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Logs Still Tough To Decipher, SANS Survey Says

More organizations employ log management and SIEM tools, but are still struggling to sort the bad traffic from the good
More organizations are using log event management and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) products, but they are struggling to distinguish between suspicious and normal traffic, according to the SANS 8th Annual Log Management Survey.

Some 58 percent of organizations surveyed by SANS employ a log management tool for gathering and analyzing logs, and 37 percent are running a SIEM. Around 22 percent say they collect logs and then process them with a SIEM, according to the survey of 600 IT professionals, which was sponsored by HP Enterprise Security, LogLogic, LogRhythm, Sensage, Splunk, Tripwire, and Trustwave.

"The data suggest that respondents are having difficulty separating normal traffic from suspicious traffic," said Jerry Shenk, author of the SANS report. "They need advanced correlation and analysis capabilities to shut out the noise and get the actionable information they need. But first they need to get more familiar with their logs and baseline what is normal."

Interestingly, some 22 percent of the respondents say they have "little or no" automation for their logging and analysis, with no plans to remedy that. "The most common reasons given for not automating include lack of time and money ... resources that are closely intertwined. Respondents cited two additional reasons: the lack of management buy-in and insufficient time to evaluate the options available in different SIEM and log management products," according to the SANS report.

More than 80 percent say they collect logs mainly to look out for attacks, while 65 percent say they do so for forensic analysis and correlation, and 58 percent for preventing security incidents. Also important for logging is to help detect advanced threats, according to 54 percent of the respondents, and for meeting compliance (55 percent).

They are gathering logs mainly from Windows servers, which account for about 85 percent of the respondents, followed by security devices (more than 80 percent), networking devices (nearly 80 percent), and networking and security systems (around 70 percent). There were some other less-obvious devices being logged as well: "Some of the new items included 'Control systems for physical plant/operations' with eight percent, 'Access controls for physical plant' with 17 percent, and 'Cloud-based or outsourced services/applications' with eight percent," according to the report.

How much time do organizations spend analyzing logs? Some 35 percent spend "none to a few hours a week," the survey found.

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