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Automated System Monitoring and Notification With Swatch

Stephen E. Hansen & E. Todd Atkins
Stanford University


This paper describes an approach to monitoring events on a large number of servers and workstations. While modern UNIX systems are capable of logging a variety of information concerning the health and status of their hardware and operating system software, they are generally not configured to do so. Even when this information is logged, it is often hidden in places that are either not monitored regularly or are susceptible to deletion or modification by a successful intruder. Also, a system administrator must often monitor several, perhaps dozens, of systems. To address these problems, our approach begins with the modification of certain system programs to enhance their logging capabilities. In addition, our approach calls for the logging facilities on each of these systems to be configured in such a way as to send a copy of the critical system and security related information to a dependable, secure, central logging host system. As one might expect, this central log can see a megabyte or more of data in a single day. To keep a system administrator from being overwhelmed by a large quantity of data we have developed an easily configurable log file filter/monitor, called swatch. Swatch monitors log files and acts to filter out unwanted data and take one or more user specified actions (ring bell, send mail, execute a script, etc.) based upon patterns in the log.

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