Six Reasons Use Cases Are Crucial for Building SIEM and Security Operations Capabilities

May 4, 2016
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3 min read

Suppose you’ve recently bought a piece of land and you’re interested in building a house on it. Whether you are acting as architect, general contractor, project supervisor or all of the above, the first step would be getting your hands on a set of blueprints. Blueprints provide you with detailed guidance for planning your efforts, staying on schedule, saving time and resources and successfully finishing your home.

This same concept can be applied when implementing a security information and event management (SIEM) solution within your organization. Unfortunately, finding a set of blueprints for executing a SIEM capability is not as easy as finding blueprints for building a house. In many cases, security operations teams embark on SIEM deployment projects without any such plans. As a result, they often lose sight of their original objectives, leading to additional expense, frustration and delays.

That’s why it’s critical to develop a set of predefined use cases before attempting to implement a SIEM system. Below are six reasons explaining how strong use cases can support your efforts.

1. Improve Collaboration

It’s no secret that cooperation among and communication between teams improves success and productivity. TechRepublic noted that this is true among software development projects, and the same holds true for SIEM deployments.

Defining and developing the details associated with security use cases gives all team members a reference library to leverage as they describe business- and security-related procedures. Each use case can help encourage deeper discussions and bring new viewpoints to light.

By leveraging use cases, a team is able to capture more perspectives while remaining focused on the necessary business goals. The end result is a more comprehensive and meaningful understanding of each process.

2. Prioritize Capability Implementation

Documented use cases offer a way for a security operations team to better plan and prioritize the deployment and implementation of a SIEM system and its related capabilities. In turn, prioritization allows all teams to strategize for any related incident response workloads or resource capacity needs.

Once deployed, everyone can implement the rules, reports and dashboards associated with the various use cases in a more efficient manner.

3. Evaluate Processes

To leverage a SIEM system to build automation into certain aspects of security operations, the security team should start by documenting the existing processes. Creating documented use cases helps details associated with a respective process — and the related rules, reports and dashboards — become clearer. It also improves the team’s ability to innovate.

For example, as the team develops and studies use cases, individuals may notice redundant or impractical steps, or rules and reports that are unnecessary. They may even find certain pieces that can be automated. Similarly, a security operations team can propose new or improved process flows that enable them to more effectively leverage the capabilities of the SIEM system.

4. Discover Gaps

I was once the latecomer to an in-progress SIEM implementation. The existing team had not taken the time to document its specific security requirements and goals but had already implemented a set of rules within the SIEM system. The expectation to achieve specific outcomes without properly defined objectives was a noticeable gap.

Working with the security operations team, I helped develop a set of use cases aligned to its desired goals. Comparing the now-documented goals against the list of previously implemented rules within the SIEM system, we quickly identified rules missing from the SIEM system and were able to produce a plan of attack for closing the gaps. The experience taught me how use cases are effective as tools for identifying SIEM security policy gaps.

5. Improve SIEM System Testing

Although use cases and test cases are not the same, use cases can be applied to improve testing efforts. By grouping use cases together and developing related test cases, you can ensure your team has a comprehensive set of test scripts for verifying overall SIEM system functionality.

Tech Republic added that the testing team can develop their test cases and scripts from use cases. For process efficiency, test cases and related scripts can be ready as soon as the use case rules are implemented.

6. Identify What Is Out of Scope

Business priorities and resource allocations often impact a project’s scope and deadline. By creating a list of use case titles and prioritizing them, teams can quickly identify what SIEM development activities are achievable, within budget and within the scope of the project. Use cases will also give stakeholders an opportunity to declare which monitoring or incident detection capabilities they think are most important, TechRepublic suggested.

While there may be others, I hope these six reasons have compelled you to consider the ways to develop your own SIEM use cases. Just as blueprints can provide the documented foundation to stay on task while building a house, use cases can provide a similar foundation for realizing the full extent of your SIEM capabilities.

If you need a place to start, IBM offers a Security Use Case library that includes over 100 predefined cases with more than 500 rules you can reuse to make rapid progress and maximize the value of your SIEM.

To learn more watch the on-demand webinar: 5 Ways to Maximize the Value of Your SIEM

Carl C. Manion
Managed SIEM Senior Offering Manager & Strategist, IBM

Carl is a cyber security professional with over 23 years of security services and related IT program management experience. He has extensive knowledge of sec...
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