Keep an eye on your logs

It is important to check and analyze logs, not just to find errors but also to make sure that system, installed applications and services are secure and work correctly. You can track and monitor important events manually from console and automatically using some third part applications.


Today I will just let you know where to find logs, which of them are most important and how to view them in console. At the end I will show you how to configure logwatch to get daily email notification with logs summary.

The log files generated in a Linux can be classified into four different categories:

  • Application Logs
  • Event Logs
  • Service Logs
  • System Logs

Monitoring and analyzing all of them can be a challenging task.

All log files can be displayed in console using on of these commands:

more - is used to view the text files in the command prompt, displaying one screen at a time in case the file is large. The more command also allows the user do scroll up and down through the page.

less - similar to more, less command allows you to view the contents of a file and navigate through file. The main difference between more and less is that less command is faster because it does not load the entire file at once and allows navigation though file using page up/down keys.

cat - stands for “catenate.” It reads data from files, and outputs their contents. It is the simplest way to display the contents of a file at the command line.

grep - which stands for “global regular expression print,” processes text line by line and prints any lines which match a specified pattern.

tail - outputs the last part, or “tail”, of files. It can also monitor new information written to the file in real time, displaying the newest entries.

You can combine these commands and use various parameters, check some examples below:

tail -f /var/log/access.log | grep
cat /var/log/access.log | more
tail -f -n 5 /var/log/syslog

Take some time and DuckDuck this commands to learn more about their usage and parameters.

Important log files

System Logs

cat /var/log/syslog

Store informational and non-critical system messages. You can track non-kernel boot errors, application-related service errors and the messages that are logged during system startup.


cat /var/log/auth.log

All authentication related events in Debian and Ubuntu server are logged here. Investigate failed login attempts, brute-force attacks and other vulnerabilities related to user authorization mechanism.


cat /var/log/boot.log

Booting related information and messages logged during system startup process. Check for issues related to improper shutdown, unplanned reboots or booting failures.


cat /var/log/kern.log

Perfect for troubleshooting kernel related errors and warnings.


cat /var/log/mail.log

All mail server related logs are stored here.


cat /var/log/mysql.log

All debug, failure and success messages related to the MySQL/MariaDB


Depends on what is installed on your system, you can have other various log files.

All are located in /var/log/, check what you have there using command:

ls /var/log/


Logwatch is an application that helps with simple log management by daily analyzing and reporting a short digest from activities taking place on your machine.

You can install it from repository:

sudo apt install logwatch

or download latest version from SourceForge and run installation script.

Make a copy of default configuration to avoid overwrite configuration file during update.

sudo cp /usr/share/logwatch/default.conf/logwatch.conf /etc/logwatch/conf/logwatch.conf

Edit configuration:

sudo nano /etc/logwatch/conf/logwatch.conf

Things you need to change:

Output = mail
Format = html
MailTo =
MailFrom =
Range = yesterday
Detail = Low
Service = All

Output - can be set to mail or stdout.

Format - html or text.

MailTo and MailFrom is your email address.

Range - you have options of receiving reports for All (all available since the beginning), Today (just today) or Yesterday (just yesterday).

Detail - options are: Low, Medium and High.

Service - By default, Logwatch covers a really wide range of services. If you would like to see a full list, you can query the contents of the file scripts/services, example:

ls -l /usr/share/logwatch/scripts/services

You can choose to receive reports for all services or some specific ones. For all services, keep the line as: Service = All. If you wish to receive reports for specific ones, modify it similar to the following example, listing each service on a new line e.g. Service = [name]

Service = sendmail
Service = http
Service = identd
Service = sshd2
Service = sudo

If you do not wish to have daily reports generated, you should uncomment this line.

DailyReport = No

Next step is to create cache folder:

sudo mkdir /var/cache/logwatch 

You can generate test report to see how it works:

sudo logwatch --output stdout --detail med --format text

By default logwatch will send daily report because cron is configured here:


If you would like to modify time of report remove that file and add new entry to cron, e.g.:

0 6 * * * root /usr/sbin/logwatch --output mail

Thats all, you can now analyze logs report on your email.