed.
Reduce risk related to compliance

Monitoring Users and Applications
With the rise in popularity of remote workforces, SaaS applications and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies, organizations need the level of visibility necessary to mitigate network risks from outside the traditional network perimeter. SIEM solutions track all network activity across all users, devices, and applications, significantly improving transparency across the entire infrastructure and detecting threats regardless of where digital assets and services are being accessed.

Tools and features involved in a SIEM solution

Log Data Management

Collection of log data is the foundation of Security Information and Event Management. Real-time data collection, analysis and correlation maximizes productivity and efficiency.

Network visibility

By inspecting packet captures between for visibility into network flows, the SIEM analytics engine can get additional insights into assets, IP addresses and protocols to reveal malicious files or the data exfiltration of personally identifiable information (PII) moving across the network.

Threat Intelligence

Being able to incorporate either proprietary or open-source intelligence feeds into your SIEM solution is essential in order to recognize and combat modern-day vulnerabilities and attack signatures.


Not all SIEM solutions offer the same level of data analysis. Solutions that incorporate next-gen technology such as machine learning and artificial intelligence help to investigate more sophisticated and complex attacks as they arise.

Real-time Alerting

SIEM solutions can be customized to business needs, making use of pre-defined, tiered alerts and notifications across multiple teams.

Dashboards and reporting 

In some organizations, hundreds or even thousands of network events can happen on a daily basis. Understanding and reporting incidents in a customizable view, with no lag time is essential.

IT Compliance

Regulatory compliance requirements vary considerably from one organization to the next. While not all SIEM tools offer the full range of compliance coverage, organizations in heavily regulated industries prioritize auditing and on-demand reporting over other features.

Security & IT Integrations

Organizational visibility begins with integrating the SIEM with a variety of security and non-security log sources; established organizations will benefit from a SIEM that integrates with existing investments in security and IT tooling.

SIEM implementation best practices

Before or after you've invested in your new solution, here are some SIEM implementation best practices you should follow:

  1. Begin by fully understanding the scope of your implementation. Define how your business will best benefit from deployment and set up the appropriate security use cases.
  2. Design and apply your predefined data correlation rules across all systems and networks, including any cloud deployments.
  3. Identify all of your business compliance requirements and ensure your SIEM solution is configured to audit and report on these standards in real-time so you can better understand your risk posture.
  4. Catalog and classify all digital assets across your organization's IT infrastructure. This will be essential when managing collecting log data, detecting access abuses, and monitoring network activity.
  5. Establish BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies, IT configurations, and restrictions that can be monitored when integrating your SIEM solution.
  6. Regularly tune your SIEM configurations, ensuring you're reducing false positives in your security alerts.
  7. Document and practice all incident response plans and workflows to ensure teams are able to respond quickly to any security incidents that require intervention.
  8. Automate where possible using artificial intelligence (AI) and Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) capabilities.
  9. Evaluate the possibility of investing in an MSSP (Managed Security Service Provider) to manage your SIEM deployments. Depending on the unique needs of your business, MSSPs may be better equipped to handle the complexities of your SIEM implementation as well as regularly manage and maintain its continuous functionality.

What the future holds for SIEM

AI will become increasingly important in the future of SIEM, as cognitive capabilities improve the system’s decision-making abilities. It will also allow systems to adapt and grow as the number of endpoints increases. As IoT, cloud, mobile and other technologies increase the amount of data that a SIEM tool must consume, AI offers the potential for a solution that supports more data types and a complex understanding of the threat landscape as it evolves.


When it comes to Security Information and Event Management, it's important to invest in a SIEM solution you can trust from a provider that understands the importance of strengthening enterprise security posture.

How customers are using SIEMs

IBM Security QRadar SIEM is a comprehensive security intelligence platform designed to help organizations manage all the complexities of their security operations processes from one unified platform.

Explore QRadar’s benefits

Available as an on-premises, cloud or SaaS solution, QRadar offers flexible deployment options for today's evolving businesses to deploy security where it is needed most. Featuring advanced analytics, AI-driven investigations, real-time threat detection, and comprehensive IT compliance management, QRadar has all the capabilities your business needs to detect, investigate, prioritize, and respond threats across your entire organizaiton while ensuring your business continuity.

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