Microsoft and Google’s new cloud security solutions change the game for SIEM

June 24, 2019
Tech giants to make technology more approachable, affordable for organizations

For many companies, deploying security information and event monitoring (SIEM) technology to strengthen the ability to identify potential security threats has been an unreachable goal. That might be about to change, with two of the largest public cloud service providers announcing new cloud-based offerings that include SIEM capabilities.

Implementing SIEM has been a challenge because many organizations do not have the storage, processing and related infrastructure to support these applications. Many either cannot afford to make the investment or are unwilling to do so.

Now, with both Microsoft and Google announcing new services that support SIEM, the technology has suddenly become more approachable and affordable for organizations from the largest enterprises to small companies looking to bolster their cybersecurity postures.

Google in April announced a multitude of security-related capabilities for its Google Cloud Platform (GCP), including Cloud Security Command Center (Cloud SCC), a security management and data risk platform for GCP. The platform includes an Event Threat Detection service that leverages Google-proprietary intelligence models to quickly detect threats such as malware, cryptomining and outgoing distributed denial-of-services (DDoS) attacks.

Several weeks earlier, Microsoft introduced Azure Sentinel, a cloud-native SIEM platform that provides intelligent security analytics at cloud scale. Azure Sentinel is designed to make it easy to collect security data across an entire hybrid organization from devices, users, applications and servers on any cloud. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure that organizations are identifying real threats quickly.

Multiple Benefits

With these cloud-native services, businesses can acquire the functionality and capabilities of SIEM without making the financial outlay for servers, storage and related maintenance and support. The cost shifts from capital expenditures to operating expenditures, and the economics of the cloud make pricing far more palatable even for organizations with limited security budgets.

Additionally, organizations don’t need to acquire as much, or any, of the internal expertise they would need if they were running these systems on premises. With the ongoing shortage of cybersecurity skills, that’s an important factor and another cost consideration.

These services can also be deployed much faster than on-premises systems because the service providers are doing all the heavy lifting as far as infrastructure is concerned.

Another key advantage to cloud-based SIEM is scalability. Because of the cloud infrastructure supporting the services, organizations can easily scale processing and storage up or down as needed. Many companies have struggled with the issue of how many months’ worth of security logs to keep and how to scale storage to accommodate that. That’s not an issue with the cloud.

As a result, companies are no longer limited by storage capacity or the number of events they can handle. They no longer need to port event logs out of the cloud environment into on-premise platforms if they have such products. With the cloud, the service can be expanded to whatever is needed by a customer.

In addition, there are long-term archiving solutions available. That enables companies to access past events without having to keep these records on more costly active storage.

Connectors Needed

One drawback, at least in the short term, is that these services have relatively few connectors to other technology platforms that can feed information about events and incidents. In comparison, on-premises SIEM platforms have a long list of pre-defined application programming interface (API) connectors that make it easier to pull data such as log information from other systems. 

That said, both Microsoft and Google are working hard to get as many pre-defined API connectors as possible. And with the cloud, such efforts tend to move rapidly. 

In the meantime, organizations can build their own connectors with software development kits (SDKs) available for each of these new services. These could be used to overcome the limitation. Companies can leverage the cloud-native SIEM services as they move into hybrid cloud environments. With the flexibility offered by these solutions, they can use one of the cloud-based services as their master SIEM platform and feed data into it from on-premises SIEM and other systems. 

On the other hand, if they’re more comfortable making an on-premises offering the primary SIEM, they can then leverage the cloud-enabled services to support the on-premises platform, as long as these different environments are connected. 

Moving Forward 

How organizations handle SIEM comes down to what they are looking to achieve, how long they want to keep records, their level of risk tolerance, and other factors. Some companies remain resistant to putting sensitive data in the cloud—even though the cloud in many cases has been shown to be more secure than data center environments—and therefore will prefer to maintain an on-premises SIEM as their main platform for security information and event monitoring. 

Others may be more concerned about keeping a long history of data or require a lot of processing power, so a cloud-native service makes more sense as the primary SIEM. Either way, these offerings provide organizations with new options for their SIEM needs. For many companies, they also offer an entry point for SIEM at a price point they can accept. At a time when organizations continue to struggle with implementing security in the cloud as well as across their hybrid environments, these services represent an important step in the right direction. 

About the Author: 

Mike Sprunger, Senior Manager of the Security Consulting Practice at Insight Enterprises' Security Consulting Practice. Sprunger brings several decades of experience in security and networking. He holds titles of Certified Information Security Professional (CISSP) and Certified ISO 27001 Lead Auditor, among others. At Insight, he defines, develops, and oversees delivery of security services for our clients as they modernize and transform IT.