Password Audit

What Is Auditing?

Auditing is the collection of data that provides a record of security-related system events. This data can then be used to assign responsibility to actions that take place on a host. Successful auditing starts with two security features: identification and authentication. At login, after a user supplies a user name and password, a unique audit ID is associated with the user's process. The audit ID is inherited by every process that is started during the login session. Even if a user changes identity (see the su(1M) man page), all user actions are tracked with the same audit ID.

Auditing makes it possible to do the following:

  • Monitor security-relevant events that take place on the host
  • Record the events in a network-wide audit trail
  • Detect misuse or unauthorized activity
  • Review patterns of access, and see the access histories of individuals and objects
  • Discover attempts to bypass the protection mechanisms
  • Discover extended use of privilege that occurs when a user changes identity

During system configuration, you select which activities to monitor. You can also fine-tune the degree of auditing that is done for individual users.

After audit data is collected, audit-reduction and interpretation tools allow you to examine interesting parts of the audit trail. For example, you can choose to review audit records for individual users or groups, to examine all records for a certain type of event on a specific day, or to select records that were generated at a certain time of day.

How Is Auditing Related to Security?

Securing a computer system, especially a system on a network, involves mechanisms that control activities before system or user processes begin, that monitor activities as they occur, and that report activities after they have happened. While the setting up of auditing requires that parameters be set before users log in or machine processes begin, most auditing activities involve monitoring current events and reporting those events that meet the specified parameters.

Auditing cannot prevent hackers from unauthorized entry. However, auditing can report, for example, that a specific user performed specific actions at a specific time and date, and can identify the user by entry path and user name. Such information can be reported immediately to your terminal and to a file for later analysis. Thus, auditing provides data that helps you determine both how system security was compromised and what loopholes need to be closed to ensure the desired level of security.