Logs are the most critical part of your compliance with SOC security controls. Especially for those that require information on how it’s used and reviewed by employees within an organization, like monitoring, review procedures, etc., having a good Log Management process in place is critical to any organization. The Log Management and Review Policy document lays out how logs are monitored, used for review purposes by employees within an organization and what information they provide to the SOC auditor during a compliance audit.
What Are Audit Logs and What Should They Contain
Audit logs, also known as records of system activity, report who or what performed the operation and when it happened. To track changes in your business, you will need a tool that can provide this information for you.
The most common use of an audit log is to know what happened in the system, who made the change, and when. There are many different types of logs used for specific purposes. Still, they all try to achieve one goal: providing information about auditable events that happen on a computer or network resource. Most organizations use log analysis tools to know their system activity, whether it’s a simple server or an entire network.
Audit logs are used for compliance reporting and security investigations after some changes have been made in the systems. If you want to ensure that your organization complies with the privacy laws, then audit trails can help record what happened with any data and who accessed it.
You can use audit logs to track changes or access made by users. They should contain the following information:
– Date and time of action;
– The user ID;
– IP address (optional);
– Type of activity performed (e.g., create file/folder; delete file/folder; change permissions on a resource);
– Description of the activity;
– All relevant local data, such as filename and timestamp.
For How Long Should You Keep Audit Logs
The length of time you should keep the logs depends on your needs. If you only need to investigate cases that happened in a specific date range, then keeping all audit information for this period will be enough. If, however, you want to track changes over an extended period (e.g., years), it is necessary to create new sets of logs, keeping the old information in separate storage. In any case, it is crucial to store logs in an encrypted format.
As a general rule, your audit logs storage should include at least 90 days for the logs you can actively search and report on them. As for the log data you have backed up or archived for long-term storage, you should keep it for at least one year. If you are audited, your log data should be available for at least two years.
In addition to keeping the logs themselves, organizations should also keep a detailed description of all changes made (i.e., who changed what and when) so that they can easily access it if needed. This policy helps in identifying any suspicious activity on the organization’s systems.
Key Points to Consider When Developing a Log Management Policy
A log management policy is a great place to start for organizations concerned about governance and compliance. Every organization should develop one, even if they don’t plan on becoming an ISO 27001 or SOC compliant company soon. A comprehensive logging solution helps with security monitoring by ensuring that logs are stored properly and are easily accessible.
It’s essential to make sure that your logs are being stored and monitored so you can discover any issues promptly, whether it is for compliance or security purposes. Log management should be part of an organization’s cybersecurity strategy since it allows organizations to protect against incidents faster by acting on alerts within minutes.
First of all, the policy should also be as straightforward as possible. Also, you should define who has access to logs, which logs are monitored, and for what purposes. It includes specifying the time frame of retention (start date, end date). You can use this information as a reference point when reconstructing events that may have occurred in your network or system. It’s crucial to note that some organizations need to keep data for a more extended period of time. It is usually due to compliance reasons and can be really important in the event that your organization becomes involved in an investigation or legal matter. Additionally, it’s a good idea to ensure that no one has access to your logs unless they are authorized. If someone could gain unauthorized access, it would likely result in an adverse event for the organization and lead to a significant security breach.
Lastly, you should also consider what type of data is being generated — what kinds of log messages need to be collected? Is there sensitive information involved? How do you want this information to be managed, and who should have access to it? You can also determine what type of logs need to be collected by considering the size, volume, and performance requirements.
In addition to being viewed as a governance best practice for security onboarding with continuous monitoring practices, having a log management policy in place would ensure that your data is stored securely and can be accessed by authorized personnel only. It will help you keep track of any unusual activity on the network, which can then provide valuable insight into what events may have occurred over time — even if it were an incident or intrusion attempt. It also provides additional visibility into your network environment, which can help prevent unexpected security breaches.