In 2004, when I was starting a new job at the National Institute on Aging's Intramural Research Program I began evaluating products to meet FISMA requirements for file integrity monitoring. We already purchased a copy of Tripwire, but I was being driven mad by the volume of alerting from the system. I wanted something open source. I wanted something that would save me time, rather than waste 2 hours a day clicking through a GUI confirming file changes caused by system updates and daily operations.

At the time, I found two projects: Samhain and OSSEC-HIDS. Samhain is a great project that does one thing and does that one thing very well. However, I was buried in a mountain of FISMA compliance requirements and OSSEC offered more than file integrity monitoring; OSSEC offered a framework for distributed analysis of logs, file changes, and other anomalous events in the same open source project.

I now work at and manage one of the world's largest distributions of OSSEC-HIDS. My team and I are active contributors to the OSSEC Community. After nearly a decade of experience deploying, managing, and extracting value from OSSEC, I was approached to write a book introducing new users to OSSEC. After 6 months of work, the book has been published!

Instant OSSEC Host-based Intrusion Detection

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We use ElasticSearch at my job for web front-end searches. Performance is critical, and for our purposes, the data is mostly static. We update the search indexes daily, but have no problems running on old indexes for weeks. The majority of the traffic to this cluster is search; it is a "read heavy" cluster. We had some performance hiccups at the beginning, but we worked closely with Shay Bannon of ElasticSearch to eliminate those problems. Now our front end clusters are very reliable, resilient, and fast.

I am now working to implement a centralized logging infrastructure that meets compliance requirements, but is also useful. The goal of the logging infrastructure is to emulate as much of the Splunk functionality as possible. My previous write-up on logging explains why we decided against Splunk.

After evaluating a number of options, I've decided to utilize ElasticSearch as the storage back-end for that system. This type of cluster is very different from the cluster we've implemented for heavy search loads.


A Russian translation of this post provided by EveryCloud.
A Chinese translation of this post provided by FangPeishi.
A Ukrainian translation of this post provided by Open Source Initiative.

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If you haven't looked at OSSEC HIDS, here's the overview:

OSSEC is a scalable, multi-platform, open source Host-based Intrusion Detection System (HIDS). It has a powerful correlation and analysis engine, integrating log analysis, file integrity checking, Windows registry monitoring, centralized policy enforcement, rootkit detection, real-time alerting and active response.

It runs on most operating systems, including Linux, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, MacOS, Solaris and Windows.

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I do most of my work over SSH. Even when I'm working in my browser or pgAdminIII, I'm usually doing that over SSH tunnels. VPN Software has been around for quite some time and it's still mostly disappointing and usually run by the least competent group in any IT department. I developed a workflow using SSH from my laptop, either on the corporate network or at home, I can ssh /directly/ to the server I'm interested in working on.

In order to accomplish this, I have made some compromises. First off, if I'm SSH-ing from my home, I am /required/ to type the fully qualified domain names (FQDN) when workign remotely. I use the presence of the domain name to activate the proper leap frogging. I also decided to use ControlMaster's with SSH that can leave me with a terminal without a prompt when I forget which shell is my master. Overall, the pros outweigh the cons and I'm more productive because of it.

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First things first. I've stated that you should drop everything and install Graphite. If you didn't already, please do that now. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Good? Good. I don't frequently insist on anything like I do with Graphite. There's a lot of reasons for that. If you don't believe me, please see @obfuscurity's awesome Graphite series on his blog.

When you get back we'll talk about how to monitor ElasticSearch with Graphite for fun and profit!

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The reaction to my Central Logging post has been significantly greater and more positive than I could've expected, so I wanted to recap some of the conversation that came out of this. I am pleasantly surprised by most of the comments on the Hacker News Thread. So, here's a real quick recap of the responses I've received. I will continue this series this weekend with more technical details.

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I have worn many hats over the past few years: System Administrator, PostgreSQL and MySQL DBA, Perl Programmer, PHP Programmer, Network Administrator, and Security Engineer/Officer. The common thread is having the data I need available, searchable, and visible.

So what data am I talking about? Honestly, everything. System logs, application logs, events, system performance data, and network traffic data are key requirements to making any tough infrastructure decision, if not key to the trivial infrastructure and implementation decisions we have to make everyday.

I'm in the midst of implementing a comprehensive solution, and this post is a brain dump and road map for how I went about it, and why.

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It's true isn't it? In the name of serving pages faster, strip out unnecessary CPU cycles from rendering the underlying HTML. How often do you actually post to your blog anyways? That's what I thought.

This post is brought to you by HiD which is a Perl version of the Jekyll Dynamic to Static content management system.

I married a Statistician, so this article sums the lectures I receive on a daily basis. Risk Management is statistical analysis, and I'm not sure how many folks in IT Security have Graduate level Stat exposure. So, the understanding of our statistical shortcomings is key. You need to read that entire article, twice. This statement struck me, as I've noticed a scary trend in IT Security:

"People who know a little bit of statistics - enough to use statistical techniques, not enough to understand why or how they work - often end up horribly misusing them. Statistical tests are complicated mathematical techniques, and to work, they tend to make numerous assumptions. The problem is that if those assumptions are not valid, most statistical tests do not cleanly fail and produce obviously false results."

As we outsource more security, and buy more products, we must be careful, as this statement is also true:

"People who know a little bit of IT Security - enough to use an IDS or SIEM, not enough to understand why or how they work - often end up horribly misusing them. Security tools use complicated technical techniques, and to work, they tend to make numerous assumptions. The problem is that if those assumptions are not valid, most security tools do not cleanly fail and produce obviously false results."

My wife's constant guidance in Statistics has been invaluable to my evaluations of IT Security Policy and Implementation. When I came across this article thanks to @alexhutton, I had to share it!

For several years I've managed to bend cfEngine 2.0's architecture to my will. Being an experienced Perl programmer, I was able to abuse the configuration language snytax in order to accomplish a number of strange things including copy back and automated management of OSSEC-HIDS. However, there comes a point when the managing the cfengine configs becomes a burdensome and incredibly unmanageable. I mean, sure, I know what they do. How will any of my co-workers understand them? After several colleagues recommending Puppet, I hesitantly began the slow, brain fscking process of:

  1. Understanding exactly what I had accomplished with cfEngine.
  2. Understanding Ruby (ugh, I'm so thankful for Perl)
  3. Understanding how to express my cfengine feelings in a way Puppet will understand without hurting it's feelings
  4. ...
  5. Profit.

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