In the evolving landscape of cybersecurity, the implementation and management of log analysis tools has undergone significant changes over the past two decades. Twenty years ago, the introduction of BMC log management at a large Internet Service Provider (ISP) marked a turning point. The system, initially overwhelming with its volume of alerts, highlighted the challenges of managing security events within the constraints of existing resources. Support teams, already tasked with monitoring Nagios alerts, found the influx from BMC unmanageable, leading to a scenario where firefighting became the norm rather than an exception. This situation underscored the necessity for dedicated teams to triage alerts effectively.

Advancements in cyber security technologies

As the years progressed, technologies such as Security Information and Event Monitoring (SIEM), Extended Detection and Response (XDR), Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR), among others, have become widespread. Despite these advancements, the core challenge remains: each system requires careful management to effectively detect breaches. The expertise in system and cybersecurity is indispensable for extracting actionable intelligence from logs, amidst the still prevalent issue of managing an avalanche of tickets.

Challenges of integrating diverse security tools

The integration of multiple security tools, each with potentially overlapping functionalities, adds another layer of complexity. Antivirus systems evolving into endpoint protection platforms, firewalls incorporating stateful inspection and antivirus controls, and mail gateways featuring antivirus mechanisms exemplify the technological convergence aimed at enhancing security. However, this integration often presents challenges, particularly when logs from these systems cannot be natively processed by SIEM or XDR services, necessitating custom ingestion and processing rules. The time and effort required for these adjustments are resources that hard-pressed Security Operations Centres (SOCs) may not have..

Penetration testing: Exposing operational security gaps

The is also a significant concern with the operational security practices observed during penetration testing. An example of this is a real-life scenario where antivirus controls were disabled on systems subject to PCI DSS compliance, revealing a casual approach to system monitoring and response. This practice, seemingly overlooked during security engagements, points to a broader issue of maintaining vigilance over security controls, essential for staying ahead of attackers.

The impact of communication breakdowns on cyber security

Communication breakdowns further complicate the effectiveness of cyber security measures. A noted instance involves a delayed response from an outsourced American SIEM team to a breach identified during a penetration test. Initial alerts, despite being fired off on day one, were not escalated promptly, leading to a delayed response and investigation by the onsite team. This delay allowed for significant network penetration, which could have had dire consequences had it been a real attack rather than a test.

Strengthening security through incident response planning

Reflecting on these insights, it becomes clear that the integration of log analysis tools into cyber security frameworks must be accompanied by comprehensive incident response capabilities. Establishing robust, tested incident response plans and playbooks is crucial for enhancing the security posture of any organisation. The effectiveness of Security Operations Centres (SOCs) and Extended Detection and Response (XDR) services hinges on their ability to detect breaches swiftly and accurately. This necessitates not only a thorough evaluation of these services’ performance but also an ongoing dialogue with providers to gauge their success in identifying security incidents, including penetration tests. Engaging with current clients to solicit feedback on the responsiveness and efficiency of these services can offer valuable perspectives. In essence, a proactive and reflective approach to cyber security, emphasising continuous assessment, open communication, and iterative improvement, is imperative for staying ahead of the rapidly evolving threat landscape.

Working with a cyber security partner

If you need support in identifying the right improvements for your business and making the best out of the tools that are already in use, get in contact with our expert team today.