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Why Rule-Based Log Correlation Is Almost a Good Idea (Part 8)

Get the most out of your static rule-based correlation solution

You bought a static rule-based correlation and you want to get the most out of it, or are you planning on getting and deploying one? There are some simple steps you can take to maximize its efficiency.

Ask Yourself If You Can Really Afford In-house Real-Time Incident Management
The main use case for correlation is real-time incident management, so you need a 24x7x365 team of forensics experts to validate and follow-up on alerts - in real time.

No need to have real-time correlation if you only have a 9-5 operation...

If an alarm goes on at 3.a.m., do you have the skilled staff to act on it? If the answer is no, can you afford such a team? If you can't afford a 24x7 staff of experts, ask yourself if correlation is really the most appropriate effort for you.

In other words, is this the best way for you to go about buying security? Are there better ways to spend your budget to improve your security posture? Did you go through a Risk Management process to define your priorities?

If 24x7x365 coverage is indeed a priority, and you can't consider the cost of a full-time round the clock staff, consider a managed service offering - more and more companies are offering such a service - which could make sense in your situation.

Reduce the number of scenarios
Select a few simple scenarios that represent the nightmare to avoid and focus on these.

These scenarios will depend on your business, your industry, your processes, your internal culture... so they will vary from customer to customer, and will likely revolve around some security traumas that you went through in the past.

You got in big trouble and spent countless hours/days recovering from an attack where the bad guy did xxx; chances are you'll be tempted to use correlation to be alerted if this happens again.

Add to these a very select sample of the vendor's scenarios - not all of them as performance will likely crawl to a halt - and make sure you are comfortable managing these.

Put in place a process to periodically review the number of scenario, and throttle up or down depending on the bandwidth of your team in place.

Don't Go for Too Many Correlation Rules
Understand the tradeoff:

  • The more fine grained the correlation rules, the closer you can get to reality, but the more expensive the operational cost of defining and constantly refining these rules
  • The fewer coarse correlation rules, the lower the cost of managing this set of rules, but the more false positives (it rings when it shouldn't) and/or the false negatives (it doesn't catch the attack)

The temptation is to have lots and lots of rules, and this is fueled in part by those who play the numbers game. After all, it's already the case with anti-virus solutions, right? The more rules, the better the solution? Not always...

Keep in mind that even vendor-supplied rules are not bullet-proof. It's misleading to rely on 100s or even 1000s of "default out-of-the-box, plug and play, just switch it on and forget because it just works as-is and we know better than you what you need" rules; most of these will not apply to your environment and/or will need to be rethought and fine-tuned.

On the other hand, consider having fewer rules and being ready to validate more false positives by optimizing your false positive validation process.

More on this this next time.

More Stories By Gorka Sadowski

Gorka is a natural born entrepreneur with a deep understanding of Technology, IT Security and how these create value in the Marketplace. He is today offering innovative European startups the opportunity to benefit from the Silicon Valley ecosystem accelerators. Gorka spent the last 20 years initiating, building and growing businesses that provide technology solutions to the Industry. From General Manager Spain, Italy and Portugal for LogLogic, defining Next Generation Log Management and Security Forensics, to Director Unisys France, bringing Cloud Security service offerings to the market, from Director of Emerging Technologies at NetScreen, defining Next Generation Firewall, to Director of Performance Engineering at INS, removing WAN and Internet bottlenecks, Gorka has always been involved in innovative Technology and IT Security solutions, creating successful Business Units within established Groups and helping launch breakthrough startups such as KOLA Kids OnLine America, a social network for safe computing for children, SourceFire, a leading network security solution provider, or Ibixis, a boutique European business accelerator.

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