What is security information and event management (SIEM)?

SIEM describes a solution that unites multiple security disciplines in one security management system to detect and respond to cybersecurity threats.

What’s the single most crucial factor in modern network security? Password management, data encryption, usage policies — each of these and nearly countless other elements all play a vital role in protecting your sensitive business and customer data from falling into unauthorised hands. But when it comes to effectively safeguarding your organisation’s digital assets, there is no single ingredient quite as essential as visibility. Unfortunately, as network size and complexity continue to expand, achieving that essential visibility becomes ever more difficult.

Security information and event management (SIEM, pronounced “sim”) is designed to address this and similar issues by gathering, aggregating, categorising, analysing and presenting log-security data from a diverse range of network sources. By bringing this information together into one security management system, SIEM provides IT and SecOps teams with the visibility they need to identify and respond to security threats in real time.

Simply put, SIEM puts network activity under a microscope, magnifying any activity that deviates from the norm and which might represent a potential breach in progress. This empowers organisations of all kinds to respond immediately to threats while maintaining strict data-compliance requirements.

Every action, event or movement within a digital network creates data — even the most clandestine intruder leaves behind footprints. Where things become complicated is in how much data there is and determining which data could indicate an attack. SIEM applies predetermined rules to sift through the massive amounts of log data from host systems, software applications and security devices and deliver the results to a single, centralised location for a holistic view of the organisation’s entire IT environment.

With the relevant security data fully categorised, security teams can then use SIEM tools to prioritise and investigate threats and respond to malicious activity before it can hamper business operations.

As networks continue to expand, they face almost constant assault from external (as well as internal) security threats. SIEM gives your security teams clearer insight into what is happening within the network, allowing them to filter vast amounts of security log data to uncover any evidence of unauthorised access. This gives them the visibility to detect even the most subtle security incident, prioritise security alerts and mitigate attacks much more quickly than otherwise possible.

This creates several noteworthy advantages for modern businesses.

What are the benefits of SIEM?

Given that SIEM is designed to help optimise your entire network security posture, the benefits it represents are likewise extremely far-reaching. These include:

  • Centralised visibility
    Businesses gain the advantage of bringing all relevant security data together into a centralised system so that all authorised departments, teams and individuals have access to a single source of truth for making security decisions.
  • Real-time threat recognition
    When addressing security threats, every second counts. SIEM activity monitoring alerts response teams to potential network threats immediately as they occur. This gives organisations precious lead time in isolating and eliminating these threats before they can cause damage.
  • Improved regulatory compliance
    As data regulatory laws become more widespread, organisations need improved data visibility to ensure that they remain compliant. SIEM simplifies these processes, providing essential compliance data at the push of a button.
  • Detailed auditing and reporting
    It’s not always enough to have access to relevant network data; businesses need to be able to create audit trails and deliver thorough reports, particularly where compliance standards are concerned. SIEM tools give businesses these capabilities, making auditing and reporting an intuitive and straightforward process.
  • Transparency for applications, devices and users
    Modern networks are made up of potentially thousands (or more) components. SIEM prevents applications, users and devices from fading into the background, providing optimal visibility into the network elements that might be hiding security threats.
  • Advanced automation and machine learning
    Modern SIEM solutions not only provide network visibility — they also enhance and support IT teams to accomplish more, with greater accuracy. SIEM automation ensures that incident response protocol next steps move forward correctly, and deep machine learning gives SIEM tools the ability to adapt to address unknown network behaviour.
  • Enhanced response coordination
    Network security is the responsibility of your entire organisation. SIEM solutions create a unified staging area for coordinating security procedures, reviewing relevant data, and communicating and collaborating threat responses.
  • Cutting-edge novel threat detection
    Data-security threats are constantly evolving; network security must evolve as well. SIEM solutions use AI and deep learning technology to learn from experience and apply data insights to identify and counter unknown threats. These include new and evolving distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, SQL injections, malware attacks, phishing and other social engineering attacks, data exfiltration, and more.

There are many different options when it comes to finding and implementing a SIEM solution for your business. In most cases, these solutions are designed for easy usability. That said, getting the most out of a SIEM solution may require more than simply ‘plugging it in’ and standing back. Here are several best practices to consider as you put SIEM into action:

Define your requirements and get buy-in

A solution is only a solution if it solves a problem. What do you hope to get from SIEM, and what is the scope of the implementation? Document how the deployment will proceed, what benefits you anticipate, and how your departments will be expected to use SIEM. Then, take this information to relevant stakeholders and decision makers in your organisation to secure their support.

Create an incident response plan

SIEM provides a valuable head start in responding to threats. Do not let that advantage go to waste; create and test coordinated incident response procedures and make sure that all the roles involved are trained in what they need to do to address and resolve security threats as they occur.

Create a catalogue of all your digital assets

Improve the effectiveness of managing log data and monitoring network activity by creating a detailed inventory of every digital asset in your organisation. A catalogue of components and devices will provide valuable context when addressing possible threats.

Always look for opportunities to improve

SIEM solutions have the capacity to improve, but you will need to take an active hand in supporting this development. Continue to update your SIEM and fine-tune your configurations and you will help your tools become better at distinguishing real threats from resource-draining false positives.

Create policies, restrictions and configurations for BYOD

Personal devices (such as phones, tablets and data-storage drives) are extremely common in most modern work environments. Unfortunately, these devices represent a major weak point in many networks, creating shadow IT situations where established security practices get overlooked. Establishing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies for configuring and restricting personal devices makes it possible for SIEM solutions to expand monitoring capabilities for personally owned systems.

Apply automation wherever possible

Take advantage of any automation or AI capabilities available for your SIEM solution. The more you can place in the hands of SIEM, the more your response teams will be able to focus on coordinating security-response efforts.

SIEM exists to enhance visibility across your entire business network. As such, it overlaps with certain other security management and response solutions, such as security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR) and extended detection and response (XDR). Each plays important roles in cybersecurity, but each describes a slightly different aspect.


While SIEM is a powerful tool for extracting relevant threat data, SOAR takes things further by automating security incident responses. SOAR is built on automation capabilities to create smart automated workflows that security teams may rely on to prioritise and respond to alerts and resolve incidents faster, without demanding the same degree of human collaboration or oversight.


XDR applies a more in-depth contextual view of specific resources across platforms, clouds, IoT devices, users, applications, endpoints and workloads. XDR helps support and complement SIEM solutions by providing further context and response capabilities through automated remediation.

Visibility can make or break your organisation’s security posture. But while visibility may be the single most important security element, it’s still only the first step. To effectively counter modern security threats, you need tools capable of immediate responses, advanced automation and accurate prioritisation. ServiceNow has the answers:

ServiceNow Security Incident Response—a security orchestration and automation response (SOAR) solution—gives you the power to discover and cut out security threats immediately as they occur without risking the friction or human error that comes with manual handoffs across systems. Vulnerabilities Response creates additional opportunities for organisations to connect their response teams and focus on the most critical tasks involving security and IT departments. Together, these solutions are taking SIEM further than ever before.

Experience the power of ServiceNow, and make your network security a match for any threat.

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