MDR vs. SIEM

Many organizations’ security teams are overwhelmed by expanding responsibilities and a rapidly evolving threat landscape. Various solutions to this problem are available, yet Managed detection and response (MDR) and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions are two options that help a security team to scale. 

Learn how they work, and which might be the right choice for your organization.

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What is MDR?

Not every organization has the resources to host a mature security operations center (SOC) in-house. By partnering with an MDR provider, an organization outsources some of its security responsibilities to a third-party provider. Some of the services that an MDR provider typically offers include:

  • Alert Investigation: Security teams are frequently overwhelmed by massive volumes of alerts generated by security solutions. An MDR provider will investigate alerts to determine if they are true threats or false positives using machine learning, data analytics, and human investigation.
  • Incident Triage: Rapid response to critical incidents is essential to minimizing the cost and impact on the organization. MDR providers will rank security events so that the most important issues are addressed first.
  • Remediation: Minimizing the impact of an intrusion requires a rapid response by a skilled incident response team. An MDR provider will remotely remediate incidents within their customers’ environments, minimizing their impacts.
  • Proactive Threat Hunting: Some threats may evade an organization’s defenses and gain access to corporate systems. Proactive threat hunters will search an organization’s environment for signs of a missed attack and remediate it.

Partnering with an MDR provider can provide significant benefits to an organization, such as:

  • Access to Security Expertise: The cybersecurity skills gap means that many organizations are operating with understaffed security teams and a lack of access to specialist expertise. MDR provides a fully-staffed security team and access to specialists when needed.
  • Advanced Threat Detection: MDR providers have a sophisticated toolset with cutting-edge solutions. This enables them to detect and remediate sophisticated and subtle attacks by advanced persistent threats (APTs).
  • Rapid Threat Identification: Many cybersecurity incidents go undetected for a long time, amplifying the impact and cost to the business. MDR providers offer service level agreement (SLA)-backed detection and response times.
  • Mature Security Program: An MDR provider can enable an organization to implement a mature security program with lower cost and resource requirements than is possible in-house. Cost sharing across a provider’s customer base lowers the total cost of ownership (TCO) of 24/7 threat detection and response by an expert security team.

What is SIEM?

The various security solutions deployed across an organization’s infrastructure all ingest data, identify threats, and generate alerts. However, these solutions commonly have limited visibility and can only see a small piece of the overall puzzle. As a result, many of these alerts may be false positives due to incomplete information.

A SIEM collects data from all of these security solutions, aggregates and normalizes it, and analyzes the normalized data. Based on its analysis and other data sources, such as threat intelligence feeds or corporate security policies, a SIEM generates security data and alerts based on a broader view of the organization’s current security posture.

A SIEM’s access to security data from across the organization and the alerts that it generates can be used for a few different purposes, including:

  • Threat Detection and Analysis: A SIEM analyzes security data and generates alerts based on this information. These alerts can enable an organization’s security team to identify and analyze potential threats to the organization.
  • Digital Forensics and Threat Hunting: Forensic analysts and threat hunters both need access to detailed data about the systems that they are investigating. A SIEM has already collected, aggregated, and analyzed this data, making it much more accessible to an investigator.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Demonstrating regulatory compliance requires the ability to show that certain security controls are in place and that no breaches have occurred. A SIEM’s rich security dataset can simplify and streamline the process of generating compliance reports.

A SIEM can be a powerful tool, but it needs to be used correctly. Some of the main limitations of a SIEM include:

  • Human Operation: A SIEM can amplify the effectiveness of an organization’s security team, but it does require trained operators. If an organization lacks an in-house security team, then a SIEM will provide little benefit.
  • Complex Integration: A SIEM is designed to collect data from various security solutions, but it needs to be connected to these solutions first. Setting up a SIEM to collect the data that an organization needs can be time-consuming and requires significant security knowledge and expertise.
  • Rules-Based Detection: SIEMs identify threats largely based on predefined patterns and rules. This means that a SIEM may overlook novel threats and requires security personnel to create these rules.
  • Lack of Contextualized Alert Validation: A SIEM can take advantage of data aggregation and additional context to decrease the volume of alerts that a security team must address. However, a SIEM does not validate alerts, so it can still generate false positives that require further investigation.

MDR vs. SIEM

MDR and SIEM are both designed to enable an organization’s security team to scale to meet its responsibilities. However, the two solutions do so in different ways.

A SIEM solution achieves this by distilling the many security alerts generated by an organization’s security solutions into a smaller set of higher-quality – but potentially still false-positive – alerts. An organization’s security team is still responsible for maintaining and operating the SIEM and investigating and responding to the alerts.

MDR, on the other hand, simplifies security by outsourcing responsibilities to a third-party team. This team investigates alerts, triages events, remediates incidents, and performs proactive threat hunting. While an organization may still have an in-house security team, it is backed up by the vendor’s team of trained specialists.

Choose the Right Solution for Your Business

The right choice between a SIEM and MDR depends on an organization’s needs and the size and maturity of its security team. A skilled team that just needs to scale could benefit from a SIEM such as Check Point Horizon SOC, which cuts through the noise and focuses their attention on what matters most. On the other hand, an organization with an undersized or immature security team may benefit more from augmenting its capabilities with the expertise of Check Point Horizon MDR.

To learn more about a particular solution or to determine which is right for your organization, watch the Horizon SOC demo video and sign up for a free Horizon MDR demo today.

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