Archive for October, 2011

glTail parsers for Snort, net-entropy and viewssld

Posted in net-entropy, NSM on 28 October, 2011 by Alec Waters

glTail is a tool for realtime log visualisation, which according to the website allows you to “view real-time data and statistics from any logfile on any server with SSH, in an intuitive and entertaining way.”

glTail can read from any text logfile you like, and via a set of parsers can extract information such as IP addresses for graphical display. Each row from the logfile may trigger several blobs, e.g. source IP, dest IP, etc, as you can see in the video below:

I’ve written some parsers for Snort, net-entropy and viewssld. A screenshot of them all in action is shown below (click for full size view):

The red blobs are related to Snort, cyan ones to net-entropy, and the yellow shades are from viewssld. The numeric columns show the rate at which each item is appearing, and the length of the coloured highlight bars show the proportion of occurences of a given item relative to the others.

The parser files and a sample config.yaml file that uses them can be found here (snort.rb, net-entropy.rb, viewssld.rb and config.yaml).


So, it’s a pretty visualisation of interesting stuff, but is it useful and actionable? It’s certainly hopeless for correlation – when a signature fires, it’s more or less impossible to tell the associated IP addresses and ports even if you have a very quiet sensor. At the other end of the scale, if you’re inundated with blobs you can alter the regexes in snort.rb to match on a specific IP/protocol/signature etc to be a little more selective.

Where I think this may prove most useful is when you’re learning from an incident. If you’ve investigated an incident where someone compromised your webserver, you could pull all the relevant log entries that show:

  • Snort alerts (when the attacker was probing for vulnerabilities)
  • Apache/IIS log entries (showing everything else they did to your server)
  • net-entropy logs (showing the attacker’s outbound backdoor SSH tunnel).

If you were to pump all of these logs through gltail you’d have an effective visualisation of the attack. For inspiration, check this out:

Alec Waters is responsible for all things security at Dataline Software, and can be emailed at