Log files provide vital information about the implicit and explicit activities of any computer hardware and software system. This type of record reports all the information on the normal operation of a machine or program, helping to intercept anomalies and problems, supporting safety
What are logs and log files and why are they so important?
A log is the sequential and chronological recording of the operations performed by a computer system (server, storage, client, application or any other computerized device or program).
These operations can be carried out by a user or can be done in a totally automated way. Logging procedures are typically those activities through which an operating system or application records events and stores them for possible subsequent reuse: these records are called log files. The log files are files that contain messages about the system, including the kernel, services, and applications running on it.
The records keep all the information on the normal operation of the machine and, above all, the records of errors and problems. The line always begins with the indication of the moment in which the recording is carried out, the name of the computer on which the program that generated the log runs, often also the name of the program itself.
Depending on the logging system, the type of information changes. A log file, therefore, is sequential and always open to writing. Once closed, it is stored on a regular basis, thus becoming available to support monitoring (logging) and functional administration activities. In short, reading the log files gives you important details.
There are various types of log files: the default for the system, the one relating to messages associated with security, and so on. The log files, therefore, can be very useful in supporting diagnostics, speeding up the resolution of problems related to the use of systems. A case for everyone? When you go looking for an unauthorized log.
The importance of logs for security
Log management, in fact, allows you to monitor a series of activities including accesses to the system carried out in a given period of time (also highlighting those that occurred outside working hours, those not successful or those via VPN), failed transactions, any anomalies (both software and hardware) and possible malware threats.
In summary, logs are an important asset for effectively addressing data protection needs and continuity of service. Not only that: internationally, all the regulations on IT security require the creation of precise logging policies. It is therefore easy to understand why logs represent a fundamental asset to effectively meet the needs of corporate security and compliance.
It is no coincidence that analysts’ forecasts say that the Log Management market will reach 1248.9 million dollars by 2022 (Source: MarketsandMarkets 2017). In fact, in recent years, the IT world has been the protagonist of a real revolution: mobile technology, BYOD, cloud and Internet of Things have increased exponentially the amount of data circulating on networks and IT operations in companies, as a result, they have become more and more complex.
In this increasingly chaotic context, the need to guarantee security, data protection and continuity of service has grown. Log Management represents an effective tool to meet these needs in a simple and effective way.
Through a good Log Management system, companies can meet regulatory requirements, rely on an optimal monitoring and control tool, exploit the benefits of Business Intelligence and guarantee high-security standards.
Log files and GDPR
The GDPR has entailed important changes in the way of dealing with log files: if before they were a necessity for system administrators, and in some cases already an obligation, with the GDPR they become a necessary tool that companies cannot give up.
In practice, the Regulation requires that a trace be kept of the operations carried out on the data so that, in cases of control, it is possible to demonstrate that all the protection actions have been carried out. In this sense, saving log files is very useful.
Specifically, for the Privacy Guarantor, log files must be complete (including those who perform actions but also only those who access the data in consultation), unalterable and verifiable (i.e. enable the control of the correct use of data).
The mistakes made by companies regarding log files
Despite all the benefits described above, log management still seems to be too often underestimated by companies. When you resort to a Log Management solution, you risk being too late: companies, in fact, exploit this system when the problem or the hacker attack has already occurred . Not only that: it can also happen that you have to quickly and effectively provide accurate information to business executives or even law enforcement. These are situations in which, in any case, a Log Management system offers the possibility to meet the needs without too many headaches, in a simple way and with rapid timing.
The advantages of Log Management
Log Management solutions are able to provide snapshots on the status of hosts and services, highlighting any unusual behaviour that could be signs of danger. Not only that: having a remote copy of the log files available allows you to analyze any problems related to a given system, even if the latter is not accessible and to avoid data loss (both in the case of a hardware and software failure).
Furthermore, correct Log Management practices can bring benefits not only in strictly operational terms but also from a marketing point of view. Data, as is known, represent a precious value for the business and Log Management can provide important information relating, for example, to the habits and timing of access to the related web portals, the most visited pages and the type of communications that enter and leave the company.
Analyzing log files, how to do it?
Analyzing log files means analyzing the list of access requests that are made to the WebServer hosting the site. For each of these requests are usually indicated: date and time, URL, User-agent, IP address of the user agent, status code, the response time of the server, a page from which the user comes and the size of that request.
Among the first things to understand about the user from which the request is made is the fact of identifying if the site is scanned by malicious or otherwise useless bots, in order to prevent their access and lighten the server.
Analyzing the URLs is used to understand the speed of the site, if there are pages that are too large, slow and so on.
The directory analysis serves to scan the directories considered most important for your organization, it is also necessary to understand, by observing the status code, if there are broken links and how much these are still used.
In practice, analyzing the log files, as well as to understand which pages are visited the most and how often and to check if there are bugs in the online software code and search for security holes, is used to collect data on-site users and improve the user experience.