Security Information and Event Management

CyberCrime Investigator: Forensic Use of SIEM Tools

Wikipedia states that Network Forensics is “…proven techniques to collect, fuse, identify, examine, correlate, analyze, and document digital evidence from multiple, actively processing and transmitting digital sources for the purpose of uncovering facts related to the planned intent, or measured success of unauthorized activities meant to disrupt, corrupt, and or compromise system components as well as providing information to assist in response to or recovery from these activities…”

This business case requires a number of different tools, the most important of which is an enterprise-class Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tool, which becomes the epicenter of all investigations and workflow. The SIEM must have some mandatory  features which I will cover later in this article. But first, I would like to tell you how it’s done without SIEM.

In a previous job as a Network Security Specialist,  I was in charge of tapping the wire for employee investigations and handling the data with chain-of-custody. This served as a daunting task as I would start my data captures with Open-Source software and use the spread-sheet kung-fu method of mapping all of the user activity and log data into digitally-signed archives, pending possible litigation. I established all of the guidelines and processes with support from our Legal and Corporate Fraud teams and built the procedures around the following processes:

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Some Generic SIEM Requirements to Ponder

Being tasked with selecting a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tool for your organization can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve been there and chosen poorly (in my last life)! The questions you need to ask the SIEM vendor you are buying from are limitless as every customer’s needs are different and the business drivers range from “check-box” compliance to actual enterprise incident handling and response.

Numerous customers have approached me with what they thought were straight Log Management (LM) requirements, since they have only ever had the luxury of manual log review using the “Grep”, “Awk”, “Sed” approach or “spreadsheet Kung Fu”, while others have the budget and want to “boil the oceans”. There are hurdles with both approaches, while the former may be the way to “grow” into a mature concept such as a SIEM tool and the latter will never be outgrown.

In fact, before you can perform real-time analysis on all of the logs to detect threats as they occur, you need to capture all of the event data from the plethora of heterogenous event sources and store the logs in a centralized location. Therefore, I believe log management is an essential part of SIEM because, with the right tool, 100% of your logs are readily available with automated archiving and retention. Additionally, since you have mandated all of the logs from the various technologies to be sent to your central facility, the teams that manage the devices will need an easy-to-use tool that will allow them to do their day-to-day tasks such as troubleshooting network issues, application development debugging, long-term investigations and possibly the last six months of an employees activity for HR or litigation purposes.

Regardless, you should have a strong command of what it is you need SIEM for and use vehicles such as Request For Information (RFI) or Request For Proposal (RFP) to rate each vendor on the top mandatory requirements vs. the “nice-to-have’s”. For this purpose, I have compiled a list of questions that you may determine to be useful when creating your vendor ratings criteria. Here are what I believe to be essential 70+ requirements for the ultimate SIEM and Log Management tool:

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