Event Logging Guidance

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1. Introduction

1.1 Purpose and Scope

Bolstering security and increasing network protection requires collection, monitoring and the detection of security incidents through log data analysis. To achieve this, event logging must be enabled on all Information Technology (IT) assets throughout the enterprise.  

This document provides high-level guidance on where to configure event logging on IT assets for subsequent forwarding to an approved Government of Canada (GC) centralized security event and information log system.

1.2 Background

In light of an increasingly hostile threat environment, and to better respond to incidents that arise from attacks, GC organizations must perform collection, management and analysis of event logs that could help detect, determine the scope of, understand, or recover from an attack.

As defined by NIST, "an event is any observable occurrence in a system or network." Events are captured in logs and other structured and unstructured data which contain a record of the events occurring within an asset or network. Log data can provide a means for individual accountability, reconstruction of events, intrusion detection and/or prevention, and problem identification. One or more events analyzed in a security context may trigger an IT security incident. The GC Cyber Security Event Management Plan (CSEMP) Footnote 1 defines an IT security incident as, “Any event (or collection of events), act, omission or situation that has resulted in a compromise …”

To respond quickly and effectively to attacks and to support the management of incidents, logs must include sufficient information to establish what events occurred, and who or what caused them. Without comprehensive event logs, an attack may go unnoticed indefinitely and the particular damages done may be irreversible. Since every operating system, application, and network device writes event logs, it is important to find an appropriate balance and baseline for logging across the enterprise.

1.3 Requirements

The following are requirements identified from various GC references as described in the table below.

Table 1-1 Requirements
Item Requirements Reference
1.

Security event management practices are defined, documented, implemented and maintained to monitor, respond to and report on threats, vulnerabilities, security incidents and other security events, and ensure that such activities are effectively coordinated within the department, with partners and government-wide, to manage potential impacts, support decision-making and enable the application of corrective actions.

Policy on Government Security (PGS) Footnote 2, A.7

2.

Create, protect and retain information system audit logs and records to enable monitoring, reporting, analysis, investigation and implementation of corrective actions, as required, for each system, in accordance with departmental practices.

Directive on Security Management (DSM) Footnote 3, B.2.3.8

3.

Analyze information system audit logs and records;

Review the results of system monitoring, security assessments, tests and post-event analysis; and,

Take pre-emptive, reactive and corrective actions to remediate deficiencies and ensure that IT security practices and controls continue to meet the needs of the department.

DSM, B.2.7.1, B.2.7.2, B.2.7.3, B.2.7.4

4.

Continuously monitoring system events and performance, and including a security audit log function in all information systems, enables the detection of incidents in support of continued delivery of services. It is essential that an adequate level of logging and reporting is configured for the scope of the cloud-based service within the GC’s responsibility. Such documentation will help:

  • enable the prompt detection of suspicious activities
  • facilitate investigation of and response to security incidents
  • support auditing

These measures also extend to Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) that are expected to continuously monitor the cloud-based service components within their scope of responsibility.

Retention policies for the audit log function should be set in accordance with:

  • Library and Archives Canada’s generic valuation tool for information technology
  • other departmental requirements and standards

Direction on Secure Use of Cloud: SPIN 2017-01 Footnote 4, Section 6.3.1 Information system monitoring

5.

Discovery of potential cyber security events, including confirmed cyber security incidents, through the monitoring of various information sources (including departmental and GC wide hardware/software solutions) and submission of reports by affected departments and agencies as part of the Detection and Assessment phase.

GC Cyber Security Event Management Plan Footnote 1

6.

To prevent compromise of assets and infrastructures that are connected to the Internet, disable all non-essential ports and services, and remove unnecessary accounts. Both an enterprise-level auditing and anti-virus solution are key elements of any secure configuration.

Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (CCCS) Top 10 Security Actions, #4 Footnote 5

7.

Monitoring host-based intrusion prevention system (HIPS) alerts and logging information will provide early indications of intrusions.

CCCS Top 10 Security Actions, #8 Footnote 5

1.4 Related Security Controls

The following are related security controls from the CCCS’s ITSG-33 IT Security Risk Management Framework Footnote 6 document that have a dependency on logging and monitoring.

Table 1‑2 Related Security Controls
Security Control Name

AC-3

Access Enforcement

AC-4

Information Flow Enforcement

AC-5

Separation of Duties

AC-8

System Use Notification

AC-17

Remote Access

AU-2

Auditable Events

AU-3

Content of Audit Records

AU-4

Audit Storage Capacity

AU-5

Response to Audit Processing Failures

AU-6

Audit Review, Analysis, and Reporting

AU-7

Audit Reduction and Report Generation

AU-8

Time Stamps

AU-9

Protection of Audit Information

AU-11

Audit Record Retention

AU-12

Audit Generation

AU-14

Session Audit

CA-7

Continuous Monitoring

IR-4

Incident Handling

IR-5

Incident Monitoring

PE-3

Physical Access Control

PE-6

Monitoring Physical Access

RA-3

Risk Assessment

RA-5

Vulnerability Scanning

SC-7

Boundary Protection

SC-26

Honeypots

SI-4

Information System Monitoring

SC-35

Honeyclients

SI-3

Malicious Code Protection

SI-7

Software, Firmware, and Information Integrity

1.5 Implementation Guidance

The following implementation guidance should be considered:

1.5.1 Logging and Monitoring Strategy

The foundation for effective log management is a defined organizational logging and monitoring strategy, as articulated in ITSG-33 Information System Monitoring (SI-4) control family:

  1. The organization monitors information systems to detect:
    1. Attacks and indicators of potential attacks in accordance with [Assignment: Organization-defined monitoring objectives]; and
    2. Unauthorized local, network, and remote connections;
  2. Identifies unauthorized use of the information system through [Assignment: organization-defined techniques and methods];
  3. Deploys monitoring devices:
    1. Strategically within the information system to collect organization-determined essential information; and
    2. At ad hoc locations within the system to track specific types of transactions of interest to the organization;
  4. The organization protects information obtained from intrusion-monitoring tools from unauthorized access, modification, and deletion.

Information system monitoring is a baseline requirement for related controls, specifically the families and controls identified in Table 1‑2 Related Security Controls.

Supplemental to these general requirements, Appendix A - Recommended Events to Log provides a list of events from common IT event sources which should be logged by GC organizations.

The GC policy and directive instruments referenced in Table 1‑1 Requirements touch upon logging and auditing but do not provide details for how to establish a foundational logging and monitory strategy that satisfies the ITSG-33 control requirements specified above. Accordingly, the following external resources are recommended for review:

  • NIST’s comprehensive guidance on developing a log management capability, including policy components Footnote 7.
  • The SANS Institute’s template for creating a policy and defining logging requirements, and roles and responsibilities Footnote 8. This template poses questions that should be answered in a typical logging and monitoring policy.

1.5.2 Log Retention and Preservation

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) recommends a retention period of 2 years after last administrative use for information with business value in IT or security processes Footnote 9. ITSG-33’s AU-11 stipulates that retention and preservation periods for audit records (i.e. log records related to auditable events) are “organization-defined”; however, the Government of Canada Security Control Profile for Cloud-based GC Services Footnote 10, establishes for such records the following retention requirements:

  • CSP: Time period = [at least 90 days]
  • GC: Time period = [events and logs at least 3 months online and at least 6 months in storage; events and logs associated with a security incident for at least 2 years]

The above requirements, specific to Protected B, medium integrity and medium availability (PBMM) systems hosted in the cloud, can be equally applied to PBMM systems on premises, including the security logging for systems listed in Appendix A - Recommended Events to Log .

Log retention and preservation requirements for other event data collected from GC IT systems above or below PBMM, including those listed in the Appendix should be defined within organizational policy instruments, IT security control profiles, and other types of standards. The policy should balance risk reduction requirements with operational impacts such as capital costs and resource requirements.

1.5.3 Protecting Log Information

Logging facilities and log information must be protected against tampering and unauthorized access, because no matter how extensively an organization performs logging, those logs are worthless if their integrity cannot be trusted. Administrator and operator logs are often targets for erasing trails of activities and evidence of an attacker’s presence.

Common controls for protecting log information include the following:

  • Verifying that event logging is enabled and active for system components.
  • Ensuring that only individuals who have a job-related need can view log files.
  • Confirming that current log files are protected from unauthorized modifications via access control mechanisms, physical segregation, and/or network segregation.
  • Ensuring that current log files are promptly backed up to a centralized log server or write once media.
  • Using file integrity verification mechanisms to detect unauthorized changes to event logging configuration files and log files.

1.6 Supplemental Guidance

1.6.1 Windows

Additional guidance for Windows environments can be found in the following documents:

  • NSA’s Spotting the Adversary with Windows Event Log Monitoring (Aug 2015) Footnote 11 - This paper provides an introduction to collecting important Windows workstation event logs and storing them in a central location for easier searching and monitoring of network health. The focus is for administrators in configuring central event log collection. It recommends a basic set of events to collect on an enterprise network using Group Policy and the built-in tools already available in the Microsoft Windows operating system (OS).
  • Microsoft’s Best Practices for Securing Active Directory Footnote 12 Footnote 13 – This paper focuses on several topics from defending against different attacks on Active Directory installations to recommending an extensive list of events to monitor in a domain.
  • National Cyber Security Centre’s Introduction to Logging for Security Purposes Footnote 14 – This guidance will help to devise an approach to logging that will help answer some of the typical questions asked during a cyber incident, such as:
    • What has happened?
    • What is the impact?
    • What should we do next?
    • Has any post-incident remediation been effective?
    • Are our security controls working?

1.6.2 Cloud

Approaches for security monitoring of public cloud have similarities to and differences from those of traditional IT environments. Cloud-specific threats exist, but organizations are more likely to contend with traditional threats that affect their cloud environment, and with threats from the cloud that affect their traditional IT environment.

Event monitoring in a cloud requires a combination of traditional tools such as SIEM or Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and cloud-native tools, such as Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB), Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) or Cloud Workload Protection Platforms (CWPP) to cover detection needs. The major CSPs all offer native event logging and log management options, the suitability of which will need to be evaluated by individual organizations based on their requirements and constraints. It is recommended to enable and leverage these logging and monitoring functions within each platform; however, GC organizations should be mindful of the financial and logistical impacts.

Additional guidance for three common Cloud environments can be found in the following documents:

  • Azure Logging and Auditing Footnote 15 - Azure provides a wide array of configurable security logging and auditing options to help you identify gaps in your security policies and mechanisms. This article discusses generating, collecting, and analyzing security logs from services hosted on Azure.
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) Footnote 16 Footnote 17 - Amazon CloudWatch Logs is used to monitor, store, and access log files from Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances, AWS CloudTrail, Route 53, and other sources.
  • Google Cloud Footnote 18 - Cloud Audit Logs helps security teams maintain audit trails in Google Cloud Platform (GCP). With this tool, enterprises can attain the same level of transparency over administrative activities and accesses to data in Google Cloud Platform as in on-premises environments. Every administrative activity is recorded on a hardened, always-on audit trail, which cannot be disabled by any rogue actor.

2. References

Appendix A - Recommended Events to Log

Table A‑1 System Configuration and Performance reflects guidance to collect configuration and performance data within information systems.

Table A‑1 System Configuration and Performance
Recommended Data Format Priority

System status (resource utilization, performance)

Log

Database Query

Script

MEDIUM

Software Updates
User Agent in the case of device /host software updates

Log

Database Query

Script

MEDIUM

Configuration – collected regularly

Database Query

Script

HIGH

Configuration Changes

Success and Failure

Log following a management action or administrative login

MEDIUM

Table A‑2 Authentication and Authorization
Recommended Data Format Priority

As per the Australian 2019 Information Security Manual Footnote 8.

  1. Security related system alerts and failures
  2. User and group additions, deletions and modification to permissions
  3. Unauthorized access attempts to critical systems and file
  4. Authentication Success Logons
  5. Authentication Failed Logon Attempts
  6. Authentication Logoffs

Log

MEDIUM

Administrative Authentication

  1. Authentication Success Logons
  2. Authentication Failed Logon Attempts
  3. Authentication Logoffs
  4. Privilege elevation – success
  5. Privilege elevation – failed

Log

HIGH

Authorization

All privileged operations including “sudo”, enabling CLI access, system administrative commands, PowerShell

Log

HIGH

Table A‑3 Email Filtering, SPAM, and Phishing
Recommended Data Format Priority

Raw and Metadata - Filtering events

  1. Date and time
  2. Sent From Sender, From Sender
  3. Recipient
  4. Subject
  5. Email Headers
  6. Rule triggered – log of policies along with actual values including but not limited to DNS records, Phish Campaign identifier, and Domain URL

Log

Packet Capture

Email attachments

MEDIUM

Content filtering policy updates

Log

MED

SPAM dictionary modifications

Log

MED

IP and Domain reputation (as indicated by mail server connection)

Log

LOW

Table A‑4 Anti-Virus and Behaviour-based Malware Protection
Recommended Data Format Priority
  1. Date and time
  2. Source hostname, IP and Port
  3. Destination hostname, IP and Port
  4. Description of malicious code or action and severity
  5. Identity or (hash) identifier of the file(s)
  6. Description of the action taken – clean, quarantine, delete
  7. Signature updates

Log

Attachments

MED

Indication of the host that connected to a specific URL.

  • IP and Domain reputation
  • URL
  • Categorization

Log

HIGH

Table A‑5 Data Loss Prevention
Recommended Data Format Priority
  1. Date and time
  2. Source hostname, IP and Port
  3. Destination hostname, IP and Port
  4. Description of malicious code or action and severity
  5. Identity or identifier of the file(s)
  6. Description of the action taken – clean, quarantine, delete
  7. Signature updates

Log

Attachments

LOW

Table A‑6 Network Device Infrastructure
Network Device Infrastructure would include DNS, DHCP, and WiFi.
Recommended Data Format Priority

DHCP Lease Information including MAC, IP

Log

Packet Capture

LOW to MEDIUM

DNS - Source IP and Port, Destination IP and Port

  1. Content of Query, Response, and Errors – all record types
  2. Zone transfers request and response (audit log)
  3. Zone transfers request and response (content)

Packet Capture preferred, otherwise log.

HIGH for DNS analytics, protection against DNS attacks, protection against exfiltration, and mitigation against malicious domains.

  1. WiFi Supporting Infrastructure logs including security logs at INFO level
  2. WiFi IDS / IPS events
  3. WiFi IDS / IPS alarms
  4. Device authentication logs with User Agent
  5. URL browsing logs + HTTP methods (e.g., POST, GET, etc.)
  6. User authentication logs
  7. DHCP Lease Information including MAC, IP
  8. Firewall logs showing NAT IP address
  9. Roaming Logs
  10. Timestamps

Log

Packet capture

SNMP data including WALK, GET, TRAP

HIGH

Static Network Address Translation Table mapping as well as port forwards.

  1. Protocol
  2. Port
  3. Inside local and global IP and port
  4. Outside local and global IP and port
  5. Timestamps

Log

Database query

Script

File

Config

SNMP

HIGHEST

Table A‑7 Network Device Infrastructure
Other network device Infrastructure would include routers, switches, proxies, firewalls, IDS / IPS, VPN gateway devices.
For devices with multiple interfaces, it is desirable to get the interface MAC – if it can be correlated to the de-NAT IP address.
Recommended Data Format Priority

Routers and Switches :

  • Routing Tables
  • Routing Changes ( logging all CLI commands , BGP )
  • IP addressing schema and implementation

Script

File

Config

MEDIUM

Hash of the binary / binaries running on the device

Script

HIGH

Firewalls

All events from firewall. At the very least, if access control lists (ACL) are enabled and the device is filtering traffic:

  1. Action Permit, Teardowns, Closes, Denies, and Drops
  2. Interface
  3. Source hostname, IP address and port, MAC
  4. Destination hostname, IP address and port, MAC
  5. Protocol type
  6. Rule name and number triggered
  7. URL if applicable, associated user and User Agent

Log

HIGH

All IDS / IPS alerts and events

  1. Source hostname, IP address and port, MAC
  2. Destination hostname, IP address and port, MAC
  3. Signature triggered and associated details including signature, anomaly, rate threshold
  4. Device Name
  5. Type of event and category
  6. In the case of Fortinet network IPS, attack context
  7. ( Web / Device ) User agent if available

Log

Packet Capture

HIGH

VPN Gateway – all events

At the very least, for accepts, teardowns, closes, denies, and drops:

  1. Date and Time
  2. Source hostname, IP address and port, MAC
  3. Destination hostname, IP address and port, MAC
  4. Source IP address and port, MAC (inside tunnel)
  5. Destination IP address and port, MAC (inside tunnel)
  6. Authentication information – success or failure with user name and device with user agent
  7. Change in status of connections / tunnel status
  8. VPN certificate status validation

Log

HIGH

 

Proxies and Web Content Filters

Provides NAT, User, and gateway IP address to provide enhanced reporting of malicious domains and IP addresses.

In the case of web, w3c format.

  1. Date and Time
  2. Source hostname, IP address and port, MAC
  3. Destination hostname, IP address and port, MAC
  4. Web URL methods / User agent / Decoded Headers
  5. URL categories
  6. URL
  7. Permitted, Restricted

Log

Packet Capture

HIGHEST

Proxies and Web Content Filters

  1. Policy updates
  2. Software Updates

Log

HIGHEST

Table A‑ 8 GC PKI Infrastructure
Recommended Data Format Priority

All events related to:

  • Generation;
  • Revocation;
  • Access;
  • Update;
  • Expiry;
  • Recover;
  • Authentication success;
  • Authentication fail
  • LDAP logs

Log

HIGH

Table A‑9 Vulnerability Assessments
Recommended Data Format Priority
  1. Date and Time
  2. Hostname, IP address and OS version
  3. Open ports
  4. Installed applications
  5. Vulnerabilities listed in installed applications
  6. Source of vulnerability and severity

Log

MED to HIGH

Correlate to packet capture for cyber defence and situational awareness

Table A‑10 Operating Systems
Recommended Data Format Priority

Windows Infrastructure and Operating Systems

  • Microsoft’s Best Practices for Securing Active Directory Footnote 5 Footnote 6
  • NSA’s Spotting the Adversary with Windows Event Log Monitoring (Aug 2015) Footnote 4
  • National Cyber Security Centre’s Introduction to Logging for Security Purposes Footnote 7
  • Windows Event Logging and Forwarding Footnote 9
  1. User and administrator access to OS components and applications:
    1. File and object access
    2. Audit log access (success and failure)
    3. System access (failure)
  2. System performance and operational characteristics:
    1. Resource utilization, process status
    2. System events
    3. Service status changes (e.g. started, stopped)
    4. Service failures and restarts
  3. System configuration:
    1. Changes to security configuration (success and failure)
    2. Audit log cleared
    3. Changes to accounts
    4. User or group management
  4. File access:
    1. transfer of data to external media
  5. Powershell execution commands

Log

HIGH

Table A‑11 Database Level
Recommended Data Format Priority
  1. Addition of new users, especially privileged users
  2. Query, Response, and traceback
    1. method
    2. comments or variables
    3. multiple embedded queries
    4. database alerts or failures
  3. Attempts to elevate privileges - successful or unsuccessful
  4. Changes to the database structure
  5. Changes to user roles or database permissions
  6. Database administrator actions
  7. Database logons and logoffs, failed logons
  8. Use of executable commands
  9. CLI commands against the data base.
  10. Database configuration and version
  11. Access to sensitive information within the database such as keys, passwords, privacy related data

Log

HIGH

Table A‑12 Application Level
Recommended Data Format Priority

Web applications

  • URL
  • Headers
  • HTTP Methods - Request with body of data
  • HTTP Response with body of data

Log

Packet Capture

Unencrypted

HIGH

 

Web application data base queries and responses

Log

HIGH

Web application crashes - processes or applications

Log

HIGH

Web applications configuration and version, middleware configuration and version

Log

HIGH

Commercial Off The Shelf and Custom Applications

  1. User authentication (success and failure)
  2. User and administrator application use:
    1. File and object access
    2. Audit log access (success and failure)
    3. System access (failure)
    4. Application transactions (web page hits, email sent/received, file transfers completed)
  3. Transaction logs
  4. System performance and operational characteristics:
    1. Resource utilization
    2. Process status
    3. Errors (input validation, dis-allowed operations)
    4. System events
    5. Service status changes (e.g. started, stopped)
  5. Application configuration and version

Log

Application Monitoring Dashboards

MEDIUM

  1. User authentication (success and failure)
  2. User access of application components:
    1. File and object access
    2. Audit log access (success and failure)
    3. System access (failure)
    4. Application transactions
  3. Transaction logs
  4. System performance and operational characteristics:
    1. Resource utilization
    2. Errors (input validation, dis-allowed operations) and exit codes
    3. Process status
    4. Service status changes (e.g. started, stopped)
  5. Application configuration and version, middleware configuration and version
  6. Usage information, if applicable
  7. User request and response events, if applicable

Log

MEDIUM

Table A‑13 Virtualization System
Recommended Data Format Priority
  1. User authentication:
    1. Logon (success and failure)
    2. Attempts to obtain privileged access (success and failure)
  2. User and administrator/root access and actions of components and applications:
    1. F ile and object access
    2. Audit log access (success and failure)
    3. System access (failure)
  3. System performance and operational characteristics:
    1. Resource utilization, process status
    2. System events
    3. Service status changes (e.g. started, stopped)
  4. System configuration:
    1. Changes to security configuration (success and failure
    2. Changes to hypervisor
    3. Changes to VMs
    4. Changes made within VMs
    5. Audit log cleared
  5. Creation and deployment of VMs
  6. Migration of VMs (e.g., source and target systems, time, authorization)
  7. Creation and deletion of system-level objects

Log

MEDIUM

Table A‑14 Cloud Environments
Recommended Data Format Priority

Nearly all successful attacks on cloud services resulted from customer misconfigurations. With that in mind, the logging and monitoring focus should be on:

  1. Any activity on Breakglass account(s) (which should never have to be used)
  2. Conditional access policy changes
  3. Changes to environment policies (e.g., Azure subscription, AWS services, Google solutions, etc.) in management logs
  4. Privileged role changes
  5. Virtual network (vnet) changes
  6. Deletions of Delete Locks
  7. Changes to logging policies
  8. Privileged Identity Management (PIM) and identity protection changes
  9. Changes to alert rules (audit the auditor)
  10. Key vault/key management changes
  11. API logs
  12. Storage file access logs, file, file hashes
  13. Baseline deviations for Prod App tiers
  14. Baseline deviations for Prod Data Tiers

Log

HIGHEST

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