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The Importance of Log Management and Cybersecurity

October 1, 2020

Struggling with the evolving cybersecurity threat landscape often means feeling one step behind cybercriminals. Interconnected cloud ecosystems expand your digital footprint, and this increases the attack surface. More users, data, and devices connected to your networks mean more monitoring for cyber attacks. Detecting suspicious activity before or during the forensic investigation is how centralized log management supports cybersecurity.

WHAT IS LOG MANAGEMENT?

Logs are the files that detail all the events that occur within your company’s  systems and networks, including servers, firewalls, and other IT equipment. Each device, system, network, and application is called a log source. The event logs can show deviations from expected activity, giving visibility into potential configuration, hardware, or security issues. 

Logs provide data about a wide array of activities across the ecosystem, including application, system, audit, authentication, intrusion detection system (IDS), and intrusion prevention system (IPS) logs.  

Example

You can monitor DNS server logs to see whether infected hosts are attempting to get an external malicious site’s IP address to communicate with it. A DNS server log that identifies this type of malicious activity may indicate a malware infection. 


Log management is the security control that centralizes all the generated log data into a single location. This creates more effective security monitoring and enables comprehensive auditing.  With all log data optimized for visibility and stored in a central location, and organizations are able to  establish more robust cybersecurity programs. 

WHAT ARE SOME FUNDAMENTAL LOG MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES ORGANIZATIONS FACE? 

While log management is a fundamental security control, many organizations struggle for effective log event collection, review, and management. Digital transformation strategies only add to administrators’ burdens by increasing the volumes of log data  they need to review regularly. 

TOO MANY SOURCES

Many organizations struggle with log analysis because as they add more services to their IT stack, the volume of logs that administrators need to review also increases. Even more overwhelming, a single log source might generate multiple logs. 

Example

Applications can create log events  for both authentication attempts and network activity. As your organization adds to its digital footprint, it increases the number of log sources, leading to an explosion of log data that becomes difficult to manage. 

LOG DATA INCONSISTENCY

Log sources record only the data that they consider essential. This means that your DNS log may report different information than your operating system log. The various data collected and reported by logs makes it difficult to bring together all events in a meaningful way. 

Example

If one source reports the source IP address while the other reports username only, bringing the two logs together to create a full story of events becomes difficult. 

TIMESTAMP DISPARITY

Every log source reports events using its own internal clock. You may not be able to create a single, standardized timestamp across all logs and this sometimes makes correlating events more difficult. 

Example

If your authentication log indicates anomalous access two minutes before your IDS reports the same event, you may not be able to tie the potential security incidents when searching for the malicious actor’s point of entry. 

LOG FORMAT DIFFERENCES

Many organizations struggle with log management because source types often use different formats. These include  comma-separated or tab-separated text files, databases, syslog, Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), Extensible Markup Language (XML), and binary files. This can make, attempting to download and correlate information difficult  since some formats may not align with others. 

WHAT IS LOG MANAGEMENT INFRASTRUCTURE?

A log management infrastructure is the collection of all hardware, software, networks, and media that you use to generate, transmit, store, analyze, and dispose of log data. Although a wide variety of log management software exists, organizations typically choose either a syslog-based centralized logging software or a security information and event management software (SIEM) when creating a log management infrastructure. 

With the right log management infrastructure, you can better manage and prioritize alerts to create a more focused cybersecurity monitoring and risk remediation program. Log management infrastructures establish a single source of data that enables you to more efficiently and effectively detect, mitigate, and report on cybersecurity risks. 

SYSLOG-BASED CENTRALIZED LOGGING SOFTWARE

Syslog is a logging format that includes a header, structured data, and a message that applies a severity rating to the issue being reported. Many organizations utilize syslog because it is a cost-effective, often free, way of collecting data across multiple applications and systems. Syslog contains details of individual applications that make troubleshooting easier without impacting application performance. 

While syslog offers flexibility, it is not perfect. Some challenges that come with a syslog-based approach include lacking a standardized format, clogging the network, leading to lost messages, and no authentication processes that would detect a device whose credentials have been stolen. 

SECURITY INFORMATION EVENT MANAGEMENT (SIEM)

In recent years, more organizations have adopted either an agentless or agent-based SIEM software. An agent-based approach requires you to install the software agent on each host that generates logs so that the agent can extract, process, and transmit data to the SIEM server. In an agentless deployment, the log-generating host transmits the data directly either to the SIEM or intermediate logging server. 

SIEM software automates the correlation and analysis process to streamline log management. Since it reduces the data, content, and timestamp inconsistencies, it provides more precise insight into and prioritizes logged events. 

USING GRAYLOG MANAGEMENT FOR ENHANCED CYBERSECURITY 

Log management supports a robust cybersecurity program by creating a single source of data for event reporting. You need to do more than identify abnormal events, you need to document them for forensic purposes. 

Graylog Dashboard

Graylog offers the most flexible and comprehensive approach to detecting, responding, and hunting immediate security breaches fast. As cyberattacks will likely strike your enterprise at some point, drawing information from event logs will be instrumental in your cybersecurity strategy to mitigate them as well as reestablish your system to its normal operation.

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