Deployment of Alienvault in Practice Part 1


In this article, we are going to explore deploying Alienvault in practice. While there are many documents out there that give pretty clear steps on what to do, these documents are somewhat pretty distributed, and we don’t want to come to a point where we are 85% into the deployment, only to find that we were supposed to do something 25% in and did not do it.

Before anything else, you should have a deployment checklist to make sure everything is in order. The checklist is pretty long, much too detailed to put into a post like this Email us at, and we can get you started.

In this example, we will be using a 3 piece band: the Server, the sensor and the logger. You can generally just trade the server for an AIO, which we did, but in general, it’s going to serve as a server. Remember though, with an AIO, you do have an additional sensor if you want to enable it, or a logger as well, with around 4 TB of compressed space (vs 9TB of compressed space for a standalone logger).

With that out of the way, and assuming that physically everything is racked and connected, and the VMs are up and running, you are ready to go. Remember, if you have separate systems, always start with the server (or the AIO) first, and then only move on to the sensor. Else, your sensor might be orphaned.

Now, of course, if you are using virtual appliance, your VMWare needs to be set up. Some questions we encountered is, how many interfaces we should have. Well, you should have the management interface (and use that as log collection), and the other interfaces would be for monitoring. Now one of the trick questions here is that, hey, I want to have a separate management interface and log collection interface. So that you know, nobody knows my management interface.

Possible. But we have seen deployments where both the management interface and log collection interface sits on the same subnet. This is probably going to cause some issues – one of it is routing might likely be screwed up. Another thing is that deployment of HIDS might constantly refer back to the management interface. So, rule of the thumb:

If you only have one subnet, just use the one interface for management and log collection.

Another question we have is, by default, AIO comes with six interfaces. (because, remember, it’s also a sensor!). Some clients have it in their minds to use all six interfaces. Generally, aside from the management and log, all the other interfaces won’t be assigned an IP and will be monitoring interfaces (i.e put it in a SPAN port and monitor away). Now unless you have very specific reasons to, it would not be so likely to use all monitoring interfaces (depending on how you set it up), so don’t feel like you are losing out. A lot of the setups we see simply has the sensor or AIO located at a central switch with SPAN or TAP and monitors fine.

Another question: Thin or thick provisioning for disk format. Well – we are used to just setting it as thin, meaning that it will just grow as the logs increase, but if you have space, setting it to thick might still be fine. I am not a VMWare guru, and I am sure the VMWare gurus out there will go into battle with this one, but we’ve deployed on both disk format and it doesn’t seem to have an extreme impact at all. Of course, I stand to be corrected.

Yet another question (even before we go into deployment!) is if I buy a hardware with a hard drive of 200TB, can Alienvault use all the 200TB instead of the measly 1TB for AIO and 1.8TB for Logger? The short of the answer is no, the size of the virtual machine is in the OVF itself, so if you purchase a ridiculous amount of hard drive space, the alienvault image is still going to occupy what it is going to occupy. But hey, you could start hosting other virtual systems there of course and use them up!

Setting up the server

1) Ok, finally, let’s get down to it. Once you boot up and assuming you have installed the OVF correctly if you are running virtual appliance, you will be dropped into the setup menu. Select Manual network interface and define an IP. I would suggest this as opposed to depending on a DHCP server. Aside from that, other setup paramaters are what you should expect and should be able to fill up pretty easily.

Now one of the annoying things that sometimes we face is that when the initial setup is rebooted, we get stuck at that Alienvault face that keeps loading but nothing happens. To be safe, when you reboot, just keep pressing ESC till you see the booting details. If you are still stuck, alt+F2 might be able to escape you. Else, you might need to give it the good old Vulcan Nerve Pinch. (Ctrl-Alt-Del).

Other times, you might just be stuck at VMWare console and the annoying “Waiting for connection” that seems to hang. Your system is fine, it’s just the VMWare console is moody. Restarting your Vsphere might do the trick.

Once you can SSH into your box you are confronted with a login screen and once logged in, you need to change the root password. Don’t forget it!

After that, register your appliance. Now, if you are running on AIO/server/logger, I would suggest to do an online Web UI registration. Obviously you will need connectivity to the internet. You can copy and paste your product license key once you access the Web UI as there will be an option for you in the Free Trial Screen. After that, you can set up the admin user and password. There is an offline technique as well, or if you are in the mood to type the entire license, you can do so from the alienvault menu itself.

After this is done, set up the hostname. You need to do this from the alienvault setup menu, select System Preferences -> Configure Hostname.

Make sure you apply all changes. Once you apply all changes, go ahead and reboot the appliance from the menu itself.

Another important thing is to change the time zone. After reboot, head over to

System Preferences -> Change Location -> Date and Time -> Configure Time Zone. Select the place you are at and apply all changes.

Likewise, you might want to use an NTP (network time protocol) server as well. In the same Data and Time menu, select Configure NTP Server. Enable it by selecting it and put in the NTP hostname (if you have DNS defined) or IP. Apply everything.

Now, this might be a good time to check on the linux box if your time is correct.

Jail Break your system, and type in ‘date’, you should see it changed.

Likewise go to WebUI, login and click on Settings at the top right. Make sure the time zone for that user is properly defined. Now check back on the SIEM (Analysis -> SIEM) on the WebUI , you should see the Date as whatever timezone you have defined yourself in.

Timestamping is obviously a big deal in any SIEM, and other than these areas to be wary off, we should also know that individual plugins also have timezone options. This is helpful if the data source suddenly changes timezones and we have to accomodate the data source.

It looks like the server is all set. If you have an AIO, you should also now see under

Configuration -> Deployment -> Sensors / Servers , your IP address because you are a Sensor and a Server.

Next, we will look at setting up the sensor and logger.



  1. bakie

    Dear sir,
    I wanna know the alien vault (OSSIM) has limitation for numbers of sensors.
    Please let me know, Thanks a lot

    • pkfavantedge

      You can stack Alienvault sensors as required, however, the limit isn’t with the sensor, it’s with the EPS. For instance, the AIO has a limit of 1,000 EPS. While strictly an AIO comes with a sensor, you can essentially turn off the sensor in an AIO and let it function as a Server-Logger, and have a separate standard sensor purchased to increase your EPS to 2,500 which. Or you could attach 5x remote sensors (remote sensors has 500 eps limit each).

      However, the bottleneck appears when you want to add another sensor when you have limited out to 2,500 EPS. In that case, the server cannot handle the additional EPS anymore if all sensors are fully utilised. Be aware of EPS limits for Alienvault on-premise, that’s why Alienvault USM Anywhere is a better solution as its on the cloud and doesn’t have these restrictions.

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