Netsurion EventTracker Review

Enabled us to mature the discipline of operational teams by seeing activity outside of standard practice


What is our primary use case?

We use it for logging all of our Active Directory activities, including authentication, alterations, and modifications to the AD controls and privileges. We use it for events coming off of both the servers and the desktops. And we also roll in the logs from our various security controls and devices, such as our antivirus tools, backup service, firewalls, the IPS, etc. Those are all rolled back into the EventTracker system. The goal is to eventually start taking advantage of the ability of EventTracker to correlate activity and alert on something that looks a bit unusual that we should then pay attention to.

We get a daily report that they've built, which summarizes all of the activity across all of those areas, on a daily basis for us. The types of log data we import into it include firewalls, server event logs, user workstation event logs, all of the Active Directory activity and authentications, and all of our antivirus logs and our patching service logs.

It's in the cloud. We use their console and we take advantage of their storage. We have them manage our logs and our archivals. 

How has it helped my organization?

The result of the reports on activity and the archiving for research has been that the operational teams are more consistent in the usage of standard practice which, from an efficiency perspective, has removed the need for the information security team to investigate issues that are out-of-norm activities. We are no longer doing an internal incident three or four times a week. We may do three or four in a month. That saved us significantly on the incident investigation side. We have pulled back 10 hours a week, on average, just from the security team. I would contend that it's probably also saved time that I'm not able to measure from the operations team because now they're not remediating things that we're pushing to them, and the user community is getting a more consistent experience from the support teams as a result.

There's this downstream value that I don't think people really think of when they look at products like this: What is the cause and the effect that it has on operations? In our case, it was to improve the efficiency and the consistency of the operations which, in turn, resulted in the user community getting a better experience. It's really hard to measure the user community improving its view and opinion of the IT support teams.

What is most valuable?

The report, each day, of the activities that have happened and the ability to archive and go back and research have been extremely advantageous for us. Examples would be a user having either inappropriately touched a file, or an administrator of the infrastructure altering rights or privileges for a user outside of an approved change-control or approved ticket. We have found that, over time, we've been able to mature the discipline of our operational teams by having the ability to see activity that might have occurred outside of standard practice.

In terms of the log data importing, our data went in very easily. That was one of the things that was appealing to us because the product set we use here for antivirus, single sign-on, the authentication services, and the patching services were all in the supported-product suite. So adding them in was simply getting them pointed over there and getting through the change-control windows.

There are a couple of widgets that I use. One is titled "A Possible Compromise" or "Potential Compromise." I use that because it is generally giving me feedback on the login velocity. I can see people who have authenticated to a system but, geographically, have authenticated to another system, and it's not possible to have done that within the time window that those authentications occurred. I find that it's generally a result of them authenticating to their mobile phones, because you don't necessarily egress the carrier's network from the cell tower you're associated to. In our case, we're in Boston. If you happen to be on an AT&T phone, you actually egress either out of Wisconsin or out of New Jersey. So if you log into your laptop and then you pull up email on your phone, it looks like you logged in from one of those two locations as well. We can dismiss those because we're getting used to what that looks like. 

As a result of that, we have picked up two or three folks who have shared passwords, usually with their administrators. They're traveling, they log in from someplace like Japan or Germany, and their admin happens to log in to help take care of an expense report. We tell them, "You have to stop that." We've picked up a few of those types of events. These are the kinds of things that we look forward to the product giving us more and more of as our usage of it matures.

I like the UI, overall. I like the main page and there are aspects of the search page that I like. When you bring it up, on the left-hand side of the page, as you look at the events, the ability to simply hit and click the plus/minus to pull events in and out of the overall view is well done and is very effective from a threat-hunting and an analysis perspective. I like the detail it shows. It gives some hints.

Occasionally, I'll use EventTracker on my phone because I got a phone call or an alert, but generally, it's on my large panel displays. All of the team has the same setup: multiple, large displays driving off of a laptop.

I tend to like more flexible and detail-structured interfaces. As an example, I don't like to manage my firewalls through the graphical interface. I like to use the command line because it's more granular and it lets me do things a little more quickly. EventTracker has done a nice job in providing both that graphical dashboard and Elasticsearch capabilities. As far as the direct command line goes, I would like there to be a little bit better help in that space. But the fact that they've got both in place is a bonus for the product. As I've learned more about how to do Elasticsearch, it's been beneficial. It's just taking a long time to educate.

What needs improvement?

I like the dashboard. Where there is an opportunity for improvement is in the interface used for performing the searches. You have to understand Elasticsearch search too well for the security team to be able to take really full advantage of that part of the product. It's not as intuitive as I would like it to be for new staff coming in. The general query capability is a little bit challenging.

Once I expand an event I can usually cut and paste out of there into the Elasticsearch side of it to get a broader view. But it's a multi-step process. I'd would like to see them add something that lets me right-click and immediately search to it, instead of having to walk through a couple of windows. When you're doing research on events, that kind of stuff adds up in your day. It's two or three clicks, but when you're driving through a bunch of analyses, that can start to add up quickly. When it's an event that you've got going on and you need to find out what's truly happening, time is of the essence. Anything that can shorten that would be beneficial.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using it for just under a year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The only stability issue we've run across would be the log forwarding off of the devices occasionally hanging up. I don't know if that's the EventTracker agent or the server itself, because there are a lot of applications running on those servers. But the console itself, I don't think it's ever been down, other than his patch which we just experienced.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We've done searches going back in the archives all the way to February when we first started, and it surprised me as far as the performance goes. We're not enormous. We're taking in about 3 million events a day. We're about 3,000 employees, worldwide. I don't know that I can give a good analysis on scaling.

It's meeting our needs really well from a scale perspective. We haven't seen a performance issue associated with the volumes we're running with, and we're almost fully deployed. Of the 300 servers, there are only about 10 now that don't have it. All of the 2,500 end-stations have it. It's taking all of that. We're 90 percent where we want it to be with the log sources and it hasn't changed its performance or behavior at all. It has scaled very well so far for us.

Our plans to increase usage are only as we grow. The company has growth plans associated with it, and as new staff comes on and the machines get provisioned, it continues to increase the systems that are feeding to it. We don't have any plans at this point to be putting in any other log sources, other than those we've already identified. I'm thinking of either homegrown applications or unique applications that might generate log files. We don't have anything on the roadmap today for that.

How are customer service and technical support?

The support team was really good. They've got a very good support organization. Everybody we worked with on the phone, as we were doing the initial setup, and even as we've done different support calls or requests for help, has done a lot of work for us, which is terrific as a company. We'll need to figure something out or we'll need help to investigate a problem. We'll put a ticket in and they'll call us right back. They'll help run queries for us, they'll run reports for us for a specific incident. They're a very responsive support team, and that's their standard tech support.

It's a "wow." It's nice to see a company that does things the way they used to be done. I think it's because they feel they've got a good product. The support team is terrific. I've been doing this a long time and it's one of the better support organizations I've run across in the last 15 years.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We did not have a solution in place prior to EventTracker. Prior to this, in a company I had been at just before I got here, we used IBM's QRadar and, although we did look at that product here, I found that EventTracker was more appropriate for us.

I don't think that QRadar offered the same robust integration opportunities with logs and it did not offer the same correlation capabilities that EventTracker does. Also, we get a much better licensing structure and pricing structure. It's a much better value for the dollar with this product.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was very straightforward. They stood it up, we started pointing log sources to it, and away it went.

They built the infrastructure, the receiving side of things, within a week. We were up and shipping logs within two weeks of the contract being signed.

In our particular case, and it's not a product issue but an operational issue, it took us until June or July of this year to get the logs rolled out or captured from the systems, after we started using it in February. The effective time window is that we've probably only had it for about three months. That was not because of the product. It took us that long to get the logs forwarded over to them.

The reason it took us so long was that we were, at the time, a pre-stage pharma. We didn't have product on the market yet. Just as we were bringing EventTracker into production here, we got approval for our first medication, which changed the nature of our operations from a research community to a fully controlled FDA manufacturing firm, as well. Change-control became a much stricter event. We missed the window to be able to push this out quickly, but it's nice to be commercial.

In terms of our deployment strategy, we had built a timeline or a set of change-controls that went through those several months to start rolling out. At the time we were doing this, we were getting to roll out Windows 10. So one of the first things we did was to build the logging into the core golden image. As Windows 10 boxes rolled out, they automatically started logging. We rolled out doing upgrades from Windows 2008 Servers. We did the same thing and put that into the image. On Active Directory it was pretty straightforward. The servers that were part of production, as far as manufacturing goes, those had to go in very specific windows based on production protocols. 

Overall, we built a project plan out such that every week and every month, from a production perspective, we would have windows where we could start to deploy. That's why it took so long.

What about the implementation team?

We did it internally. It's very simple. There was no need for a third-party or assistance. It was a really easy deploy.

What was our ROI?

The value of a SIEM comes when you are able to detect something and avoid a problem. It is part of that larger "insurance policy"-type function. You never see a return on investment on an insurance policy until it comes time to use it. But we get value from it every day. Do I think that the investment in the product is giving us value for the dollars we're spending? Absolutely.

I look at it this way: If I need a truck to do my job every day, and my job is to haul two-by-fours back and forth between two job sites, do I need the Cadillac pickup truck or do I need the truck with the roll-up windows? They both do the job and they both do it really well, but the value is in the one that has the roll-up windows. It's doing what it's supposed to do. It's doing it well and it lets me retain dollars for other purposes. EventTracker is exactly that. It's giving me all of the features and functions that we need to do our jobs, and at a price point that's incredibly attractive. It allows me to save money and put money into other services to help reduce risk.

What other advice do I have?

It's a simple product. It's a lot easier to implement and deploy than the other SIEMs I've used throughout my career. The advice would be that using it is a good decision. There's no reason to shy away from the product.

From an event-alert perspective, we haven't used them for that purpose yet. That's largely because the current security services we have in place from our vendors, CrowdStrike in particular, provide us a managed event system from the AV side. They proactively manage our antivirus that's on all of our machines and they also proactively remediate the machines. So we haven't felt the need, yet, to take part in EventTracker's alerting of detected cross-events. That will come in this upcoming calendar year. Our program here is only two years old. The security program itself was only in existence for about nine months before we started to engage with EventTracker, and deployment was earlier this year. We're still really in deployment mode.

We haven't integrated EventTracker with any other solutions. We use ServiceNow but we have not made any effort to integrate it. Our roadmap for ServiceNow is to do exactly that and take advantage of that integration capability and have it issue either alert tickets or work requests into ServiceNow for us, so that we don't have to do those manual steps. We are probably a year away from that.

There are two others besides me using it in our organization. They're both security analysts. There really isn't any maintenance. We've occasionally had servers that stopped talking for whatever reason but a reboot took care of that. Generally, what we're finding is it's due to an application memory leak on that server. But it's just working. There is no effort there.

I would rate it a 10 out of 10. The ease of deployment, the support that we receive from them, the dashboard console which I find to be very helpful, are all part of that rating. I would like to see some more assistance in the way that searches are built, but as I've learned how to search, it's getting easier and easier. Overall, it's a well-priced and functionally appropriate SIEM.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Private Cloud
**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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