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Copying Logs to a Remote Host with Syslog

To retain logs for any significant period of time, remote syslog must be enabled and a syslog server must be configured to accept log messages from pfSense® software.

There are several different syslog server software packages. Most BSD/Linux systems will have one built in, and there are some free utilities available for Windows to accept syslog messages from remote hosts.

Setup Syslog on the Logging Host

First, configure the syslog server to accept remote connections which means running it with the -a <subnet> or similar flag.

Setting this up on Windows entirely depends on which syslog server is being used. Consult the documentation for more information on configuration.

There is a free multi-purpose utility that can act as a syslog server, which can be found here:

Kiwi Syslog Server is free for up to 5 devices.

Configuration of the system logger on Linux depends on the distribution. Consult the distribution’s documentation on how to change the behavior of syslogd. It should be similar in many cases to the alterations in the FreeBSD section.

On FreeBSD, edit /etc/rc.conf and add this line:

syslogd_flags=" -a "

Where is the IP address of the pfSense firewall.

More complex allow rules for syslog are also possible, like so:

syslogd_flags=" -a*"

Using that parameter, syslog will accept from any IP address in the subnet (mask and the messages may come from any UDP port.

Now, edit /etc/syslog.conf and add a block at the bottom:


*.*                /var/log/pfsense.log

Where pfSense is the hostname of the pfSense firewall. An entry may also need to be added in /etc/hosts for that system, depending on the DNS setup. Logs may be split separate files. Use the /etc/syslog.conf file on the pfSense firewall for more details on which logging facilities are used for specific items.

The log file may also need to be created manually with proper permissions:

touch /var/log/pfsense.log
chmod 640 /var/log/pfsense.log

Now restart syslog:

/etc/rc.d/syslogd restart

The configuration for OpenBSD is similar to FreeBSD, with the following notes:

  1. The option to accept remote syslog events is -u.

  2. This option may be enabled using rcctl(8):

    rcctl set syslogd flags -u
  3. To restart the syslogd service:

    rcctl restart syslogd

Other Logging Servers

Other log systems such as Splunk, ELSA, or ELK may also be used but the methods for implementing them are beyond the scope of this document. If such a system is syslog-compatible, then the pfSense software side should be fairly simple to setup as it would be for any other syslog system.

Setup pfSense Software for Remote Logging

  • Click Status > System Logs.

  • Click the Settings tab.

  • Check Enable syslog’ing to remote syslog server.

  • Type the IP of the logging server in the box next to Remote syslog server.

  • Check the boxes for the log entries to forward.

  • Click Save.

Log messages will begin flowing to the target system.