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SOAR Versus SIEM: The Fundamental Differences

Security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) and security information and event management (SIEM) tools share several components and so most security operations teams use the terms interchangeably. However, SIEM and SOAR are two different security solutions. They do go hand in hand, so it’s not a question of whether one should be used over the other. Security operations centers (SOCs) may, in fact, be better off if they use both.

While SIEM applications have been around for more than a decade now, SOAR platforms are relatively new; the term was, in fact, only coined in 2017. To better understand how these two security solutions work individually and together, it’s essential first to recognize their fundamental differences.

Critical Differences Between SOAR and SIEM

Core Functions and Capabilities

SIEM applications aggregate data from different internal sources to identify anomalous behavior that can turn out to be a cyber attack. They provide security teams with a central point to see all security alerts.

Among the capabilities of SIEM applications are data storage, threat intelligence aggregation, threat detection, and notification. These are also used in log management and help users comply with government regulations about logging. The SIEM process can be summed up in these steps:

  1. Collect data from internal sources.
  2. Aggregate the data.
  3. Analyze the data to detect possible cybersecurity breaches.
  4. Alert the team so they can verify the presence of threats.

Within the fourth step lies the problem with SIEM applications. The step is human resource-intensive in that it requires tons of manhours for repetitive tasks. This problem and other shortcomings of existing SIEM solutions, in fact, spawned SOAR.

SOAR platforms are all-in-one security solutions that enable security teams to pool threat intelligence from different tools (e.g., SIEM software, endpoint detection and response (EDR) findings, antimalware solutions, and others) into a single location. Security teams can then orchestrate all these data to automate incident responses.

Unlike SIEM applications, SOAR platforms can also be used for threat and vulnerability management, security incident response, and security operations automation.

Human Intervention

Another significant difference between SOAR and SIEM lies in the amount of human intervention necessary to utilize each solution’s capabilities fully. SIEM applications require consistent fine-tuning and development for security teams to maximize their value while avoiding getting bombarded with countless alerts.

SIEM applications require dedicated development staff to manage rules and use cases to ensure that normal activities are not mixed up with suspicious ones. As a result, even if 68% of SIEM users said they find the technology useful, they need more staff to get the most out of it.

While SOAR platforms are by no means a replacement for human resources, they do help reduce the need for constant human intervention. They focus on orchestration and automation, thereby streamlining the repetitive and mundane tasks that take a considerable chunk of the security team’s time.

With fewer alerts to sift through, security teams can focus more on developing detailed incident response plans.

Sources of Data

The most crucial component that makes both solutions work is data. And although SIEM and SOAR solutions use the same type of data, the variety of sources and the volume these collect differ significantly.

SIEM collects logs and event data from a whole host of traditional infrastructure sources such as intrusion prevention systems (IPSs), firewalls, data loss prevention (DLP) tools, antimalware, and web content gateways.

SOAR platforms, on the other hand, can ingest a larger volume of data from a broader range of sources, including external applications. Users can even inject their SOAR platforms with threat intelligence feeds such as Security Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate chain data, connected domain names, domain reputation scores, and domain malware checks for actionable results. By correlating internal with threat data, malicious activities can be more quickly spotted and addressed.

SOAR and SIEM Complement Each Other

Employing SOAR and SIEM in solutions together makes the job of the security operations team easier. With a SOAR platform, SIEM solutions won’t produce more alerts than the security team can handle and effectively respond to.

SOAR platform use also hastens incident responses to SIEM alerts in that it can automatically communicate with other security tools to address threats. The shorter the reaction time to cyber threats, the less their effect in terms of cost and damage.

* * *

Ultimately, it’s not about pitting SOAR versus SIEM and choosing which solution is more effective. The solutions complement each other. What matters more could be how reliable the threat and other data each collects, analyzes, and responds to. You may find this case study useful if you’re interested to read more about the use of such data for SIEM and other solutions.

By WhoisXML API, A Domain Research, Whois, DNS, and Threat Intelligence API and Data Provider

Whois API, Inc. (WhoisXML API) is a big data and API company that provides domain research & monitoring, Whois, DNS, IP, and threat intelligence API, data and tools to a variety of industries.

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