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What is SOAR - Security Orchestration & Automation

What is SOAR? Benefits, features, and key differences of SIEM

With the majority of organizations moving confidential information online or into the cloud, it’s essential to leverage automated cybersecurity solutions to quickly identify and resolve potential attacks. Although many businesses are integrating SOAR (security, automation and response) to streamline and respond to security threats, there are a number of other applications like SIEM that can optimize a SOC.  

Both commonly used acronyms in the world of IT security, SIEM and SOAR refer to different types of security solutions that provide complementary features. While it’s possible to manage security threats with just SOAR – or even neither of the two – using SOAR and SIEM is a better choice for many organizations because a SOAR significantly augments the functionality of a SIEM.

What is SIEM?

SIEM, which stands for security information and event management, is a type of application that analyzes log data from various IT systems to scan for potential security threats. When it detects a likely threat, it generates alerts, with the goal of prompting human engineers to take action. SIEMs can also generate basic reports about the data they collect.

While SIEMs are one important element of SOAR, the scope of their functionality is limited to detecting threats that can be identified based on log data. They don’t orchestrate incident response or contextualize alerts with data beyond what is available in logs. This is why a SIEM on its own is not enough to meet all security threats.

Enter SOAR – the solution for handling the security risks that SIEM is not designed to address.

What is SOAR?

SOAR is a combination of software programs and tools that allow organizations to synthesize and automate security operations, threat intelligence, and incident response in a single platform.

For example, using a firewall app, SOAR can automatically block the IP address of a computer that is attempting to brute-force a login. SOAR can complete this task much quicker than it would take for a human admin to receive an alert, open the firewall app and manually block the offending IP address.

Because SOAR provides the core data collection and analysis functionality of SIEM, it’s possible to use just SOAR. However, security operations are most efficient if SIEM is used to handle this task, allowing SOAR to focus on addressing other challenges that SIEM cannot.

SIEM, SOAR or both?

Although SIEM and SOAR both help organizations respond to security threats, they address fundamentally different needs. Whereas a SIEM helps teams detect threats based on data collected from applications and infrastructure, SOAR helps them assess the alerts that come from this data, respond to threats more efficiently and track ongoing security trends based on a broader set of data points. 

SIEM and SOAR are complementary technologies, rather than alternatives.

With just a SIEM, you’d only receive alerts about potential threats. Your security operations (SecOps) team would still be on its own to respond to them. But by adding SOAR, your SecOps team is better able to address several common challenges:

Alert overload: A SIEM may generate so many alerts that analysts can’t keep up. By automating the response to many alerts, SOAR helps to prevent SOC personnel from becoming overwhelmed and suffering alert fatigue.

Disparate tools: By automatically deploying security tools, SOAR can help SecOps teams make the most of all the security tools at their disposal, even if they include many different types of tools.

Manual processes: Security operations that rely heavily on manual processes are not only slow, but also prone to error or inconsistency.

Talent shortage: Good SecOps engineers are hard to find. And when you do hire them, you don’t want to waste their time and skills on tedious, repetitive security tasks. SOAR automates those tasks so that engineers are free to focus on more complex issues and make the most of their expertise.

SOAR vs SIEM: A comparison breakdown

Provides security teams with actionable information based on security system events and log entries
Enables security teams to analyze threat intelligence from disparate tools (SIEM software, endpoint detection and response, anti-malware solutions, etc.) in a unified platform. 
Real-time analysis of security events
Builds workflows, streamlines operations
Increases flexibility, reach, and collaboration
Data sources
Internal sources
Internal and external sources
Generates alerts
Automates response to alerts

4 unique SOAR capabilities

On its own, SOAR provides broad functionality that can address most SOC needs. The main capabilities of SOAR include:

Orchestration and automation: SOAR helps teams make the jump from simply collecting security-related data to streamlining security operations by using playbooks to automate many of the tasks required to respond to security events.

Threat investigation: SOAR allows engineers to prioritize different types of events through features like alert grouping, a threat-centric approach to investigations that looks for contextual relationships in the alerts and, if identified, groups these alerts into a single case. In addition, it helps teams share security information more efficiently to enable better collaboration.

Reporting and analysis: In addition to responding to security incidents, SOAR can generate reports that provide insight into security trends within an organization.

SOC workbench: SOAR serves as a central station for the SecOps team to monitor and respond to alerts, as well as to communicate and collaborate on a response. 

SOAR benefits

SOAR offers a range of benefits that make SecOps more efficient and more effective.

Boosts analyst productivity: SOAR frees your SecOps team to work more efficiently, which in turn allows analysts to cover more ground and work on higher-order tasks instead of responding to recurring threats that could be better managed using an automated playbook.

Automates incident response: SecOps teams respond to alerts quicker by leveraging SOAR because many response actions can be automated and performed instantaneously without waiting on human intervention.

Platform consolidation: With SOAR, SecOps engineers can work from one central location instead of navigating through a disjointed suite of security tools. This eliminates the need to move back and forth between multiple tools when handling an incident, which saves time and effort.

Improves reporting and knowledge capture: SOAR’s built-in reporting and analysis feature helps consolidate information quicker, allowing for more efficient data management and easier identification of opportunities for continuous improvement.

Using SOAR in your business

SOAR represents the next major evolution of SecOps tooling. By automating incident response, it empowers your team to work more efficiently, mitigate threats faster and make the most of their expertise. In these ways and more, SOAR enables a level of sophistication and automation in security operations that is just not possible with SIEM alone. And you get these benefits whether you use SIEM and SOAR at the same time, or SOAR alone.

Siemplify is purpose-built to help organizations make the move to SOAR. Learn more about the value that Siemplify’s SOAR solution can bring to your business in this white paper, “The Business Case for SOAR.“