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SEC511: Continuous Monitoring and Security Operations

Seth is an energetic engaging teacher with the experience and knowledge to tackle subjects facing SOCs today and make this information relevant-useful.
Mick Leach, Nationwide

I run SOCS and this course will and does provide a gut check against what we are doing today.
Tim Housman, General Dynamics Information Technology

SEC511: Continuous Monitoring and Security Operations. We continue to underestimate the tenacity of our adversaries! Organizations are investing a significant amount of time and financial and human resources trying to combat cyber threats and prevent cyber attacks, but despite this tremendous effort organizations are still getting compromised. The traditional perimeter-focused, prevention-dominant approach to security architecture has failed to prevent intrusions. No network is impenetrable, a reality that business executives and security professionals alike have to accept. Prevention is crucial, and we can't lose sight of it as the primary goal. However, a new proactive approach to security is needed to enhance the capabilities of organizations to detect threats that will inevitably slip through their defenses.

The underlying challenge for organizations victimized by an attack is timely incident detection. Industry data suggest that most security breaches typically go undiscovered for an average of seven months. Attackers simply have to find one way into most organizations, because they know that the lack of visibility and internal security controls will then allow them to methodically carry out their mission and achieve their goals.

The Defensible Security Architecture, Network Security Monitoring (NSM)/Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM)/ Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM), taught in this course will best position your organization or Security Operations Center (SOC) to analyze threats and detect anomalies that could indicate cybercriminal behavior. The payoff for this new proactive approach would be early detection of an intrusion, or successfully thwarting the efforts of attackers altogether. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed guidelines described in NIST SP 800-137 for Continuous Monitoring (CM), and Day five (5) will greatly increase your understanding and enhance your skills in implementing Continuous Monitoring utilizing NIST framework.

SANS is uniquely qualified to offer this course. Course authors Eric Conrad (GSE #13) and Seth Misenar (GSE #28) hold the distinguished GIAC Security Expert Certification (GSE). Both are experienced, real-world, practitioners who apply the concepts and techniques they teach in this course on a daily basis. SEC511 will take you on quite a journey. We start by exploring traditional security architecture to assess its current state and the attacks against it. Next, we discuss and discover modern security design that represents a new proactive approach to such architecture that can be easily understood and defended. We then transition to how to actually build the network and endpoint security, and then carefully navigate our way through automation, NSM/CDM/CSM. For timely detection of potential intrusions, the network and systems must be proactively and continuously monitored for any changes in the security posture that might increase the likelihood that attackers will succeed.

Your SEC511 journey will conclude with one last hill to climb! The final day (Day 6) features a capture-the-flag competition that challenges you to apply the skills and techniques learned in the course to detect and defend the modern security architecture that has been designed. Course authors Eric Conrad and Seth Misenar have designed the capture-the-flag competition to be fun, engaging, comprehensive, and challenging. You will not be disappointed!

With your training journey now complete and your skills enhanced and honed, it is time to go back to work and deliver on the SANS promise that you will be able to apply what you learn in this course the day you return to the office.

You Will Be Able To:

  • Analyze a security architecture for deficiencies
  • Apply the principles learned in the course to design a defensible security architecture
  • Understand the importance of a detection-dominant security architecture and security operations centers (SOC)
  • Identify the key components of Network Security Monitoring (NSM)/Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM)/ Continuous Monitoring (CM)
  • Determine appropriate security monitoring needs for organizations of all sizes
  • Implement a robust Network Security Monitoring/Continuous Security Monitoring (NSM/CSM)
  • Determine requisite monitoring capabilities for a SOC environment
  • Determine capabilities required to support continuous monitoring of key Critical Security Controls
  • Utilize tools to support implementation of Continuous Monitoring (CM) per NIST guidelines SP 800-137

While the above list briefly outlines the knowledge and skills you will learn, it barely scratches the surface of what this course has to offer. Hands-on labs throughout the course will reinforce key concepts and principles, as well as teach you how to use scripting to automate continuous monitoring. We look forward to seeing you soon!


This is a technical course and a laptop is required to perform the hands-on exercises. Also, building and establishing a SOC are outside the scope of this course.

Course Syllabus
Course Contents
  SEC511.1: Current State Assessment, SOCs, and Security Architecture

The prevention-dominant security model has failed. Given the frequency and extent of significant intrusions, this should not come as a surprise. In order to address the root of the problem, we must understand the current architecture and the design gaps that facilitate the adversary's dominance. What do we need to address to begin to make things better? Can we ever hope to win? What would winning look like? These are important questions that we must answer if we hope to substantially improve our security posture.

We begin with the end in mind, and define the key techniques and principles that will allow us to achieve that state. An effective modern SOC or Security Architecture must enable an organization's ability to rapidly find intrusions to facilitate containment and response. Both significant knowledge and a commitment to continuous monitoring are required to achieve this goal.

CPE/CMU Credits: 6


Day 1: Current State Assessment, SOCs, and Security Architecture

    • Traditional Security Architecture
    • Perimeter Focused
    • Addressed Layer 3/4
    • Centralized Information Systems
    • Prevention-Oriented
    • Device-driven
    • Traditional Attack Techniques
  • Modern Security Architecture Principles
    • Detection-oriented
    • Post-Exploitation focused
    • Decentralized information systems/data
    • Risk-informed
    • Layer 7 Aware
    • Security Operations Centers
    • Network Security Monitoring
    • Continuous Security Monitoring
    • Modern Attack Techniques
    • Adversarial Dominance
  • Frameworks and Enterprise Security Architecture
    • Enterprise Security Architecture
    • Security Frameworks
  • Security Architecture - Key Techniques/Practices
    • Threat Vector Analysis
    • Data Exfiltration Analysis
    • Detection Dominant Design
    • Zero Trust Model (Kindervag)
    • Intrusion Kill Chain
    • Visibility Analysis
    • Data Visualization
    • Lateral Movement Analysis
    • Data Ingress/Egress Mapping
    • Internal Segmentation
    • Network Security Monitoring
    • Continuous Security Monitoring
  • Security Operations Center (SOC)
    • Purpose of a SOC
    • Key SOC roles
    • Relationship to Defensible Security Architecture
  SEC511.2: Network Security Architecture

Understanding the problems with the current environment and realizing where we need to get is far from sufficient: we need a detailed roadmap to bridge the gap between the current and desired state. Day two introduces and details the components of our infrastructure that become part of a defensible network security architecture and SOC. We are long past the days where a perimeter firewall and ubiquitous antivirus was sufficient security. There are many pieces and moving parts that comprise a modern defensible security architecture.

In addition to discussing technologies like Next Generation Firewalls, UTM devices, Malware Detonation Devices, SIMs, DLP, and Honeypots that may not be found in all organizations, we will focus on repurposing traditional devices such as layer 3/4 firewalls, routers, switches, and NIDS. The goal of this course is not to give you a long list of items to add to the next year's budget, so we will focus on maximizing the capabilities of your current information security architecture, while pointing out new technologies that may offer a compelling return on investment (ROI).

CPE/CMU Credits: 6


Day 2: SOCs and Defensible Network Security Architecture

  • SOCs/Security Architecture - Key Infrastructure Devices
    • Traditional and Next Generation Firewalls, and NIPS
    • Web Application Firewall
    • Malware Detonation Devices
    • HTTP Proxies, Web Content Filtering, and SSL Decryption
    • SIMs, NIDS, Packet Captures, and DLP
    • Honeypots/Honeynets
    • Network Infrastructure - Routers, Switches, DHCP, DNS
    • Mobile Devices and Wireless Access Points
    • Threat Intelligence
  • Segmented Internal Networks
    • Routers
    • Internal SI Firewalls
    • VLANs
    • Detecting the Pivot
  • Defensible Network Security Architecture Principles Applied
    • Internal Segmentation
    • Threat Vector Analysis
    • Data Exfiltration Analysis
    • Detection Dominant Design
    • Zero Trust Model (Kindervag)
    • Intrusion Kill Chain
    • Visibility Analysis
    • Data Visualization
    • Lateral Movement Analysis
    • Data Ingress/Egress Mapping

  SEC511.3: Network Security Monitoring

Designing a SOC or security architecture that enhances visibility and detective capabilities represents a paradigm shift for most organizations. However, the design is simply the beginning. The most important element of a modern security architecture is the emphasis on detection. The network security architecture presented in days one and two emphasized baking visibility and detective capabilities into the design. Now we must figure out how to look at the data and continuously monitor the enterprise for evidence of compromise or changes that increase the likelihood of compromise.

We must first understand the approach and goals of monitoring and define a methodology for analysis. Key terms such as Network Security Monitoring (NSM), Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM), and Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM) can cause confusion, and we will make sure these terms are understood, enabling the security professional to guide an organization in the best practices. Speaking of best practices: we will emphasize the continuous monitoring of the Critical Security Controls.

Then we will describe enabling continuous monitoring by developing a model for employing robust Network Security Monitoring (NSM). NSM will allow an organization to deal with and make sense of data that will rapidly allow for the detection of potential intrusions or unauthorized actions.

CPE/CMU Credits: 6


Continuous Monitoring Overview

  • Defined
  • Network Security Monitoring (NSM)
  • Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM)
  • Continuous Monitoring and the 20 Critical Security Controls

Network Security Monitoring (NSM)

  • Evolution of NSM
  • The NSM Toolbox
  • NIDS Design
  • Analysis Methodology
  • Understanding Data Sources
    • Full Packet Capture
    • Extracted Data
    • String Data
    • Flow Data
    • Transaction Data
    • Statistical Data
    • Alert Data
    • Tagged Data
    • Correlated Data
  • Practical NSM Issues
  • Cornerstone NSM
    • Service-Side and Client-Side Exploits
    • Identifying High-entropy Strings
    • Tracking EXE Transfers
    • Identifying Command and Control (C2) Traffic
    • Tracking User Agents
    • C2 via HTTPS
    • Tracking Encryption Certificates
  SEC511.4: Endpoint Security Architecture

One of the hallmarks of modern attacks is an emphasis on client-side exploitation. The days of breaking into networks via direct frontal assaults on unpatched mail, web, or DNS servers are largely behind us. We must focus on mitigating the risk of compromise of clients. Day four details ways in which endpoint systems can be both more resilient to attack and also enhance detective capabilities.

CPE/CMU Credits: 6


Day 4: SOCs and Defensible Endpoint Security Architecture

  • Security Architecture - Endpoint Protection
    • Anti-malware
    • Host-based Firewall, Host-based IDS/IPS
    • Application Whitelisting, Application Virtualization
    • Privileged Accounts, Authentication, Monitoring, and UAC
    • Whole Disk Encryption
    • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
    • Browser Security
    • EMET
  • Dangerous Endpoint Applications
    • Java
    • Adobe Reader
    • Flash
    • Microsoft Office
    • Browsers
  • Patching
    • Process
    • To Test or Not to Test
    • Microsoft
    • 3rd Party
  SEC511.5: Automation and Continuous Security Monitoring

Network Security Monitoring (NSM) is the beginning: we need to not only detect active intrusions and unauthorized actions, but also know when our systems, networks, and applications are at an increased likelihood for compromise. A strong way to achieve this is through Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM) or Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM). Rather than waiting for the results of a quarterly scan or an annual penetration test to determine what needs to be addressed, continuous monitoring insists on proactively and repeatedly assessing and reassessing the current security posture for potential weaknesses that need be addressed.

The volume of data that must continuously be sought and mined is vast: the goal of continuous monitoring would be out of reach without scripting and automation. Naturally, there are vendors and tools to scratch this itch, but they will be incomplete and require their own care, feeding, and monitoring. Day five describes how to perform continuous monitoring with simple tools and scripts.

Knowing how to script and automate is pointless unless you know what data should be captured and analyzed on a continuous basis. Again leaning on the Critical Security Controls, we will determine high value targets for continuous monitoring in an enterprise.

CPE/CMU Credits: 6


Continuous Security Monitoring

  • Overview
    • Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM) vs. Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) vs. Information Security Continuous Monitoring (ISCM)
    • Cyberscope and SCAP
  • Industry Best Practices
    • Continuous Monitoring and the 20 Critical Security Controls
    • Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) Strategies to Mitigate Targeted Cyber Intrusions
  • Winning CSM Techniques
  • Maintaining Situational Awareness
  • Host, Port and Service Discovery
  • Vulnerability Scanning
  • Monitoring Patching
  • Monitoring Applications
  • Monitoring Service Logs
    • Detecting Malware via DNS logs
  • Monitoring Change to Devices and Appliances
  • Leveraging Proxy and Firewall Data
  • Configuring Centralized Windows Event Log Collection
  • Monitoring Critical Windows Events
    • Hands on: Detecting Malware via Windows Event Logs
  • Scripting and Automation
    • Importance of Automation
    • PowerShell
    • Hands-on: Detecting Malicious Registry Run Keys with PowerShell
  SEC511.6: Capstone: Design, Detect, Defend

The course culminates in a team-based design, detect, and defend the flag competition. Powered by NetWars, day six provides a full day of hands-on work applying the principles taught throughout the week.

Your team will progress through multiple levels and missions designed to ensure mastery of the modern cyber defense techniques promoted all week long. From security architecture, network security monitoring, endpoint security, and continuous monitoring, this challenging exercise will reinforce key principles in a fun, hands-on, team-based challenge.

CPE/CMU Credits: 6


Day 6: Capstone - Design/Detect/Defend

  • Security Architecture
  • Assess provided architecture
  • Continuous Security Monitoring
  • Using tools/scripts assess the initial state
  • Quickly/Thoroughly find all changes made
Additional Information
  Laptop Required


A properly configured system is required for each student participating in this course. Before coming to class, carefully read and follow these instructions exactly.

You can use any 64-bit version of Windows, MAC OSX, or Linux as your core operating system that also can install and run VMware virtualization products. You also must have 8 GB of RAM or higher for the VM to function properly in the class.

It is critical that your CPU and operating system support 64-bit so that our 64-bit guest virtual machine will run on your laptop.

In addition to having 64-bit capable hardware, AMD-V, Intel VT-x, or the equivalent must be enabled in BIOS/UEFI.

Please download and install VMware Workstation 11, VMware Fusion 7, or VMware Player 7 or higher versions on your system prior to class beginning. If you do not own a licensed copy of VMware Workstation or Fusion, you can download a free 30-day trial copy from VMware. VMware will send you a time-limited serial number if you register for the trial at their Web site.


  • CPU: 64-bit 2.0+ GHz processor or higher-based system is mandatory for this class (Important - Please Read: a 64-bit system processor is mandatory)
  • BIOS/UEFI: VT-x, AMD-V, or the equivalent must be enabled in the BIOS/UEFI
  • RAM: 8 GB (Gigabytes) of RAM or higher is mandatory for this class (Important - Please Read: 8 GB of RAM or higher is mandatory)
  • Wired Ethernet port (or adapter)
  • Wireless Ethernet 802.11 B/G/N/AC
  • USB 3.0 Ports Highly Recommended
  • Disk: 25 Gigabytes of free disk space
  • VMware Workstation 11, Player 7, or Fusion 7 (or newer)
  • A Linux and Windows 8.1 Virtual machine will be provided in class

If you have additional questions about the laptop specifications, please contact laptop_prep@sans.org.

  Who Should Attend
  • Security Architects
  • Senior Security Engineers
  • Technical Security Managers
  • SOC Analysts
  • SOC Engineers
  • SOC Managers
  • CND Analysts
  • Individuals working to implement Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM), Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM), or Network Security Monitoring (NSM)


Basic understanding of network protocols and devices. Experience with Linux and Windows from the command line.

  What You Will Receive

In this course, you will receive the following:

  • MP3 audio files of the complete course lecture
  Hands-on Training
  • Discovering indictors of adversary persistence
  • Identifying evidence of post-exploitation pivoting
  • Automating/Scripting Continuous Monitoring
  • Snort for Exfiltration
  • Data Leakage Detection
  • Autoruns
  • Sguil
  • Wireshark
  • NetworkMiner
  • Bro
  • Kansa
  • ELSA
  • Sysmon
  • ModSecurity
  • Data Breach Detection with Honeytokens
  • Log and Event Correlation
  • Automating Port Scanning
  • Automating Host Discovery
  • Automating Service Detection
  • Final Capstone: Design, Detect, and Defend the Flag. Powered by NetWars
  What To Take Next?

Courses that lead-in

Courses that are good follow-ups


Author Statement

We are just beginning to accept that every organization can and will be breached. Perimeter-focused preventive security controls have failed. Attackers simply have to find one way into most organizations, and then the lack of internal security controls allows adversaries to take their time to achieve the goal.

This course assesses the current state of security architecture and continuous monitoring, and provides a new approach to security architecture that can be easily understood and defended. What I love most about this course is that when students walk out they have a list of action items in hand for making their organization one of the most effective vehicles for frustrating adversaries. Students are able to assess deficiencies in their own organizations security architectures and effect meaningful changes that are continuously monitored for deviations from their expected security posture. - Eric Conrad and Seth Misenar

Additional Resources

Take your learning beyond the classroom. Explore our site network for additional resources related to this course's subject matter.

Online options available. Train from any location.
/ Location
/ Instructor

Training Event
Essentials Dec 12, 2015 -
Dec 19, 2015

Training Event
Essentials Jan 25, 2016 -
Jan 30, 2016

Training Event
SANS Scottsdale 2016
Scottsdale, AZ
Feb 8, 2016 -
Feb 13, 2016

Training Event
Essentials Feb 15, 2016 -
Feb 20, 2016

Training Event
Essentials Feb 15, 2016 -
Feb 20, 2016

Training Event
SANS Philadelphia 2016
Philadelphia, PA
Feb 29, 2016 -
Mar 5, 2016

Training Event
SANS 2016
Orlando, FL
Mar 12, 2016 -
Mar 21, 2016

Training Event
SANS Secure Singapore 2016
Singapore, Singapore
Mar 28, 2016 -
Apr 9, 2016

Training Event
Essentials Apr 4, 2016 -
Apr 9, 2016

Training Event
Essentials Apr 29, 2016 -
May 6, 2016

Training Event
Essentials May 9, 2016 -
May 14, 2016

Training Event
Essentials May 9, 2016 -
May 14, 2016

Training Event
SANS Prague 2016
Prague, Czech Republic
May 9, 2016 -
May 14, 2016

Training Event
SANS Melbourne 2016
Melbourne, Australia
May 16, 2016 -
May 21, 2016

Training Event
Essentials Aug 1, 2016 -
Aug 6, 2016

Training Event
SANS Sydney 2016
Sydney, Australia
Nov 7, 2016 -
Nov 19, 2016

Essentials Feb 3, 2016 -
Feb 10, 2016

Community SANS
Essentials Dec 7, 2015 -
Dec 12, 2015

Community SANS
Essentials Feb 8, 2016 -
Feb 13, 2016

Community SANS
Essentials Apr 11, 2016 -
Apr 16, 2016

Mentor Session
Raleigh, NC
Jan 28, 2016 -
Mar 10, 2016

Feb 2, 2016 -
Mar 10, 2016

Sep 27, 2016 -
Nov 3, 2016


Mar 14, 2016 -
Mar 19, 2016

May 9, 2016 -
May 14, 2016


*Course contents may vary depending upon location, see specific event description for details.