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Insufficient Logging and Monitoring: A Brief Walkthrough

We live in a society powered by advanced technology that allows us to communicate across great distances and store large amounts of information. This information can range from minor data readily available to sensitive documents that could compromise an individual or business. While we once used traditional pen and paper documents for this information, we have now turned to technology and cloud storage to keep the information in one place for easy access. This transition has streamlined the nature of information storage worldwide and made life far simpler than it once was. Unfortunately, this progress is not free of issues and has also forced criminals to evolve to gain access to the information for their own gain.

Cybercriminals have become a common issue in our society thanks to the same tools that have allowed us to store and access data easily. Over time, those who would steal information for profit have found tools to access databases they were never meant to see. 

As a result, cybersecurity professionals have risen to update software and practices to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data. Some practices are more advanced, while others are common sense techniques that provide insight into who is accessing the database. One of the biggest flaws in any cybersecurity program is insufficient logging and monitoring policies.

What are Logging and Monitoring?

Despite consisting of two terms, logging and monitoring are part of the same practice designed to protect users’ interests with sensitive data. Logging and monitoring allow cybersecurity professionals to secure the infrastructure of a database and ensure that there is no unauthorized access to private information. 

The practice is built around the fact that every change in a database or network is considered a security event that must be recorded and assessed to ensure it is authorized. People often associate security events with firewall breaches or malware attacks that compromise the functionality of a network. However, the reality is a little more complicated.

The truth is that every time a user logs into the network or someone accesses data, it is considered a security event. This means the login and data access must be subjected to cybersecurity provisions to ensure no breach. This is where logging and monitoring become essential to the security of a network or database. Logging and monitoring are components of data collection and analysis where any new activity in a network is flagged and identified for authenticity.

Logging and Monitoring

Proper logging and monitoring functions are as follows:

  • Logging: The logging half of the practice involves keeping a record of all activity on the network. For example, a logging system would take note of this activity for review whenever someone logs into the network and opens a file.
  • Monitoring: Monitoring involves taking the information obtained from the logging part of the process and auditing what was recorded. The professional responsible for monitoring ensures the logged activity came from an authorized user and device and executes security measures if the activity is unauthorized.

Logging and monitoring a network are vital to securing information and ensuring the only ones logged in are the people who are allowed. Unfortunately, cybersecurity is complicated, and not every network is properly protected. When cybersecurity is compromised, logging and monitoring practices are one of the first security measures to be culled. Unfortunately, insufficient logging and monitoring practices leave you vulnerable to serious consequences.

What to Look Out For

When establishing a logging and monitoring system for cybersecurity purposes, there are specific things the team is trained to monitor. When a company or individual is protecting sensitive information, only a handful of authorized users can access the database. Even in companies with thousands of employees, data access is usually restricted to higher-level staff to minimize the circulation of sensitive information. This restriction has helped protect information and has a built-in tool to aid monitoring and logging.

When dealing with a centralized data network, employees with access are generally assigned usernames to register their access to the network. These usernames provide employees access to the network and help cybersecurity staff keep track of who is accessing the network at any given moment. This means that a cybersecurity professional can easily check the usernames and cross-reference them with the list of authorized users within the company. If a username is active on the network that does not align with the authorized users, monitoring staff could flag the username and revoke their access.

What to Look Out For

Unfortunately, some cybercriminals are smart enough to hack into an authorized user’s account and pose as them to access data. In this case, the logging and monitoring staff would need to check which files are being accessed to ensure the user is accessing the information pertinent to their position and verify the Internet Protocol address matches with known information about the employee. If there is no established registry of authorized users, the logging and monitoring staff will be operating with a severe handicap.

Additionally, the above principle of monitoring what information staff is accessing applies to authorized users. If the company’s advertising director is accessing network data for payroll information, it could indicate criminal activity. Knowing what to look out for is an essential part of logging and monitoring cybersecurity, but there are other issues that an underdeveloped program might struggle to counter.

Automation is Key

The cybersecurity industry is a very stressful one, especially since the private information of thousands of people could be compromised if the proper tools are not used. Logging and monitoring staff are an inescapably essential component of network security, especially for networks full of sensitive data. Unfortunately, cybercriminals seldom operate during work hours and launch their attacks when convenient for them. 

This often means your logging and monitoring staff might not be on-duty at the time of an attack, which makes it difficult for them to protect the network. This issue is why cybersecurity has not relied on manual input for a long time and instead operates on a semi-automated system. Automation allows cybersecurity protocols to be executed regardless of staff presence. While cybersecurity automation has not come far enough to warrant the elimination of the human element, it has made their work far less stressful.

Programming Cybersecurity Automation

Logging and monitoring are one of the most important and simplest aspects to automate. Rather than having your cybersecurity staff staring non-stop at the screen, automated programs perform the less involved tasks on their behalf. They can even extend this automation to logging and flagging unusual activity to bring to the staff’s attention. More advanced software can take steps to neutralize the user’s activity until cybersecurity staff can intervene. Automation is usually put into effect by the cybersecurity staff to cover the tasks to which they cannot dedicate their complete attention.

Without automation, a logging and monitoring crew would have to observe every network change manually. This might work on smaller systems, but larger networks have correspondingly higher traffic. Attempting to monitor all this traffic without automated assistance could easily overwhelm the crew and cause important activity to go unnoticed. Allowing your logging and monitoring cybersecurity professionals to automate certain tasks can be slightly costly but is ultimately worth the expense for the added security.

Outline a Response Plan

The primary purpose of a logging and monitoring team is to identify unauthorized activity in a network and pass it on to the cybersecurity staff responsible for counteracting breaches. This synergy is how effective security measures are put in place, and attacks are neutralized before data is lost. 

However, this synergy is not developed in the heat of the moment and requires intense planning to create a system that works. This is called a response plan in the cybersecurity industry and outlines the exact steps the cybersecurity team takes when a breach is identified. The plan is meant to maximize the time the team has to counter the breach and put their plan into motion.

The plan must be well outlined and developed to ensure minimal risk of unauthorized users accessing sensitive information. A well-developed response plan requires hours of planning and implementing automated firewalls and defense systems. Insofar as the logging and monitoring team is concerned, their part of the response plan will likely involve frontline response to an event. Once they detect an unauthorized user, they must implement automated security measures to stall or stop the intruder. 

Cybersecurity Team Outlining a Response Plan

They will likely need to inform the teams with more advanced cybersecurity training to launch counteroffensives if the breach is particularly advanced. Ultimately, the plan needs to be outlined to the last detail and tailored to the specific strengths of the cybersecurity team on staff. Each team will have a small army of specialists and experts focused on countering specific attacks. 

Once the team has its response plan worked out, it will be in the best possible position to identify and neutralize security breaches. Logging and monitoring staff are essential to this endeavor since they are on the front lines of network security.

If the logging and monitoring team is not well-versed in the response plan, they will be left scrambling to counter a breach when one is detected. Additionally, this could lead to serious conflicts if the team attempts different counterattacks because they lack synergy from a well-developed response plan.

Event Reconstruction

While logging and monitoring teams are responsible for overseeing the activity in a network, they play an even more important role. When a breach occurs, one of the most important questions that follow is how the breach occurred and what was done while the user was in the network. Because the logging and monitoring team is responsible for the observation and security of the network on the front lines, it is in the best position to answer that question. 

One of the lesser-known tasks of logging and monitoring staff is event reconstruction, where they use the information they log to retrace the steps of an intruder in the network.

Cybersecurity Event Reconstruction

A well-developed team will be able to log and trace every step an unauthorized user took in a private network and use that information to identify the breach. Finding this breach is essential to reinforcing the network’s security against recurring threats using the same exploits. It can also help narrow down potential threats from within the authorized list of users. If an employee is accessing information they are not meant to access, the team can trace which employee was responsible and report it to the proper people.

Without the skills of a logging and monitoring team, your cybersecurity team will struggle to identify the source of these intrusions. This means your system remains vulnerable to breaches that they could patch with new firewalls and security precautions.

Technically Speaking…

Logging and monitoring are cybersecurity tools that serve as digital watchdogs for secure networks and sensitive data. Without a team specializing in this watchdog security, your network remains vulnerable to serious breaches and data loss. Financing a cybersecurity team is essential for modern companies handling large quantities of customer data and corporate information. 

Even smaller companies need digital protection against breaches if they do not want to lose their data or become victims of cybercrime. Unfortunately, cybersecurity teams can be a pricy addition to any company’s staff due to their training and equipment needs. Financing an in-house cybersecurity department can be daunting for some smaller companies.

Cybersecurity Department Employees

Fortunately, we at U.S. Cybersecurity can help with your cybersecurity needs. We offer high-quality cybersecurity services to assess the safety of your network and implement new practices to overcome any issues it might have. Our experts are well-trained and versed in advanced cybersecurity techniques that we can easily apply to the needs of your business. 

There are few tools as important as cybersecurity in a world where computers and cloud services are common. Unfortunately, the commonality of technology has not made protecting your network any easier. We encourage you to visit our website and assess our services for yourself so you can remain confident in the safety of your network. We’re standing by and ready to assist you with your cybersecurity needs at a moment’s notice.

Herman McCargo

Herman is a Microsoft Certified Security Engineer and Cybersecurity Specialist. He’s been in the technology field for over 20 years and has expertise working with the most critical technology infrastructures. He has a deep understanding of cyber risks, threat mitigation and prevention, and overseeing infrastructure.