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SOAR vs. SIEM: What's the difference?

When it comes to the SOAR vs. SIEM debate, it's important to understand their fundamental differences to get the most benefit from your security data.

It's not easy to understand the key differences when looking at SOAR vs. SIEM, because they have many components in common. Security information and event management tools are a way to centrally collect pertinent log and event data from various security, network, server, application and database sources. Common examples of sources include firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, antivirus and antimalware software, data loss prevention tools and secure web content gateways.

The aggregated data is then analyzed by the SIEM in real time to spot potential security issues. Because multiple data sources are analyzed, the SIEM identifies threats by correlating information from more than one source. The SIEM then intelligently ranks the events in order of criticality.

Security administrators are commonly tasked with sifting through the various events to track down and remediate the source of the potential threat or simply acknowledge it and tune the analysis engine to mark the event as a benign occurrence. Doing so helps the SIEM software better learn what is considered a true threat versus an event that merely looks suspicious.

While SIEM tools have been around for years, Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) is the new kid on the block. When looking at SOAR vs. SIEM, both aggregate security data from various sources, but the locations and quantity of information being sourced are different. While SIEM will ingest various log and event data from traditional infrastructure component sources, a SOAR takes in all that and more.

SIEM and SOAR both aggregate security data from various sources, but the locations and quantity of information being sourced are different.

For example, SOAR will pull in information from external emerging threat intelligence feeds, endpoint security software and other third-party sources to get a better overall picture of the security landscape inside the network and out. SOAR takes analytics to a different level by creating defined investigation paths to follow based on an alert.

Again, when comparing SOAR vs. SIEM, SIEM will only provide the alert. After that, it's up to the administrator to determine the path of an investigation. A SOAR that automates investigation path workflows can significantly cut down on the amount of time required to handle alerts. It also provides lessons about the security admin skill set required to complete an investigation path. Ultimately, a properly implemented SOAR can make your cybersecurity team more efficient.

Next Steps

Check out this SOAR handbook to see if it could benefit your organization.

This was last published in May 2019

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