Security Log Management: Challenges and Best Practices

Security Log Management: Challenges and Best Practices

What Is Security Log Management? 

Enterprise application environments run thousands of applications on physical and virtual machines. System software, operating systems, hypervisors, firewalls, network devices, storage arrays, and other components, as well as the application itself, all generate logs.

Many software tools, both open source and proprietary, can help collect, manage, and organize logs from these systems. Organizations are increasingly using centralized log management software. In addition to log management, real-time or near real-time log monitoring is critical to identify security threats and respond early.

Logging security events is of paramount importance as part of a security monitoring strategy. Security event logging involves monitoring logs to detect security-related activities, which might represent an attempt to compromise systems or applications. A well-designed security event monitoring system can help organizations understand and respond to threats in real time, as well as support post-incident investigation and remediation.

Security Log Management Challenges 

Managing security logs can be complex. Even if the organization is relatively small and you log only the events that cover the most important metrics, you will still generate a lot of data. Large enterprises can generate hundreds of gigabytes of logs daily. There are several challenges involved in dealing with this massive amount of continuously generated data.

Logs come from multiple endpoints and different sources and formats, so standardization is necessary. It is important to transform information into a uniform format for easy search, comparison, and readability. Systems and media used to share and store logs must be thoroughly protected with strict access control. They also need to be able to handle large amounts of data without affecting overall system performance.

How Log Management Can Improve Your Security Posture 

Challenges of Log Management

Many organizations collect massive amounts of log data, without a clear data management strategy. Enterprises often rely on traditional log management platforms and legacy Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems, but logging and storing data with an outdated solution can be expensive and non-scalable. 

To make data manageable, security teams must limit the log data being stored, and reduce their retention periods to as short as a few weeks. This can make it difficult to identify security issues in modern architectures, which include microservices, containers, and multiple clouds. If your organization is on a tight budget for firewall logging, but still needs process execution data,  file movement, or internal DNS logs, security functions will be limited.

Additionally, environments like microservices and containers do not produce easily accessible audit trails. If your organization can’t audit everything, you will have blind spots which can be exploited by attackers. There will also be limited ability to perform accurate post-mortem on historical security events, once a vulnerability is discovered.

Requirements for Effective Security Log Management

To initiate forensics, prevent and detect breaches, organizations need to log all data in real time. To achieve this, organizations must use a dedicated log management platform designed for today’s complexities and functional challenges.

An effective log management platform aggregates and visualizes all streaming data from network traffic, emails, hybrid clouds, DevOps pipelines, microservices, and containers in real time. This makes it possible to track threat actors during live security events and initiate remediation plans quickly in the event of an incident.

By recording everything, businesses can use high-fidelity data from trusted sources. When everything is audited, it is also easier to meet compliance requirements.

Advantages of Real Time Security Log Management

A modern log management platform enables businesses to respond faster to incidents. This means less blind spots and makes it easier to identify attacks. Because all data is real-time, security professionals can quickly and easily explore data to investigate threats and perform proactive threat hunting.

Armed with detailed log data and infrastructure knowledge, security professionals can prevent attacks from occurring in the first place, or mitigate its impact. Comprehensive log data allows organizations to identify cyber kill chains, and leverage streaming queries to continuously track threats. 

Modern security log management systems support the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act (OODA) loop to obtain feedback and make faster decisions. Allowing defenders to complete the OODA loop more quickly can significantly limit the operational impact of attacks.

Log Management Security Best Practices

Plan Security Use Cases in Advance

Building an effective security system starts with understanding its use cases. Consider your compliance requirements and the sources of external and internal threats. Build a roadmap that can help you manage the data and generate effective alerts, dashboards, and metrics. 

For additional ideas on data sources, see MITRE’s Getting Started ATT&CK guide, to learn about the tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) adversaries use to compromise security systems.

Store Data for an Appropriate Retention Period

Decide what data you need and the time period required for dashboard analysis and alerts. Threats can arise months after a system is compromised, so retention is critical to aid security investigations. 

Also determine the required retention period for regulatory compliance. For compliance purposes, some stored data must be available for at least one year. Modern log management platforms can optimize storage using compression, storing more data than traditional log management or security information and event management (SIEM) tools.

Central Log Management for Better Access and Improved Security

Centralized log management not only improves data access, but also greatly enhances the security capabilities of your organization. By storing and linking data in a centralized location, organizations can detect and respond to anomalies faster. 

In this way, a centralized log management system can help reduce a critical window between initial penetration of the system and lateral movement to other parts of the network.

Leverage the Cloud for Added Scalability and Flexibility

Given the evolving data landscape, organizations should consider investing in a modern cloud-based log management system solution. The cloud provides greater flexibility and scalability, allowing organizations to easily increase or decrease processing power and storage capacity according to their current needs.

Security Log Management with Exabeam

Exabeam Security Log Management represents the Exabeam entry point to ingest, parse, store, and search security data in one place, providing a fast, modern search and dashboarding experience across your security log data. 

Exabeam Security Log Management delivers affordable log management at scale without requiring advanced programming, query-building skills or lengthy deployment cycles. Collectors gather data from on-premises or cloud data sources using a single interface. Log Stream parses each raw log into a security event as data travels from the source, identifies named fields, and normalizes them using a standard format (CIM) for accelerated analysis with added security context that helps map user credentials to IPs and devices. 

  • Multiple transport methods: API, agent, syslog, Cribl, SIEM data lake 
  • 381+ products in 56 product categories; including
  • 34 cloud-delivered security products
  • 11 SaaS productivity applications
  • 21 cloud infrastructure solutions
  • Combining to represent over 9,300 pre-built log parsers

Customers looking for case management may also be interested in the Alert and Case Management feature within Exabeam SIEM. Alert and Case Management centralizes events and alerts sourced from Exabeam and/or third-party products, letting an analyst review alerts individually or at volume — or set conditions to automate the alert triage workflow and escalate events and alerts into incidents. 

Alert and Case Management allows analyst teams to create incidents, add tags and events to the incident, collaborate across groups and timezones, and offers customizable, outcome-driven steps for analysts to guide them through to mitigation or resolution.