Sunday, June 27, 2010

ADMIN Magazine article: Splendid Splunk




Approximately twice a year I write for Linux Magazine; I've covered nUbuntu, Adeona, and Security Visualization in previous articles.
When the editor asked me to participate in a system administration special edition I was intrigued as the edition was to be OS agnostic and include Linux, Windows, OpenSolaris, and others.
I didn't have to think for more than a minute to come up with a good security topic for system administrators.
Any of you readers work in hybrid operating environments where you're inevitably challenged to unify event monitoring and correlation with disparate systems?
I for one can answer that question in teh affirmative and am always seeking ways to answer that challenge.
Merging security and operational mindsets is essential when unifying events in hybrid environments and I have found Splunk to be incredibly useful as part of the effort.
Note: I wrote this article with no influence or feedback from Splunk (they'll learn of it here too) to avoid bias.
Splendid Splunk: Unifying Events with Splunk is the result of much testing and research to prove out methodology I've only implemented in part prior.
For security events, when an enterprise may not have budget for SEM/SIEM, the likes of Splunk fills the gap admirably. Yes, it's a commercial tool, but one can do a great deal with the community version to confirm my findings.

An excerpt:

Systems administrators, security engineers, and analysts share a common challenge in typical enterprise environments. Rare is the data center in which only one operating system is in use, or only one version of the same operating system. Monitoring and managing system events and security events across such hybrid environments is no small feat...choices need to be made when unifying events in a hybrid environment. For example, perhaps you have more of one operating system flavor than another in your environment. Or, perhaps you prefer one operating system over another.
No matter what your system counts, preferences, or comfort zones, Splunk can serve you well...to monitor your systems you can choose to use various channels in concert or exclusively:
• Both host types can also run Splunk as a light-forwarding agent.
• Windows and *nix hosts can also be monitored with Snare agents.
• Windows and *nix hosts can be monitored with OSSEC agents.
• Network devices can send syslog output directly to the Splunk server.
Depending on granularity, performance, and primary business driver, you can opt for some or all of the above. Personally, I tend to favor a combination of the Splunk light-forwarding method in concert with OSSEC agents, and syslog for network devices...


I cover methodology, installation, forwarding, Snare, OSSEC, searches dashboards, and alerting.
While there's a book's worth of Splunk use to write about, the article is intended to help you get a good running start.

ADMIN Magazine is available via subscription (quarterly with DVDs), single issue purchases online, or at magazine stands in the likes Barnes and Noble.

If the article is ever posted to the web by the publisher I'll update this post and let you know.
That said, the publication is well worth the coin as it covers network security, system management, troubleshooting, performance tuning, virtualization, and cloud computing.
Happy reading; let me know if you have questions.

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