Logging for Application Security

Learning objectives
  • Understand how logging helps build and maintain secure applications

Over the years, the rate of data breaches and failures in application security has been steadily rising. In 2021 alone, there have already been over 50 major data breaches. Even companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have had breaches this year, affecting hundreds of millions of users. Because of these breaches, application security is more important than ever. And, companies are thinking about security earlier in the development cycle.

Today, many developers who work in teams with a DevOps culture are responsible for writing code that’s secure by design and shipping it faster than ever before. To accomplish this, it’s essential that we have tools and processes in place that allow us to test our applications, identify issues, and remediate them quickly.

Logging is one of the best tools for embedding security into our applications early in the development cycle. We can use logs to easily debug apps during development, which produces more resilient and secure applications. We can also use logging to enhance our monitoring, enabling quicker and easier troubleshooting and reducing the amount of time a vulnerability is live. 

Let’s look at how logging helps us build and maintain secure applications.

A Quick Look at Logging and Log Management

Logging is a system within an application that automatically records a history of events and errors in our app in a file or database. It also provides information such as records of server resource use, user activity, and authentication requests.

Logs are essential to any development cycle for several reasons, one of which is helping us ensure that our applications meet security regulations. However, logs may be within applications running in different locations, making them hard to access, and can be thousands of lines of text long, making them hard to make sense of. Log management tools are essential because they help us access the information we want from our logs. For example, log management tools can aggregate and centralize an application's logs so that we can search or reference them on the fly.

Log management solutions will be a big part of future application development because they enable teams to build secure apps more efficiently. More efficiency means we will have the time to integrate more security measures into our development cycles.

A World Without Logs

To better see how logging can help us develop secure applications, let’s contrast an average security pipeline without logging or a log management solution to a logged pipeline managed with a top-notch log management application. 

Let’s imagine that we are a team of developers working on active updates to our applications. We push each of these updates into production. Then we send them to an ITOps, SRE, or security team to ensure there aren’t any vulnerabilities. Even if these teams are very efficient, any vulnerability we pushed into production in these updates may be live for several hours — sometimes even days or weeks.

The amount of time that any vulnerability is live is directly proportional to its cost in money, brand reputation, and customer trust. Using our logs to test our applications before committing them to production, we can catch many of these vulnerabilities before risking these costs. Moreover, if we fix them ourselves, we save the time that other team members would spend identifying these vulnerabilities. 

Logging and efficient log management can increase cohesion between Dev, Ops, and AppSec teams because they can monitor events in real time and coordinate their changes. 

Conclusion

Logging provides an essential tool on the path to better application security. Without logging, we often create a delayed debugging system within our development flows. Such a system gives vulnerabilities more time to be live. A delayed debugging system can cost lots of time and resources, which we can avoid if we employ proper logging and log management solutions to address issues as they arise. Logging and log management solutions give us the ability to tackle problems immediately and efficiently. 

As mentioned before, teams today must ship more code more securely than ever. The future of application security will undoubtedly include integrating lots of preemptive security measures into DevOps. 

Log management can provide great cohesion between Dev, Ops, and AppSec teams to monitor real-time events and changes together. Logging and proper log management are the centerpieces of the future of application security. As developers, we must stay vigilant about security to protect our applications and our customers.


Check out the LogDNA security page to learn more about application security and where it’s headed.

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Logging in the Age of DevOps eBook

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