Auditing and Monitoring

Task 1  Introduction

Consider the following example. A prestigious hospital in the UK must ensure that it aligns with all the regulations. You are part of the team responsible for ensuring compliance with the Data Protection Act (2018). One of the requirements is to ensure that patients’ records are kept confidential and protected against unauthorised processing, access, loss, or destruction. Consequently, the management provided the staff with substantial relevant training to raise awareness and equip them with all the necessary tools to ensure compliance. Does this mean that the hospital is now in compliance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act (2018), especially when handling patient records?

Policy violations come in various forms. Some staff might copy patient-related data using a USB flash memory for easy access. Others might dispose of confidential paper records without using the allocated paper shredders. Some might be taking photos of the computer screen to share it via unauthorised channels to make work “more efficient.” The examples are countless, and most of the “workarounds” might lead to violations of the applicable laws, which can lead to lawsuits against the hospital. We must ensure that everyone is doing their best to observe all laws and regulations to the best of their abilities.

We need some systematic and objective way to evaluate the hospital’s standing, i.e., auditing. We must regularly audit the processes and controls to ensure the hospital abides by all the related regulations and laws. Without auditing, there is no way to know what needs to be fixed.

In other words, when we ask questions such as: How can we know whether a company complies with the applicable laws and industry standards? How can we assess the effectiveness the risk management and internal controls? How can we detect fraudulent activities or misuse of resources? The answer lies in auditing.

What is Auditing?

In simple terms, auditing is like a check-up for a company or organisation. It involves carefully examining the company’s processes, internal controls, and financial statements to ensure everything runs smoothly according to the policies and laws. Auditors look for problems, such as errors, inefficiencies, or shady activities, and suggest ways to fix them. This helps the company improve its operations and builds trust with the people involved or affected by the organisation’s activities.

In more formal terms, auditing is a systematic, independent, and objective process of gathering and evaluating evidence to determine if an organisation, its policies, processes, controls, or financial statements comply with applicable laws, regulations, and industry standards.

What is Monitoring?

As per the title of this room, the focus is on auditing and monitoring. Before moving to the next task, let’s briefly explain monitoring. In information systems, monitoring is about continually checking a computer’s or network’s performance and behaviour. It involves watching over various components such as applications, storage, and networking to make sure they’re working well together. Monitoring also looks for unusual behaviour and checks if anything violates established rules or policies.

In this room, we will cover auditing and monitoring in more detail and visit related concepts such as logging.

Learning Objectives

Learn the following topics and differentiate between them:

  • Auditing
  • Monitoring
  • Logging
  • SIEM

Room Prerequisites

This room has no rigid prerequisites; however, to carry out the tasks on the attached VMs, some knowledge of MS Windows and Linux is necessary. We recommend satisfying the following requirements:

  • Basic knowledge of MS Windows.
  • Basic knowledge of Linux.
  • Knowledge of IAAA, Risk Management, and related concepts is encouraged but unnecessary.

Task 2  Audit Objectives and Types

Audit Definition

In financeauditing is an official inspection and verification of an organisation’s financial records, procedures, and statements to ensure accuracy, reliability, and compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and accounting standards. In simple terms, an audit aims to verify the financial records of individuals and businesses.

However, when it comes to information systemsauditing has a broader meaning as it goes beyond financial records and procedures. Auditing of information systems involves the systematic, independent, and objective examination of an organisation’s IT infrastructure, processes, and controls.

Furthermore, the audit of information systems has more encompassing objectives. The objectives of an information systems audit are to evaluate the effectiveness, security, and compliance of systems and data management within an organisation. By conducting an information systems audit, auditors can assess various aspects of an organisation’s IT infrastructure, processes, and controls.

A stringent man, dressed formally and going through a very long checklist.

Audit Objectives

By conducting an information systems audit, auditors can assess various aspects of an organisation’s IT infrastructure, processes, and controls. Some primary objectives of an information systems audit include the following:

  • Assess the effectiveness of internal controls: This process can help mitigate the risk of fraud, errors, and other disruptions to the organisation’s operations.
  • Identify and assess risks: This process can help the organisation develop and implement appropriate controls to mitigate risks to the organisation’s information systems.
  • Assess the efficiency and effectiveness of information systems: This process can help the organisation improve the performance of its information systems and make better decisions about future investments in information technology.
  • Ensure compliance with laws and regulations: This process can help protect the organisation from fines, penalties, and other legal sanctions.
An image with the following terms: Risk Assessment, Regulatory Compliance, IT Governance, Security Management, Business Continuity, Fraud Detection, Disaster Recovery

More generally, information systems audits can be used for a broader set of targets, depending on the industry and regulations. In more formal terms, information systems audit serves the following objectives:

  • Risk assessment: Identify potential risks and vulnerabilities that may affect information assets’ confidentiality, integrity, and availability and evaluate risk mitigation strategies in place.
  • Regulatory compliance: Ensure that an organisation’s information systems adhere to relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards to avoid legal violations and safeguard the organisation’s reputation.
  • IT governance: Evaluate the effectiveness of IT governance practices, including decision-making processes, resource allocation, and performance management within the organisation.
  • Security management: Assess the effectiveness of an organisation’s information security policy, processes, and controls in protecting information assets from unauthorised access, use, modification, and disclosure.
  • Operational and performance evaluation: Assess the controls and processes for key IT activities such as system design, development, implementation, and ongoing maintenance, ensuring that the organisation’s systems and resources are utilised efficiently and that desired goals and outcomes are achieved.
  • Data management and quality: Evaluate the processes and controls for data storage, retention, backup, and recovery to ensure that critical data is accurate, complete, reliable, and available when needed.
  • Business continuity and disaster recovery: Assess the adequacy of an organisation’s strategies for maintaining critical IT services and capabilities during various business disruptions, including assessing backup and contingency plans to ensure timely recovery.
  • Fraud detection and prevention: Identify fraudulent activities or misuse of resources by examining user activity, authorisation, and the overall control environment.

By identifying potential vulnerabilities, weaknesses, or irregularities, IT auditors help prevent unauthorised access, data breaches, system failures, and legal violations, strengthening information security and ensuring the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of critical IT resources and information assets.

Audit Types

One way to classify audits is based on who is performing the audit:

  • Internal audits: These are performed by an organisation’s personnel or staff members assigned to the internal audit function.
  • External audits: External audits are conducted by independent auditors not employed by the organisation being audited. These auditors are typically from external accounting or auditing firms, and the primary purpose is to provide an impartial and objective review.

Generally speaking, we would start with an internal audit to verify that the company is carrying out the different procedures correctly. In the next stage, we would pay for an external audit to help discover what we might have missed with our internal team. If we don’t start with an internal audit, we will most likely need multiple external audits, which can get quite expensive.

Image showing Audit with three branches: Internal Audits, External Audits, and Third-Party Audits

In addition to internal and external audits, we have:

  • Third-party audits: This type of audit is conducted when an organisation needs to assess its IT systems or controls within third parties, such as vendors, service providers, or subcontractors. Third-party audits ensure that the external entities a company relies on adhere to the required security, data protection, and compliance standards, thereby minimising potential risks and exposures that may arise from their operations.

Task 3  Audit Frameworks

An audit framework is a structured approach comprising principles, concepts, and practices used to conduct an audit. It provides guidelines on planning, executing, and reporting on an audit effectively and ensures that audits are objective and consistent. Audit frameworks help auditors assess an organisation’s policies, processes, controls, and compliance with regulations while providing efficiency, value, and transparency to the audit process.

Popular Audit Frameworks

  • COSO: The Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO) is a private-sector initiative that develops frameworks for enterprise risk management, internal control, and fraud deterrence. COSO’s Internal Control-Integrated Framework is one of the most widely used frameworks for auditing internal controls. It is typically used in various industries, including financial services, healthcare, and government.
  • COBIT: The Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT) is a framework for the governance and management of information and technology (IT). It provides a comprehensive set of control objectives that can be used to assess the effectiveness of an organisation’s IT governance and management practices. It is typically used in various industries, including financial services, healthcare, and government.
  • ISAE 3402: ISAE3402 is an international standard that provides guidance on the assurance of controls over financial reporting. Auditors use it to assure of the effectiveness of an organisation’s internal controls over financial reporting. It is typically used in various industries, including financial services, healthcare, and government.
  • ISO 27001: ISO 27001 is an international standard for information security management. It provides a set of best practices for information security management. It is typically used in various industries, including financial services, healthcare, and government.
  • ITIL: ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library. It is a framework of best practices for IT Service Management (ITSM). ITIL is used in auditing to establish a systematic approach for assessing an organisation’s management and governance of IT services. By providing standard practices and criteria, ITIL helps organisations identify areas where their ITSM practices can be improved and to provide recommendations for how to make those improvements.
  • PCI DSS: The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security requirements for organisations that accept payment cards. It is designed to protect cardholder data from unauthorised access, use, disclosure, alteration, or destruction. It is typically used in industries that accept payment cards, such as retail, hospitality, and healthcare.
  • SOX: The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) is a federal law that establishes auditing and financial reporting requirements for public companies. It is designed to protect investors by improving the accuracy and reliability of financial reporting. It is typically used in public companies.
COSOInternal control framework that helps organisations design, implement, and monitor their internal controls.All industriesCOSO is a comprehensive framework that covers all aspects of internal control.
COBITIT governance framework that helps organisations align their IT with their business goals.All industriesCOBIT is a flexible framework that can be adapted to the needs of any organisation.
ISAE 3402Assurance standard that provides assurance on the controls of a service organisation.All industriesISAE 3402 is a relatively new standard gaining popularity in the financial services industry.
ISO 27001Information security management system (ISMS) standard that helps organisations protect their information assets.All industriesISO 27001 is the world’s most widely adopted ISMS standard.
ITILIT service management (ITSM) framework that helps organisations deliver high-quality IT services.All industriesITIL is a well-established framework that organisations of all sizes use.
PCI DSSPayment Card Industry Data Security Standard that helps organisations protect cardholder data.Financial servicesPCI DSS is a mandatory standard for organisations that process credit and debit card payments.
SOXSarbanes-Oxley Act that sets requirements for internal controls over financial reporting.Publicly traded companiesSOX is a complex law that has a significant impact on public companies.

Task 4  Auditing IT Infrastructure and Operations

Audit Process

The process typically consists of the following primary stages:

  • Planning: The auditor determines the audit’s scope, objectives, and timelines. This stage involves understanding the organisation’s IT environment – including infrastructure, systems, applications, security measures, and data management practices – and identifying potential risks and controls to be evaluated.
  • Information gathering: The auditor collects relevant data, background information, and documentation to thoroughly understand the organisation’s IT processes and systems. This process typically involves interviewing key personnel, reviewing resource documentation, analysing procedures and policies, and examining the control environment.
  • Risk assessment and control evaluation: The auditor identifies and assesses the risks and vulnerabilities within the organisation’s IT infrastructure, processes, and systems based on the information gathered. This process includes evaluating the effectiveness of internal controls, security measures, and compliance with applicable policies, regulations, and industry standards.
  • Testing: The auditor performs detailed tests on selected systems, applications, specific processes or control procedures to validate their effectiveness, accuracy, and compliance. Testing methods may include data analysis, vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, controls testing, or sampling, depending on the audit objectives and the audited systems.
  • Analysis and findings: The auditor analyses the testing and evaluation results, identifies deviations, irregularities, or vulnerabilities, and evaluates the implications. Auditors determine if systems are configured securely, IT processes are effective and compliant, or risks are adequately mitigated.
  • Reporting: After the analysis, the auditor documents the findings and conclusions, makes recommendations for improvement where necessary, and prepares a formal audit report. This report is then shared with the management, the audit committee, or other stakeholders as required, helping them understand the organisation’s risk exposure, compliance, and effectiveness of IT processes and controls.
  • Follow-up: In some cases, a follow-up may be performed to evaluate if the recommended improvements and corrective actions have been implemented and ensure their effectiveness in addressing the identified issues.
An image showing the following steps: Planning, Information Gathering, Risk Assessment and Control Evaluation, Testing, Analysis and Findings, Reporting, Follow-up

Audit Areas

The following is a list of some areas that we might consider inspecting when performing an information systems audit:

  • Information Systems Hardware: Inspect the hardware configuration and performance to ensure it meets the organisation’s needs.
  • OS: Check the operating system configuration and security to ensure it is secure and compliant with organisational policies.
  • File Systems: Check the file system permissions and access control to ensure that sensitive data is protected.
  • Database Management Systems: Audit the database configuration and security to ensure it is secure and compliant with organisational policies.
  • Network Infrastructure: Inspect the network configuration and security to ensure it is secure and compliant with organisational policies.
  • Network Operating Controls: Audit the network operating controls to ensure that they effectively prevent unauthorised access to the network.
  • IT Operations: Examine the IT operations to ensure they effectively deliver high-quality IT services.
  • Lights-Out Operations: Check the lights-out operations to ensure they effectively manage IT infrastructure without the need for human intervention.
  • Problem Management Operations: Audit the problem management operations to ensure that they effectively resolve IT problems in a timely manner.
  • Monitoring Operations: Validate the monitoring operations to ensure they effectively detect and respond to IT incidents.
  • Procurement: Check the procurement process to ensure that IT hardware and software are secure and compliant.
  • Business Continuity Planning: Inspect the business continuity plan to ensure that it effectively ensures the continuity of critical IT services during a disaster.
  • Disaster Recovery Planning: Examine the disaster recovery plan to ensure it effectively recovers critical IT services during a disaster.
A diagram showing the following five steps: Planning, Execution, Assessment, Reporting, Follow-up

Audit Scenario

Let’s say that we are auditing a company using COBIT. We might go through a series of steps that resemble the following:

Step 1: Planning

  • Define the scope of the audit: We start by defining the scope of the audit and identifying the relevant COBIT domains that apply to the organisation’s IT governance practices.
  • Identify the relevant COBIT controls: Next, we identify the appropriate COBIT controls that are in place to mitigate the risks identified in the scope of the audit.
  • Develop an audit plan: We will need to develop an audit plan that outlines the steps that will be taken to gather evidence and assess the organisation’s compliance with the relevant COBIT controls.

Note: The COBIT 2019 framework defines 40 control objectives, which are grouped into five domains:

  • Plan and Organise (PO): 13 control objectives
  • Acquire and Implement (AI): 9 control objectives
  • Deliver and Support (DS): 11 control objectives
  • Monitor and Evaluate (ME): 7 control objectives
  • Resilience (RES): 1 control objective

The details of the COBIT controls are beyond the scope of this room. However, for this exercise, we need to know that the COBIT controls provide a framework for ensuring that IT activities are aligned with the organisation’s strategic goals and objectives.

Step 2: Execution

  • Gather evidence: We start this stage by gathering evidence of the organisation’s compliance with the relevant COBIT controls. This evidence may include documentation, interviews, and observations.
  • Assess the evidence: Next, we assess the evidence to determine whether the organisation complies with the relevant COBIT controls.

Step 3: Assessment

  • Identify gaps in compliance: First, we must identify gaps in the organisation’s compliance with the relevant COBIT controls.
  • Make recommendations for improvement: Next, we can make recommendations for improvement to the organisation’s IT governance practices.

Step 4: Reporting

  • Prepare the audit report: We begin by preparing an audit report summarising the audit findings and making recommendations for improvement.
  • Communicate the audit report: Once the report is ready, we must communicate it to the organisation’s management and stakeholders.

Step 5: Follow-up

  • Monitor the implementation of recommendations: Ideally speaking, we will be able to monitor the implementation of the recommendations made in the audit report to ensure that the organisation is taking steps to improve its IT governance practices.

The steps above show an example of an information systems audit using the COBIT framework. The exact steps involved in an audit will vary depending on the organisation’s needs and requirements. However, the general steps outlined above apply to most information systems audits.

In the following questions, consider the case where we divide the audit process into the following five stages:

  1. Planning
  2. Execution
  3. Assessment
  4. Reporting
  5. Follow-up

Answer the following questions with the number of the related step.

Task 5  Logs

Logging is the process of recording events as they take place on a computer system. These events can be:

  • Problems and errors
  • Information about current operations
Diagram with Logging at the root with four branches: Troubleshooting, Monitoring, Auditing, and Compliance

Some of the purposes of logging are:

  • Troubleshooting: Logs can be a valuable tool for troubleshooting errors. For instance, if a server fails to start, we would look at its logs to discover where it failed and what prevented it from starting.
  • Monitoring: Logs provide plenty of insight into the utilisation of a system’s resources. Consider the case where a server is slow, and we want to discover the bottleneck affecting its performance. The system might run low on memory, or the CPU might reach 100% utilisation for non-trivial durations. Logs can provide the necessary insights to pinpoint and solve the problem.
  • Auditing: Logs record users’ activities on a given system. On an audited system, we want to know who logged in, what files they accessed, and what changes they made. This information is necessary to audit a system or investigate any incident.
  • Compliance: Logs can be a requirement to maintain compliance with relevant regulations. For instance, financial institutions need to keep logs of all financial transactions that take place.

Task 6  Log Management on Linux

Linux logs are an essential part of Linux system administration, as they provide a look into the system’s operation and reveal any issues that may be happening. This information can include errors, warnings, and security alerts, in addition to more innocuous events. Most Linux distributions store the log files and directories in /var/log.

An example /var/log directory content is shown in the terminal below.


root@TryHackMe# sudo tree /var/log -d -L 2
├── akmods
├── anaconda
├── audit
├── blivet-gui
├── chrony
├── cups
├── displaylink
├── gdm
├── glusterfs
├── httpd
├── journal
│   └── f29b4ed41359484da9b7d3bf3ec279ac
├── libvirt
│   ├── libxl
│   ├── lxc
│   └── qemu
├── ppp
├── private
├── qemu-ga
├── samba
│   └── old
├── speech-dispatcher
├── sssd
├── swtpm
│   └── libvirt
└── vmware

The importance of Linux logs lies in troubleshooting and monitoring as they help admins identify suspicious activities, diagnose system hardware and software problems, track system health, and gauge performance. For handling logs, many Linux distributions use system logging daemons like rsyslogsyslog-ng, and journald to manage, process, and store log events.

Log Types

There are several different types of logs on a Linux system. Some common types of logs include:

  • System logs: These logs contain information about the general health and operation of the system.
  • Application logs: These logs contain information about the specific applications running on the system.
  • Security logs: These logs contain information about security-related events, such as login and failed authentication attempts.

Managing Logs on a Linux System

To efficiently work with Linux logs, we need to consider the following:

  • Log to a central location
  • Use a tool to filter and parse the logs
  • Setup alerts

Configuring a Linux system to log in to a central location is essential. This setup will make it easier to collect and manage our logs.

Additionally, using a tool that can filter and parse the generated logs would be best. This configuration will help us to find the information we need quickly and easily.

Finally, we should set up alerts to notify us of important events. This setup will help us respond to problems quickly.

Practical Example

Click on the Start Machine button to follow along. You will also need it to answer the questions at the end of this task. The machine will start in Split-Screen view. In case the VM is not visible, use the blue Show Split View button at the top-right of the page. Alternatively, you may also log into the attached VM over SSH using the command ssh maxine@MACHINE_IP. The login credentials are:

  • Username: maxine
  • Password: AuditMe!

Because all the commands require root or sudo privileges, you can issue sudo su to get root access and avoid typing sudo before each command.

One of the efficient command-line tools to audit system logs on a Linux system is aureport. You can get a summary of the events using the command aureport --summary. If you are only interested in the failed events, you can use aureport --failed as shown in the terminal window below.


root@TryHackMe# aureport --failed

Failed Summary Report
Range of time in logs: 06/08/2023 12:18:12.635 - 07/06/2023 23:09:20.083
Selected time for report: 06/08/2023 12:18:12 - 07/06/2023 23:09:20.083
Number of changes in configuration: 0
Number of changes to accounts, groups, or roles: 5
Number of logins: 0
Number of failed logins: 87
Number of authentications: 0
Number of failed authentications: 421

We can quickly spot the high number of failed logins and authentications: 87 and 421. Please note that the number of failed authentications is higher than the number of failed logins, as one failed login results in multiple failed authentications, depending on the system setup. Let’s discover which account has a high number of failed logins.

The following command ausearch --message USER_LOGIN --success yes --interpret returns successful logins, while ausearch --message USER_LOGIN --success no --interpret returns the failed logins. The options are:

  • --message is followed by the message we are interested in searching for. Examples include USER_LOGINDEL_USERADD_GROUPUSER_CHAUTHTOKDEL_GROUPCHGRP_IDROLE_ASSIGN, and ROLE_REMOVE.
  • --success is followed by yes or no depending on whether you are searching for successful or unsuccessful attempts, respectively.
  • --interpret converts numeric entities, such as UID (User ID), into text.

If we only want to display the failed login attempts for the root account, we can pipe the output via grep. The command becomes ausearch --message USER_LOGIN --success no --interpret | grep ct=root.

The command above would result in a very long list. Since we are interested in counting the lines, we can pipe the output again through wc -lwc is used for counting characters, words, and lines. The -l will only display the line count. Consequently, a straightforward way to count the number of failed root logins is by issuing the following command.


root@TryHackMe# ausearch --message USER_LOGIN --success no --interpret | grep ct=root | wc -l

The command above can be written in its short form as shown below:


root@TryHackMe# ausearch -m USER_LOGIN -sv no -i | grep ct=root | wc -l

The output above tells us that 76 failed login attempts have been at the root account.

Task 7  Log Management on MS Windows

Windows logs, sometimes referred to as event logs, form an integral part of the operating system’s functionalities, providing insights into system behaviour and potential issues. Four primary types include:

  • System Logs: This records activity associated with the system components, such as driver failure, resource conflict, and hardware issues. For IT professionals, they serve as sources of critical diagnostics information.
  • Application Logs: This type concerns individual software living upon the system. When issues manifest around a specific application, such as failing to connect to a database or process-related bottlenecks, these logs come in handy to determine why the failure occurred.
  • Security Logs: Specialised logs designed to track security events. They touch on events such as logon and logoff actions, user rights assignments, policy changes, and security-related aberrations. For security professionals, this often represents their first check when investigating a security incident.
  • Forwarded Events Logs: These logs receive collected from other tertiary-tertiary computing environments. They act as collated reports, pulling from multiple sources into a centralised file. They are ideal for monitoring tasks and analysis in a networked environment, where you may need to assemble data from various places into a cohesive analysis.

Correctly analysing Windows logs empowers administrators to address security issues promptly, facilitating strong performance and troubleshooting any potential problems efficiently.

The table below provides a short and basic comparison between Linux logs and Windows logs.

FeatureLinux LogsWindows Logs
Logging levelsDebug, Info, Notice, Warning, Error, CriticalDebug, Information, Warning, Error, Critical
Tools for viewing logstailgreplessEvent Viewer
AdvantagesMore flexible, easier to parseMore user-friendly, more integrated with Windows
DisadvantagesCan be less intuitive, less centralizedCan be more difficult to troubleshoot

Audit Policy

Microsoft Windows makes it possible to audit various aspects of the system. Here is a list of example events you can audit:

  • Account logon events
  • Account management
  • Privilege use
  • Directory service access
  • Policy change
  • System events

For more information, we recommend you visit Audit Policy.

Windows Event Viewer

Click on the Start Machine button to follow along. You will also need it to answer the questions at the end of this task. You can log into the attached VM using a Remote Desktop client via the AttackBox or your VPN Connection. The login credentials are:

  • Username: dawn
  • Password: AuditMe!

Let’s start the Event Viewer, then open Security under the Windows Logs. We can see the different events that have occurred, including those we configured MS Windows 2019 to log as part of auditing. In the screenshot below, we have selected an event with ID 4624, i.e., a user has successfully logged in to a system.

Screenshot of MS Windows Event Viewer Click to enlarge image.

The table below shows some example logon event IDs.

Logon eventsDescription
4624A user successfully logged on to a computer.
4625Logon failed due to an unknown username or a wrong password.
4634The logoff process was completed.
4647A user started the logoff process.
4779A user disconnected from a remote session without logging off.

Task 8  Monitoring

Information systems monitoring involves continuously observing and checking an IT system’s performance and metrics. It can include reviewing processes, users, workflows, transactions, data storage, applications, servers, networks, and security protocols. It’s a proactive technical system that helps identify potential disruptions before they cause serious issues or system shutdowns.

Monitoring is crucial for several reasons:

  • Troubleshooting and Maintenance: Monitoring data helps IT support teams identify and rectify operational faults more efficiently, ensuring systems run smoothly and effectively with minimum downtime.
  • Performance Optimisation: By keeping track of information usage, transmission rates, and latency, fine-tuning strategies can be applied to optimise the performance of the systems.
  • Preventing Failures: Proactively spotting potential issues or irregular patterns, such as close-to-capacity servers or faulty hardware, forms a significant aspect of preventing more significant failures.
  • Security Risk Mitigation: Continuous monitoring helps identify unauthorised access, security breaches, or malicious activity, enabling immediate reaction and thus enhancing system security.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Continuous monitoring is crucial for organisations under regulatory controls to meet and prove compliance with data protection and privacy laws.

Logging, on the other hand, is a form of data collection and a record-keeping activity. A log typically records events or activities that software or systems perform, as discussed in the previous tasks.

While both involve in-depth analysis of system behaviour, the key difference between logging and monitoring lies in their primary functions and use. Logging provides a historical account of events for later analysis or audit review; it is essential for diagnostic, forensics, and compliance purposes. Monitoring is a real-time, continuous process used to detect issues or anomalies immediately; it ensures effective operational control, security, and optimal performance.

Primary FunctionTo record system activities for later reviewTo deliver real-time observation of system status
Error DetectionAfter it hits, provides a data trail to backtrack the issueIdentify and notify irregularities as they occur
ProcessA constant, passive process recording activities and system changesAn active, ongoing process receiving alerts or warnings based on predefined triggers
Typical UsesError diagnostics post-issue, compliance proof, audit trails, forensic analysisDaily operational tracking, preventative maintenance, bottlenecks detection, real-time functionality and security
Timeliness of Notification and InspectionUsed primarily for retrospective analysis of problemsReal-time reporting of potential issues
Key ObjectivesError diagnosis, accountability and providing detailed contextEradicate small issues from escalating and becoming larger problem

Overall, effective information systems monitoring fosters a stable IT infrastructure that is key to an organisation’s technological development, resilience, and integrity.

Task 9  SIEM Basics

Image of a SIEM system getting data from many sources

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) is a set of integrated management technologies that provide a holistic view of an organisation’s information security. SIEM systems collect and aggregate log data generated throughout the organisation’s IT infrastructure from network devices, systems, and applications.

SIEM software then identifies and categorises incidents and events and analyses them. This analysis can be beneficial for identifying issues such as security threats, compromised systems, and malicious activities. It can also help with potential incident response actions.

Image showing a SIEM system with 4 functions: Collect data from sources, aggregate data, discover and detect threats, and identify breaches and investigate alerts.

The key capabilities of SIEM technology include:

  • Data Aggregation: It can collect data from many sources, such as network devices, security controls, servers, and databases, providing a global perspective of the IT environment.
  • Correlation and analysisSIEM systems can correlate different events and logs to see patterns of possible malicious activity.
  • Alerting and reporting: Based on the analysis performed on data, SIEM can automatically raise alerts upon identifying any abnormal activity and create dashboards/reports for IT administrators.
  • Forensic Analysis: It helps perform historical analysis against the event data for investigating and mitigating cyber threats.
  • Threat intelligence Feeds: Many SIEM tools integrate threat intelligence feeds to enhance incident detection and proactively identify external threats.
  • Automation and Orchestration: Some sophisticated SIEMs will also have capacities to automatically respond to some detected incidents, for example, by blocking IP addresses or deactivating vulnerable services.

SIEM is a vital tool for ensuring compliance with internal and external security policies and maintaining a solid security posture across an organisation.

There are many SIEM solutions available such as Wazuh and Splunk. To get a hands-on experience working with a SIEM, we recommend the Wazuh and the Splunk: Basics rooms.

Task 10  Conclusion

Logging, monitoring, and auditing are critical components of data management and cyber security strategies.

Logging captures detailed event records about system operations, often serving as the first point of reference in troubleshooting or system optimisation.

Monitoring is a real-time continuation of the logging process, offering immediate glimpses into system health and performance and the capacity to identify potential problems before they escalate.

On the other hand, auditing provides a systematic review of logs and monitoring histories necessary for regulatory compliance. It helps identify discrepancies or issues, attributing accountability for system actions. Notably, logging, monitoring, and auditing foster a system environment with enhanced security, credibility, performance, and regulatory integrity.

Below is a summary table comparing logging, monitoring, and auditing.

DefinitionRecording of system activities and changesReal-time data and report collection to observe system statusSystematic analysis and review of actions within the systems
Main functionStores a historical account of system processes, activities, or eventsRecords and visualises the live state of systemsChecks compliance with set IT standards and corrective actions
Result identificationOften post-issue or upon checkReal-time, at the time of anomaly or breachUsually post-action, during compliance checks
Process flowOperates passively to collect data as events transpireActive process analysing and inspecting system performance regularlyPerformed at set times, often periodic, can be triggered by events
UsesFind faults, debug, forensics, assists in auditsMaintain system performance, real-time fault-tracking, foreseeing issuesValidate regularity, safety inspection, prove accountability and lessening potential risks
Key RoleData gathering and accountabilityPreventive and predictive maintenanceCompliance, verification, and legal professionalism

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