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Security Logging is an Underrated Superpower for Web Applications

September 21, 2023
Written by
Abhay Bhargav

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What is Security Logging for Web Apps or APIs?
  3. How to Build Security Logs for Your Web Apps and APIs?
  4. Conclusion


In today's digital landscape, web applications and APIs are constantly attacked by malicious actors who seek to exploit vulnerabilities and steal sensitive information. To protect your applications from these threats, implementing robust security measures, including security logging, is essential.

Security logging is a powerful tool that enables you to track security events and detect potential threats before they cause harm. In this blog post, we'll explore the importance of security logging for your web applications and discuss four ways to build and harness security logs effectively.

And we have a surprise at the end of the blog, don't forget to scroll to the end!

What is Security Logging for Web Apps or APIs?

Logging is a system within an application that stores a history of events and errors in a web app or API database. It also gives data such as server resource usage records, user activity, and authentication requests.

Logs are vital for various reasons, including ensuring that your applications comply with security regulations. Logging solutions will play an essential role in future application development since they allow teams to construct more secure apps in less time. 

Cyber attacks do not happen in a matter of hours or days. Attackers require time to examine the network and devise appropriate techniques to exploit the system and completely take the data it holds. The longer an attacker can access the system without being detected, the more likely the attacker will find a way to abuse the system, steal data, and inflict substantial damage. That is why having a logging and monitoring system is critical.

How to Build Security Logs for Your Apps and APIs?

Log management can help Development, Operations, and AppSec teams work together to monitor real-time events and changes. Logging will be the cornerstone of application security in the future.

Security Logging is often an underrated security measure for your web applications. Here are things you can do to build and harness security logs for your Apps and APIs.

Bake It In

The biggest problem with security logs is that they often don't exist. Many developers don't think about logging security events until it's too late. That's why it's essential to bake security logging into your development process from the outset.

The best way to do this is by incorporating security logging into your threat modeling process. When designing a new feature or functionality, consider the potential security events that may arise from it. Consider what data could be at risk, what attacks could occur, and what actions you must take to mitigate these risks.

By thinking ahead and baking security logging into your development process, you can ensure your applications are better prepared to handle security threats.

Create a Security Log Level

Creating a dedicated security log level can be essential in effectively filtering and prioritizing security events. Most logging frameworks come with generic log levels such as "INFO" or "ERROR," but a dedicated security logging level is absent.

Identifying and prioritizing security events without a dedicated security log level can be challenging. When you have thousands of log entries to sort through, it can be difficult to quickly identify the most critical security events that require immediate attention. 

A dedicated security log level allows you to filter and prioritize security events more effectively. This means you can quickly identify the most critical security events and respond to them promptly, reducing the risk of a potential security breach.

It can also help ensure that all security events are captured and appropriately recorded. It's not uncommon for security events to be overlooked when using generic log levels, especially if they're not severe enough to warrant an "ERROR" level. With a dedicated security log level, you can capture all security events, regardless of severity, ensuring a complete record of potential threats and security breaches.

When creating a security log level, consider using a standardized naming convention that makes it easy to identify security-related events. This could include using a prefix such as "SECURITY" or "SEC," followed by a more specific name that identifies the type of security event.

Use Structured Logging

Structured logging is a way of formatting log statements into a structured format such as JSON. This makes it easier to analyze and query logs for specific information. Using structured logging, you can add context to your log statements, making it easier to understand what happened and why.

When combined with a security log level, structured logging can be an incredibly powerful tool for detecting potential threats. You can push your logs to a database, query them, and even create alert patterns that notify you when specific events occur.

Don't Log PII/Sensitive Data

While logging is essential for tracking security events, it's crucial to avoid logging personally identifiable information (PII) and other sensitive data. This information is highly confidential and should be protected at all costs. If this data falls into the wrong hands, it can cause significant harm to your users and your business.

Ensure you have the right policies and procedures to avoid logging sensitive data. Ensure that your logging frameworks are configured to exclude sensitive data and that your developers understand the importance of not logging this information.


Security logging is essential for protecting your web applications and APIs from security threats. You can build and harness security logs effectively by baking security logging into your development process, creating a security log level, using structured logging, and avoiding logging sensitive data.

Implementing these best practices can help you detect potential threats, respond quickly, and protect your applications and users from harm. With the right approach to security logging, you can turn this underrated superpower into a crucial defense against security threats.

If you want to learn more about the best practices of Security Logging for Application Security, AppSecEngineer has a course coming soon. This course will teach you the best practices for implementing security logging in your web applications and APIs. Enroll to hone your skills further! In a fast-paced digital world, being up to speed is all you can do to advance.

Source for article
Abhay Bhargav

Abhay Bhargav

Abhay is a speaker and trainer at major industry events including DEF CON, BlackHat, OWASP AppSecUSA. He loves golf (don't get him started).

Abhay Bhargav


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