SIEM tools: Do they make sense for your MSP?

| By: Wayne R. Selk, CDPSE

As cybersecurity becomes increasingly top of mind for managed service providers (MSPs), you have probably looked into some of the latest solutions that can be used to enhance security for your business and its clients. Relatedly, The State of SMB Cybersecurity in 2021 survey conducted by Vanson Bourne and commissioned by ConnectWise discovered that cybersecurity technology is a top priority among 47% of organizations, up from 41% in 2020. 

SIEM tools are a popular option in this category that give cybersecurity teams full visibility into IT infrastructure in order to augment threat detection capabilities and provide an additional layer of defense. Read on to learn more about what a SIEM tool is, how your MSP might benefit from one, and the must-have features to look for when evaluating SIEM solutions for purchase.

What is a SIEM tool?  

A SIEM tool is a software system, often operated by a security operations center (SOC), that collects log and event data produced by an organization’s network devices, systems, applications, and services. From there, SIEM tools compile (or “aggregate”) all of that data together into one platform so that it can be analyzed to identify anomalies and potential threats. 

Following the data collection, aggregation, and analyzation phases, a fully-functional SIEM tool should be able to automatically cross-correlate information and events with specific rules and patterns defined by an organization. Then the SIEM software produces notifications about threats it has identified as legitimate so they can be further investigated and contained. 

Data cross-correlation is an essential component of SIEM, as it enhances employees’ ability to distinguish harmless irregularities from truly malicious events that pose a security threat. For example, a SIEM tool could automatically investigate repeated log-in attempts originating from a single IP address to determine if the cause is a distracted staff member or a threat actor trying to breach the organization’s systems.

By training and fine-tuning SIEM tools over a period of time, operators can reduce the number of false negatives (overlooked legitimate threats) and false positives (alerts sent about benign events). It’s common for organizations, especially when getting started with SIEM, to err on the side of using stringent correlation rules — better safe than sorry, right?

In reality, this will almost certainly lead to an outcome called “alert fatigue” in which the employees who are tasked with responding to threats become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of notifications they receive and end up ignoring most of them. That’s why the best SIEM tools on the market today blend machine learning technology and proprietary data with threat intelligence feeds, blacklists, geolocation data, and more to help greatly reduce the number of false positives/negatives without requiring a massive time commitment.

How can MSPs benefit from adopting a SIEM tool? 

Now that you know what a SIEM tool is, you’ve likely begun to think more critically about whether or not your MSP stands to benefit from procuring this technology. Here are three key benefits to consider.

Increased visibility into your own IT infrastructure

A SIEM tool enables your MSP to gain greater access and insight into all of the elements that make up your IT ecosystem through a single pane of glass view. Whether you staff an in-house security team or you leverage the efficiency of SOC-as-a-Service, a SIEM tool can provide real-time visibility into security threats such as ransomware, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, malicious insiders, and more. 

After all, relying on prevention measures alone isn’t enough. Modern MSPs must also possess  detection capabilities to pinpoint threats that make it past initial defense layers and stop the damage to their systems ASAP. The best SIEM tools offer multi-source data analytics so that MSPs can detect events related to the most complex cybersecurity attacks, such as advanced persistent threats (APTs).

A new way to provide value for clients (and increase revenue) 

Once your MSP has realized the security benefits of implementing a SIEM tool, you can begin to educate your clients about how this software can help enhance their cybersecurity posture as well. Including SIEM among your cybersecurity service offerings can lead to new sources of revenue, better profit margins, and stronger client trust.

In today’s marketplace, your MSP cannot rely on new client acquisition as your sole growth lever toward improved scalability and profitability. By supporting areas that SMBs consider business-critical, such as network security and threat detection, with as-a-service cybersecurity offerings, your MSP can expand client relations and drive more recurring revenue.

Streamlined compliance reporting 

Another major benefit of using a SIEM tool is that it automates many parts of the compliance reporting process, for both your MSP and its clients. For virtually every compliance regulation, there are requirements to log user access information, track system changes, and monitor adherence to documented cybersecurity policies. 

SIEM tools make these tasks much easier by collecting and sorting this data from all systems, at all times. Then, when it comes time for an audit or exam, you can effortlessly generate compliance reports for your MSP or your clients. This is a significant value-add that can bring your clients peace of mind and help alleviate some of the burden of compliance reporting.

Capabilities to look for in the best SIEM tools 

While every organization will have different preferences when it comes to selecting SIEM software, there are a few key features that the best SIEM tools available today all have in common:

  • Seamless integration with all of your MSP’s current tools and systems 
  • Flexible log capture, retention, and review features that can be tailored to your needs
  • Ability to be used by in-house staff or an outsourced team of cybersecurity experts 
  • The option to choose either fully-hosted (cloud-based) or co-managed (on-prem) SIEM 
  • Incorporation of advanced threat intelligence regarding new and evolving threats
  • Automated alert tuning to minimize false positives and keep systems are up-to-date

After evaluating SIEM tools, many MSPs find that choosing a co-managed SIEM-as-a-service solution ultimately leads to easier implementation, reduced long-term costs, and less complexity when delivering cybersecurity to clients. This is especially true for MSPs that only have a few employees with a security focus on staff vs. a full team of dedicated cybersecurity professionals. 

Increasing scalability and profitability with cybersecurity- as-a-service

As a technology that has been evolving for more than 20 years now, SIEM tools are a reliable way for MSPs to strengthen threat detection capabilities for themselves and their clients. If your MSP business is looking to deliver greater cybersecurity visibility while reducing alert fatigue, a SIEM tool may be the right solution for you. You may also want to consider outsourcing the work of monitoring and triaging threat alerts to an expert third-party SOC so as not to strain your existing staff or incur the cost of hiring additional security talent. 

Not sure if your business is ready to adopt a SIEM tool and begin offering SIEM services to clients? Take a self-assessment to see where you stand on your journey to becoming a security-first MSP.