NetCerebral’s Simple Log Storage Calculator

The following form assumes you have done the preliminary math of determining your number of devices and the total anticipated Events Per Second (EPS) you will be collecting from all of your logging devices. The calculator uses EPS to determine the Events Per Day (EPD), amount of raw and normalized log data you will generate daily and then use retention and compression values you set to determine the required amount of storage as well as IOPs required.

Stay tuned and I will be building another calculator that will allow you to specify number of devices by device type, which will give you your estimated EPS (needed as a starting point for this calculator).


Guessing Game – Planning & Sizing SIEM Based on EPS

Many of the competing log management and SIEM tools on the market these days use some variation 0f the Events Per Second (EPS) metric to determine the licensing, sizing and storage requirements for scalable solution. Unfortunately, none of the devices that are to be monitored have a specification associated with the amount of logging which will be generated per second (or volume for day, for that matter!) by the device. Moreover, many of the same device type from the same vendor will generate varying amounts of log volume daily and it’s more of an art than a science when determining what the total volume all of the corporate devices will generate daily.

Determining EPS isn’t a problem for existing log management or SIEM customers looking to upgrade to a new solution as they can generate reports from the old log management/SIEM tool and provide a break-down of device type and the daily volumes generated by each device category. However, prospects looking for a proposal for a net-new solution are plagued with the following tasks to properly design a log management or SIEM solution:

  • Complete inventory of all assets they plan on monitoring
  • Determining average, sustained event rates expressed as an EPS metric
  • Understanding how logging levels impact the volume of logs that are generated
  • Retention periods, storage options, use cases, regulatory requirements, ad infinitum

Fortunately, once you have a device count and can determine the EPS generated on average by each of the different device categories you need to monitor, the math is easy to determine the licensing, storage, system performance and archiving needs. My post “Basic Log Storage Calculations” can assist in the sizing, as this post is geared more towards guessing the EPS averages for each device types.

In my roles as a presales SE that sold log management and SIEM we often were asked by prospects for budgetary quotes, proposals and architecture with little to no empirical data. In most cases the best we could get out of the prospect is an itemized inventory of the number and types of systems they would like to monitor. Without an understanding of the log volumes generated by devices, unique to every customer’s environment, we had to come up with a system of determining the EPS for the different device classes and using this as a starting point for calculating daily storage (EPS * Event_Size * 84600 / Compression Ratio).

The list below is an example of lessons learned in the field from actual customer environments and a document provided by SANS (sponsored by NitroSecurity – now McAfee) called “Benchmarking Security Information Event Management (SIEM)” (found at With the information we collected we devised a list, which is a cross-section of averages per event source.

I hope you find this helpful:

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Basic Log Storage Calculations

Determining the sizes of log management systems requires knowledge of the number of devices being monitored and the anticipated event rates for each class of system. In many customer engagements, Professional Services time may be required to measure the event rate calculations from all of the monitored devices. This is important since there are too many variables to predict the average or peak Events Per Day (EPS) of any given system. I would caution any customer that if the vendor they are working with gives them “magic” calculations and pricing without gathering the necessary information regarding customer-specific speeds and feeds, they can expect to spend a lot more money later once the vendor gets their foot in the door. Basically, poor planning will result in unavoidable OP/EX costs later.

EPS is one metric used by many log management and SIEM vendors to determine such factors as licensing, storage and peak system loads. Another variable used could be Events Per Day (EPD), especially when it relates to storage sizing and license enforcement. This is why it’s imperative that accurate device counts and product types are audited when planning a centralized log management or SIEM solution.

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Website Defacement – A Personal Account



My Website 12/12/12

It’s been a while since I had to put my SANS Incident Handling hat on or did root-cause analysis and Network Forensics on an actual attack this close to home. December 13th, 2011 marks the day that 144 websites mapped to the same IP address hosted by HostPapa were injected with a number of files that replaced their home pages with that of some script kiddy’s – website defacement on a large scale. Admittedly, was one of the 144, as were two others, that I manage part-time.


The attacks appeared to originate from Kuwait (inconclusive) and when I traced the names of the attackers, their email addresses and the “Muslim Hackers” they were sending “GR33T5” to, it became evident that this was “bragging rights” under the shroud of “hactivism”. In fact, the hackers went as far as to list all 144 websites hacked at the same HostPapa IP address on, a pubic attribution of website defacements where hackers brag and place “mirrors” of the website defacements as proof of their misconduct.

The hackers jointly go by the alias of “7rb-team” and, according to, have successfully defaced 3,414 homepages since December 2nd, 2011 (and are currently still active with almost 100 defacements daily, in January 2012 alone).


Since HostPapa has not provided the access logs for the date of the attack (they had been requested but HostPapa doesn’t keep archives) we are left to assume the attack vector that was used to inject the PHP code into the websites. I have narrowed it down to either a SQL Injection or PHP URL Inclusion. The sites all had “wp__” ID tags on the WP core, no .htaccess files, out-dated WP PHP plugins and a number of other vulnerabilities, inherent to WP (themes are another possibility). I suspect the attackers used recon scanning to detect the open vulnerabilities on the site and then compromised the vulnerability to write files to the root of the virtual directory.

Once the PHP shell was injected, they connected remotely and ran the Syrian Shell which automated the creation of all “index.htm” files and downloaded all of the other artifacts that I found on the site.

Clean Up

The service provider  detected the mass infection across the customer’s sites a day after the attacks and shut-down the sites. They opened a ticket and notified one of the billing contacts that the site had been shutdown and instructed us to backup the site so they could wipe it away and we could then manually restore the site. Fortunately, I had backups that I had done months prior to the attack but some of the newer posts were missing. The other issue is that, while I had backups of the site directories and MySQL for each, the attackers had injected files to the home root directory that needed to be cleaned up as well (directories such as /cgi-bin, /cpanel, etc were all infected).

I eventually decided to backup the entire site with all three domains, download and unzip them on my local PC, where I had Apache, PHP and MySQL running in a VM sandbox. I went through the painstaking task of removing 50+ occurrences of “index.htm” (the defacement page) and 5 instances of PHP shell kit code that had been injected in the root of the parent website. Next, I dropped all of the tables in two of the databases (the third site doesn’t use a DB) and restored from backup in MyPHPAdmin. Once the sites were functioning the way I wanted, I upgraded the WP core, updated all plugins and then installed WDS Security plugin, which found additional vulnerabilities, which I cleaned up on both sites.

The Evil Script

One other advantage of having the VM sandbox is that after I made a backup and export of the sanitized site, I reverted the VM snapshot back to when the site was infected and played around with the Syrian Shell (not recommended in a prod environment!) and could replicate what the attackers did once they had the PHP file uploaded to the site.

When you open up the code in an editor the first line of the code reads:

# syrian shell is a php evil script , please use it against Israel Only

Apparently the attackers didn’t read this line and showed no discrimination about who their targets were going to be.

The malicious script also comes with a GNU Public License disclaimer with more preamble about attacking Israel and then proceeds to allow the attacker to configure their own password for the shell.

The script then immediately starts to list privileged functions such as:

  • Get Real IP Address
  • Open Base Directory
  • Base64 Encode/Decode
  • Safe Mode (Read-Only)
  • Search and Count a File Name (such as index.html)
  • Suicide (aborts and deletes shell)
  • CMD Shell (Win/Linux)
  • Index Changer (supports multiple CMS tools)
  • Get Passwords (reads /etc/passwd, domainalias and shadow files)
  • System Info (runs netstat, arp, routes, ls, etc)
  • MD5 Password Hashing
  • Database Tools (Oracle, MS SQL, MySQL and PostGRES


To be fully convinced that I was no longer at risk, I upgraded to the latest WP v3.3.1 on all sites, updated all plugins, disabled any that weren’t in use, created .htpasswd and .htaccess files and installed the IP Filter plugin to block a list of bad IP addresses and installed WDS Security on all sites (and corrected an y issues detected by WDS). I have since started to automate backups of the MySQL database and WP files so next time I get  hacked, I can simply drop all the tables in the DB and restore from a backup.

I have definitely learned a valuable lesson in how vulnerable PHP/WP is and will stay on top of the site with updates, etc.


RFP = Really Fast Paperwork

paperworkNow I am in a management role that balances “individual contributor” with a healthy portion of “resource leadership” I have a better understanding of the impact sales has on the SE organization.

While we may have a great library of RFP responses, every new RFP has those challenging questions that will require creative writing. They’re always scenarios that no vendor (including the competitor) can address because prospects are looking to combine functionality from multiple security projects and have the SIEM tool save them budget or provide a “Swiss Army Knife” solution. These sorts of questions require clarification, advanced technical writing skills and consume hours while you ponder the final response.

An average RFP will be between 100-200 questions in length and take each resource approximately 20 minutes per question to research, cut and paste the answer, embellish, format and correct grammar before moving to the next question. With that in mind, it’s no wonder why a 100 question RFP would take an SE 30-40 hours to complete, much to the sales reps chagrin. Final formatting, cover letters and waiting for 5-10% of responses that have been farmed out to engineering, marketing or sales teams to complete, usually adds another 16-20 hours, thus totalling more than a week’s worth of work for the SE.

Now, if you don’t have an in-house, dedicated RFP response team, extensive knowledgebase or boilerplates, and you have limited SE resources that are busy with customer meetings, demos or POCs, now you have to increase the response time given that the SEs will only have time in the evenings to work on the RFP.

Having written RFPs in the past, I know it takes months to put together the requirements and agree on what product features you seek from vendors and then do your homework so you know what vendors to include in the response – yet the response deadline is usually between 7 to 15 days.

To streamline and provide appropriate resource coverage here are some things we tend to do:

  • Assess the product fit and decline to respond if the RFP is clearly influenced with competitor differentiators
  • Immediately ask for an extension (sometimes this is best done by the SE manager – never say you are too busy!)
  • If working with a channel partner, ask them to assist in the responses (provide them with boiler-plates, past RFP responses)
  • Evaluate the schedules of your SE team and determine who has the most cycles to contribute to the bulk of the work
  • Consistently update a central repository of RFP knowledge with any unique questions discovered during an RFP
  • Build response templates and distribute to the SE team immediately
  • Get the Sales Rep involved during the RFP event, providing cover letters, company background, perhaps some of the easy technical questions
  • Farm out a portion of the RFP to other SE organizations outside of your region
  • Seek out internal project management teams that may be dedicated to RFP responses – they may be able to answer the easy questions, manage formatting, printing, binding and can manage the resource deadlines
  • Establish and maintain relationships with some of the prospect’s technical owners, getting them to assist in wording, proposals or additional clarification questions after the question deadline (this is a gamble)
There are probably many other strategies for the response but one key area of focus with prospects is to try and position your solution as “sole-source”, meaning you have a set of features that no other competitor can match and this could lead to avoiding the RFP all together and move straight to the demo or evaluation of your solution, thus increasing your chances of winning.
Good luck and happy selling.



Log Management Planning Calculator

I was using the cloud service by EditGrid but they went offline – Use the three calculators I built below instead


Select the “click to edit” button at the top of the spreadsheet to start entering data. Select the drop-down button in the top left corner for features such as full-screen, download as excel and info related to EditGrid.

To use, just enter total quantity of each device type into the “Device Quantity” column. The “Per Device EPS” column provides industry averages for the event per second (eps) rate from each device type and you can change the values with your own. Next, modify the values next to the text highlighted in red under the “Event Capacity Planning” section to finish your planning.

You may want to do this separately for every remote site you plan on aggregating event for to model the bandwidth and storage planning. Continue reading


Who’s In Your Cloud?

Wikipedia cites:

Cloud Computing describes systems that provide computation, software, and data access services without requiring end-user knowledge of or dependence on the system’s physical location and configuration

As an example, take an online vacation reservation system that may be a hosted cloud model such as Software as a Service (SaaS), in which your business would host an application that consists of a web front-end, database, storage and billing services.

While the cloud provider provides an Application Programming Interface (API) and access to the various components through traditional interfaces such as SSH, FTP or SOAP, there is limited access to the underlying systems as they are usually multi-tenancy in which multiple customers share their applications on the same system. This creates challenges for monitoring and controlling the security controls governing your application.

Cloud providers will provide SLAs and frequent security reports but there is no visibility into who is administering the systems hosting your application or what vulnerabilities may be present that will allow attackers to successfully compromise the systems using SQL injection or Cross-site scripting attacks.

Cloud providers will usually allow you to conduct third-party web application penetration testing against your own URL but will not allow you to monitor their servers nor will they send you events from their network security devices (IDS/IPS, firewalls, etc), which would allow real-time correlation and threat mitigation. Essentially, you lose control of your sensitive data and who may be accessing the systems in adherence to your security policies.

With the rise of Botnets, Scareware, Phishing, Brand theft, social network vulnerabilities and many other forms of evolving malware, Cloud Computing companies that will be most successful will be those that offer security monitoring services with logical segregation that uses context regarding your business, such as:

  • Real-time threat feeds
  • Lists of nefarious IP addresses
  • Countries of concern
  • Export control
  • Software vulnerabilities
  • Geo-spatial disparity
  • Customer activity profiling
  • Privileged user accountability
  • Perimeter threat baselining
  • Terminated employee monitoring

With this context information correlated with real-time events gathered from all of the control points between the cloud components, customers could receive real-time alerts from the cloud and would access a GUI to drill-down and conduct post-analysis of threats and then create their own dashboards or reports regarding attackers, application issues and administration accountability.

This model would alleviate the loss of visibility by placing applications into the cloud and ensure your auditors have access to the security and compliance data they need during an assessment.


CyberCrime Investigator: Forensic Use of SIEM Tools

Wikipedia states that Network Forensics is “…proven techniques to collect, fuse, identify, examine, correlate, analyze, and document digital evidence from multiple, actively processing and transmitting digital sources for the purpose of uncovering facts related to the planned intent, or measured success of unauthorized activities meant to disrupt, corrupt, and or compromise system components as well as providing information to assist in response to or recovery from these activities…”

This business case requires a number of different tools, the most important of which is an enterprise-class Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tool, which becomes the epicenter of all investigations and workflow. The SIEM must have some mandatory  features which I will cover later in this article. But first, I would like to tell you how it’s done without SIEM.

In a previous job as a Network Security Specialist,  I was in charge of tapping the wire for employee investigations and handling the data with chain-of-custody. This served as a daunting task as I would start my data captures with Open-Source software and use the spread-sheet kung-fu method of mapping all of the user activity and log data into digitally-signed archives, pending possible litigation. I established all of the guidelines and processes with support from our Legal and Corporate Fraud teams and built the procedures around the following processes:

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Some Generic SIEM Requirements to Ponder

Being tasked with selecting a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tool for your organization can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve been there and chosen poorly (in my last life)! The questions you need to ask the SIEM vendor you are buying from are limitless as every customer’s needs are different and the business drivers range from “check-box” compliance to actual enterprise incident handling and response.

Numerous customers have approached me with what they thought were straight Log Management (LM) requirements, since they have only ever had the luxury of manual log review using the “Grep”, “Awk”, “Sed” approach or “spreadsheet Kung Fu”, while others have the budget and want to “boil the oceans”. There are hurdles with both approaches, while the former may be the way to “grow” into a mature concept such as a SIEM tool and the latter will never be outgrown.

In fact, before you can perform real-time analysis on all of the logs to detect threats as they occur, you need to capture all of the event data from the plethora of heterogenous event sources and store the logs in a centralized location. Therefore, I believe log management is an essential part of SIEM because, with the right tool, 100% of your logs are readily available with automated archiving and retention. Additionally, since you have mandated all of the logs from the various technologies to be sent to your central facility, the teams that manage the devices will need an easy-to-use tool that will allow them to do their day-to-day tasks such as troubleshooting network issues, application development debugging, long-term investigations and possibly the last six months of an employees activity for HR or litigation purposes.

Regardless, you should have a strong command of what it is you need SIEM for and use vehicles such as Request For Information (RFI) or Request For Proposal (RFP) to rate each vendor on the top mandatory requirements vs. the “nice-to-have’s”. For this purpose, I have compiled a list of questions that you may determine to be useful when creating your vendor ratings criteria. Here are what I believe to be essential 70+ requirements for the ultimate SIEM and Log Management tool:

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Essential Tools Every SE Needs

I have only been doing the SE gig for three years now and I have learned a lot from my own mistakes or from other SEs I work with. Here’s a compilation of things that I regard as being the “trade-craft” for Sales Engineers:

Laptop: Your company will probably outfit you with your own laptopwith enough juice to run a VMWare demo and PowerPoint slide deck simultaneously, while projecting your desktop onto a presentation screen. Make sure you do the regular maintenance so your system will keep up with the demands. There’s nothing more frustrating than being in the middle of a 3 hour demo and your system freezes for no reason and you have to reboot, thus delaying the demo and creating a 10 minute window when the customer loses interest in what you are presenting. Additionally, if your company allows you to claim business related expenses, drop the cash on a solid-state drive for your demo VMs and install the maximum amount of RAM your laptop can handle.

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