Why Log Monitoring Is Essential to Your Cybersecurity Plan
In any industry, managers, office staff, and employees depend on technology to improve efficiency and communication in today’s modern world. This reliance on technology has opened up organizations to a variety of threats that can have severe consequences. Your cybersecurity plan is designed to identify potential threats and stop cyber attacks from occurring. However, it can be difficult to know if the protection you have is adequate.
As hackers evolve, cybersecurity solutions must grow to eliminate more complex threats. It’s no longer feasible to assume firewalls and endpoint security are enough to protect sensitive information. For many organizations, data protection isn’t just good business, it’s legally mandated. When your organization is required to obtain and store sensitive personal and financial customer information, certain laws require you to protect this information. Penalties for non-compliance with these laws can be severe.
A cybersecurity system that monitors your network can detect suspicious events and provide alerts to help your IT team eliminate threats before sensitive data is stolen or corrupted. Log monitoring is one of the most important ways to learn about potential threats and discover events that lead to a security breach. However, for security logging and monitoring to be effective, you must understand how it works and ensure that it’s an integral part of your overall security system.
What Is Log Monitoring?
Every device within a network creates a list of every action that occurs within that network. These lists of activities are called logs. Log monitoring is the action of categorizing these actions and searching the data for abnormalities that might cause problems with the system. Abnormalities could include error codes, login difficulties, or potential threats from outside parties.
Large organizations use a network infrastructure to complete a wealth of different tasks every day across multiple departments. These jobs are performed across a variety of devices. Often, remote devices and personal devices may also be connected to the network by authorized users. All this traffic means the logs generated by the network of an organization contain massive amounts of data that are impossible for any IT member to manually catalog and interpret. Adding to the confusion, the data collected in these logs are often from different sources that use multiple formats to report unrelated incidents.
This is why security logging and monitoring is typically carried out by monitoring software as a part of your organization’s cybersecurity plan. An effective monitoring system collects the data from logs and categorizes them into easily digestible information. This information is translated into the preferred format of the IT team responsible for overseeing the logs.
How It Works
Every activity within a network is considered a security event. Emails, firewall updates, and user activity are all recorded in a complex series of logs that define your network’s environment. The resulting data logs contain a huge amount of information that would make threats impossible to detect with the human eye. Instead, your log or infosec monitoring system works to weed out irrelevant information and only focus on what’s important. The ability to customize your monitoring system means a quality system can learn what activities are normal and create alerts for those that aren’t.
Systems across varied organizations have different requirements. Still, there are some essential types of logs that businesses typically use to prevent security risks. An effective monitoring system will include these events in a security log.
- Login Failures
- Password Changes
- New Login Events (like logins from a new device)
- Unauthorized Logins
- Firewall Scans
- Malware Attacks seen by Intrusion Detection Security
- Malware detection
- Denial of Service Attacks
- Errors on Network Devices
- File Name or Integrity Changes
- Data Exportation
- New Processes Started or Running Processes Stopped
- Shared Access Events
- Disconnected Events
- New User Accounts
- New Service Installation
- Modified Registry Values
While each of these events could be (and often are) a routine part of daily activities, they could also be used to indicate a threat. Since your monitoring system is always gaining information about your network’s environment, it is often able to detect when these actions are unusual within the parameters of your network.
Your security monitoring software should include tools that quickly detect events that could signal a threat. These events include:
- Reconnaissance (investigation of your network): It’s common for criminals to gain access to a system and spend significant time searching for vulnerabilities that will help them complete a targeted objective quickly.
- Weaponization: A successful reconnaissance leads to the development of malware designed to target specific weaknesses within your network.
- Delivery: The delivery of targeted malware may appear in a phishing email or other attachment or link addressed to a system user.
- Installation: Targeted malware is typically installed within a network when a user clicks an infected link or downloads an infected file.
- Command and Control: The best way for hackers to effectively accomplish any objective is to gain higher access levels and administrative privileges. With this control, an attacker can effectively manage the malware or ransomware throughout the system.
- Actions on Objectives: The final course of any attack is the completion of the intended action. This may include exfiltration, corruption, denial of service, or destruction of data.
The Benefits of Effective Log Monitoring
If you’re seeking an effective way to monitor logs, it’s a likely sign that your current method isn’t working for your organization. Your system should complete essential tasks effectively and eliminate the burdens associated with daily security monitoring tasks. Simply put, your security monitoring system should help solve existing problems without creating new ones. Security monitoring programs provide these benefits.
- A centralized collection of data that allows your team to have visibility across your entire security network
- Automated categorization of data for comprehensive information that is easily understood
- Easily searchable logs that allow your IT team to investigate relevant data and learn from past events
- Advanced capabilities to detect unusual behavior and alert qualified personnel about potential threats
- Improved system performance with the ability to quickly detect system errors and immediately begin repairs
- Elimination of manual data collection and normalization tasks
- 24/7 monitoring of your system to eliminate security gaps
- Customization for the ability to create automated response actions to abnormal activity and potential threats
- Automated compliance maintenance and the coordinating audits
Why Is Security Monitoring Important?
System logs are designed to provide relevant information that allows you to understand and identify issues that become threats to your network. You can typically rely on your system to collect data that reveals the activity that occurs within your network. However, these collections of data are rendered useless if relevant information quickly becomes buried in torrents of other incoming information. A quality security logging and monitoring system will help your organization complete a variety of important cybersecurity objectives.
Alerts for Faster Threat Detection
Log or infosec monitoring categorizes all actions that occur within the system. As the system learns which activities are normal, it’s able to weed out the data that reveals potential threats within an organization’s network. Real-time identification of these threats combined with an effective alert system provides you with a way to detect and interrupt potential threats more quickly.
If a breach does occur within your organization, it’s vital to have the ability to quickly determine what happened and why it occurred. When a security event occurs, the first course of action is to visit security logs for an understanding of the vulnerabilities in your system. The ability to explain exactly what happened and the preventative measures your team is taking to prevent it from happening again helps your organization show commitment to your customers.
Prompt Identification of System or Application Issues
Outside threats aren’t the only issues your network faces. When issues arise within a system or network, productivity slows and tasks fail to get completed. For these problems to be fixed, they must first be identified, A comprehensive logging and monitoring system can provide your team with the ability to quickly find the root cause of system issues and promptly move on to the repair process. Security monitoring can even make it possible for alerts to allow system errors to be recognized before your customers or employees even file a complaint.
Faster Recovery From an Event
Events occur and you can count on them to disrupt files and cause downtime for your business or organization. It’s no secret that prolonged downtime is the enemy of good business. Log event files can help clarify what happened and recover essential files. Reconstruction of corrupted files can be completed more quickly by reversing the changes noted in the logs.
Customization for Your Organization
One of the biggest perks of an effective cybersecurity system is the ability to customize a plan to fit the needs of your organization. When your log monitoring system has the capability to identify potential threats, it could also alert the proper personnel of an issue before resulting problems arise. When your system is configured to notify targeted team members of potential threats or other issues, qualified personnel members can get started on applying the solution immediately.
Essential Data for Compliance
Compliance is a vital requirement for all types of organizations that collect and store sensitive data. For instance, all financial institutions and other companies that perform similar services (like colleges and universities that offer financial aid) are required to perform certain actions to remain in compliance with the Gramm-Leach Bliley Act of 1999. An important part of these requirements includes a yearly audit proving compliance with certain security measures like logging, monitoring, and management. As an added bonus, your monitoring software can be used to create a log to simplify the audit process.
24/7 Threat Detection
Cybercriminals often target organizations during off hours when chances of detection are less likely. Your IT team sleeps, takes vacations, and can’t be expected to monitor your network 7 days a week. Your monitoring system is always online and should have the ability to send out alerts of potential threats that occur any time of day or night.
8 Things to Consider About Your Log Monitoring System
Most forms of software create logs of the actions that occur within a network. However, simply creating a list of activities doesn’t provide the relevant information you need to protect sensitive data against potential threats. When you’re searching for an effective monitoring system, it’s essential to find one that matches the unique needs and scope of your organization. Consider these properties when choosing the right log monitoring system for your organization.
Seamless Data Collection
Every logging system guarantees simple collection of data. Unfortunately, if the system doesn’t play nice with other applications that already exist within your network, you might be adding more work to an already overloaded schedule. A convenient security logging and monitoring system should allow you to customize your automated data collection process without additional manual tasks.
Having a large amount of data is the main reason security logs are impossible to manually sort and use in identifying potential risks. When organizations require a high traffic network, your monitoring system should be able to keep up with growing data. A system that is properly scaled for your network provides the speed your IT team needs to easily search for relevant data and the space to avoid unnecessary deletions.
When it comes to productivity, time is money. When your IT team is under pressure to identify and interrupt a cyber attack, every second counts. Your monitoring system must have the capability to allow users to launch a targeted search that will yield results in seconds. Efficient search capabilities can mean the difference between interrupting an attack and cleaning up the damage afterward.
Attackers use a single entry point to laterally move throughout your network in a way that is difficult to detect and does the most damage. These broad attacks mean logs across multiple departments can face damage. A monitoring system that allows you to set up tailored correlation rules to automate actions and responses across the entire network helps identify activities that seem common in one area of your network but raise questions when performed in other departments.
Cyber threats and compliance issues are major problems for any organization. Finding a security logging and monitoring system that addresses these tasks during routine activity can eliminate a host of manual tasks traditionally completed by your IT team. When your organization is required to store sensitive information, you should have the ability to define users with the correct access level. Account administrators should have the ability to define access levels for other users and change the status as needed (like when user access must be suspended or deleted).
Communication and collaboration are essential elements in the world of security. Data collection is typically a complicated operation that uses a variety of formats. Your security monitoring system must have the ability to output legible information to all users via the use of a dashboard, email, or report. Your system should also provide a data normalization process that generates information in the best format for your IT team.
The ability to collect, categorize, and analyze data is essential for any organization. However, if you have a massive system that gathers hundreds of terabytes a day, you may need additional tools to simplify searches and help categorize important data. A monitoring system with advanced analytics can help you overcome the challenges that come with large amounts of data. When your system has the capability to integrate machine learning with data collection and organization, it gains the capability to identify unusual actions within the network.
Artificial intelligence (AI) tools that improve the monitoring process and streamline troubleshooting can provide ways to detect issues and threats early on. If your log monitoring system is part of a security information and event management (SIEM) system that provides crowdsourced immunization tools, you will gain the power of additional information across all organizations that use the service. Cyber threat intelligence gathers data from all clients on a platform and provides immunization from a new threat for all organizations across the platform.
Pricing models are often related to the volume of data you need to manage. Ideally, your log monitoring system should have the capability to grow with your organization while providing a considerable return on investment (ROI). The tools provided by your system will eliminate burdensome manual tasks that often take hours to complete. Additionally, when the system is more effective at identifying potential threats and helping you maintain compliance, considerable costs and fees are eliminated as well.
Log monitoring is an important building block of any cybersecurity plan. It allows an organization to track and understand all the processes that occur within a network. The automated creation of a centralized log of information ensures that valuable information is preserved to avoid the obfuscation efforts of cybercriminals and potential deletions due to a lack of storage space. An effective security monitoring system provides your organization with a way to promptly respond to incidents and use collections of data to prevent attacks in the future. To learn more about how a customized log monitoring system can assist your overall security program, get in touch with the experts at BitLyft Cybersecurity.