Alarm Overload

While the title of the linked article is clearly link bait, the message is very important. We talk so much about logging everything that we forget that we actually need to pay attention to that stuff. It’s easy to check off the compliance box that says “centralized logging”, but it’s much harder to actually do something useful with that information.

This comes up almost every time I teach a class. If you’re never going to look at it, is it really worth spending all that time and money to build a logging system? You might as well just dump those logs to /dev/null and be done with it. At least that way you won’t look bad when the forensic results show that you missed 60,000 alarms.

Of course, the most prudent solution is a happy medium. Maybe that includes having your own SIEM and staffing it with trained people 24×7. It could be outsourcing the management and monitoring of the system. Regardless, there is a goldmine of valuable information in those logs and alerts, make sure someone is able and willing to take the appropriate action when needed.

“In the case of the BP Oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, it was discovered that an alarm to warn of explosive gas has been intentionally disabled. A crash on the Washington Metro system a year earlier, which killed nine people, happened partly because train dispatchers were overwhelmed by extraneous notifications. Similarly, much has been written about hospitals that are grappling with the massive quantities of alarms that are generated by a wide variety of sensors. Hospital alarms are crucial – they provide notifications of a patient’s condition but only a small percentage of such alarms are issued for new, clinically significant changes.”

via How the Target Breach and the Malaysian Flight MH370 Mystery are Related | The State of Security.

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