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Randy's Blog on Infosec and Other Stuff

Download Supercharger Free Edition for Easy Management of Windows Event Collection

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 08:59:58 GMT

We just released a new and free edition of Supercharger for Windows Event Collection which you can get here

There are no time-outs and no limits on the number of computers you can manage with Supercharger Free.

I wanted to include more than enough functionality so that anyone who uses WEC would want to install Supercharger Free right away.  For non-WEC users, Free Edition helps you get off the ground with step-by-step guidance. 

With Supercharger Free you can stop remoting into each collector and messing around with Event Viewer just to see the status of your subscriptions.  You can see all your collectors, subscriptions and source computers on a single pane of glass – even from your phone.  And you can create/edit/delete subscriptions as necessary.

I also wanted to help you get more from WEC’s ability to filter out noise events at the source by leveraging my research on the Windows Security Log. 

Supercharger Free Edition:

  • Provides a single pane of glass view of your entire Windows Event Collection (WEC) environment across all collectors and domains
  • Virtually eliminates the need to remote into collectors and wrestle with Event Viewer.  You can manage subscriptions right from the dashboard
  • Includes a growing list of my personally-built Security Log noise filters that help you get the events you need while leaving the noise behind

The manager only takes a few minutes to install and can even co-exist on a medium loaded collector.  Then it’s just seconds to install the agent on your other collectors.  You can uninstall Supercharger without affecting your WEC environment. 

I hope Supercharger Free is something that saves you time and helps you accomplish more with WEC.

This is just the beginning.  We’ve got more exciting and free stuff coming.  But you’ll need at least Supercharger Free to make use of what’s next, so install it today if you can.

Thank you for supporting my site of the years.  Here’s something new and free to say thanks.

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NEW Free & Easy to Use Tool, Event Log Forwarder for Windows

Sun, 22 Feb 2015 22:13:47 GMT

Right or wrong, Syslog remains the de facto standard protocol for log forwarding. Every SIEM and log management solution in the world accepts syslog. So frequently you run into the situation of needing to forward Windows events via syslog. But Windows doesn’t support syslog and the “free” forwarders I’ve looked at in the past were just not pretty. Some even written in Java. Ugh. Besides being klunky and hard to configure they weren’t flexible in terms of which event logs they could forward much less which events within those logs.

But SolarWinds has just released a new and completely free Event Log Forwarder for Windows (ELF). ELF takes seconds to download, seconds to install and a minute to configure. Just select the logs you want to forward (below example shows successful and failed logons and process start events from the security log):

and specify the address of your syslog server:

ELF runs as a background service and immediately starts sending events out via syslog as you can see here on my syslog server.

I love how easy it is to filter exactly which events are sent. This allows you to filter out noise events at their source – conserving bandwidth and log management resources all the way down the line.

But what if you have many systems that need to be configured to forward events? I took a look at the folder where ELF was installed and found a LogForwarderSettings.cfg file that is very easy to read. Moreover there’s even a LogForwarder.PDF file in the Docs folder that fully documents this settings file. I don’t see anything installation dependent in this file so it looks to me like you could use the ELF GUI Client to configure one installation and then copy LogForwarderSettings.cfg to all the other systems where you want the same behavior.

You can download SolarWinds Event Log Forwarder here

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Randy's Review of a Fast, Easy and Affordable SIEM and Log Management

Thu, 29 Jan 2015 17:46:06 GMT

One of the most frequent complaints I hear from you folks is “We need a SIEM but can’t afford the big enterprise solutions.”  And as a tech-heavy small business owner I truly understand the need for software that installs in minutes and doesn’t require a ton of planning, learning, design and professional services before you start getting results.

Well, I’ve installed SolarWinds Log and Event Manager (LEM) in my lab and I can say that it is all of the above and more.  There’s actually no install of software or provisioning of a server because it’s a prebuilt virtual appliance.  When you download and run the LEM install package it simply unpacks the OVA template.  You just open VMWare or Hyper-V, deploy a new VM from template and point it at the file from SolarWinds.  After it boots up for the first time all you have to do is point your web browser at its DHCP assigned address which you can see in VMWare or Hyper-V.  Answer a few configuration questions such as static IP address and you are up and running.  To start pulling events from your servers click on Ops Center and click on the green plus sign.  We’re talking minutes.

LEM has all the features you need and expect from a SIEM.  And it’s flexible; you can monitor server logs with or without agents and you can also accept SNMP traps and Syslog flows from devices and UNIX/Linux systems. 

LEM is affordable, too.  It starts at $4495 and monitors up to 30 servers.  That’s the total price – no server OS or databases to license much less manage.

Since there’s such a need for affordable SIEM and log management and so many of you in my webinar are still trying get by with free utilities I’ve partnered with SolarWinds to raise awareness about LEM.  Please download it and try it out.  Even if you don’t have a virtualization server, you can still run the virtual appliance with a free desktop virtualization program like VM Player.  

LEM is affordable but it’s not “cheap” software.  LEM is actually one of the few SEIMs out there that implements my #1 feature: normalization and categorization.  LEM understands what events actually mean from each of the many, many log sources it supports.  By that I mean that whether the event comes from Linux, Windows, Cisco or anything other source if it’s a logon event (for instance) it gets parse and categorized as such.  This is important because every log source out there logs the same kind of events but in a different format.  None of us have time to learn all the formats and arcana out there about each log source.  LEM’s normalization makes so many things not only possible but also effortless.  For instance “show me all failed logon events for Randy Smith across all my systems and devices regardless of log source and format”.  Voila!

So, please, take a look at LEM.  Download it here.  

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Auditing Privileged Operations and Mailbox Access in Office 365 Exchange Online
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Auditing File Shares with the Windows Security Log

Thu, 02 Jan 2014 15:22:25 GMT

This article was first published in EventTracker’s EventSource Newsletter:

Over the years, security admins have repeatedly ask me how to audit file shares in Windows.  Until Windows Server 2008, there were no specific events for file shares.  About the best we could do was enable auditing of the registry key where shares are defined.  But in Windows Server 2008 and later there are 2 new subcategories for share related events:

  • File Share

  • Detailed File Share

File Share Events

The good news is that this subcategory allows you to track the creation, modification and deletion of shared folders (see table below).  You have a different event ID for each of those 3 operations.  The events indicate who made the change in the Subject fields and provides the name of the share users see when browsing the network and the patch to the file system folder made available by the share.  See the example of event ID 5142 below.

A network share object was added.

  Security ID:  W8R2\wsmith
  Account Name:  wsmith
  Account Domain:  W8R2
  Logon ID:  0x475b7

Share Information:
  Share Name: 
  Share Path:  C:\AcmeAccounting

The bad news is the subcategory also produces event ID 5140 each and every time a user connects to a share.  The data logged, which includes who accessed it and their client IP address, is nice but the event is logged much too frequently.  Since Windows doesn’t keep network logon sessions active if no files are held open you will tend to see this event a lot if you enable “File Share” audit subcategory.  There is no way to configure Windows to produce just the share change events and not this access event as well.  Of course that’s the point of a log management solution like EventTracker which can be configured to filter out the noise. 


A network share object was accessed


A network share object was added.


A network share object was modified


A network share object was deleted.


Detailed File Share Events

Event ID 5140, as discussed above, is intended to document each connection to a network share and as such it does not log the names of the files accessed through that share connection.  The “Detailed File Share” audit subcategory provides this lower level of information with just one event ID – 5145 which is shown below.

A network share object was checked to see whether client can be granted desired access.

  Security ID:  SYSTEM
  Account Name:  WIN-KOSWZXC03L0$
  Account Domain:  W8R2
  Logon ID:  0x86d584

Network Information:
  Object Type:  File
  Source Address:  fe80::507a:5bf7:2a72:c046
  Source Port:  55490

Share Information:
  Share Name: 
  Share Path:  \??\C:\Windows\SYSVOL\sysvol
  Relative Target Name:\Policies\{6AC1786C-016F-11D2-945F-00C04fB984F9}\Machine\Microsoft\Windows NT\Audit\audit.csv

Access Request Information:
  Access Mask:  0x120089
  Accesses:  READ_CONTROL
     ReadData (or ListDirectory)

Access Check Results:
  READ_CONTROL: Granted by Ownership
     SYNCHRONIZE: Granted by D:(A;;0x1200a9;;;WD)
     ReadData (or ListDirectory): Granted by D:(A;;0x1200a9;;;WD)
     ReadEA: Granted by D:(A;;0x1200a9;;;WD)
     ReadAttributes: Granted by D:(A;;0x1200a9;;;WD)

This event tells identifies the user (Subject fields), the user’s IP address (Network Information), the share itself and the actual file accessed via the share (Share Information) and then provides the permissions requested and the results of the access request.  As you can see this event actually logs the access attempt and therefore you will see failure versions of the event as well as success events. 

But be careful about enabling this audit subcategory because you will get an event for each and every file accessed through network shares – every time the application opens the file.  That can be much more frequent than you’d imagine for some applications like Microsoft Office.  Conversely, remember that this category won’t catch access attempts on the same files if a locally executing application accesses the file via the local patch (e.g. c:\docs\file.txt) instead of via a patch. 

Instead you might want to consider enabling auditing on individual folders containing critical files and using the File System subcategory.  This method allows you to be much more selective about who, which files and what types of access are audited.

For most organizations I suggest enabling the File Share subcategory if it’s important to you to know when new folders are shared.  But you will probably want to filter out all those occurrences of 5140.  Then if you have file level audit needs, turn on the File Access subcategory, identify the exact folders containing the relevant files and then enable auditing on those folders for the specific operations (e.g. Read, Write, Delete) necessary to meet your audit requirements.  Don’t enable the Detailed File Share audit subcategory unless you really want events for every access to every file via network shares.

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Pay Attention to System Security Access Events

Tue, 19 Nov 2013 13:15:50 GMT

There are 5 different ways you can logon in Windows.  We call them logon types.  The Windows Security Log lists the logon type in event ID 4624 whenever you logon.  Logon type is what allows you to determine if the user logged on at the actual console, via remote desktop, via a network share or if the logon is connected to a service or scheduled task starting up.  The logon types are:



Allow right

Deny right


Interactive (logon at keyboard and screen of system)


Allow logon locally


Deny logon locally


Network (i.e. connection to shared folder on this computer from elsewhere on network)


Access this computer from the network


Deny access to this computer from the network


Batch (i.e. scheduled task)


Log on as a batch job


Deny logon as a batch job


Service (Service startup)


Log on as a service


Deny logon as a service


RemoteInteractive (Terminal Services, Remote Desktop or Remote Assistance)


Allow logon through Terminal Services


Deny logon through Terminal Services

 There are a few other logon types recorded by event ID 4624 for special cases like unlocking a locked session but these aren’t real logon session types. 

Knowing the session type in logon events is great but you can also control users’ ability to logon in each of these 5 ways.  A user account’s ability to logon is governed by 5 user rights found in group policy under Computer Configuration/Windows Settings/Security Setting/User Right Assignments.  There is an allow and deny right for each logon type. In order to logon in a given way you must have the corresponding allow right.  But the deny right for that same logon type takes precedence.  For instance, in order to logon at the local keyboard and screen of a computer you must have the "Allow logon locally" right.  But if the "Deny logon locally" right is also assigned to you or any group you belong to, you won’t be able to logon.  The table below lists each logon type and it’s corresponding allow and deny rights.

Logon rights are very powerful.  They are your first level of control – determining whether a user can access a given system at all.  After logging in of course their abilities are limited by object level permissions.  Since logon rights are so powerful it’s important to know if they are suddenly granted or revoked and you can do this with Windows Security Log events 4717 and 4718 which are logged whenever a given right is granted or revoked respectively.  To get these events you need to enable the Audit Authentication Policy Change audit subcategory.

Events 4717 and 4718 identify the logon right involved in the "Access Granted"/"Access Removed" field using a system name for the right as shown in corresponding column in the table above.  The events also specify the user or group who was granted or revoked from having the right in the "Account Modified" field.

Here’s an example of event ID 4717 where we granted the "Access this computer from the network" to the local Users group. 

System security access was granted to an account.
   Security ID:  SYSTEM
    Account Name:  WIN-R9H529RIO4Y$
    Account Domain:  WORKGROUP
    Logon ID:  0x3e7

Account Modified:
   Account Name:  BUILTIN\Users

Access Granted:
   Access Right:  SeNetworkLogonRight

There’s just one problem.  The events do not tell you who (which administrator) granted or revoked the right.  The reason is that user rights are controlled via group policy objects.  Administrators do not directly assign or revoke user rights on individual systems; even if you modify the Local Security Settings of a computer you are really just editing the local group policy object.  When Windows detects a change in group policy it applies the changes to the local configuration and that’s when 4717 and 4718 are logged.  At that point the user making the change directly is just the local operating system itself and that’s why you see SYSTEM listed as the Subject in the event above.

So how can you figure out who a granted or removed the right?  You need to be tracking group policy object changes is a topic I’ll cover in the future.

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Using Dynamic Audit Policy to Detect Unauthorized File Access

Tue, 15 Oct 2013 13:43:49 GMT

This article was first published in EventTracker’s EventSource Newsletter:

One thing I always wished you could do in Windows auditing was mandate that access to an object be audited if the user was NOT a member of a specified group.  Why?  Well sometimes you have data that you know a given group of people will be accessing and for that activity you have no need of an audit trail. 

Let’s just say you know that members of the Engineering group will be accessing your Transmogrifier project folder and you do NOT need an audit trail for when they do.  But this is very sensitive data and you DO need to know if anyone else looks at Transmogrifier. 

In the old days there was no way to configure Windows audit policy with that kind of negative Boolean or exclusive criteria.  With Windows 2008/7 and before you could only enable auditing based on if someone was in a group not the opposite.

Windows Server 2012 gives you a new way to control audit policy on files.  You can create a dynamic policies based on attributes of the file and user.  (By the way, you get the same new dynamic capabilities for permissions, too). 

Here’s a screen shot of audit policy for a file in Windows 7.

Now compare that to Windows Server 2012.

The same audit policy is defined but look at the “Add a condition” section.  This allows you to add further criteria that must be met before the audit policy takes effect.  Each time you click “Add a condition” Windows adds another criteria row where you can add Boolean expressions related to the User, the Resource (file) being accessed or the Device (computer) where the file is accessed.  In the screen shot below I’ve added a policy which accomplishes what we described at the beginning of the article.


So we start out by saying that Everyone is audited when they successfully read data in this file.  But then we limit that to users who do not belong to the Engineering group.  Pretty cool, but we are only scratching the surface.  You can add more conditions and you can join them by Boolean operators OR and AND.  You can even group expressions the way you would with parenthesis in programming code.  The example below shows all of these features so that the audit policy is effective if the user is either a member of certain group or department is Accounting and the file has been classified as relevant to GLBA or HIPAA compliance.

You’ll also notice that you can base auditing and access decision on much more that the user’s identity and group membership.  In the example above we are also referencing the department specified on the Organization tab of the user’s account in Active Directory.  But with dynamic access control we can choose any other attribute on AD user accounts by going to Dynamic Access Control in the Active Directory Administrative Center and selecting Claim Types as shown here.

You can create claim types for about any attribute of computer and user objects.  After creating a new claim type for a given attribute, it’s available in access control lists and audit policies of files and folders throughout the domain. 

But dynamic access control and audit policy doesn’t stop with sophisticated Boolean logic and leveraging user and computer attributes from AD.  You can now classify resources (folders and files) according to any number of properties you’d like.  Below is a list of the default Resource Properties that come out of the box.

Before you can begin using a given Resource Property in a dynamic access control list or audit policy you need to enable it and then add it to a Resource Property List which is shown here.

After that you are almost ready to define dynamic permissions and audit policies.  The last setup step is to identity file servers where you want to use classify files and folders with Resource Properties.  On those file servers you need to add the File Server Resource Manager subrole.  After that when you open the properties of a file or folder you’ll find a new tab called Classification.

Above you’ll notice that I’ve classified this folder as being related to the Transmogrifier project.  Be aware that you can define dynamic access control and audit policies without referencing Resource Properties or adding the File Server Resource Manager subrole; you’ll just be limited to Claim Types and the enhanced Boolean logic already discussed.

The only change to the file system access events Windows sends to the Security Log is the addition of a new Resource Attributes to event ID 4663 which I’ve highlighted below.

This field is potentially useful in SIEM solutions because it embeds in the audit trail a record of how the file was classified when it was accessed.  This would allow us to classify important folders all over our network as “ACME-CONFIDENTIAL” and then include that string in alerts and correlation rules in a SIEM like EventTracker to alert or escalate on events where the information being accessed has been classified as such.

The other big change to auditing and access control in Windows Server 2012 is Central Access Policies which allows you to define a single access control list or audit policy in AD and apply it to any set of computers.  That policy is now evaluated in addition to the local security descriptor on each object. 

While Microsoft and press are concentrating on the access control aspect of these new dynamic and central security features, I think the greatest immediate value may come from the audit policy side that we’ve just explored.  If you’d like to learn more about dynamic and central access control and audit policy check out the deep dive session I did with A.N. Ananth of EventTracker: File Access Auditing in Windows Server 2012. 


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New Technical Brief by Randy Franklin Smith

Mon, 14 Oct 2013 15:43:28 GMT

I have a new technical brief titled "Who, What, When, Where and Why: Tracking the 5 W's of Change in Active Directory, SharePoint, SQL Server, Exchange and VMware".

Your organization relies on you to prevent and detect tampering, unauthorized access or human error to your key enterprise technologies, including: Active Directory, SharePoint, SQL Server, Exchange and VMware.

In this brief, Windows security expert Randy Franklin Smith explores the 5 W's of auditing critical changes to your core technologies by discussing:

  • The types of activities that you can audit
  • How to enable auditing and where to find audit data
  • The hidden gaps, caveats and weaknesses of built-in auditing tools
  • How ChangeAuditor from Dell Software fills the gaps in auditing

You’ll come away with a better understanding of the limitations and capabilities of native auditing tools and why a third-party solution might be the best approach to protect your systems, data and your company’s productivity and bottom line.

Click here to read more.

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Audit Myth Busters: SharePoint, SQL Server, Exchange

Wed, 02 Oct 2013 08:44:19 GMT

Had many, many valuable conversations with colleagues in DC a couple weeks ago at HP Protect 2013 about auditing and monitoring SharePoint, SQL Server and Exchange.  This is a tough subject because there are so many details.  You can’t just answer "Are you currently monitoring SharePoint/SQL/Exchange: Yes/No?"

This is because each of those applications have multiple logs with widely ranging security value and content.  Also, there are some existing connectors from HP for these apps but their capabilities, caveats vary greatly - as well as exactly which logs and versions of SharePoint/SQL/Exchange they apply to.  Many folks are making decisions and/or belaboring under one or more misconceptions. 

In this post I'm going to try to quickly bust a few of those and myths and provide links to where you can get more details.  It’s kind of specific to ArcSight users but has value to anyone with a SIEM and Microsoft apps.

1. We are already monitoring SharePoint. 

OK, but what are you actually monitoring in SharePoint?  SharePoint has about 4 different logs.  Only one of them is the actual SharePoint Audit Log with security activity.  And that log is not available through normal log collection means.  Just recently HP released a SmartConnector for SharePoint.  But this SmartConnector simply uses JDBC to pull the raw audit log from the SharePoint DB.  Take a look at the raw audit log in SharePoint ( Getting the raw SharePoint audit log into ArcSight allows you to say you are collecting the SharePoint Audit log but try understanding and responding to the events.  Things like user 17 and role 42 are not translated, so you don’t know who or what you are dealing with.  Check here for more non-commercial information on the SharePoint audit log.  Learn how we solve the problem with LOGbinder SP here.

2. We are already monitoring Exchange.

Again, what are you actually getting from Exchange?  Exchange has 3 different logs that are valuable to security.  The message tracking log tracks message flow and is available through a connector for Exchange Message tracking.  While it’s incredibly voluminous, it does allow you to track all inbound and outbound emails, but it doesn’t track:

-          Non-owner access to other mailboxes

-          Mailbox copies and exports

-          Privileged user operations

-          Administrative changes

-          Security policy and configuration changes

For non-owner mailbox access auditing, you need the mailbox audit log.  As of Exchange 2010 that log is not a log file nor is it sent to the Windows event log.  Each mailbox has a hidden folder where it stores audit records for that mailbox.  There is a SmartConnector for the Exchange mailbox audit log and it is practical if you need to audit a handful of mailboxes and do not require full audit log integrity.  See my comparison here between that SmartConnector and LOGbinder EX. Check here for more non-commercial information on the mailbox audit log. 

The 3rd log in Exchange, admin audit log, is extremely important because it gives a full fidelity audit trail of all privileged user activity in Exchange including:

-          Exports and copies of mailboxes

-          Changes to security policies

-          and about 600 other operations

This log is also completely inaccessible to SIEMs because it’s stored in a hidden mailbox of all places in Exchange.  There is no connector at all, but we do handle it beautifully with LOGbinder EX.  Check here for more non-commercial information on the admin audit log. 

What about SQL Server auditing? 

SQL Server 2008 added a new and beautiful, true, honest-to-goodness audit capability.  It blows the old SQL Trace out of the water.  No comparison.  SQL Audit can send events directly to the Windows event log which you could then pick up with the WUC or Snare, etc.  But if your DB admin has anything to do with it you may run into trouble because of the performance load of both logging and retrieving those events through the heavy Windows event API.  Microsoft recommends using the other output option which is to a binary log file on some other server on the network.  This is the most efficient high speed low overhead method of getting audit events off of a busy production SQL Server.  If you need that option, LOGbinder SQL is there to help.  The other issue with collecting SQL audit events from the Windows event log is that SQL Server logs every possible operation (we’re talking 100s of them) as just one generic event ID with the same static text and fields.  Can you say cryptic?  We can help with that too.  More, non-commercial, information on SQL Server Audit here. 

Some other educational resources right here on 724 are: for Exchange and for SharePoint.

I hope this helps and feel free to reach out to me anytime…

Randy Franklin Smith

Security Log Nerd

Designer of LOGbinder

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Whitepaper: Comparing Exchange Server's™ 3 Audit Logs for Security and SIEM Integration

Fri, 16 Nov 2012 16:27:36 GMT

This whitepaper by Randy Franklin Smith, provides an overview of the 3 different audit logs in Exchange and discusses their relative merits in terms of security value and how to integrate with your SIEM.

Download it now here.

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SolarWinds Log & Event Manager Includes My Favorite Feature in a SIEM…

Fri, 29 Jun 2012 14:40:22 GMT

In conjunction with integrating SolarWinds Log and Event Manager (LEM) with my LOGbinder software I had an opportunity to get to know LEM and I thought I’d share some of the highlights of what I discovered.  Click here to download LEM now!

For me, the most important thing about a log management / SIEM tool is its analysis functionality.  How much built-in intelligence does it have about common event logs and how powerful are its capabilities for alerting you to important activity, reporting for compliance and adhoc research?  LEM employs my favorite SIEM feature for increasing maximizing analytical power – normalization. 

Architected for Normalization

With normalization, your SIEM vendor compiles schema of log source agnostic event types that are common to nearly any technology.  These event types include things like:

-          File operations

-          User account maintenance

-          Group membership changes

-          Configuration changes

-          Network traffic events

SolarWinds provides connectors for common log sources that understand how to translate raw events from a specific log source into their equivalent normalized event type.  For instance the screen print below shows a search based on Alert Type New Group Member (in LEM, alerts are any events of interest – that is not discarded). 

When you query for this Alert Type you will get any group membership additions from all monitored log sources.  In the example above you see a member added to a Windows local group as well as a new member added to a group in SharePoint.  That screen print really illustrates the power of normalization.  You no longer need to be an expert in every arcane log format produced within your organization.  (It’s hard enough to learn the Windows event log – much less all the other security logs found on a typical network.)

As raw events come into LEM, the appropriate connector compares the event to its alert criteria and discards unmatched events.  The remaining events are normalized into alerts.  This processing takes place in the local agent which increases efficiency since unimportant events are discarded at their source.  The normalized alerts are then fed to the central LEM manager over an encrypted connection which ensures security and audit integrity.

At the manager, alerts are processed according to the alert distribution policy.  Each alert may be dispatched to one or more of the following:

1.       Alert Correlation Engine

2.       Console for display in dashboard Widgets or in filter views

3.       Storage for future reports and analysis

Automated Response through Rules

The Event Correlation Engine is where Rules are processed.  Rules define automated responses to correlated alerts.  LEM makes it easy to define rules.  You essentially build a graphical flow chart of the rule by dragging and dropping conditions, actions and Boolean logic operators on to the rule canvas; no cryptic data entry here!

The automated responses you can select range from sending emails to your security analyst, to killing offending processes, updating a user defined list or creating an incident.  The latter 2 are particularly interesting. 

Incidents are a special kind of what I would call meta-alert in LEM.  You can define rules to trigger Incidents from any alert that should be followed up on and for which you need to document such follow up.  While LEM documentation suggests printing out a daily incident report and noting your follow up and signoff on the hardcopy, I think it would be more efficient to have the report emailed to a SharePoint document library.  In the document library you could add additional columns or workflows for documenting follow up and signoff.

User defined lists (called custom groups in LEM) allow you to compare alerts against any list of items you define.  For instance, you could create a list of privileged users and then define multiple rules that use that same list to identify activity where the actor or target is a privileged account.  Of course the disadvantage of such lists would be the burden of keeping them up to date.  That’s where the user defined list actions come in so handy.  You can automate the maintenance of user defined lists! 

For instance you could create a rule for new group member alerts where the group is Administrators, Domain Admins or Enterprise Admins.  Then set a response action that adds the new member’s name to a Privileged Accounts list and a rule to handle the opposite case where a user is removed.  Of course to handle nested groups you’d need to handle some additional logic but a couple additional rules for maintaining an Admin-Equivalent Groups list would do the job.

Interactive Analysis

The LEM console provides three levels of interactive analysis.  Starting on the Ops Center tab (see below) you have a pane of customizable dashboards called widgets. 

A Widget is a visualization (e.g. simple table or a pie/bar/line chart) combined with a filter that controls which alerts are represented in the Widget.  This makes it easy to define key security indicators and keep an at-a-glance eye on them.  You can drill down into a Widget which takes you to the next level of analysis – the Monitor tab (see below). 

The monitor tab allows you to select a filter which displays on the right, the alerts matching that filter.  Then when you select an alert, its details are displayed on the bottom pane.  When you enter the Monitor tab via a Widget drilldown back on the Ops Center tab, LEM automatically selects the same filter as the Widget you just came from making it easy to see the activity behind the Widget.

You can select any data value in the Alert’s details and select Explore which takes you to the 3rd level of analysis – the nDepth display on the Explore tab (see very first screen print).

nDepth is a really cool way to do adhoc analysis of security log activity.  At its root, nDepth is a search application that allows you to enter search terms in a single, Google-like search field.  And then of course the matching alerts are displayed in a list underneath.  However the capabilities go far beyond that simple description.

In addition to displaying matching events as a simple list, you can choose to visualize the data in a variety of chart formats, word clouds, tree maps and more.  Whenever you change your search criteria, LEM adds your old criteria to the History list.  Whenever you build a search you like and want to re-use you can save the search and it appears in the Saved Searches list.  This makes it easy and superfast to go back to recent searches or searches you knew you’d want to use again. 

nDepth provides a number of ways to make it easier to refine your search.  In the Refine Fields pane you see a list of all the field names found in the current result set.  Under each field name you find a list of all the values occurring for that field along with their count.  You can drag any of these field names or values to the search terms field and nDepth will automatically add a Boolean expression that further filters the results.

You can highlight DNS names and IP addresses and run lookups like Whois, traceroute, NSlookup.  Or you can on demand have any of the actions available to Rules described above to be executed on the manager or agent system. 

Wrapping Up

Beyond these three highly interactive and progressively deeper analysis tools, you can also schedule reports to be automatically produced and delivered via email.  LEM runs as a physical or virtual Linux appliance, the latter being easy to download and quickly set up to run in your hypervisor.  Being a Linux appliance makes it easy to setup the appliance as a separate isolated log management with access controls to prevent tampering by admins of the systems you are monitoring which is an important architectural consideration if you are depending on your SIEM to provide accountability over admins.  And though it’s a Linux system, you don’t really need to be a Linux guru because the appliance can be almost completely managed via the desktop console which runs on your workstation.

SolarWinds hosts an active user community called Thwack where you can exchange filter, report and rule content, request new features, keep up with new developments and get help from SolarWinds and community members.

SolarWinds Log and Event Manager is a capable SIEM software solution that incorporates my favorite SIEM feature – normalization.  The interface is highly visual with very few instances where you must enter cryptic text and codes.

You can download a trial of LEM from

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