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Cybersecurity Fundamentals

What is Log Management?

Log management is the process of continuously collecting, storing, and analyzing log data from across the organization’s tech stack. Organizations with excellent log management capabilities are more efficient and secure than those without. 

What are logs? 

Logs are computer-generated files that describe system or application activity. Most software tools can generate logs, providing IT teams with a valuable tool for conducting investigations into security events. 

Most logs describe a single discrete event. For example, system administrators often review error messages, file requests, and transfers using log data. This data is timestamped, giving the administrator a clear idea of what the system is doing at any given moment. 

Log management usually involves six types of activities:

  • Collection. Log management tools aggregate data from servers, operating systems, applications, users, and endpoints throughout the organization. 
  • Monitoring. Centralized log management allows security teams to detect events as they occur by tracking the relevant data.  
  • Analysis. Log analysis enables security teams to proactively identify security threats and implement solutions to mitigate risk. 
  • Retention. IT leaders must decide log data is stored and how long the organization will keep it.  
  • Indexing. This helps the organization use its log data by enabling search, filter, and sort capabilities across the entire log database. 
  • Reporting. Log data can reveal a great deal of information about the organization’s operations, security performance, and regulatory compliance. 

What problems does log management solve? 

Organizations that don’t have robust log management systems in place may find themselves at a severe disadvantage when responding to security threats and regulator audits.  

Organizations without well-managed log data can lose a large amount of valuable information about active threats:  

  • Without logs, security teams may not be able to identify the source of an attack, or understand the techniques threat actors are using. 
  • Without a clear record of application activity across the tech stack, tracking and understanding how an attack occurred may not be possible. 
  • Security teams that don’t have deep visibility into application vulnerabilities may not know where to look for indicators of compromise. 

 Many organizations generate logs but do not have an optimized log management system in place. Poor log management can create its own set of problems as well — like drawing hours of valuable analyst time away from high-impact strategic initiatives. 

 For example, imagine threat actors launch a brute force attack on a publicly-exposed application. Every failed login attempt generates a log that shows the attacker’s IP address, location, and other useful metadata. Incident response teams could use that data to block attackers from accessing the login page. 

Good log management systems provide deep visibility into the organization’s security posture. They enable security teams to conduct investigations and find high-value information quickly. 

How do log management systems work? 

Log management solutions work by connecting every tool, device, and application on the network to a centralized location. That requires undergoing a complex implementation phase that ensures the data is drawn smoothly and accurately from across the entire environment. 

However, this data won’t be useful in its raw format. A huge variety of logging formats exist, and most tools and applications generate logs according according to their own needs. Before anyone can use these logs in a security context, they must be normalized. 

Log management solutions include tools and processes for normalizing log data in various ways. The objective is getting all the organization’s logs in a single place and standardizing them so that they can be analyzed effectively. 

 The process of log management also includes deciding which logs to store and which ones to throw away. Redundant logs and null values take up valuable space without providing any security benefits, so there is no reason to pay for them to be stored and analyzed. 

Is log management the same as SIEM? 

Log management and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) are related but distinct concepts.  

  • SIEM solutions automatically analyze log data and generate high-value security insights from across every corner of the organization. 
  • Log management prepares log data to be ingested and analyzed by the SIEM platform. 

Many organizations adopt log management initiatives before pursuing SIEM implementation. Organizations may also invest in log management after implementing a SIEM platform, due to the high costs associated with unoptimized SIEM operations. 

SIEM platforms can store log data, but keeping all of your data inside the SIEM can be prohibitively expensive. Organizations that invest in security log management solutions continuously fine tune their log collection and analysis workflows to reduce those costs. 

5 benefits of effective log management 

The ability to manage log data effectively is an important first step towards operational security excellence. It enables the organization to pursue SIEM implementation and gain unlimited visibility over its security processes. 

Here are some of the immediate benefits that come with best-in-class log management: 

  • Centralized data storage. All the organization’s logs are collected in a single place and normalized, making them much easier to work with. 
  • Improved security. Real-time monitoring improves the organization’s security posture and reduces the attack surface. 
  • Enhanced visibility. Analysts can review individual logs on an as-needed basis and map threat activity throughout the network without being impeded. 
  • Lower operational costs. Improper log management leads to higher operational costs due to inefficiency and waste. 
  • Faster and more accurate investigations. Security analysts equipped with high quality logs can launch and conclude investigations quickly and consistently. 

4 log management challenges enterprises face 

Most enterprise IT leaders make compromises between flexibility, visibility, and cost. Effective log management can be difficult to implement without a clear security strategy that prioritizes robust threat detection and response. These are the areas where most security teams run into problems keeping their logs organized 

1. Organizations generate a huge number of logs, and the number keeps growing 

Even a modestly sized organization generates an incredible volume of data every day. Continuously gathering, formatting, and analyzing that data takes up more time and resources that the security team can spare. 

As the company grows, its security needs grow as well. When the number of logs generated reaches a critical limit, the security team might start deleting old logs to make space for new ones — potentially deleting valuable security information in the process. 

2. Normalizing logs demands resources and expertise 

Every tool, application, and asset in the network can generate logs, but each log will be formatted differently. Transforming these logs into a standard format takes time, effort, and expertise. 

Log normalization should be an automatic process. Building out that process can be complex. Organizations that rely on product experts to create well-managed logging solutions will be better equipped to leverage log data successfully. 

3. Logs can take up a great deal of high-cost storage space 

Keeping all log data in the SIEM is the simplest log management solution there is. It’s also the most expensive. Part of the log management process includes identifying opportunities to reduce infrastructural and operational costs associated with log collection and storage. 

Some organizations combine log management solutions with data flow and observability tools like Cribl to optimize storage costs. This allows the organization to keep logs in low-cost storage and replay them to the SIEM when conducting investigations on an as-needed basis. 

4. Not all logs provide high-value security data 

Redundant logs and null values cost money to generate and store, yet provide no security benefits. Some logs provide limited benefits that don’t represent enough value to justify the cost of collecting and keeping them.  

Security leaders who decide to pursue log management solutions must also decide which logs are not worth capturing and storing. This requires a deep understanding of the organization’s security risk profile and its compliance requirements 

Entrust log management to a reputable team of product experts 

Lumifi provides customers with log management services that streamline security operations while granting deep visibility into security events as they occur. Find out how ShieldVision™ SLM combines the power of robust log management with our proprietary SOC automation service to make well-managed logs accessible for enterprises, small businesses, and everyone in between. 

 

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