The Importance of Log Monitoring in Cybersecurity 

Logs can be generated from any software component designed to handle requests and responses. Everything from application and web servers to operating systems, hardware and network devices generate logs of activities and events. Log files are simple text files containing detailed information regarding usage patterns, activities, and operations, while specifying if the nature of a log is informational, descriptive, or a warning. 

The aforementioned logs are a treasure trove of information for application developers, online businesses, and cybersecurity experts. For example, when you visit a website or a web app, at the back end, a log is created that marks the computer or devices you logged in from, the time, and the user information. Similarly, important interactions between users and software and devices are all logged. For an application developer, these logs can offer insights into errors and user behavior, that enable them to build fixes and deploy patches to help improve application performance. Marketers and brand builders may also be interested in analytical behavior such as sign-ups after a campaign, which aspects of an app are most popular, or any other interesting behavior patterns. The logs we’ve mentioned are related to web and mobile apps, yet similar logs are also created for web servers, networks, and operating systems.

Logs are also an extremely important source of data for cybersecurity purposes. When dealing with cybersecurity, we look at security instances or events that could provide an early warning of malicious intent. This may help to deconstruct a security breach after it has occurred. Logs provide information about a risk that is posed to the user application server that could have a devastating impact, such as privacy breaches, data theft, or non-compliance resulting in devastating financial impacts and brand reputation loss.

log monitoring

How does log monitoring affect cybersecurity?

Logs greatly enhance network observability, allowing developers to study recorded issues and errors in-depth, while accurately identifying the root cause of said issues. The abundant information at their disposal helps them patch issues and improve the overall functionality and performance of applications by ensuring they operate in the way they’re intended.

However, security instances such as invalid logins and unauthorized access pose a threat to user application server and can severely damage a company. A privacy breach could greatly impact a brand’s reputation, in turn ruining the company financially. Log monitoring plays a crucial role in identifying cyberattacks targeted toward an organization or internal networks, which can be crucial in detecting and thwarting serious attacks.

Log files maintain details such as:

  • Timestamp
  • Location
  • IP address
  • User activity details (if they’re logged in/ active/ offline, etc.)

This contextual information allows log monitoring tools to automatically identify malicious patterns, and target specific endpoints to keep them from entering the network. If there is no countermeasure for an issue, log monitoring tools will attempt to contain the threat whilst alerting administrative teams so that they can take the appropriate measures to eliminate the threat. 

Without log monitoring, a cybersecurity team would be blind and unaware of where, when and how an attack is occurring. Leaving the smallest security instances unchecked, regardless of time, could be enough for attackers to enter your server and mask themselves anonymously.

How to get the most out of log monitoring

As per the 2021 version of OWASP top 10 vulnerabilities, insecure design has been listed among the top 4 (A04) vulnerabilities. Architecture reviews and threat modelling will analyze the practices being followed, helping to identify if maintaining and monitoring logs are part of the non-functional requirements of the client. 

This information is useful to a number of stakeholders around the app. Since the product owner knows where sensitive operations occurred they can highlight important areas that need to be logged. An architect can also complement the product owner with their knowledge of designing the product. The third person that should be involved is an experienced security engineer with an in-depth understanding of security scenarios. The functional experience of a product owner, the design knowledge of an architect, and the security expertise of a security engineer create a robust framework to maintain logs necessary to combat a variety of security instances.

To get the most out of logs files, you need to integrate log monitoring and log analysis from a design perspective in the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC). Security Operations Center (SOC) teams and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions like Splunk, Solar Winds, and IBM’s QRadar are standard industry practices to address security instances. 

Storing log data

Compliances like Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) and ISO 27001 of Information Security Management System (ISMS) recommend storing logs for a minimum of one year. 

Cloud service providers like AWS, Azure, and GCP generate and store logs for a temporary period of 90 days. But as a part of the Shared Responsibility Model, the customer should store the logs in a particular repository or storage space and update this centralized repository as per their own policy. Maintaining logs for a longer period of time helps users trace attacks back to their point of origin. This way the customer is able to accurately identify potential cybersecurity risks from any time over the previous year. Log files should be encrypted at rest, allowing only restricted access to certain authorized personnel.

Log files can be stored either on-premises, in the cloud, or in data centers. Each of these has its own set of best practices that must be followed.

Entersoft’s log monitoring solution

Entersoft’s DevSecOps model covers all cybersecurity activities including log monitoring and log analysing solutions. A DevSecOps model pushes code into a variety of test environments, deploying it into servers to configure aspects of the application infrastructure. The operations team begins maintaining and monitoring logs once the application goes live. The seamless integration between development, security, and operation teams centralises log files and enables visibility across all applications and infrastructures. 

Entersoft also handles log monitoring and log analysis of WatchTower 365 with the help of AT&T’s Alien Vault on their servers based on application hacks.