GUARDING YOUR BUSINESS. Log Management Essentials

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1 GUARDING YOUR BUSINESS Log Management Essentials

2 Content Introduction...2 Challenges solved by log management...3 Forensics...3 Compliance...3 Supporting security information and event management (SIEM)...3 The solution Log management infrastructure...4 Centralized...4 Highly reliable...4 Scalable...4 Secure...4 Sectors...5 Telecommunications...5 Finance...6 Healthcare...6 Higher Education...7 Best practices...8 Know what you want to get out of log management...8 Determine retention and access policy...9 Review logs...9 Review log management policies...9 Summary...9 Learn more...9 Introduction In IT environments, a wide variety of sources generate log messages in many different formats. Firewalls, intrusion prevention applications, routers, servers, VPNs, and numerous applications generate logs that document the workings of IT networks. Most log messages traditionally come from three types: system logs of servers, network devices, and applications. To derive actionable, valuable business information from this vast amount of raw log data, it is necessary to collect, filter, and normalize messages from various sources and store them centrally so that they may be easily accessed for review or archived for compliance purposes. In large, complex environments, organizations need to deploy a log management infrastructure to cope with the amount and complexity of log data. Log data can serve a variety of purposes for organizations. Depending on the group within an IT department, logs can be used for capacity management, troubleshooting, documenting compliance, measuring user interaction, supporting threat detection and many more. A log management infrastructure shared by security and operations groups can save a considerable amount of money and offers both groups access to more log sources. 2

3 Challenges solved by log management Forensics In today s IT environment, security breaches are question of when, not if. The challenge for IT security organizations is to react quickly to both internal and external threats. Whether a company has been hit with a Denial of Service (DoS) attack, had sensitive data stolen, or has been the victim of fraud, the log messages of network devices and applications are critical to determining the cause. During a forensic investigation, a comprehensive collection of log messages is required since it is not possible to know prior to a security incident what data will be needed. According to the 2012 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, the reason most cited for not being able to determine the criminal s identity was a lack of sufficient log data that would enable attribution. Download Verizon data breach investigations report 2012 If an IT network has been compromised, IT security organizations need to detect the attack as quickly as possible to minimize damage. As companies use web-applications more frequently to interact with their customers, they are subject to more external attacks. Denial of Service attacks, viruses and other malware can disable critical web-applications with disastrous consequences for business. The first place where system administrators look for clues of an attack are the log messages of various network devices and applications. Reviewing log messages can be a time-consuming and costly exercise if logs are missing or not centrally located. If logs are not centralized and securely stored, logs can be deleted from compromised machines or can be modified by attackers to hide their tracks. In the Verizon report, 85% of breaches took weeks or more to discover. Compliance IT departments increasingly find themselves spending ever more resources on compliance as laws, regulations and industry standards mandate increasing security awareness and the protection of sensitive data. Depending on the type of organization and its location, several data protection and security regulations may apply. These regulations vary by region and industry, and can be difficult to understand. Some requirements such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) contain specific data handling and auditing requirements, while others like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) require general control procedures. Large and small organizations in a wide variety of industries use frameworks such as ISO27001 or COBIT to satisfy audit requirements. The challenge for IT managers is to meet the numerous regulatory requirements in the most cost-effective way. Compliance shouldn t be regarded as a cost but rather an investment. According to the 2012 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 96% of breach victims subject to PCI-DSS had not achieved compliance. The practices put in place by companies that comply with PCI-DSS can help prevent security breaches and improve the bottom line. Supporting Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Integrated Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions are widely deployed to protect networks from internal and external threats. Large firms and institutions invest significant financial and personnel resources to implement and maintain SIEM systems but often overlook the most fundamental element of these systems, log management. SIEM solutions provide a dizzying array of charts, graphs and dashboards based on sophisticated event correlation analysis, but these analyses are only as good as the data collected from network devices and applications. It is important to ensure that log messages are reliably and securely transferred from sources to a central log server. Without a robust log management infrastructure SIEM deployments will fail to live up to expectations or provide a false sense of security. 3

4 The solution Log management infrastructure To ensure that log data on which security and operations teams rely is accessible, organizations need to deploy an enterprise class log management infrastructure. There are four attributes that make a log management infrastructure enterprise class: Centralized The Internet is making the world smaller but it s also making IT environments more complex. Large organizations operate IT infrastructure in many locations. Whether it s connecting a regional sales office, an off-shore support facility or production facility, large enterprises manage a multitude of servers, network and security devices, and applications. Most logs are collected and stored locally for diagnostics but log messages are often necessary for compliance, security, and forensics purposes. Managing the massive amounts of log messages generated by applications and devices in distributed environments poses a significant challenge to IT departments. Highly reliable Whether you need to analyze logs for operations, application management or security purposes, it is more important than ever that log messages are available and accessible. In the early days of log management, when log messages were thought of as useful by-products rather than a crucial element of operations and security, transferring logs was done via UDP. While UDP offers some benefits in terms of reduced overhead, it has largely been replaced by TCP as a transport protocol because of reliability. Scalable One of the challenges facing all organizations, large and small, is the ability to manage increasingly larger and more complex IT environments. From a log management perspective, this means deploying solutions that can scale to the increasing size of networks both in terms of the number of log sources and the amount of log data generated. Large, diverse networks can consist of tens of thousands of log sources, ranging from servers to custom applications. The amount and rate at which log data is generated can overwhelm ad-hoc log management solutions. For example, a webserver can generate a massive amount of logs if there are many visitors on the websites it hosts. Likewise, routers performing Carrier Grade Network Address Translation (CGNAT) for IPv4/IPv6 translation can generate more than 100,000 messages per second. While these two examples may not be typical for most organizations, the tendency to collect more rather than fewer logs means that log management solutions need to scale to meet increasing data rates. An enterprise log management solution should be able to: Is TCP enough? Using TCP to transfer logs from clients to central servers is a major step forward from a reliability standpoint but it does not guarantee that all log data will be available for analysis or archiving. Logs can be lost if the network connection or the central log server is unavailable. Using a local disk buffer on the client can mitigate message loss if messages cannot be sent. If the log server has crashed, it is always a good idea to set a fail-over destination on the client. To ensure that the log server receives messages - even through multiple relay points and possibly unreliable network elements - application-level acknowledgment is necessary. Given the importance of archiving logs, particularly for compliance reasons, it is always advisable to set up the central log server in a High Availability cluster. Such a configuration ensures that log messages are not lost in the event one node of the central log server fails. A robust enterprise log management solution should: scale easily handle over 10,000 log-producing collect over 100,000 messages devices per second. Secure Since log messages can contain sensitive data, it is essential to transfer messages via a secure transmission protocol, such as TLS. Encrypted transfer provides confidentiality, can prevent tampering and allows for mutual authentication between the client and server. In cases where logs contain personal data such as credit card numbers, electronic health records, usernames and passwords, many compliance requirements such as PCI- DSS and HIPAA specify encrypted transfer. It is important to determine which logs collected need to be stored securely as well. The benefit of archiving messages in encrypted, time-stamped files is two-fold. First, it can prevent malicious attackers using anti-forensics techniques such as erasing or modifying log messages to cover their tracks. Second, in the event that logs are used as evidence in legal proceedings, secure storage can demonstrate the authenticity of the logs by preserving the chain of custody. provide the capability to handle possibly unreliable network elements and network outages, ensure zero message loss throughout the entire logging infrastructure, and offer redundancy at the critical points to avoid creating single points of failure. 4

5 Sectors Telecommunications Telecommunications operators rely on IT networks for their business. The explosion of intelligent mobile devices, video content delivery, and cloudbased services pose ever increasing operational and security challenges to service providers. To compete in today s rapidly changing communications market, telcos need to manage complex, interconnected networks consisting of a wide variety of devices and applications to deliver innovative, reliable services while optimizing Return on Investment (ROI). Telecom networks generate huge volumes of log messages from carrier grade routers and gateways, voice switches, web-servers, and security devices such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, data loss prevention systems. From web servers and high-capacity core network routers to firewalls and VoIP gateways, telecommunication networks generate terabytes of log messages. Often the key to detecting and resolving network outages and reacting to security threats is found in the information contained in the millions of log messages generated on a daily basis. Managing this massive amount of log messages is essential to delivering reliable services. And this mass data generated by the network is often used by different organizations within the company for different purposes. Operators face significant financial losses both real, in the case of Service Level Agreement (SLA) penalties, and potential, in the case of lost voice and data traffic. Yet some organizations do not take full advantage of the wealth of information contained in their network log messages. Log data is often contained in silos within an organization depending on the group collecting the data. Collecting and managing logs centrally across the larger organizations enables organizations to identify issues more quickly, reducing down time. Like many firms, telcos possess and must control access to several types of sensitive data including private customer data, employee records, and company financial information. Not only do service providers maintain large databases containing demographic and transactional data, they also possess massive amounts of usage data information in the form of Call Data Records (CDR) and Internet Traffic and Transaction Data (IPDR). With large numbers of employees, service providers must manage and record access to sensitive information whether it be customer credit card information, employee records, or customer usage data. Telcos are increasingly subject to data protection regulations and industry standards from a variety of organizations ranging from the Payment Card Industry (PCI) to national and international law enforcement agencies. For example, in the Data Retention Directive, the European Union requires service providers to store citizens telecommunications for six to twenty-four months. Publicly traded telecom companies must also comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). 5

6 Sectors Finance Healthcare The financial services industry faces unique challenges with respect to its IT networks. Whether you are a local community bank, a large investment bank, a hedge fund or an insurance provider, your IT network is central to your day to day operations. In today s environment, customers trust is tough to earn but easy to lose. Financial institutions face more scrutiny from both customers and regulatory bodies than ever before and they rely on IT networks to reliably and securely serve their customers. Financial institutions operate large, distributed networks connecting high capacity data servers running a variety of standard and custom software to remote locations. Payment processing, trade processing, and internet banking are just a few of the applications that IT departments in the Financial Services Industry need to support. The speed at which business is conducted has accelerated as the financial services industry has harnessed improvements in IT, making operational efficiency more important than ever as network outages represent ever more financial losses. When outages are measured in seconds rather than minutes or hours, reducing mean time to repair is essential to the bottom line. Financial services firms spend large amounts of time and money complying with a variety of regulations such as the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and Basel II. Many firms implement well-established frameworks such as ISO27001 or COBIT to satisfy regulations like SOX and Basel II. Regular internal and external audits are the backbone of control systems. The financial services industry is the largest target for cyber-criminals as the reliance on IT infrastructure to manage financial transactions has made cyber-crime more prevalent. Financial institutions must protect themselves against internal and external threats. Access to sensitive data must be strictly controlled and recorded, networks must be constantly monitored to detect suspicious events, and vital communications must be secured. Log messages from servers, networking devices, firewalls and a variety of custom applications contain the data necessary to protect networks from security threats. Healthcare providers and payers, either private companies or government agencies, face increasing challenges managing sensitive data in increasingly complex IT environments. Hospitals, clinics, and health insurance providers are increasingly turning to IT systems to manage a variety of data including electronic health records, billing records, insurance claims, prescriptions, digital images, medical tests and many more. This explosion in the amount of data has led to significant investment by IT organizations in a wide variety of applications, both standard and custom, and the servers and network devices to support them. Managing these complex IT environments while safeguarding sensitive data is one of the significant business challenges facing the healthcare industry. As healthcare providers and payers increasingly leverage IT to deliver and pay for healthcare, the size and complexity of IT environments at hospitals, clinics, and insurance providers continue to grow. Healthcare organizations often operate distributed networks with more than a thousand servers and several thousand clients supporting a wide variety of standard and custom Health Information System software. Each device and application generates log messages that contain information about IT network operations. Managing the massive amount log messages is critical to identifying and remedying technical issues. As patient information, insurance claims, and other healthcare data have migrated from paper to electronic formats, regulatory agencies have issued strict rules about handling Protected Health Information (PHI). Organizations handling patient data are required to comply with a variety of data privacy regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. With insurance fraud on the rise, access to sensitive data must be strictly controlled and recorded, networks must be constantly monitored to detect suspicious events, and vital communications must be secured. Log messages from servers, networking devices, firewalls and a variety of custom applications contain the data necessary to protect networks from security threats. 6

7 Sectors Higher Education Colleges and Universities have become complex ecosystems fulfilling not only the duty of educating students but ensuring a safe environment in which students can learn. Institutions of Higher Education often provide residential housing and health services for their students and many operate their own police forces as well. Universities often have thousands and, in some cases, tens of thousands of users with varying degrees of network access and the institution must protect a plethora of personal data such as education records, health records, credit card data, and personal identification numbers for each individual system user. Modern colleges and universities consist of many departments and branches, each having their own IT needs. From liberal arts to cutting edge scientific research programs, the computing needs of each department can vary widely, often in a campus environment. IT departments deploy many types of equipment and applications to satisfy the wide ranging needs of students, faculty and administrators alike. Despite the diverse networks required by various functions and disciplines, school IT departments must integrate components of the network while ensuring reliable operation and securing sensitive data. Due to the variety of functions that Colleges and Universities perform they must also comply with a variety of data protection laws. The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires that schools safeguard students education records and restrict dissemination. Most universities offer payment by credit card for a variety of services and must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). Those institutions providing health services must also comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Individual states also enforce their own data privacy laws such as the Massachusetts Data Protection Act. 7

8 Best practices Know what you want to get out of log management Involve other groups from other IT organizations. Make the most of your investment While seemingly obvious, determining the scope of your log management needs is the most important step in getting the most out of your investment in time and money. It is crucial to set realistic goals about what types of logs can and should be collected and what the desired result of gathering the data. The goal of the scoping exercise should be to determine what actionable intelligence can be gained from log data. Logging for logging s sake is just a waste of resources. Involving other groups within the IT organization is a good way to increase the return on investment for log management solutions. While the immediate needs of IT operations and IT security specialists may be different, many times these organizations use the same data to get different insights about the IT environment. Identify sources collect what you need and discard what you don t. Once the scope of the log management deployment has been determined, the next step is to identify the sources that generate logs that need to be collected. Some sources such as servers often have several different applications that generate different types of log messages in varying formats. It is also important to determine if logging is enabled by default. While it sounds trivial, many applications and devices do not log by default. Also, it is important to discard logs that you categorize as irrelevant. Collecting and storing irrelevant logs only drains resources and discarding them allows you to focus on the important data. Identify constraints A robust log management solution requires an infrastructure to handle the data being collected and transferred. During the planning process, it is useful to identify constraints such as network bandwidth and reliability, storage capacity, financial resources or even human resources. Knowing the constraints allows decision makers to prioritize the goals of a potential log management solution. Identify log formats One of the key challenges of log management is making sense out of the noise associated with large amounts of data in disparate, many times unstructured, formats. There are some several, major standard formats that can facilitate log collection and normalization. syslog is the most widely-adopted standard format for logs. There are two versions of the syslog protocol, RFC3164 and the later RFC5424. The latter supersedes the former with improvements such as a new, detailed time-stamp specification according to RFC3339 or the ability to include structured data in the form of name-value pairs in messages. Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) is another commonly used format which is generally but not exclusively used by network devices to report on their status. Windows uses its own proprietary log format called Event Log. A popular way for applications, both standard and custom, to log is via database tables, primarily SQL variants. There are many new log formats that have emerged in the Java space such as log4j while there are many proprietary log formats (such as Cisco s netflow). To glean meaningful information form these various log formats and the myriad, unstructured or structured logs generated by applications, logs need to be translated into a common format. This process of normalization begins during the scoping phase of any log management project. It is important to understand the data that exists in the IT environment; simply purchasing a log management tool is not enough. Identify sensitive and important log data After identifying the logs to be collected, it is important to identify the importance and sensitivity of log types. Not all logs are created equal and it is important to recognize the relative importance of debug messages and login attempts to use a simple example. High-priority log messages need to be handled with greater care. It is strongly advised to use secure and reliable transport protocols for high-priority messages. Some log messages contain sensitive information such as usernames and passwords while others contain private data such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, or patient health data. In some cases it is necessary to anonymize the data by overwriting parts of log messages such as removing parts of credit card numbers. 8

9 Best Practices Determine retention and access policy Without proper planning, log storage can quickly become a big problem. Even relatively small IT departments can be overwhelmed in short period of time. The value of log data generally decreases with time, but depending on the log source it may be advisable to retain the data for longer periods of time. Security-related log messages tend to be retained for longer periods than log data about operational issues. Many data protection regulations and standards, such as PCI-DSS and HIPAA, explicitly call for log data retention. Understanding the various compliance requirements allows organizations to develop a granular approach to what log data needs to be retained and for how long. This approach can reduce the overall investment in storage. One of the major benefits to centralizing collection and management is the easy access to log data. However, granting unlimited access to logs poses certain risks. Some data protection standards such as PCI-DSS call for access to log data to be restricted to authorized personnel. An access policy should be part of a comprehensive retention policy. Personnel should be granted access to logs based on their function within the IT organization. Review logs The goal of collecting logs should be to derive valuable information from the data. As mentioned above, it is important to know what the goals of log management are. Simply collecting and archiving logs to meet compliance requirements does not add value to an organization. Some regulations, such as PCI-DSS, require collection, monitoring and periodic review of log data. Using a proactive approach by establishing processes for monitoring and review of log data, organizations can derive beneficial business data. For example, user login data is not only valuable for IT security but can also be valuable for personnel management in the case of internal employees or marketing in the case of customer logins. Review log management policies Security policies, standards and regulations are continuously revised and it is important that log management policies keep up these changes. New data sources, changing compliance requirements, the changing nature of threats, and the evolving commercial needs of business are some of the reasons to establish a process of periodic review of log management policies and practices. Summary Whether you are trying to enhance security, improve operations, meet compliance objectives, or draw business insights from your IT environment, log data contains valuable information and harnessing that data is critical. An effective log management solution needs to be centralized, secure, highly reliable, and scalable. Centralizing data avoids the problem of data silos and enables organizations to leverage a wider variety of data. Information contained in log data is only valuable if it is available and easily accessible so choosing a reliable solution is important. While logs need to be accessible, they should only be accessible to the appropriate personnel. Logs often contain sensitive information so access needs to be restricted. Careful planning before implementing a log management solution will pay dividends in the long run so it is worth the time and effort. Poor planning can lead to log management solutions that don t collect the necessary data, lack easy access to data, don t scale to increases log sources or message traffic. Addressing potential problems in advance will be much less expensive than fixing problems retrospectively. Learn more syslog-ng homepage Request an online demo Request a callback Finally, log management is not a set it and forget it tool to tick some compliance boxes, it s an ongoing process. IT environments and security threats are always changing. Be sure to adjust your log management infrastructure and activities to keep up with changes. Otherwise, over time your log management will become less effective and may give you a false sense of security. 9

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