Vulnerability scanning best practices

As a vulnerability management professional, I talk about vulnerability scanning best practices a lot. There’s a lot more to vulnerability management than just scanning, but if you don’t get scanning right, the rest of the program suffers.

I’m going to talk about a lot of technical controls here, but don’t forget the nontechnical side. People and processes have to support all technology.

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Splunk truncating timecharts is fixable

I’ve been building some dashboards in Splunk to make it easier to compare some things. I needed to find a way to deal with Splunk truncating timecharts inconsistently.

Splunk’s timechart option is useful for baselining. Before you can spot the abnormal, you need to recognize the normal. I sometimes monitor things using the timechart option, but sometimes Splunk will truncate the timecharts randomly, so I’m not necessarily comparing the same timeframes. Read more

Using Splunk to find bad guys in your network

I’ve covered event logging before, but the excellent site Malware Archaelogy has some cheat sheets that include Splunk queries you can use to find incidents or malware operating in your network, or even use to create dashboards so you can keep an eye on things. Malware Archaelogy’s list of events to log is a bit different from what I covered before, but there’s a considerable amount of overlap. You probably want what they recommend and what anyone else is recommending.

The key to corporate computer security is situational awareness, and I don’t think anyone sells a blinky box that provides enough of that. But you can build it with Splunk.

And, for what it’s worth, I do recommend Splunk. I’ve used Log Logic in the past, and its searches often take days to finish, which means Log Logic is so slow that by the time you find anything in it, it’s likely to be too late. Splunk isn’t quite real-time, but you can find stuff in a few minutes.

The difference between a vulnerability scanner and a SIEM

I heard an interesting question the other day: What’s the difference between a vulnerability scanner and a SIEM? Qualys and Nessus are examples of vulnerability scanners. Arcsight and Splunk are examples of SIEMs.

To a security practitioner, the tools couldn’t be much more different, but not everyone is a security practitioner.

On a basic, fundamental level, a vulnerability scanner deals in what’s missing in the environment and what could happen as a result of those things that are missing. A SIEM deals in what actually has happened and is happening.

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The workstation events you want to be logging in Splunk

Every once in a while the NSA or another government agency releases a whitepaper with a lot of really good security advice. This paper on spotting adversaries with Windows event logs is a fantastic example. It’s vendor-neutral, just talking about Windows logs and how to set up event forwarding, so you can use the advice with any log aggregation system or SEIM. I just happen to use and recommend Splunk. But whatever you use, these are the workstation events you want to be logging.

I want to call your attention to a couple of items in the paper. Most breaches begin on workstations, and this paper has the cure.

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The most valuable IT skill you can learn in 2015: Splunk

Whether you want to move to security or just get a lot of job security and raise potential while staying in infrastructure, probably the best thing you can do for your career is to learn Splunk.

What’s Splunk, you ask? Well, my t-shirt says “Weapon of a security warrior,” but it really does a lot more than that.

I think of it as a centralized logging and alerting system, but really, because it can log and alert and draw graphs, it can replace almost any piece of management infrastructure. I asked, only ten-percent joking, why a Splunk shop needs to run anything else to manage itself.

Stand up Splunk, let it collect your logs and your performance data, and when something goes wrong, you have one place to look for the data you need to figure out what happened.

Fortunately, unlike many enterprise tools, you can run Splunk at home for free. Splunk offers a well-written 200-page book for free in all of the common e-book formats that provides a good introduction and a set of data to play with, and you can download the software itself from Splunk’s front page. You can then pull your logs from all of your desktops, and if you run DD-WRT, you can pull those logs as well, then practice learning what you can from that data beyond what’s in the book.

You will undoubtedly find some things when you start poking around, so even if you’re not able to get going with Splunk in your current role, you’ll end up with the war stories you need to get a Splunk-related role for your next job. Even if all you do is catch HD Moore and Robert Graham scanning you, your interviewer will be interested in hearing how you saw it and managed to figure out it was them.

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