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Postgres Auditing

Postgres Auditing

postgres auditing

PostgreSQL, a powerful open-source relational database management system, has become a popular choice for businesses of all sizes. However, with great power comes great responsibility. To ensure data integrity, security, and compliance, it is crucial to implement effective auditing mechanisms in PostgreSQL. In this article, we will discuss Postgres auditing, why it’s important, and different ways to do thorough auditing in PostgreSQL.

What is Postgres Auditing

Postgres auditing refers to the systematic monitoring and logging of activities and changes within a PostgreSQL database. It involves capturing detailed information about database operations, such as data modifications, schema changes, and user actions.

Auditing serves as a vital tool for maintaining data integrity, detecting unauthorized access, and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. Organizations can use strong auditing tools to monitor their databases. This helps them identify any security issues or unusual data. With this information, organizations can quickly address and resolve any problems that arise.

The Importance of Postgres Auditing

In today’s world of data breaches and strict regulations, auditing Postgres databases is essential for effective management. Here are some key reasons why auditing is essential:

Security and Data Protection

Auditing helps in detecting and preventing unauthorized access to sensitive data. By logging all database activities, organizations can identify suspicious behavior, such as attempts to modify or delete critical information. Moreover, auditing serves as a deterrent to malicious actors and helps in promptly responding to security incidents.

Compliance and Regulatory Requirements

Many industries, such as healthcare, finance, and government, are subject to strict data protection regulations. Postgres auditing enables organizations to meet these regulatory requirements by providing a comprehensive trail of database activities. Auditing logs serve as evidence of compliance and help organizations avoid hefty fines and reputational damage.

Data Integrity and Accountability

Postgres auditing ensures the integrity of data by tracking all changes made to the database. It provides a detailed record of who made the changes, when they were made, and what specific modifications were performed. This accountability helps in maintaining the accuracy and reliability of data, which is crucial for making informed business decisions.

Postgres Auditing Methods

PostgreSQL offers several methods for implementing auditing, each with its own advantages and considerations. Let’s explore the three primary auditing approaches:

log_statement Configuration Option

The log_statement configuration option is a simple and straightforward way to enable auditing in PostgreSQL. By setting log_statement to “all,” PostgreSQL will log every SQL statement executed on the database. This approach provides a comprehensive record of all database activities, including read and write operations.


To enable log_statement auditing, modify the postgresql.conf file and set the following parameter:

log_statement = 'all'

Other than all, this option has 3 more modes, which are:

  • none: no logging being performed
  • ddl: only statements which include DDL syntax get logged
  • mod: only statements which include DML syntax get logged
  • all: all statements get logged

While log_statement is an easy way to start auditing, it has some limitations. It records all statements without any bias. This can lead to a large number of logs.

This makes it challenging to filter and analyze particular audit events. This also may lead to security breaches and compromise data privacy.

Additionally, the log format may not be suitable for advanced auditing requirements.

pgAudit Extension

pgAudit is a powerful PostgreSQL extension specifically designed for auditing purposes. It extends the native logging capabilities of PostgreSQL and provides granular control over what gets audited. With pgAudit, you can choose to log certain database commands like SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE to meet auditing needs.


To enable pgAudit, follow these steps:

  1. Install the pgAudit extension in your PostgreSQL database.
  2. Modify the postgresql.conf file to include the following parameters:

shared_preload_libraries = 'pgaudit'
pgaudit.log = 'all'

pgAudit offers several advantages over the log_statement approach. Consequently, allows you to filter audit events based on specific criteria, such as database objects or user roles.

pgAudit also generates structured log entries that are easier to parse and analyze. It is important to carefully configure pgAudit to avoid excessive logging. Excessive logging can slow down performance and consume storage space.

Custom Triggers

Custom triggers provide a flexible and customizable approach to Postgres auditing. Triggers are used to automate actions based on events in the database. These events can include adding, changing, or deleting data in a table. Triggers allow you to capture the relevant audit information and store it in a separate audit table.


To implement custom trigger-based auditing, follow these steps:

  1. Create an audit table to store the audit logs, with columns for capturing the necessary audit information.
  2. Define a trigger function that inserts the audit details into the audit table whenever a specific event occurs on the main table.
  3. Create a trigger on the main table that invokes the trigger function for the desired events (e.g., AFTER INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE).

Custom triggers offer fine-grained control over the auditing process. You can capture specific columns, record the user performing the action, and include additional metadata. Custom triggers require more work to create and maintain than using log_statement or pgAudit. This means they are a more manual option for auditing.

Out of the three, pgAudit extension is the easiest to implement and coincidentally the most informative one. This code snippet, provided by PostgreSQL documentation, demonstrates the difference of logging output by pgAudit and log_statement:

-- SQL statement
DO $$
EXECUTE 'CREATE TABLE import' || 'ant_table (id INT)';
END $$;
-- log_statement=all generates this log info:
2020-12-20 23:40:11 UTC:[9091]: LOG: statement:
DO $$
EXECUTE 'CREATE TABLE import' || 'ant_table (id INT)'
END $$;
-- pgAudit generates this expanded log info:
2020-12-20 23:40:11 UTC:[9091]: LOG: AUDIT: SESSION,4,1,FUNCTION,DO,,,"DO $$
EXECUTE 'CREATE TABLE import' || 'ant_table (id INT)';
END $$;",not logged
2020-12-20 23:40:11 UTC:[9091]: LOG: AUDIT: SESSION,4,2,DDL,CREATE TABLE,TABLE,public.important_table,CREATE TABLE important_table (id INT),not logged

As seen above, pgAudit logs provide much more details about queries compared to internal postgres logging.

Considerations for Postgres Auditing

When implementing Postgres auditing, there are several considerations to keep in mind:

Performance Impact of Postgres Auditing

Auditing inevitably introduces overhead to the database system. Logging every operation can impact performance, especially in high-traffic environments. It’s crucial to strike a balance between the level of auditing required and the acceptable performance impact. Proper configuration and optimization of auditing mechanisms can help minimize the performance overhead.

Log Management and Storage

Auditing generates a significant volume of log data, which needs to be stored and managed effectively. Therefore, organizations should consider the storage requirements and have a strategy in place for log retention, rotation, and archival. Log management tools and centralized logging solutions can help in efficiently handling and analyzing audit logs.

Compliance and Regulatory Requirements

Different industries and regions have specific compliance and regulatory requirements related to data protection and auditing. It’s essential to understand the applicable regulations and ensure that the implemented auditing mechanisms meet those requirements. Consulting with legal and compliance experts can help in aligning the auditing practices with the necessary standards.


Postgres auditing is a critical component of maintaining data integrity, security, and compliance in PostgreSQL environments.

By implementing effective auditing mechanisms, organizations can gain visibility into database activities, detect unauthorized access, and ensure the accuracy and reliability of their data.

Choose the auditing method that works best for your organization – whether it’s using log_statement, pgAudit, or custom triggers.

Data is becoming more valuable and regulations are getting stricter. That means that it is now necessary, not optional, to invest in strong Postgres auditing practices.

Organizations can reduce risks by tracking database actions. This can help build trust with stakeholders. It also ensures the long-term success of their projects.


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