How Bro logs gave one company better DNS traffic visibility than their DNS servers

Bro provides enriched network visibility for top organizations around the world, and there are many use cases for Bro logs.   The security field uses Bro data for incident response and cyber threat hunting. But Bro log use cases don’t always have to involve finding bad actors, identifying breaches or attack blueprints.  The clean, structured, and enriched data from Bro can also be used to simply provide necessary protocol information not otherwise easily obtained from servers.

In this example, we show how a company can obtain DNS visibility and extend the lifespan of a large production deployment of DNS servers via a few Corelight sensors that generate Bro DNS logs. This use case features a utility company with over 50 DNS servers worldwide.  A federal governing body told them that there were DNS lookups going to known cyber threat sites originating from their network and therefore they weren’t sufficiently self-governing their DNS activity. Given the importance and focus on safeguarding utility companies from cyber attacks, getting in front of this DNS issue was of paramount importance.  

The company had limited DNS network visibility because their DNS servers could not effectively log activity.   The DNS logging service on their servers didn’t give enough functional information – and therefore visibility – to identify these malicious communications.  Moreover, the data their DNS servers did provide was a flat file with too much noise and the logging mechanism also had a negative impact on the DNS servers’ overall performance.    

They considered upgrading all their DNS servers, but given the cost they discarded this option.  They determined that a more comprehensive, faster, and cost-effective solution was to deploy Corelight sensors in their main data centers to obtain enriched Bro DNS logs.  With Corelight and Bro they could easily capture both DNS requests and answers to queries and quickly stream them to a SIEM. The benefit was immediately clear when an analyst who had previously tried to identify non-authoritative DNS lookup records was able to easily achieve this with the logs provided by Corelight sensors.

The utility company used packet broker to distribute raw traffic to the Corelight sensors which then do the heavy lifting of extracting the DNS information into a log or data stream for export to their SIEM.  The solution architecture is simply network taps sending traffic into a packet broker. Behind the broker is a Corelight sensor. The packet broker filters are configured to send only DNS traffic to the Corelight Sensor.  The enriched logs are spooled from the Corelight sensor to a datastore and ultimately consumed in a SIEM. Problem solved, customer happy, money saved and the technology team are now heroes. Their security team is now looking at network logs and will look at expanding their use to the SOC.  

Thinking more broadly beyond DNS, consider other crucial network services and the struggle to keep accurate time stamped logs and your ability to get enriched data from these services?  What if network service logging for DHCP, Kerberos, or Radius is set to OFF, FATAL, WARN or ERROR – i.e. not nearly enough data? Or, ALL, DEBUG or TRACE – too much noise? What if INFO misses the data you need?  What if there is only one logging service level and therefore not configurable? Bro provides better network data that can spare operational cycles and extend the life of network services, thereby saving money and just as importantly reducing operational headaches.



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