CEF Logging Library





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node-cef: A CEF and Syslog Logging Library

The Common Event Format, or CEF, is a standard proposed by ArcSight for logging event data. This module provides a CEF formatter and logger that by default emits messages to the syslog over udp. The syslogger is pluggable, so if the default does not fit your needs, you can change it.

node-cef is intended to be used alongside other logging facilities. Note that it doesn't actually print anything to the console or any files by default; its sole purpose is to emit CEF strings to a syslog service.


npm install cef


var cef = require('cef');

// Create a configuration for your application and your syslog interface
var config = {
  vendor: 'Steinway',
  product: 'Piano',
  version: 'B',
  syslog_tag: 'my-piano',
  syslog_facility: 'local4'

// Get a singleton instance for this config
var logger = cef.getInstance(config);

logger.info({signature: "Bflat", name: "Out of tune"});

This will emit a message like the following to the system log:

<166> Jul 18 02:16:12 my-piano[17016] CEF:0|Steinway|Piano|B|Bflat|Out of tune|4

(I don't actually own a Steinway B, but I wish I did.)

Logger Parameters

CEF requires log messages to have the following parameters:

  • Vendor: A string identifying your organization
  • Product: A string identifying your product
  • Version: A string identifying the version of your product
  • Signature: An arbitrary key identifying the type of event logged. Typically a four-digit number.
  • Name: A human-readable phrase describing the event.
  • Severity: An integer between 0 (lowest) and 10 (highest severity)

Out of these six parameters, and also the CEF version number (0 at the time of this writing), A cef string of the following form will be constructed:


Additionally, any number of key-value pairs specifying extra data can be attached. Such key value pairs are referred to as extensions. The CEF standard declares some 28 extensions, and ArcSight has 462 more.

The formatter ensures that extension keys belong to the set of CEF extensions or a subset of the ArcSight extensions. It also verifies their values are of their required type (e.g., dmac is a valid MAC addr, etc.). If you need more extensions than are permitted here, please submit an issue or, better yet, modify lib/extensions.js and send me a pull request.

The node-cef logger can be instantiated with any number of default parameters, with the various logging methods specifying the remaining required parameters. For example:

// Application config
var logger = new cef.Logger({
  vendor: "Initech",
  product: "Stapler",
  version: 2

  signature: 42,
  name: "Attempted theft detected",
  extensions: {
    suser: "Milton",
    msg: "Burn it down!"

Will log the following:

CEF:0|Initech|Stapler|2|42|Attempted theft detected|6|suser=Milton solution=Burn it down!

CEF Levels and Syslog Severities

CEF defines 11 levels (0 to 10, lowest to highest); syslog defines eight levels (7 to 0, debug to emerg). To align these two, we declare CEF 10 to be equivalent to syslog emerg (0), CEF 9 = syslog alert (1), and so on to CEF 3 = syslog debug (7). We do not use CEF levels 2, 1, or 0.

The node-cef logger has methods named after the syslog severities:

  • emergency()
  • alert()
  • critical()
  • error()
  • warning() or warn()
  • notice() (the default level for calling log())
  • info()
  • debug()

It's up to you to decide with your team on a set of meanings and stick with them. For example, for logging BrowserID events at Mozilla, we use four levels as follows:

  • emerg (10) Completely out of whack. Someone needs to look at this. Harm to the application, user account, or system security could have taken place.

  • alert (8) Suspicious activity or application has non-validated user input. Impact is not known.

  • warn (6) Normal security application stuff, login failures, password changes.

  • info (4) Normal app activity. Logins and various kinds of transactions.

Syslog Transports

By default, node-cef uses a udp syslog transport. You can configure the transport with the following options to the Logger constructor:

  • syslog_tag: The name of your app to appear in the syslog. Default is __filename, which you probably want to change.

  • syslog_facility: One of the facility names or numbers as defined in RFC 3164. Default is user.

  • syslog_address: IP address of the syslog service. Default is

  • syslog_port: Port for the syslog service. Default is 514.

  • syslog_transport: A function taking two arguments: message and callback. By default, this is a udp4 transport using the address and port described above.

Within the transport function, address and port are available as this.address and this.port. You could specify a transport using some custom service like so:

var config = {
  syslog_address: '',
  syslog_port: 9876,
  syslog_transport: function(message, callback) {
      new Buffer(message),



Tests are written using vows.

Run npm test to run the test suite. You may have to run npm install first.


  • Yvan Boily wrote the initial implementation.

  • Patrick Huesler's ain fork provided the initial basis for the syslog backend.

  • Eric Parker at Mozilla has been very helpful in answering my questions about CEF and ArcSight.


MPL 2.0

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