Forensic log parsing with Microsoft's LogParser

Monday, 21 July 2003, 10:06 AM EST

Investigating a web-based intrusion can be a daunting task, especially when you have no information other than knowing it was web-based. It is easy to waste precious time digging through megabytes, perhaps even gigabytes, of log files trying to locate suspicious activity. Often this search turns up little useful evidence.

Consider this scenario: an e-commerce site receives several reports from customers about unauthorized orders on their accounts. They suspect that someone has compromised their web-based ordering system so they gather the log files from several different IIS web servers. They have the dates and times of the orders, but the corresponding IP addresses in the log files turn out to be anonymous proxies used by the suspect. Searching for activity from those IP addresses in the log files turns up nothing. Browsing through the raw log files for those dates also turns up nothing. Somehow, someone found a flaw in the ordering system but he or she could have discovered the flaw months before exploiting it. Tracking down the flaw and IP addresses used by the suspect seems impossible. But there are techniques that can facilitate log file forensics. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate log file forensics of IIS logs using SQL queries with Microsoft's LogParser tool.

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