What's Event-Driven Security? Explaining This Proactive Defense Approach

Most professionals think about WAPs, firewalls and network perimeters when they’re considering cybersecurity. If that’s you, you’re not wrong: these are vital tools and techniques to keep your organization secure.

But have you considered event-driven architecture (EDA) for your security? 

Cybersecurity is very much event driven. It requires orchestrating multiple systems with workflows, validation and triggers. Most security architects and professionals are overwhelmed by the thousands of alerts they receive daily. An automated workflow setup could help streamline their processes to analyze and remediate real-time events.

This setup, called event-driven security, is a powerful way to strengthen your cybersecurity posture in an age of overwhelming threats. Read on to learn more about it and how it can improve your security.

What is event driven security?

To understand event-driven security, we must first define what an event is. 

According to ITIL, an event is “an occurrence that significantly influences the management or delivery of IT services.” That means that an event could be anything, even a small trigger. However, these small triggers can lead to a chain reaction of significant security concerns, including bugs or errors.

That is where event-driven security comes into the picture. Event-driven security is a proactive cybersecurity approach that creates a system that automatically responds to specific events or triggers, no matter how small. 

EDS operates on event-driven architecture (EDA) principles, which have recently grown popular. In fact, over 85% of companies are aiming to adopt EDA to streamline their businesses. Likewise, EDS uses these same principles to target cybersecurity needs to respond to security events in real-time.

The event-driven security system will trigger an appropriate security response when an event that matches predefined security criteria occurs. A response could range from a variety of responses, like:

  • Sending an alert to a system administrator
  • Blocking a potentially malicious action
  • Isolating a compromised part of the network

(Indication of an attack may require a different approach than full-on compromise, see the difference.)

Examples of events

Some events that could trigger a response include:

  • System changes, such as new software installations or system configuration changes.
  • User actions, like login attempts, changes to settings, or file downloads.
  • Network traffic, such as data requests to or from specific IP addresses or spikes in network traffic.
  • Software processes, like unusual system processes or applications requesting access to specific resources.

Because EDS works automatically, it helps improve cybersecurity speed and efficiency to identify and mitigate threats quickly. It also reduces the damage of security breaches and prevents potential attacks from succeeding.

Benefits & limitations of event-driven security

Cyber threats are not limited to working hours. What happens when a threat tries to compromise your system in the middle of the night? Most likely, it’s just filling your IT engineers’ and architects’ email inboxes with alerts while they’re sleeping soundly at home. Not much can be done until the morning. By then, the threat could have already infiltrated your networks and stolen all the data they need. 

EDS is critical for this type of situation. An event-driven workflow automatically detects and mitigates the security event without needing the oversight of your IT security team. Whether in the middle of the night, over the weekend, or on holidays, these automated workflows ensure that your systems remain safe in real time.

Some of the most critical benefits of event-driven security include:

Proactive. Most traditional security models are reactive and only focus on responding to events after they occur. EDS systems react to potential threats as soon as they happen, reducing the time it takes you to react. It identifies and mitigates threats before they damage your systems and data. 

Automation. IT teams are often overwhelmed with routine tasks. Because it uses automation, EDS handles everyday tasks and immediate responses to known threats. It frees your team to deal with complex security issues that require human intuition and judgment.

Scalability. EDS systems are great for organizations of all sizes. They can be scaled up or down based on the number of events they need to handle.

Efficient resource use. Because EDS systems focus on specific events and triggers, they concentrate resources where you need them most rather than scanning the entire system indiscriminately.

Comprehensive monitoring. Event-driven security allows you to comprehensively monitor your system, ensuring that any unusual activity is detected and addressed promptly. You can home in on particular areas to monitor, such as overall security monitoring, network security monitoring, on-prem monitoring and endpoint monitoring

Improved system understanding. Your security and IT teams gain a better understanding of regular system activity by continuously monitoring system events. It will make identifying anomalies easier.

Event-driven security offers IT teams several advantages. However, it’s not a one size fits all solutions for all cyber security issues. Like any approach, it has limitations and potential challenges. A few challenges include:

  • Complexity. While it can be scaled for any size organization, implementing event-driven security can be complex. You will need a comprehensive strategy, proper configuration, and continuous monitoring. You will need to identify which events should trigger responses and create appropriate responses, which can be challenging.
  • False alerts. If you have not configured it correctly, the system may produce false positives, where benign activities are flagged as threats, causing your security team more unnecessary work. However, the potential for false negatives is even more concerning where actual threats go undetected.
  • Overlooked threats. Since event-driven security often focuses on immediate threats, slow and steady attacks (like Advanced Persistent Threats) or distributed threats might be harder to detect.
  • Potential blind spots. While automation can have many benefits, over-reliance can create blind spots. Skilled attackers are always looking for ways to bypass automated defenses, so it is no substitute for human oversights and adaptive strategies.
  • Dependence on accurate event definitions. The effectiveness of your event-driven security system heavily relies on how accurately and comprehensively you define events. Threats might be overlooked if you don’t define or incorrectly define an important event.

Despite these limitations, EDS continues to be a crucial part of a holistic cybersecurity strategy. However, it’s critical that you understand these potential challenges and address them during the design and implementation phases.

Automating with event-driven security

Researchers have found it takes about 24 hours for security teams to respond to incidents. That might be too late for your organization. Implementing event-driven security is a critical way to automate many of your routine security tasks and ensure real-time response in the face of rising cybersecurity threats. 

While event-driven security is not a standalone solution to all cybersecurity challenges, it provides a proactive layer of defense that significantly enhances your overall security posture. As organizations move towards an increasingly interconnected digital landscape full of threats, adopting and refining such innovative security models is paramount to safeguard your information assets effectively.

What is Splunk?

This posting does not necessarily represent Splunk's position, strategies or opinion.

Kayly Lange
Posted by

Kayly Lange

Kayly Lange is a freelance writer. As a tech and SaaS specialist, she enjoys helping companies achieve greater reach and success through informative articles. When she’s not writing, she enjoys being out in nature, cooking, and reading a wide range of novels. You can connect with Kayly on LinkedIn.