Once upon a time, I was retained to create a comprehensive PCI DSS-focused log review policies, procedures and practices for a large company. It is focused on PCI DSS, but based on generally useful log review practices that can be utilized by everybody and with any regulation or without any compliance flavor at all.
This is the tenth post in the long, long series (part 1, part 2, part 3 – all parts). A few tips on how you can use it in your organization can be found in Part 1. You can also retain me to customize or adapt it to your needs.
And so we continue with our Complete PCI DSS Log Review Procedures:
A message not fitting the profile of a normal is flagged “an exception.” It is important to note that an exception is not the same as a security incident, but it might be an early indication that one is taking place.
At this stage we have an individual log message that is outside of routine/normal operation. How do we figure out whether it is significant, determine impact on security and PCI compliance status?
The following high-level investigative process (“Initial Investigation”) is used on each “exception” entry (more details are added further in the document):
Specifically, the above process makes use of a log investigative checklist, which is explained below in more details.
1. Look at log entries at the same time: this technique involves looking at an increasing range of time periods around the log message that is being investigated. Most log management products can allow you to review logs or to search for all logs within a specific time frame. For example:
a. First, look at other log messages triggered 1 minute before and 1 minute after the “suspicious” log
b. Second, look at other log messages triggered 10 minute before and 10 minute after the “suspicious” log
c. Third, look at other log messages triggered 1 hour before and 1 hour after the “suspicious” log
2. Look at other entries from same user: this technique includes looking for other log entries produced by the activities of the same user. It often happens that a particular logged event of a user activity can only be interpreted in the context of other activities of the same user. Most log management products can allow you to “drill down into” or search for a specific user within a specific time frame.
3. Look at the same type of entry on other systems: this method covers looking for other log messages of the same type, but on different systems in order to determine its impact. Learning when the same message was products on other system may hold clues to understanding the impact of this log message.
4. Look at entries from same source (if applicable): this method involves reviewing all other log messages from the network source address (where relevant).
5. Look at entries from same app module (if applicable): this method involves reviewing all other log messages from the same application module or components. While other messages in the same time frame (see item 1. above) may be significant, reviewing all recent logs from the same components typically helps to reveal what is going on.
In some cases, the above checklist will not render the result. Namely, the exception log entry will remain of unknown impact to security and PCI DSS compliance. In this case, we need to acquire information from other systems, such as File Integrity Monitoring, Vulnerability Management, Anti-malware, Patch Management, Identity Management, Network Management and others.
To be continued.
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