Chapter 3. Host and Service Sensors: Logging Traffic at the Source

In this chapter, we consider sensors operating in the host or service domain. Host sensors include system logs as well as host-based security tools such as antivirus (AV) software and tools like McAfee’s Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS). Host sensors monitor the state of a host and its operating system, tracking features such as local disk usage and peripheral access. Service sensors, including HTTP server logs and mail transfer logs, describe the activity of a particular service: who sent mail to whom, what URLs were accessed in the last five minutes, activity that’s moderated through a particular service. For the sake of clarity, I will use “log” to refer to either host or service logs throughout the remainder of the chapter.

Where available, logs are often preferable to network data because they are generated by the affected process, removing the process of interpretation and guesswork often needed with network data. Host and service logs provide concrete information about events that, viewed from the network perspective, are hard to reconstruct.

Logs have a number of problems, the most important one being a management headache—in order to use one, you have to know it exists and get access to it. In addition, host-based logs come in a large number of formats, many of them poorly documented. At the risk of a sweeping generalization, the overwhelming majority of logs are designed for debugging and troubleshooting ...

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