Ante Miličević
December 12, 2023

Application Development Lifecycle: Security Logging

Take the holistic approach and inject security practices into different stages of software development via security logging.

When developing a web application, there are a plethora of factors to consider. Optimizing workflow, proper division of labor, potential user experience, and so on. But none are more important than application security.

Your app being safe for both users and developers is imperative. Security logging safeguards your software against potential vulnerabilities as well as threats. So, let us take a peek at its basics such as where to implement it, what information to log, and why it’s an absolute necessity. 

The importance of security logging

Without active security logging, any security breaches, vulnerabilities, and other threats may stay unnoticed, thus creating further risks. It guards against system weaknesses as well as malicious actors. Here are the main reasons why security logging is a must, not merely an option.

Complying with regulatory standards

Compliance with the regulatory standards is the key to success. These regulations work both as guidelines and restrictions for any new web application.

Many countries and even industries themselves have regulations that require detailed security logs. Failure to comply can then result in a financial penalty or even legal sanctions. 

Recognizing vulnerabilities

One of the most straightforward reasons to use security logging is that it helps identify vulnerabilities. Keeping extensive logs can point out parts of your application that lack security measures. 

These can range from suspicious patterns to areas available with unauthorized access. Having this information can help bolster security.

Detection of security breaches

Another important reason to use security logging is to detect and monitor security incidents. This allows you to quickly and efficiently deal with any potential threats.

Forensic analysis

In the case of a security breach, security logging will allow you to track data back to the incident's origin. With this data, you’ll be able to conduct an extensive forensic analysis and prevent any future incidents.

Where to implement security logging? 

You’d be well advised to implement security logging into multiple layers of your application. It should record all suspicious events and security issues. But for a start, these are the crucial points your security log should cover.

Any login attempt

All forms of authorization and authentication should be logged. This means you should have a comprehensive list of both failed and successful logins. Which allows you to control decisions about access, user roles, and login privileges.

Web application security

If you’re developing web applications it’s important you keep track of HTTP requests and their responses. Additionally, you should be extra careful about cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks, failed access control checks, as well as SQL injection attempts.

Intrusion detection

Detecting intruders is mainly done by monitoring suspicious behavior. This can be done by logging repeated failed login attempts, monitoring access to unauthorized resources, and other unusual network traffic patterns. 

Exception logging and error handling

Authorization and authentication errors are the easiest way to spot network security issues. As such you should maintain a comprehensive log of any security-related errors and exceptions. Having a detailed review can help in finding the cause of such errors.

Changes in configuration

Keep a security log that monitors changes in your security settings. This will notify you of any changes in the firewall rules or encryption settings, as well as who changed them.

Access to sensitive resources

Security logs should at all times log access to any sensitive data that might compromise you or your users.  This includes confidential documents, personal information, and even financial records. Make sure to keep track of details about the user who accesses such data.

What to log?

A lot of information can pass through security logs. Therefore these logs must be clear, and provide a detailed overview of the application’s security. To make your security reviews easier try and keep track of this information.


Make sure all events are timestamped, so that you can track any issues chronologically.

User and session data

Keep a comprehensive list of all IP addresses, Session IDs, Usernames, and other user agent information. That way you can track any security breaches directly to their perpetrator.

Data changes

Any data changes should be logged, so include new and old values.

Stack traces

Any error and exception issues need to include a stack trace to help with diagnostics.

Event descriptions

Make sure all events are logged with a clear and detailed description. For example, user “Mariana”- failed login attempt. 

Request and response data

Web applications must keep a log of headers and payloads and any other HTTP request and response data.

Context information

Don’t forget to add as much additional information, to help contextualize events and potential issues. Think, event source, the resource affected, and other relevant identifiers. 

Security alerts

Keep an eye out for any security alert triggers that come through anomaly detection mechanisms or intrusion detection systems.

Security logging is a vital part of the application development lifecycle. It protects all the work you put into a project and ensures that security breaches are dealt with quickly. 

With security logging you can meet compliance requirements, increase software defense, mitigate security threats, and present an image of security for your users.

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