Originally published by New Context.
Monitoring and analyzing event logs are a vital part of system maintenance. These logs provide a detailed listing of just about every task, request, or entry made into a program on any given day. When tracing the root of a problem, they’re essential because of how interconnected all parts of a system may be. However, they’re only as useful as you make them. This is where event log analysis comes in.
If data is to become useful information, it requires context. In modern systems, it can be very challenging to trace the origin of an issue. There are essential tools that organizations can leverage to make the most of their data and keep their systems operating at peak performance.
What to Look for in Event Log Analysis
Organizations need to expand their horizons on what they’re studying when they review these logs to ensure they don’t miss anything critical. Often, the issue isn’t clear. A breach in cloud security could display in the form of increased traffic or reduced performance.
If analysts and engineers are only looking for security-specific issues, they could miss many vital indicators that aren’t as obvious. Sudden resource usage might not indicate a spike in demand: it could be a bad actor exploiting a vulnerability in the system. Even if the metric isn’t explicitly for security, it’s important to always consider security when evaluating networks. After all, everything is interconnected. A resource can break down and cause a bottleneck in a program that seems entirely unrelated. Tracing these errors means leaving nothing to chance and collecting every piece of information possible. To that end, it’s essential to have all logs stored in a central system, not in multiple places or multiple instances. The more segmented the data warehouse, the more difficult it will be to have a holistic view of the environment and discover issues.
Of course, it’s very easy to get into a position where the organization is watching everything and seeing nothing when taking that approach. While data is critical, it’s not enough. Data is just data. Information is data with context. The key is to collect as much data as possible on the system’s status and then use available tools to turn it into actionable metrics.
Monitoring Tools to Consider
There is a virtually endless range of tools for monitoring everything from a single application’s performance to an entire infrastructure across multiple clouds. Within the security community, some are notable for their ability to turn a wide range of data into actionable metrics:
- Cloud-specific tools: There are plenty of cloud-specific tools that users can leverage in monitoring their environments. Amazon Web Services has both CloudTrail and CloudWatch, which can track events across the entire account, including security events and audit trails, like if a user updates their password or if there’s a change in the IP location of traffic. Microsoft Azure has something similar in its Azure Monitor. Tools like these help users keep track of all events, establish alerts and take remedial action as appropriate.
- Datadog: This is another security solution, though it’s more agnostic as it can apply to just about any service, app, or container. It’s a helpful tool for monitoring sudden resource use spikes that can indicate a broader security issue.
- Zenpack: Zenpack is another tool for monitoring events across platforms. It’s particularly valuable as it allows for interaction with metrics from various systems and methods for acting on issues. It also provides the ability to build customized reports based on the needs of a specific program.
- Splunk: This tool supports infrastructure monitoring in a real-time environment. It offers end-to-end visibility for investigations. A user could review an issue like high page load times, click through it, and connect it to other potentially related errors.
- Elasticsearch: This isn’t a tool for analyzing data so much as it’s one for organizing it. It essentially becomes a search engine, allowing the user to input all types of data and then scan through it to discover answers. It’s an index-based search, making it far faster than text-level searching counterparts. This tool is often used in forensic exams following a breach or incident because it simplifies the process of searching out causes even in massive amounts of data.
- QRadar Security Information and Event Management: This tool is another means of gathering and monitoring real-time data. It can consolidate these events into an easier-to-follow format, even over a wide range of devices and applications. It can collect different information and connect it to single alerts to speed incident response.
The key to event log analysis is never to rule out any available data from consideration simply because it’s not precisely related to security issues. Many breaches and vulnerabilities show up as metrics that indicate performance issues. The most intelligent approach is to collect all the data possible and then make sense of it using the wide berth of tools available on the market.