Monday, April 29, 2013

Log Anonymization with rsyslog

Starting with version 7.3.7, rsyslog natively support anonymizing log records. This is done with the help of a new module called mmanon. In short words, the module inspects the message and replaces IP-Addresses with an anonymized alternative representation.

This functionality is implemented via the (message modification module) action interface. Thus, the user has full control over when the anonymization happens. While it generally is desirable to anonymize as soon as possible, there can be situations where some data must be collected or processed un-anonymized. In that case, the anonymization can be deferred until after that processing.

The mmanon module basically has two operation modes: a faster but somewhat less secure and flexible mode ("simple"), in which specific octets are overwritten by user-configurable characters. For example, in this mode the IP address "" could be replaced to "". Note that the size of the specific octets is preserved.

In the other mode ("rewrite"), which is default, parts of the IP address are always zeroed out and the result is written in normalized form. The previous example would become "" in this mode. This also means that the message size may shrink. In rewrite mode, the exact number of bits that shall be anonymized can be specified. The default is 16, but any other value may be selected. If, in the above example, 12 bits would have been selected, the output would have been "". This provides great flexibility to meet corporate and legal requirements. Note that this form still permits to use some coarse-grained analysis tools, like for example Geo-IP lookups (of course, depending on the number of removed bits).

Currently, mmanon does support IPv4, only. However, support for IPv6 is planned, we are just waiting for some feedback before going further. The new module is available immediately and can both be found in the source tarball as well as Adiscon-provided rsyslog RPMs and rsyslog Ubuntu Packages.

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