Network logs are a treasure trove of security data. It's true that security information and event management (SIM...
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or SIEM) systems provide an easy and effective way to analyze logs, but they also come with a price tag. Fortunately, there are ways you can detect network attacks without purchasing a SIM. Here are some examples:
- Use an intrusion detection system. IDSes provide the most reliable, time-tested way to search for signs of intrusion on an enterprise network. If the organization doesn't have the budget to purchase a commercial IDS, consider using a free product like Snort.
- Mine network logs. As you point out, it's impossible to spend an eternity staring at log data. You'll go cross-eyed before you make any sense of it. However, scripts can be written to do the heavy lifting. This approach will require knowledge of a programming language as well as a good idea of what types of events are of interest to you. For example, you might write a Perl script that searches the network logs for signs of an unauthorized IP address appearing on a restricted network.
- Watch for anomalies. You can also use software (home-brewed or commercial) that learns the patterns of normal behavior on your network and alerts you to deviations. For an example of this approach, read my paper Authentication Anomaly Detection: A Case Study on a Virtual Private Network.
If your budget can swing it, I'd strongly recommend the purchase of a commercial SIM product, as it will save hours of work, but it is indeed possible to cobble together a similar solution with tools such as those described above.
For more information:
- Find out more about mining enterprise SIM logs for relevant security data.
- What reporting tools are available for an enterprise IDS? Read more.
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