September 24, 2007

Hack In The Box 2007 – Malaysia

Category: Log Analysis,Visualization — Raffael Marty @ 5:32 pm

Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

I spent the first week of September in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where I was speaking about insider crime visualization at Hack In The Box. The conference is held annually and I was surprised about how big it was. A lot of attendees from the area, but also from other parts of the world, for example from Germany. In general I was fairly impressed with the caliber of people that presented.

Talking at HITB 2007

What I enjoyed a lot as well, was the lock-picking village … The guys running it were real experts on the topic and had excellent tools to teach you the art of lock picking.

For those interested, I have the presentation available here. The download is fairly big. Sorry about that. The conference also made the rest of the presentations available.

On to the next conference. See you in Jakarta end of October.

September 16, 2007

AfterGlow 1.5.9 Released!

Category: Log Analysis,Visualization — Raffael Marty @ 10:39 pm

As you might have seen on, AfterGlow 1.5.9 is out. The announcement of AfterGlow 1.5.9 on secviz has some more details on what’s new. Just quickly here: The URL feature is pretty interesting and addresses some old thoughts and things I have been talking about with other people (Peter, are you reading this?). The issue there was that the AfterGlow graphs are very static and that’s kind of a bummer. It would be really nice if there was more interactivity. Clicking on nodes for example. Well, this is now a first step towards that. Along with the Splunk – AfterGlow integration, this is actually going almost all the way of completing the interaction round trip. I know, in terms of real interactivity, there is still a lot missing, but I think this is taking care of some really interesting use-cases.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

September 14, 2007

Open Log Format – What a Great Standard – Not

Category: Log Analysis,Security Information Management — Raffael Marty @ 4:01 pm

When eIQnetworks announced their OpenLogFormat, I think they did it just for me. I love it. I really enjoy taking these things apart to show why they are really really bad attempts. I am sure these guys are not readers of my blog. Otherwise they would have known that I will question their standard, line by line. It just doesn’t add up for me. Why are companies/people not learning/listening?
So, there is yet another “standard” for event interoperability being suggested by yet another vendor. While some vendors (for example the one I used to work for), actually thought about the problem and made sure they are coming up with something useful, I am not sure this standard lives up to that promise. Let me go through the standard piece by piece, right after some general comments:

  • Why another interoperability standard? There is not a single word of motivation printed in the standards document. Don’t we have existing standards already?
  • You have to register for download the standard? Well, I know, ArcSight makes that same mistake. That wasn’t my doing! I promise.
  • How does this standard compare to others? What’s the motivation for defining it? Is it better than everything else?
  • When exactly would you apply this standard? All the time? OLF (the open log format) states:
    OLF is designed for logging network events such as those often logged by firewalls, but it can also be used for events not related to the network.
    What the heck does that mean? For everything? Do you want me to proof you wrong? There are tons of examples where this thing won’t be able to apply this standard.
  • You did not do your homework, my friends! In a lot of areas. Some friends of mine already commented on the fact that this is advertised as an “open” log format. The press release even calls it an open source log format. What does that mean? Was there a period for public comment? Believe me, there wasn’t. I would have known FOR SURE!
  • With regards to the homework. Have you heard of CEE? Yes, that’s a group that actually knows quite a bit about logging. Why bother asking them, they would only critique the proposal and possibly shoot it down? You bet. That’s what I am doing right now anyways.
  • Let’s see, did you guys learn from past mistakes? Don’t get me started. I claim NO. Read on and you will see a lot of cases that proof why.
  • Have you read my old blog entries and at least tried to understand what logging is about? I can guarantee that you guys have not. Or maybe you didn’t understand what I was saying. Hmm…. Here again, for your reference.
  • Have you looked at the other standards out there? For example CEF (common event format) from ArcSight. I am definitely biased towards that one, as I have written it, but even now that I don’t work there anymore, I still think that CEF is actually a really good logging standard. Again. Not done your homework!
  • Last general question: Why would I be using this standard as opposed to anything else, for example CEF. Is eIQnetworks big enough so I would care? Last time I checked, the answer was: No. If this was something that was done by Microsoft, I might care, just because of their size. Maybe you have a lot of vendors already supporting this standard? Yes? How many? Who? I have not heard OLF ever before and I deal with log management every day! So I doubt any significant adoption is reality. Actually, I just checked the Web page and there are six companies supporting it. Okay. All that ๐Ÿ˜‰

Let’s go through the standard in more detail:

  • I already made this point: What is the area where this standard applies? Networking and non-networking events (That’s what OLF claims)? Nice. And why would you require an IP address field (to be exact: internalIP and externalIP) for every record? In your world, are there only events that contain IPs? In mine, there are many others too!
  • You are proposing a log-file approach. So you are defining a file-based standard, limiting it to one transport. Okay. But why? Again, read my blog about transport-independence. Who is logging to files only? A minority of products in the networking realm.
  • Have you guys written parsers before? (Yes, I have!). Do you know how bad it is to read headers first? Makes a whole lot of use-cases impossible. And to be frank, it requires too much coding (I am lazy).
  • Minor detail: You guys are already on version 1.1? Hmm… I wonder how version 1.0 looked ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • I don’t think the author of this paper has written a standard before: “The #Version line gives the version of OLF, which should always be 1.1.” How do you do updates? You deprecate this document? Confusing, confusing.
  • Why do you need a #Date line in the header? That does not make any sense AT ALL!
  • Okay, so you are using a header line that defines the fields. All right. Let’s assume that’s a good idea in order to reduce the size of an event (exercise to the reader why this is true). Why do you say then:
    NOTE: The fields may not vary; they must alwas be the ones specified in this document.

    What? This does not make any sense at all! Whatsoever! Delete that line. Done. It’s irrelevant.
  • Let’s go back to the header line. Why all these required fields? spam-info? This is very inefficient. Why have all these fields for every event? It unnecessarily bloats your events and circumvents the idea of a header line!
  • Tab-separated fields. Okay. Your choice. Square brackets to deal with escaping? Are you guys coders? That’s not a standard way of doing things at all. Anyone who wrote code before, have you seen this approach anywhere? If you stuck to commas and quotes, you might be able to read your logs in Excel without any configuration ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • tab-separated subfields. Shiver.
  • Guys, your example on page one is horrible. Priority in the preamble and in the suffix? Then the virtualdevice is root? Maybe I can’t count. You know what, I think the fields don’t even align. What are all the IPs in the message? Part of the message (the one with the seemingly interesting IPs) seems to be lumped together into one field (uses the square brackets). I don’t get it.
  • Error lines? Come again? So there are really two different types of log entries? Or no, hang on, there aren’t. Those lines are only generated if the OLF consumer realizes that the format is not correct? What does that have to do with a logging standard. If I wasn’t confused yet, now I definitely am.
  • Open source: “a device-type assigned by eIQnetworks”. No further comment.
  • Wow. Is it right that every log entry carries the “original” log message also (called the Nativelog)? So, if a product supports OLF by default, that’s just empty? Come on guys. Are you really suggesting to double the size of messages?
  • Talking about the field dictionary… What does it mean to have “unused” fields? Unused by what? The standard? Oh, maybe this is not a standard?
  • I will spare you the analysis of all the fields in the dictionary. There are tons of problems. Just one: If you have a count bigger than one and you only have one timestamp. What does that mean? All the events happened at the same time?
  • Note that the Nativelog field is defined as: Original syslog line. Okay, so this is a file-based standard, but it consumes syslog messages?
  • event types: There is indeed, and I kid you not, a -1 value. Is that for real?
  • priority codes: Nice. Read this (again, this is a standard, in case you forgot):
    The descriptions [of the priorities] given are the official interpretation, but usage varies; some vendors report routine events with higher priority
  • Note the copyright at the bottom of the pages ๐Ÿ˜‰ [Okay, I admit, I might have made the same mistake with the first version of CEF, you are forgiven].

Have I convinced you yet why not to use this “standard”?

Random observation: Why does this log remind me of IIS logs gone wrong?

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

September 12, 2007

BaySec – September 17th

Category: Uncategorized — Raffael Marty @ 5:16 pm

Yet another BaySec meeting. Come and mingle.

Where: O’Neills

When: September 17th, 7pm

Who: People interested in computer security / geeks / …

Want to be informed of future events? Subscribe to the mailinglist: baysec-subscribe at

September 11, 2007

ArcSight files for IPO

Category: Security Information Management — Raffael Marty @ 10:59 am

Finally, ArcSight is going for it:
It seems like there is a new wave of security companies going public. First sourcefire, then tippingpoint, now ArcSight. I am really curious as to what the share price is going to be and what the reverse split is going to look like.

September 4, 2007

Application Security Log Output Standards – Gartner’s View

Category: Uncategorized — Raffael Marty @ 12:01 am

While I am on a roll, talking about normalization and log standards, let me have a look at a publication from Gartner. It is a bit dated already (May 2006), but people are probably still referring to it. There are a couple of things that I want to make sure people understand.
While I like the fact that someone like Gartner is trying to dive into a technical topic, I am not too certain that this is very productive. The Gartner publication I am looking at is “Define Application Security Log Output Standards” by Amrit Williams. I must say, the publication is not horribly wrong or bad, however, there are some interesting problems that I want to address:

  • The publication outlines what fields should be contained in an “account access event”. Most of the fields make sense. However, there are two fields: “login success” and “login failure”. These fields should be normalized. There shouldn’t be two fields, one for success and one for failure. Just have one that indicates success or failure. That way you can correlate those two events against each other. Otherwise you can’t because you have two different fields. Well, you can, but it’s much more difficult.
  • Another field in the account access event is “access rights”. If you include this field in an event, you need a system which can deal with sets or lists of values. This is not simple and I don’t think any of the SIMs really take care of that. Not that they shouldn’t, but it’s really really expensive to build that into a correlation engine. Now, in this specific instance, for access rights, they should not be in an event anyways. This is static information that should be read into the correlation engine asynchronously or looked up on a need to know bases.
  • The publication further indicates that the access events have additional variables, called “Variable 1”, “Variable 2”, etc. I have no idea what these fields would be used for. But that’s not even important. The important part is that having generic variables without a fixed meaning is not very useful for later consumption in reports or correlation rules. You need a semantic associated with every field. That’s exactly why there is a common event language to start with!
  • The same mistake with splitting out the same type of events into multiple event fields is done in the “account /role management events”. Make one field tat talks about “creation”, “modification”, etc. One of the things to mention in this context is an event taxonomy. I am working on a generic taxonomy right now for CEE, the common event exchange format. CEE is an effort that I pushed Mitre to address a long time ago. Finally, there is a small working group and we should soon have the <A href=””>Web presence</A> up and running.
  • I don’t agree with the “Log Output Formats” discussion at all. Sorry. Gartner (or Amrit?) recommends syslog as output format. While I am quite a fan of syslog, it’s definitely not my transport of choice. Read that again: TRANSPORT! Syslog is not a log format. It’s a transport. I am not going to roll-up my rant about formats and transports again. Read my older blog entry about the <a href=””>format vs. transport</A> issue.
  • It seems really interesting to me that syslog is pushed as the “log format” (again, it’s a transport, but whatever). The publication even mentions all the RFCs associated with syslog, but not a single sentence about the draw backs. Unstructured, reliability (okay TCP is mentioned), poor timestamp, etc.

Again, I think it’s great that Gartner picked this topic up. It’s incredibly important, but it takes a fair amount of work and experience to get a decent log standard put together. Stay tuned and check back for more information about <a href=”>CEE</A>.

Technorati Tags: , , ,