Holistic Visibility: The Importance of Log Sources and Ingestion

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You can’t secure what you can’t see goes the saying in cybersecurity. That’s why holistic visibility is so crucial for organisations tasked with staying safe in the evolving threat landscape, as it gives you full visibility into your environment. But there’s another adage that matters even more, because without access to log sources and the proper ingestion of their data, you can’t see the forest for the trees. 

But what are log sources? What does proper ingestion look like? And why are these such vital pieces of the holistic visibility puzzle? 

What Is a Log Source? 

Every day your tech stack is creating a wealth of information; both writing it and collecting it. To ignore that information is to waste it. In today’s technologically advanced, interconnected business world, everything that could be seen as a device on a network can generate an event log, data log or security log. These logs both document how the device is running and detect any unusual activity, two factors which make these logs a rich source of threat detection.   

Think of log sources as evidence of a crime. Picture them as stacks of manilla folders packed with information that might be crucial — or might be a lot of red herrings. Now keep that image in mind as we discuss ingestion. 

What Is Log Ingestion? 

Ingestion is the comprehensive collection of every source of telemetry, including log sources. Every security tool records data, generates alerts, and creates logs. Ingestion is moving all that information — all that evidence — to a central location for analysis. 

Think of ingestion as the bulletin board in the police station, covered with evidence and red strings connecting the dots. The Arctic Wolf® Platform, for example, ingests log sources and all additional available telemetry data to create cross telemetry detections based on anticipated behaviour. 

Ingesting log sources from endpoints, network devices, and infrastructure, as well as from cloud resources ensures that your organisation can see threats from all angles. 

What is Log Monitoring?

Log monitoring is the analysis of the ingested logs from all your log sources. It’s the bulletin board in the police station, red strings connecting the disparate pieces of information to create a narrative and provide the evidence you need to stop an attack.

In a typical attack, threat actors first probe the application for vulnerabilities. This might involve a simple scan to find accounts with commonly used passwords to take over those accounts. These scans would log a failed login attempt, and auditing would reveal multiple false logins. If you’re not monitoring and auditing events, you’re giving attackers a big window to achieve their objectives.

Insufficient log monitoring means attacks can go unnoticed for longer, allowing bad actors to further attack systems, maintain persistence, pivot to additional systems, and tamper, extract, or destroy data. According to the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), a nonprofit foundation with a mission to improve software security, nearly every major incident is the result of poor log monitoring, because it allows attackers to fly under the radar.

Why Log Monitoring Matters

Log sources provide raw, unfiltered data. Every bit of information you need to thwart a cyber attack, plus plenty of information you don’t. For that reason, it lacks the deep, contextual insight needed to make sense of the information and sort what’s important from what’s not. That’s why log sources are a crucial part of holistic visibility, but far from the only crucial part.

Ingesting all those logs into a central location provides you a base from which to begin to make sense of all that information, distilling all the logs down to the most important moments, while correlating data across the various log sources and providing context around what story that data is telling.

Where organizations’ efforts to gain visibility and insights into their environments fall flat is when they lack the correlation and contextualisation provided by robust log monitoring.

Consider two popular security solutions: Security information event management (SIEM) and endpoint detection and response (EDR). A SIEM will trigger an alert on the ingested event logs, but it lacks rich contextualisation. EDR will trigger an event but won’t offer any correlation to any of the other tools in your tech stack that monitor your network or cloud environment. Neither let you see the whole picture.

Effective log monitoring unifies the ingestion, parsing, and analysis of log data via a security-optimized data architecture that can dynamically scale, compute, and store resources on demand. Such architectures serve as the foundation for security analysts to achieve deep visibility into advanced threats. This is holistic visibility.

However, achieving this holistic visibility is often out of reach for IT and security teams already stretched thin by a lack of budget, a deluge of alerts from the tools in their existing tech stack, a lack of time to properly correlate and contextualize those alerts, and the continued global shortage of security staff.

How To Achieve Comprehensive Log Monitoring

For many organisations, the solution to their log monitoring problem is partnering with a security operations solutions provider. The best of these solutions provides 24×7 monitoring of all activity in on-premises IT infrastructure, as well as in cloud applications, using physical/virtual sensors and scanners. Some managed detection and response (MDR) solutions can continuously monitor network flows, ingest log records from unlimited number of log sources, and utilise human-augmented machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to accurately detect and respond to advanced attacks and uncover potential vulnerabilities.

However, there still needs to be an analyst at the end of the chain, parsing the data, and providing the proper contextualisation and correlation of logs to truly provide holistic visibility and 24×7 proactive protection. That’s where Arctic Wolf stands out.

We assign a named Concierge Security® Team (CST) to each customer account. The CST not only provides comprehensive log monitoring but augments an organization’s IT staff with security expertise, hunts down advanced zero-day attacks and vulnerabilities, identifies compliance violations, and provides customised compliance reports to meet industry-specific requirements.

The Arctic Wolf® Security Operations Cloud ingests over five trillion alerts every week from customers all over the world. In addition, the Arctic Wolf® Platform creates cross telemetry detections based on anticipated behaviour, engages the human element of the CST and escalates, on average, just a single alert per customer per day. And, with Data Exploration, customers can explore raw logs and analysed data while working with their CST to understand results and take action when needed.

This ability to not just see everything, but understand everything, is the key to holistic visibility, and it’s the only path forward for organisations looking to end cyber risk.

Learn more about telemetry with “Holistic Visibility: An Introduction to Telemetry.” Explore our Data Exploration tool to learn how it can help you gain fast answers to critical security questions.

Take a deep dive into holistic visibility with our webinar, “Leveraging Holistic Visibility in an Unpredictable Threat Landscape.


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Arctic Wolf

Arctic Wolf provides your team with 24x7 coverage, security operations expertise, and strategically tailored security recommendations to continuously improve your overall posture.
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