Workstation Logging Best Practices

Why Workstation Logging Matters

Workstations are important components of any IT infrastructure, and they’re also one of the most overlooked. Often seen as expendable, many organizations fail to see the value of workstation logs, and how they can add to the visibility and detection capabilities of the security team. Workstations are quite likely to be early indicators of attack and malware infections. They are also often super useful in identifying manual attacker behaviors and performing adequate forensics.

Organizations that don’t maintain and organize workstation logs are usually missing out on some essential data and falling short of having across-the-enterprise visibility. This is especially true if you have a decentralized work environment. Simply enabling, configuring, and properly aggregating workstation logs can give you a huge forensic advantage. Adding real-time or near real-time log parsing and event alerting makes that advantage a superpower.

What to Log

The security events an organization captures on their workstations depend largely on industry-specific needs and relevant legal requirements. However, best practices call for several events that must be recorded and logged to ensure user accountability and to help organizations detect, understand, and recover from malicious events. These events include:

  • Authentication successes and failures for all users and services
  • Access control successes and failures for all users and services
  • Session activity, including files and applications used, especially system utilities and Powershell, if applicable
  • Changes in user access rights or privileges

The Bottom Line

Get busy logging on workstations. Make sure the logs are properly configured, aggregated, and processed as a part of your detection capabilities. Don’t view workstation logs as throw-aways. Instead, see them as a powerful lens for early detection, forensics, and attack recovery.


Thanks to @TheTokenFemale for pointing out that the logs should be sent somewhere off the system. I meant that by aggregation, but to clarify, the logs should be sent, processed, and archived using a log aggregation system or toolset that includes proper chain of evidence handling, alerting, and heuristics. It should also store and archive the relevant logs according to best practices and legal and regulatory guidance.