September 13, 2011

Learning About Log Analysis and Visualization in Taipei

Filed under: Log Analysis,Visualization — @ 13th of September 2011, 10:29

L1090818_smallI just returned from Taipei where I was teaching log analysis and visualization classes for Trend Micro. Three classes a 20 students. I am surprised that my voice is still okay after all that talking. It’s probably all the tea I was drinking.

The class schedule looked as follows:

Day 1: Log Analysis

  • data sources
  • data analysis and visualization linux (davix)
  • log management and siem overview
  • application logging guidelines
  • log data processing
  • loggly introduction
  • splunk introduction
  • data analysis with splunk

Day 2: Visualization

  • visualization theory
  • data visualization tools an libraries
  • perimeter threat use-cases
  • host-based data analysis in splunk
  • packet capture analysis in splunk
  • loggly api overview
  • visualization resources

IMG_2069The class was accompanied by a number of exercises that helped the students apply the theory we talked about. The exercises are partly pen and paper and partly hands-on data analysis of sample logs with the davix life CD.

I love Taipei, especially the food. I hope I’ll have a chance to visit again soon.

PS: If you are looking for a list of visualization resources, they got moved over to secviz.

September 8, 2011

Logging Guidelines Enable Actions

Filed under: Log Analysis,Programming — @ 8th of September 2011, 10:05

Log BookAnalyzing log files can be a very time consuming process and it doesn’t seem to get any easier. In the past 12 years I have been on both sides of the table. I have analyzed terabytes of logs and I have written a lot of code that generates logs. When I started writing Loggly’s middleware, I thought it was going to be really easy and fun to finally write the perfect application logs. Guess what, I was wrong. Although I have seen pretty much any log format out there, I had the hardest time coming up with a decent log format for ourselves. What’s a good log format anyways? The short answer is: “One that enables analytics or actions.”

I was sufficiently motivated to come up with a good log format that I decided to write a paper about application logging guidelines. The paper has two main parts: Logging Guidelines and a reference architecture for a cloud service. In the first part I am covering the questions of when to log, what to log, and how to log. It’s not as easy as you might think. The most important thing to constantly keep in mind is the use of the logs. Especially for the question on what to log you need to keep the log consumer in mind. Are the logs consumed by a human? Are they consumed by a log management tool? What are the people looking at the logs trying to do? Debugging the application? Monitoring performance? Detecting security violations? Depending on the answers to these questions, you might change the places in your code that you emit log records. (Or even better you log in all places and add a use-case indicator as a field to your logs.)

The paper is a starting point and not a definite guide. I would expect readers to challenge it and come up with improvements and refinements of use-cases and also the exact contents of the log records. I’d love to hear from practitioners and get a dialog going.

As a side note: CEE, the Common Event Expression standard, covers parts of what I am talking about in the paper. However, the paper’s focus is mainly on defining guidelines for application developers; establishing a baseline of when log entries should be recorded and what information should be included.

Resources: Cloud Application Logging for ForensicsPaperPresentation