What Activity Logging Is and Why You Need It

What Activity Logging Is and Why You Need It | CyberDot

With activity logging, you record the activities of every user that accesses your network or cloud. There are many uses for activity logging, from confirming that workers remain productive and focused on their tasks to mitigating cybersecurity threats. In the case of a security breach, you can go back and look at activity logs to see how the breach occurred and whether it appears to be intentional.

Alternatively, you can use activity logs to confirm that there are no security threats that could pose a potential problem in the future. If you do find a potential threat via the activity logs, you will be able to act quickly to prevent the cyber attack. To get the most from activity logging, ensure that you follow the best practices for this security technique.

What Activity Logs Can Tell You

To go into greater detail regarding the importance of activity logging, consider some specific questions that activity logging can answer. From a cybersecurity standpoint, you can use an activity log to discover who installed unauthorized software or which IP address downloaded a file. This will let you know who in your team may have intentionally or unintentionally allowed for a cybersecurity threat. Additionally, it can help you determine if the actions were intentional and if so, what the motives were. If you determine the actions were not intentional, having a log of activity leading up to a risk or incident can indicate what further training is necessary.

Activity logging will also help your company regarding issues unrelated to cybersecurity as well, providing additional benefits. You can use activity logging to ensure that your employees stay on task or seeing if they visit websites you do not want them accessing during work, such as social media. You can confirm whether employees completed actions they were supposed to do, such as reading information on a specific website. You could even take the activity logging a step further and gain insight into how employees are completing their tasks to see if there is a way to improve the efficiency of their actions.

Develop a Strategy

There is almost no point of logging the activity of yourself and your employees unless you have a plan in place. Figure out what activity you need to log and why that information is essential. Otherwise, you will end up logging everything and wasting a great deal of time and resources. Remember that if you have too much data in your log, you may never be able to find the information that you need. Because of this, you should set up priorities of what information is most crucial to log. The plan should always include the tools and methods for your logging and the data hosting locations in addition to the specific logging data you want to find.

Logs You Should Include

Although every small and medium-sized business is different, there are some areas that all companies should strongly consider logging the activity for. Keep in mind that you can log this activity to whatever extent you feel is ideal for your company, collecting as little or as much logging data as you wish. Start by including logs for firewalls and routers, as routers can maintain records of the packets that match your access control list. It would be best if you also kept logs of email gateways, as this lets you confirm who has sent a given email, preventing problems in the rare situation where someone sends a malicious email via another employee’s account. Do not also forget to include logs for shared workstations, proxy servers, and anything else that you feel is relevant.

Organize the Data

As with developing a strategy, keeping the data organized is crucial for finding the information you need when you need to access it. Come up with a plan to sort the logs, with formatting the logs playing a pivotal role in this. You want the structure logs in a way that is understandable and clear both for humans and for machines. This way, you can use an algorithm or code to organize the logs or look for threats automatically. When one is found, a human can take a closer look and easily understand what they are viewing. This will make it simpler to troubleshoot or to find the source of problems in the future.

Store the Data Securely

On a related note, ensure that you store your activity logs in a secure location. They will contain sensitive information that should not fall into the wrong hands, as this data would give cybercriminals an opening. Do not rely solely on password protection for access to the logs; instead, require two-factor authentication at a minimum and put other security measures in place. Ideally, you should have a backup of the activity log, so it is accessible even if something happens to your servers or location. This is essential, as otherwise, a cyber attacker can make it a point to wipe the activity logs and cover their tracks.

Include Alerts

Instead of just logging all of the activity that takes place on your network or servers, ensure that there are also alerts that will let you know of a potential problem. You will have to work with your IT team to determine what type of activity should trigger alerts. Consider setting up alerts for when a user manipulates data or accesses sensitive data. You can also set up alerts for any unusual activity.

Be clear about who will receive these alerts and what the response to them should be. Make sure that a human has the task of viewing the alerts and sorting through which ones represent a concern, although you can try to supplement this task with software.

The Bottom Line

With activity logging in place, your company will be better equipped to stop security threats in their tracks by discovering the warning signs. If a cyber attack occurs, you can use the activity logs to find out how the attack was able to get through your security systems and whether it came from an internal or external source. You will need to work with your IT team to determine your activity logging policies, balancing security with employee privacy.