What is Syslog?

System logging protocol (Syslog) is a standardized message-logging protocol supported by numerous hardware devices, operating systems, and applications for transmitting data to a central server known as the Syslog server.

The log messages contain information about the status and operation of devices, as well as the occurrence of any errors or issues. Syslog simplifies log message management and helps in tracking the overall health of network devices. It is thus a crucial part of network management.

How Does Syslog Work?

In 2009, Syslog was formally documented into RFC 3164 and RFC 5424 by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). The elements involved in Syslog are:

Originator: The message that will be the Syslog content is generated here.

Collector: This is the server that is responsible for consuming the Syslog content to carry out further analysis. Through parsing, it breaks down the content into desired components.

Relay: It involves the transmission of forwarded messages from both originators and other relays to either the collector or to other relays in the network. To transmit messages from the workstation to the collector, the user datagram protocol (UDP) is used as a relay.

Transport Sender: The transport sender hands over the message to the defined transport protocol.

Transport Receiver: From the transport protocol, the messages are accepted here.

Message Attributes: The standard attributes that are involved in the Syslog message are timestamp, hostname, severity level, device ID, and source IP. They can also include system-specific event messages.

Benefits of Syslog

Some of the key benefits of Syslog are:

Enhanced Network Performance and Security

  • Syslog is a standardized and centralized system that simplifies log management for network devices.
  • It helps in the detection and prevention of security threats by alerting the administrators to suspicious log messages or unusual activity.
  • Syslog monitoring also involves the analysis of log messages for indicators of potential attacks.
  • It speeds up the log review process and the implementation of preventive troubleshooting.
  • By forwarding authentication events to the Syslog server on idle devices, it helps ensure that critical network-related data is stored securely. This helps prevent the attackers from deleting the breach information. Syslog monitoring thus removes the need to set up a separate monitoring agent.

Advanced Application Monitoring

Monitoring tools should be used to gain insights into how the application runs on the server. However, these give only limited insights like an increase in memory usage and high CPU utilization.

In contrast, having a Syslog server with logged events provides more detailed insights. This helps in identifying many other issues like attempts to access a locked file and errors arising due to the writing of a new database.

Improved Compliance

To ensure the integrity and security of networks and systems, regulatory bodies like HIPAA, SOX, and PCI DSS have specific requirements related to the collection, storage, and analysis of log messages.

Syslog monitoring involves the collection and storing of log messages from all devices on the network for later review. Thus, organizations can prove their compliance with these requirements by maintaining records of all network activity through Syslog monitoring.