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cloud siem and cloud soar

Is cloud SIEM relevant? Only with a Cloud Orchestration and Automation Platform!

Paul-Arthur Jonville

More and more companies are shifting to the cloud. It’s less onerous to run and allow for more flexibility for companies. Vendors are also benefiting from the cloud by providing their products via the cloud.

Almost every security service provider now provides some of their service on the cloud. The cloud SIEM is a good example. To them, having a cloud-based SIEM is a must in environments that tend to generate a lot more alerts than traditional on-premise architecture.

From this point of view, it makes sense. However, cloud environments have their own set of native tools that generate alerts. A cloud SIEM can seem a bit redundant for cloud-based enterprises. We must determine how to approach Legacy SIEMs, Cloud SIEM, and Cloud Security Automation. We’ll see that legacy SIEMs are pretty much done because cloud SIEMs are unanimously offering better conditions for modern enterprises, unless exceptions.

As for hybrid companies, working between a public cloud and on-premise equipment, it’s trickier. There’s a need to have a control window in both environments. However, in this case, the number of alerts is just gargantuan, thus the need for some arms’ work integrated with the SIEM… and this is why SIEMs vendors have been buying SOARs (Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response platforms) these last few years.

However, let’s take the long focal and think five years from now. Cloud-based enterprises will be a new standard. The focus will be whether I can connect to all my SaaS on the cloud. Here, the Orchestration & Automation platform will be the central point of your cloud security architecture.

The issue with legacy SIEMs

Even if SIEMs have been out for 20 years and are considered the core of a state-of-the-art cybersecurity architecture, they still face many issues that most companies will face someday. Among these issues, let’s list the most frequent ones:

Cost: Even if the SIEM cost of initial acquisition has been decreasing (well… some are still pretty expensive, to be honest…), the majority of the cost is to be found in the costs associated with installation, out-the-box customization provided extra by the vendor, more customization on your end because why not, maintenance, log storage, and staffing. This old study from the Ponemon Institute depicts that, on average, the total cost of the SIEM can be divided into 25% going with the initial purchase and 75% toward the rest that we just mentioned. It’s a lot that could be spent elsewhere.

Complex: We could say that the old traditional SIEM does nothing independently. It’s not that true anymore; lots of SIEM embark on advanced features like User Entity Behavior Analysis (UEBA) that show some real interest in detecting abnormal behavior on the network. But still, the SIEM alerts, and that’s pretty much it. Customers have been programming ad hoc automations for years to make the SIEM more active. It proved so important that vendors started to provide out-of-the-box integrations with some third-party services to ease the burden on customers’ end (and create vendor ecosystems, duh).

But also, a SIEM needs configuration to work correctly. Most of the time, the vendor will add configuration to your environment at an extra cost during the initial installation. But your environment evolves, and the SIEM rapidly becomes untailored to your threat model and your needs as an organization. In the end, you’ll have to dedicate employees to maintain correlation rules to avoid having a SIEM unfitted to your environment that would generate false alerts and put you at risk.

High specialization: The point above leads us to the fact that SIEM is a highly specialized tool. It needs dedicated employees to maintain it in your environment. Then you have to operate it and do the proper log analysis that is a job in itself. It requires lots of resources in a field that, as we all know, structurally suffers from shortages and even more among the most qualified people, typically SIEM analysts.

Noisy: Not being able to properly configure the SIEM, your company risk facing the dramatic SIEM syndrome, where you’re being drowned under false alerts or duplicates. There are enough studies out there to expand my point. The Netwrix research claimed that 81 percent of respondents complained that their SIEMs generated too much “noise data.”

Lack of context: what is the SIEM doing? Its primary function is to aggregate system logs and to notify alerts to analysts when something unusual may have happened: incidents. However, the alert alone doesn’t provide much information. It lacks context and actionable data. Thus analysts have to start the manual work of enrichment to add context to the alert to know how to respond to the alert.

Cloud SIEM paper : Legacy SIEM challenges

No answers to be found in a cloud SIEM alone

Even if we’ve been talking about cloud migration for years, we’ve seen that the last two years have played a paradigm shift for enterprises. Many forced to adapt, albeit unprepared, started their cloud migration.

Still, the trend is set, and more enterprises are moving their assets to the cloud. The ones that have already started this journey, realizing the benefits it includes, are willing to move more assets and more critical ones. Others have more time to prepare for this migration and are looking to build a new security architecture in their future public cloud.

One thing to consider here is that many enterprises are in a hybrid situation where they have an increasing part of their assets moving to the cloud although still having a part on-premise.

This new and complex environment, combining work-from-home and work-from-office, on-premise infrastructure and cloud-based one, employees from all around the world accessing data at any time, generates massive amounts of data that traditional SIEMs aren’t able to ingest unless backed up by an incredibly expensive infrastructure besides the apparent shift needed to support the migration of critical workloads outside the on-premise networks and systems.

The cloud SIEM brought increased capacities to enable security teams to monitor and manage all users, servers, devices, applications, and other endpoints with efficacy and efficiency. We could sum up the cloud SIEM pros as such:

Faster deployment: The cloud SIEM comes without hardware to set up, maintain, or perform updates, thus benefiting from a much faster and cheaper deployment.

Scale: because they’re cloud-based, these SIEMs can scale to your evolving environment. As you grow, the cloud SIEM provides the agility, flexibility, and scalability to ingest massive amounts of data from your systems, on-premise or on the cloud, and process them from a single pane of glass solution.

Staying current: On-premise SIEM, like any on-prem equipment, always had difficulties keeping up to date with new technologies and capabilities. One main advantage of having a cloud-based solution is staying current thanks to the ease of updates deployment and the adaptability of the product to the ever-evolving tech environment.

All in all, cloud SIEM takes advantage of the boundless capacities of the cloud. The logs that are ingested can be analyzed immediately and rendered. Thanks to cloud computation capabilities, cloud SIEM are increasingly integrating machine learning and artificial intelligence to enhance their detection abilities. However, these pros are missing two crucial points in the cloud.

Facing the SaaS revolution

First, the explosion of apps used by companies, also in cybersecurity. To detect, SIEMs need to connect to these products as your company evolves. There is a need for a core capability of integration. Without such capability, your company faces caveats each time you purchase a product. Implementing any new product will take weeks or even months without a rapid integration capability.

This leads back to what we drew in the introduction. To face these needs, cloud SIEM vendors tried to face this issue by looking for IaaS platforms to connect to their SIEM. But the real trend has been for cloud SIEM vendors to buy SOAR platforms to create dual products: a cloud SIEM coupled with a cloud SOAR to create a holistic interface where the SIEM acts as a brain and the SOAR as the arms and legs.

This is why we saw a particular market trend in the last few years where a consolidation between SIEM and SOAR happened. This trend made some analysts write about the capacity of SOAR to be autonomous products. This conclusion doesn’t encompass the core revolution brought by next-generation orchestration and automation platforms.

We don’t believe that the acquisitions will kill the SOAR market. These acquisitions targeted what we may call First-gen SOARs. Still, they missed a new wave of SOARs that put the emphasis on integrations and which capacities are far more important than first-gen SOARs and leads to a rethink of the cyber architecture of the company, where these Orchestration and Automation platforms are their backbones.

Finding a way to analyze alerts and remediate incidents

Second, cloud SIEM is not answering one of the main issues concerning their ancestors: the sheer amount of alerts. Leveraging the cloud infrastructure and computation capabilities often leads to a dramatic increase in alerts. Of course, some of these are alerts coming from the expansion of the company’s attack surface moving to the cloud, but it also comes from the core configuration issue of the cloud SIEM.

The big picture is: alerts are growing. Whatsmore is that these alerts are coming from an increasing set of sensors. You have the incoming alerts from your on-prem tools and those from your cloud assets. All of them need different workflows to be handled appropriately and necessitate different integrations to allow the alert enrichment and confirmation and pave the way to remediation.

Considering this, the fact is that we need automation to handle this amount of alerts; we also need ways to ramp up the ability to integrate tools and create playbooks to address these use cases. These capabilities are brought by the SOARs, especially those focusing on delivering modern user experience through UX design and no code logic to facilitate the automation design process, or else; there’s a structural obstacle to scalability.

Enterprises have dozen, multiple hundreds of different tools enterprise-wide. No O&A platform can meet their needs if they can’t provide a connexion to their whole tech stack environment. This SOAR evolution leads us to the final parts of this article: the cloud-native orchestration and automation platform.

For Cloud-based enterprises, a cloud-native orchestration and automation platform is the first tool to have

Now let’s think about the cloud market in 3 to 5 years. The cloud market is expected to grow above the average market at a steady rate. It images the increasing trend in the move to the cloud to build infrastructures that are less costly, more reliable, and more efficient.

Whatsmore is that facing difficulties in the macro-economical context, enterprises will look for ways to reduce their functioning costs by moving more assets, if not all, into the cloud. Linked to this is the amount of capital and humans dedicated to value creation. Relying on the cloud helps reduce maintenance and infrastructure processes that need capital and humans.

It leads to a profound reflection on the future of Orchestration and Automation platforms, as we started to depict above.

Benefiting from the API revolution, these platforms are developing an impressive ability to integrate products. Integrations libraries are growing sharply and becoming a central point in the enterprise that allows the connection between every cloud-native tool. From the vendor native tools of the leading cloud service providers to third parties SaaS provided via these ecosystems, next-gen SOAR is connecting all the tools of the modern enterprise stack.

Coupled with this integration capability-making Orchestration feature is the Automation engine that naturally comes with the SOAR that makes these platforms an actual glue by connecting the flows between the tools beyond cybersecurity.

Why is beyond security important? Because security doesn’t stop at the SOC door. Cyberattacks have shown that security is everywhere in the enterprise, from the core conception of a software to business processes like the onboarding and offboarding an employee. As marketers said, security needs to shift left. Saying it is good but finding adequate ways to enforce it is another challenge.

Cloud SIEM + Cloud SOAR

The SOAR at crossroads

The advent of next-gen SOARs needs to make us consider their role in the enterprise. As said above, most existing analyzis fail to understand the new capabilities brought by these platforms. They focus on what old SOARs brought and their structural limits. In their opinion, and by adopting their partial lecture on the SecOps automation market, they’re right when saying that SOAR is vowed to be coupled with cloud SIEMs.

However, when talking about these new SOARs, strengthened by their ability to connect more tools and address a much more significant number of use cases, we need to rethink the place of these Orchestration and Automation platforms. Some said that the SOAR was at crossroads, where its destiny was between being a SIEM, or more precisely, a cloud SIEM adjuvant and an automation backbone. These new Orchestration and Automation platforms are showing the way to a new market beyond the mere triaging tools that come with a SIEM.

In the cloud, next-gen SOAR allows the enterprise to connect its stack and to make the most of it by automating hundred of use cases to address an unprecedented array of needs, from the old security one to the DevSecOps, by passing through HR, Business, and IT processes.

This is why we’re saying that next-gen SOAR is going beyond security to target the enterprise and, thus, become a backbone to automation. Far from being adjuvants, these platforms are meta-engines, paving the way to hyperautomation.

Cloud SIEM Cloud O&A is the way

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