Note: This post originally appeared on the SANS Forensics blog
As any incident responder will agree, you can never have too many logs. That is, of course, until you have to analyze them! I was recently on an engagement where our team had to review hundreds of gigabytes of logs looking for evidence of hacking activity. I was quickly reminded of how much I love Microsoft Log Parser.
Log Parser is often misunderstood and underestimated. It could possibly be the best forensic analysis tool ever devised. Imagine having the ability to take almost any chunk of data and quickly search it using SQL-based grammar. That’s Log Parser in a nutshell. It is a lightweight SQL-based search engine that operates on a staggering number of different input types (see Figure 1). Yes, I know that tools like Splunk and Sawmill are built around this same idea, but keep in mind that Log Parser was written in the year 2000. I am constantly amazed at the power it affords the forensic analyst, and you can’t beat the price (free). Save perhaps memory analysis, there isn’t much it can’t accomplish for an incident responder.
In my mind, two things have limited the use of Log Parser in the forensics community: the command-line requirement and the fear of SQL queries. Neither is much of an obstacle, and since this is a how-to, let’s debunk both.