February 24, 2016

What Would The Most Mature Security Monitoring Setup Look Like

Filed under: Log Analysis,Security Information Management,Security Intelligence — @ 24th of February 2016, 18:29


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Okay, this post is going to be a bit strange. It’s a quick brain dump from a technical perspective, what it would take to build the perfect security monitoring environment.

We’d need data and contextual information to start with:

Any data:

  • infrastructure / network logs (flows, dns, dhcp, proxy, routing, IPS, DLP, …)
  • host logs (file access, process launch, socket activity, etc.)
  • HIPS, anti virus, file integrity
  • application logs (Web, SAP, HR, …)
  • metrics
  • configuration changes (host, network equipment, physical access, applications)
  • indicators of compromise (threat feeds)
  • physical access logs
  • cloud instrumentation data
  • change tickets
  • incident information

Any context:

  • asset information and classification
  • identity context (roles, etc.)
  • information classification and location (tracking movement?)
  • HR / presonell information
  • vulnerability scans
  • configuration information for each machine, network device, and application

With all this information, what are the different jobs / tasks / themes that need to be covered from a data consumption perspective?

  • situational awareness / dashboards
  • alert triage
  • forensic investigations
  • metric generation from raw logs / mapping to some kind of risk
  • incident management / sharing information / collaboration
  • hunting
  • running models on the data (data science)
    • anomaly detection
    • behavioral analysis
    • scoring
  • reports (PDF, HTML)
  • real-time matching against high volume threat feeds
  • remediating security problems
  • continuous compliance
  • controls verification / audit

What would the right data store look like? What would its capabilities be?

  • storing any kind of data
  • kind of schema less but with schema on demand
  • storing event data (time-stamped data, logs)
  • storing metrics
  • fast random access of small amounts of data, aka search
  • analytical questions
  • looking for ‘patterns’ in the data – maybe something like a computer science grammar that defines patterns
  • building dynamic context from the data (e.g., who was on what machine at what time)
  • anonymization

Looks like there would probably be different data stores: We’d need an index, probably a graph store for complex queries, a columnar store for the analytical questions, pre-aggregated data to answer some of the common queries, and the raw logs as well. Oh boy 😉

I am sure I am missing a bunch of things here. Care to comment?

February 9, 2016

Creating Your Own Threat Intel Through Hunting & Visualization

Filed under: Log Analysis,Security Information Management,Visualization — @ 9th of February 2016, 07:06

Hunting has been a fairly central topic on this blog. I have written about different aspects of hunting here and here.

I just gave a presentation at the Kaspersky Security Analytics Summit where I talked about the concept of internal threat intelligence and showed a number of visualizations to emphasize the concept of interactive discovery to find behavior that really matters in your network.

Creating Your Own Threat Intel Through Hunting & Visualization from Raffael Marty

October 16, 2015

Internal Threat Intelligence – What Hunters Do

Filed under: Security Information Management,Security Intelligence — @ 16th of October 2015, 15:31


Hunting is about learning about, and understand your environment. It is used to build a ‘model’ of your network and applications that you then leverage to configure and tune your detection mechanisms.

I have been preaching about the need to explore our security data for the past 9 or 10 years. I just went back in my slides and I even posted a process diagram about how to integrate exploratory analysis into the threat detection life cycle (sorry for the horrible graph, but back then I had to use PowerPoint :) ):


Back then, people liked the visualizations they saw in my presentations, but nobody took the process seriously. They felt that the visualizations were pretty, but not that useful. Fast forward 7 or 8 years: Everyone is talking about hunting and how they need better tools an methods to explore their data. Suddenly those visualizations from back then are not just pretty, but people start seeing how they are actually really useful.

The core problem with threat detection is a broken process. Back in the glory days of SIEM, experts (or shall we say engineers) sat in a lab cooking up correlation rules and event prioritization formulas to help implement an event funnel:


This is so incredibly broken. [What do I know about this? I ran the team that did this for a big SIEM.] Not every environment is the same. There is no one formula that will help prioritize events. The correlation rules only scratch the surface, etc. etc. The fallout from this is that dozens of companies are frustrated with their SIEMs. They are looking for alternatives; throw them out and build their own. [Please don’t be one of them!]

Then threat intelligence came about. Instead of relying on signatures that identify common threats, let’s look for adversaries as well. Has that worked? Nope. There is a bunch of research indicating that the ‘external’ threat intelligence we have is not good.

What should we do? Well, we have to get away from thinking that a product will solve our problems. We have to roll-up our own sleeves and start creating our own ‘internal’ threat intelligence – through hunting.

The Hunting Process

Another word for hunting is exploring or learning. We need to understand our infrastructure, our applications to then find when there are things happening that are out of the norm.


Let’s look at the diagram above. What you see is a very simple data pipeline that we find everywhere. We ingest any kind of data. We then apply some kind of intelligence to the data to flag relevant events. In the SIEM case, the intelligence are mostly the correlation rules and the prioritization formula. [We have discussed this: pure voodoo.] Let’s have a look at the other pieces in the diagram:

  • Context: This is any additional information we can gather about our objects (machines, users, and applications). This information is crucial for good intelligence. The more surprising it is that the SIEMs haven’t put much attention to features around this.
  • IOCs: This is any kind of external threat intelligence. (see discussion above) We can use the IOCs to flag potentially bad activity.
  • Interactive Visualization: This is really the heart of the hunting process. This is the interface that a hunter uses to explore and learn about the data. Flexibility, speed, and an amazing user experience are key.
  • Internal TI: This is the internal threat intelligence that I mentioned above. This is basically anything we learn about our environment from the hunting process. The information is fed back into the overall system in the form of context and rules or patterns.
  • Models: The other kind of intelligence or knowledge we gather from our hunting activities we can use to optimize and define new models for behavioral analysis, scoring, and finding anomalies. I know, this is kind of vague, but we could spend an entire blog post on just this. Ask if you wanna know more.

To summarize, the hunting process really helps us learn about our environment. It teaches us what is “normal” and how to find “anomalies”. More practically, it informs the rules we write, the patterns we try to find, the behavioral models we build. Without going through this process, we won’t be able to configure / define a system that has a fighting chance of finding advanced adversaries or attackers in our network. Non. Zero. Zilch.

Some more context and elaboration on some of the hunting concepts you can find in my recent darkreading blog post about Threat Intelligence.

October 12, 2015

Who Will Build the Common Backend for Security?

Filed under: Log Analysis,Security Information Management,Security Market — @ 12th of October 2015, 17:00


VCs pay attention: There is an opportunity here, but it is going to be risky 😉 If you want to fund this, let me know.

In short: We need a company that builds and supports the data processing backend for all security products. Make it open source / free. And I don’t think this will be Cloudera. It’s too security specific. But they might have money to fund it? Tom?

I have had my frustrations with the security industry lately. Companies are not building products anymore, but features. Look at the security industry: You have a tool that does behavioral modeling for network traffic. You have a tool that does scoring of users based on information they extract from active directory. Yet another tool does the same for Linux systems and the next company does the same thing for the financial industry. Are you kidding me?

If you are a CISO right now, I don’t envy you. You have to a) figure out what type of products to even put in your environment and b) determine how to operate those products. We are back at where we were about 15 years ago. You need a dozen consoles to gain an understanding of your overall security environment. No cross-correlation, just an oportunity to justify the investment into a dozen screens on each analysts’ desk. Can we really not do better?

One of the fundamental problems that we have is that every single product re-builds the exact same data stack. Data ingestion with parsing, data storage, analytics, etc. It’s exactly the same stack in every single product. And guess what; using the different products, you have to feed all of them the exact same data. You end up collecting the same data multiple times.

We need someone – a company – to build the backend stack once and for all. It’s really clear at this point how to do that: Kafka -> Spark Streaming – Parquet and Cassandra – Spark SQL (maybe Impala). Throw some Esper in the mix, if you want to. Make the platform open so that everyone can plug in their own capabilities and we are done. Not rocket science. Addition: And it should be free / open source!

The hard part comes after. We need every (end-user) company out there to deploy this stack as their data pipeline and storage system (see Security Data Lake). Then, every product company needs to build their technology on top of this stack. That way, they don’t have to re-invent the wheel, companies don’t have to deploy dozens of products, and we can finally build decent product companies again that can focus on their core capabilities.

Now, who is going to fund the product company to build this? We don’t have time to go slow like Elastic in the case of ElasticSearch or RedHat for Linux. We need need this company now; a company that pulls together the right open source components, puts some glue between them, and offers services and maintenance.

Afterthought: Anyone feel like we are back in the year 2000? Isn’t this the exact same situation that the SIEMs were born out of? They promised to help with threat detection. Never delivered. Partly because of the technologies used (RDBMS). Partly due to the closeness of the architecture. Partly due to the fact that we thought we could come up with some formula that computes a priority for each event. Then look at priority 10 events and you are secure. Naive; or just inexperienced. (I am simplifying, but the correlation part is just an add-on to help find important events). If it weren’t for regulations and compliance use-cases, we wouldn’t even speak of SIEMs anymore. It’s time to rebuild this thing the right way. Let’s learn from our mistakes (and don’t get me started what all we have and are still doing wrong in our SIEMs [and those new “feature” products out there]).

May 7, 2015

Security Monitoring / SIEM Use-Cases

Filed under: Log Analysis,Security Information Management,Visualization — @ 7th of May 2015, 15:40

As it happens, I do a lot of consulting for companies that have some kind of log management or SIEM solution deployed. Unfortunately, or maybe not really for me, most companies have a hard time figuring out what to do with their expensive toys. [It is a completely different topic what I think about the security monitoring / SIEM space in general – it’s quite broken.] But here are some tips that I share with companies that are trying to get more out of their SIEMs:

  • First and foremost, start with use-cases. Time and time again, I am on calls with companies and they are telling me that they have been onboarding data sources for the last 4 months. When I ask them what they are trying to do with them, it gets really quiet. Turns out that’s what they expected me to tell them. Well, that’s not how it works. You have to come up with the use-cases you want/need to implement yourself. I don’t know your specific environment, your security policy, or your threat profile. These are the factors that should drive your use-cases.
  • Second, focus on your assets / machines. Identify your most valuable assets – the high business impact (HBI) machines and network segments. Even just identifying them can be quite challenging. I can guarantee you though; the time is well spent. After all, you need to know what you are protecting.
  • Model a set of use-cases around your HBIs. Learn as much as you can about them: What software is running on them? What processes are running? What ports are open? And from a network point of view, what other machines are they communicating with? What internal machines have access to talk to them? Do they talk to the outside world? What machines? How may different ones? When? Use your imagination to come up with more use-cases. Monitor the machines for a week and start defining some policies / metrics that you can monitor. Keep adopting them over time.
  • Based on your use-cases, determine what data you need. You will be surprised what you learn. Your IDS logs might suddenly loose a lot of importance. But your authentication logs and network flows might come in pretty handy. Note how we turned things around; instead of having the data dictate our use-cases, we have the use-cases dictate what data we collect.
  • Next up, figure out how to actually implement your use-cases. Your SIEM is probably going to be the central point for most of the use-case implementations. However, it won’t be able to solve all of your use-cases. You might need some pretty specific tools to model user behavior, machine communications, etc. But also don’t give up too quickly. Your SIEM can do a lot; even initial machine profiling. Try to work with what you have.

Ideally you go through this process before you buy any products. To come up with a set of use-cases, involve your risk management people too. They can help you prioritize your efforts and probably have a number of use-cases they would like to see addressed as well. What I often do is organize a brainstorming session with many different stakeholders across different departments.

Here are some additional resources that might come in handy in your use-case development efforts:

  • Popular SIEM Starter Use Cases – This is a short list of use-cases you can work with. You will need to determine how exactly to collect the data that Anton is talking about in this blog post and how to actually implement the use-case, but the list is a great starting point.
  • AlienVault SIEM Use-Cases – Scroll down just a bit and you will see a list of SIEM use-cases. If you click on them, they will open up and show you some more details around how to implement them. Great list to get started.
  • SANS Critical Security Controls – While this is not specifically a list of SIEM use-cases, I like to use this list as a guide to explore SIEM use-cases. Go through the controls and identify which ones you care about and how you could map them to your SIEM.
  • NIST 800-53 – This is NIST’s control framework. Again, not directly a list of SIEM use-cases, but similar to the SANS list, a great place for inspiration, but also a nice framework to follow in order to make sure you cover the important use-cases. [When I was running the solution team at ArcSight, we implemented an entire solution (app) around the NIST framework.]

Interestingly enough, on most of my recent consulting calls and engagements around SIEM use-cases, I got asked about how to visualize the data in the SIEM to make it more tangible and actionable. Unfortunately, there is no tool out there that would let you do that out of the box. Not yet. Here are a couple of resources you can have a look at to get going though:

  • secviz.org is the community portal for security visualization
  • I sometimes use Gephi for network graph visualizations. The problem is that it is limited to only network graphs. Very quickly you will realize that it would be nice to have other, linked visualizations too. You are off in ‘do it yourself’ land.
  • There is also DAVIX which is a Linux distro for security visualization with a ton of visualization tools readily installed.
  • And – shameless plug – I teach log analysis and visualization workshops where we discuss more of these topics and tools.

Do you have SIEM use-cases that you find super useful? Add them in the comments!

February 20, 2015

The Security Big Data Lake – Paper Published

Filed under: Log Analysis,Security Information Management,Security Intelligence — @ 20th of February 2015, 20:12

As announced in the previous blog post, I have been writing a paper about the security big data lake. A topic that starts coming up with more and more organizations lately. Unfortunately, there is a lot uncertainty around the term so I decided to put some structure to the discussion.

Download the paper here.

A little teaser from the paper: The following table from the paper summarizes the four main building blocks that can be used to put together a SIEM – data lake integration:


Thanks @antonchuvakin for brainstorming and coming up with the diagram.

January 15, 2015

Dashboards in the Security Opartions Center (SOC)

Filed under: Security Information Management,Visualization — @ 15th of January 2015, 15:35

SOCI am sure you have seen those huge screens in a security or network operations center (SOC or NOC). They are usually quite impressive and sometimes even quite beautiful. I have made a habit of looking a little closer at those screens and asking the analysts sitting in front of them whether and how they are using those dashboards. I would say about 80% of the time they don’t use them. I have even seen SOCs that have very expensive screens up on the wall and they are just dark. Nobody is using them. Some SOCs will turn them on when they have customers or executives walk through.

That’s just wrong! Let’s start using these screens!

I recently visited a very very large NOC. They had 6 large screens up where every single screen showed graphs of 25 different measurements: database latencies for each database cluster, number of transactions going through each specific API endpoint, number of users currently active, number of failed logins, etc.

There are two things I learned that day for security applications:

1. Use The Screens For Context

When architecting SOC dashboards, the goal is often to allow analysts to spot attacks or anomalies. That’s where things go wrong! Do you really want your analysts to focus their attention on the dashboards to detect anomalies? Why not put those dashboards on the analysts screens then? Using the SOC screens to detect anomalies or attacks is the wrong use!

Use the dashboards as context. Say an analyst is investigating a number of suspicious looking network connections to a cluster of application servers. The analyst only knows that the cluster runs some sort of business applications. She could just discard the traffic pattern, following perfectly good procedure. However, a quick look up on the overhead screens shows a list of the most recently exploited applications and among them is SAP NetWeaver Dispatcher (arbitrary example). Having that context, the analyst makes the connection between the application cluster and SAP software running on that cluster. Instead of discarding the pattern, she decides to investigate further as it seems there are some fresh exploits being used in the wild.

Or say the analyst is investigating an increase in database write failures along with an increase in inbound traffic. The analyst first suspects some kind of DoS attack. The SOC screens provide more context: Looking at the database metrics, there seems to be an increase in database write latency. It also shows that one of the database machines is down. Furthermore, the transaction volume for one of the APIs is way off the charts, but only compared to earlier in the day. Compared to a week ago (see next section), this is absolutely expected behavior. A quick look in the configuration management database shows that there is a ticket that mentions the maintenance of one of the database servers. (Ideally this information would have been on the SOC screen as well!) Given all this information, this is not a DoS attack, but an IT ops problem. On to the next event.

2. Show Comparisons

If individual graphs are shown on the screens, they can be made more useful if they show comparisons. Look at the following example:

The blue line in the graph shows the metric’s value over the day. It’s 11am right now and we just observed quite a spike in this metric. Comparing the metric to itself, this is clearly an anomaly. However, having the green dotted line in the background, which shows the metric at the same time a week ago, we see that it is normal for this metric to spike at around noon. So no anomaly to be found here.
Why showing a comparison to the values a week ago? It helps absorbing seasonality. If you compared the metric to yesterday, on Monday you would compare to a Sunday, which often shows very different metrics. A month is too far away. A lot of things can change in a month. A week is a good time frame.

What should be on the screens?

The logical next question is what to put on those screens. Well, that depends a little, but here are some ideas:

  • Summary of some news feeds (FS ISAC feeds, maybe even threat feeds)
  • Monitoring twitter or IRC for certain activity
  • All kinds of volumes or metrics (e.g., #firewall blocks, #IDS alerts, #failed transactions)
  • Top 10 suspicious users
  • Top 10 servers connecting outbound (by traffic and by number of connections)

I know, I am being very vague. What is a ‘summary of a news feed’? You can extract the important words and maybe display a word cloud or a treemap. Or you might list certain objects that you find in the news feed, such as vulnerability IDs and vulnerability names. If you monitor IRC, do some natural language processing (NLP) to extract keywords. To find suspicious users you can use all kinds of behavioral models. Maybe you have a product lying around that does something like that.

Why would you want to see the top 10 servers connecting outbound? If you know which servers talk most to the outside world and the list suddenly changes, you might want to know. Maybe someone is exfiltrating information? Even if the list is not that static, your analysts will likely get really good at spotting trends over time. You might even want to filter the list so that the top entries don’t even show up, but maybe the ones at position 11-20. Or something like that. You get the idea.

Have you done anything like that? Write a comment and tell us what works for you. Have some pictures or screenshots? Even better. Send them over!

July 11, 2013

Log Management and SIEM Vendors

Filed under: Log Analysis,Security Information Management,Security Market — @ 11th of July 2013, 16:12

LogManagement_SIEM_Products.001 (1)

This is a slide I built for my Visual Analytics Workshop at BlackHat this year. I tried to summarize all the SIEM and log management vendors out there. I am pretty sure I missed some players. What did I miss? I’ll try to add them before the training.


Here is the list of vendors that are on the slide (in no particular order):

Log Management

  • Tibco
  • KeyW
  • Tripwire
  • Splunk
  • Balabit
  • Tier-3 Systems


  • HP
  • Symantec
  • Tenable
  • Alienvault
  • Solarwinds
  • Attachmate
  • eIQ
  • EventTracker
  • BlackStratus
  • TrustWave
  • LogRhythm
  • ClickSecurity
  • IBM
  • McAfee
  • NetIQ
  • RSA
  • Event Sentry

Logging as a Service

  • SumoLogic
  • Loggly
  • PaperTrail
  • Torch
  • AlertLogic
  • SplunkStorm
  • logentries
  • eGestalt

Update: With input from a couple of folks, I updated the slide a couple of times.

June 28, 2010

All the Data That’s Fit to Visualize

Filed under: Log Analysis,Security Information Management,Uncategorized,Visualization — @ 28th of June 2010, 10:29

Last week I posted the introductionary video for a talk that I gave at Source Boston in 2008. I just found the entire video of that talk. Enjoy:

Talk by Raffael Marty:

With the ever-growing amount of data collected in IT environments, we need new methods and tools to deal with them. Event and Log Analysis is becoming one of the main tools for analysts to investigate and comprehend the state of their networks, hosts, applications, and business processes. Recent developments, such as regulatory compliance and an increased focus on insider threat have increased the demand for analytical tools to help in the process. Visualization is offering a new, more effective, and simpler approach to data analysis. To date, security visualization, has mostly failed to deliver effective tools and methods. This presentation will show what the New York Times has to teach us about effective visualizations. Visualization for the masses and not visualization for the experts. Insider Threat, Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC), and Perimeter Threat all require effective visualization methods and they are right in front of us – in the newspaper.

June 14, 2010

Common Event Expression – CEE

Filed under: Log Analysis,Security Information Management — @ 14th of June 2010, 10:45

cee-logoA rehash of an old blog post from February 2008. I thought it would make sense to give a quick update on CEE and put the link to the public discussion archives here again:

Well well well… I get so many questions from people about CEE. Where is it at, when does it come out, what will it cover? To be honest, I don’t quite know. I have some answers. We have been working really hard on getting a syntax, and a taxonomy working draft written up. I think it’s more than just a working draft. It will be a really well thought through starting point for the final standard around log syntax and taxonomy. For years (I wish this wasn’t literal, but it is), we have been working on this now. Took quite some time to get everyone on the CEE board to run into the same direction. I can’t promise any timeline for publication, but I hope it’s close.

In the meantime, if you are interested in the public discussions around CEE, the public discussion archives are available online.

I have also been working on an application logging paper that I just submitted to USENIX. If you are interested in how we implemented logging at Loggly and want to look at the paper, drop me a line, maybe I will share it.