The Role of Log Aggregation, Processing, and Analysis in Network Security and organizational threat hunting

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Events and logs are the basic foundation of sophisticated security monitoring, resolution, and prevention. The task of investigation and detection, which involves aggregating, processing, storing, and analyzing these logs and events is made more efficient using an advanced log management platform. Fortunately, today log management tools offer automation to help the admin with getting down to the source of problems and possible threats.  In this article, we will take a closer look at crucial processes that comprise log management and why these are essential for security.

The basics of security event logs

Aggregating and monitoring logs are two of the main functions of security admins. By regularly collecting and analyzing log data from networks and systems, security admins can identify suspicious activity and other anomalies which point to a potential security threat. An automated Eventvwr (learn more) with built-in log analysis apps, streamlines some of the complexities involved in these tasks because it eliminates the guesswork out of the equation. Artificial intelligence and machine learning built-in to these log analysis tools further enhance human search capabilities.

Some examples of log events which are relevant for security are:

  • Antivirus software dashboards & reports that a specific device is infected
  • Firewall dashboards & reports regarding unauthorized access
  • Unknown IP address or host attempting access to a crucial system
  • Reports of multiple failed access attempts
  • Modified or changed user privileges
  • Login and logouts tracking and statistics

All these events which are collected and analyzed in real-time by a sophisticated log management tool can help the security admin take the necessary pre-emptive action should any event be considered a potential threat to security.

Log aggregation and processing workflow

Before log are analyzed, the first step in the process is aggregating and processing log data. Aggregation refers to extracting information from multiple sources and putting it together to form a unified format which will facilitate easy search. This process is also simplified by using tools and apps designed to collect data from various systems and networks within the organization.

Log processing is almost similar to aggregation, but the main goal of processing raw logs is to create a structure or scheme which will turn vast amounts of information into a standard data source. Log processing workflow includes the following steps:

  1. Log parsing. Every log has repetitive data formats, such as values and fields. But the composition can vary from one system to another, and sometimes individual logs coming from the same system have a different format. Parsing should be done using a software or tool which will automatically convert varying log formats and structure them. otherwise it can take a lot of time (up to 3 months), depend on the size of your organization.
  2. Log categorization and normalization. Log normalization combines events and reduces the format to focus on events with common attributes. On the other hand, categorization is the process of making sense out of these events.
  3. Log enrichment. Enriching logs means adding more information to transform data and make it more useful. For example, adding a physical location to an IP address will provide better insight into who is accessing the system.
  4. Indexing logs. Taking common data attributes to create an index which facilitates easy search and retrieval.
  5. Log storage. Massive volumes of data collected each day require an evolving storage system. Most organizations today use cloud storage services with scalable solutions to meet their changing needs.

To sum up, log aggregation and processing are only two of the processes which help security admins make sense out of massive data collected during the day to day operations. The seemingly mundane information and logs are, in fact, valuable and crucial to maintaining network and system security.