SEC555: SIEM with Tactical Analytics

GIAC Certified Detection Analyst (GCDA)
GIAC Certified Detection Analyst (GCDA)
  • In Person (6 days)
  • Online
46 CPEs

Many organizations have logging capabilities but lack the people and processes to analyze them. In addition, logging systems collect vast amounts of data from a variety of data sources which require an understanding of the sources for proper analysis. This class is designed to provide training, methods, and processes for enhancing existing logging solutions. This class will also provide the understanding of the when, what, and why behind the logs. This is a lab-heavy course that utilizes SOF-ELK, a SANS-sponsored free SIEM solution, to train hands-on experience and provide the mindset for large-scale data analysis.

What You Will Learn

Many organizations have logging capabilities but lack the people and processes to analyze it. In addition, logging systems collect vast amounts of data from a variety of data sources which require an understanding of the sources for proper analysis. This class is designed to provide individuals training, methods, and processes for enhancing existing logging solutions. This class will also provide the understanding of the when, what, and why behind the logs. This is a lab heavy course that utilizes SOF-ELK, a SANS sponsored free SIEM solution, to train hands on experience and provide the mindset for large scale data analysis.

Today, security operations do not suffer from a "Big Data" problem but rather a "Data Analysis" problem. Let's face it, there are multiple ways to store and process large amounts of data without any real emphasis on gaining insight into the information collected. Added to that is the daunting idea of an infinite list of systems from which one could collect logs. It is easy to get lost in the perils of data saturation. This class is the switch from the typical churn and burn log systems, to achieving actionable intelligence and developing a tactical Security Operations Center (SOC).

This course is designed to demystify the Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) architecture and process, by navigating the student through the steps of tailoring and deploying a SIEM to full Security Operations Center (SOC) integration. The material will cover many bases in the "appropriate" use of a SIEM platform to enrich readily available log data in enterprise environments and extract actionable intelligence. Once collected, the student will be shown how to present the gathered input into useable formats to aid in eventual correlation. Students will then iterate through the log data and events to analyze key components that will allow them to learn how rich this information is, how to correlate the data, start investigating based on the aggregate data, and finally, how to go hunting with this newly gained knowledge. They will also learn how to deploy internal post-exploitation tripwires and breach canaries to nimbly detect sophisticated intrusions. Throughout the course, the text and labs will not only show how to manually perform these actions, but how to automate many of the processes mentioned so students may employ these tasks the day they return to the office.

The underlying theme is to actively apply Continuous Monitoring and analysis techniques by utilizing modern cyber threat attacks. Labs will involve replaying captured attack data to provide real world results and visualizations.

This Course Will Prepare You To:

  • Deploy the SANS SOF-ELK VM in production environments
  • Demonstrate ways most SIEMs commonly lag current open source solutions (e.g. SOF-ELK)
  • Bring students up to speed on SIEM use, architecture, and best practices
  • Know what type of data sources to collect logs from
  • Deploy a scalable logs solution with multiple ways to retrieve logs
  • Operationalize ordinary logs into tactical data
  • Develop methods to handle billions of logs from many disparate data sources
  • Understand best practice methods for collecting logs
  • Dig into log manipulation techniques challenging many SIEM solutions
  • Build out graphs and tables that can be used to detect adversary activities and abnormalities
  • Combine data into active dashboards that make analyst review more tactical
  • Utilize adversary techniques against them by using frequency analysis in large data sets
  • Develop baselines of network activity based on users and devices
  • Develop baselines of Windows systems with the ability to detect changes from the baseline
  • Apply multiple forms of analysis such as long tail analysis to find abnormalities
  • Correlate and combine multiple data sources to achieve more complete understanding
  • Provide context to standard alerts to help understand and prioritize them
  • Use log data to establish security control effectiveness
  • Implement log alerts that create virtual tripwires for early breach detection
  • Understand how to handle container monitoring and log collection
  • Baseline and find unauthorized changes in cloud environments
  • Integrate and write custom scripts against a SIEM

SEC555 reinforces knowledge transfer by having many hands-on labs. This goes well beyond the traditional lecture and delves into literal application of techniques. Labs are wide ranging such as:

  • Log collection labs
  • Log augmentation labs
  • Log correlation labs
  • Windows log analysis labs
  • System and network baseline labs
  • Daily Immersive Cyber Challenges (NetWars game engine)
  • NetWars-based Final Capstone

The SEC555 Workbook provides a step by step guide to learning and applying hands on techniques but also provides a "challenge yourself" approach for those who want to stretch their skills and see how far they can get without following the guide. This allows students of varying backgrounds to pick a difficulty and always have a frustration free fallback path.

To make learning go from great to awesome days one through five include a SEC555 custom NetWars experience. This game engine provides a fun and entertaining way to reinforce skills and learn concepts. It also provides a fun excuse to give students more hands on experience, a key component often missing in organizations.

What You Will Receive

  • Custom distribution of the Linux SANS SOF-ELK Virtual Machine containing pre-built logging filters, visualizations, and active dashboards
  • Realistic log data and packet captures from multiple data sources including:
    • Windows event logs
    • DNS logs
    • HTTP logs
    • x509 certificate logs from Bro
    • NetFlow data
    • Packet captures to replay through IDS as well as captured logs
  • MP3 audio files of the complete course lecture
  • Intro and walkthrough videos of labs
  • Documentation to implement SOF-ELK in your environment
  • A Digital Download Package that includes the above and more

Syllabus (46 CPEs)

Download PDF
  • Overview

    Logging and analysis is a critical component in cyber network defense and allows for both reactive and proactive detection of adversarial activities. When properly utilized it becomes the backbone for agile detection as well as provides understanding to the overall environment. Logging and analysis products and techniques have been around for many years and are quickly gaining more and more functionality. This section will introduce free logging and analysis tools and focus on techniques to make sense of and augment traditional logs. It also covers how to handle the big data problem of handling billions of logs and how advances in free tools are starting to give commercial solutions a run for their money.

    Day one is designed to bring all students up to speed on SIEM concepts and to bring all students to a base level to carry them through the rest of the class. It is designed to also cover SIEM best practices. During day one we will be introducing Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana within SOF-ELK (a VM co-maintained by Phil Hagen and Justin Henderson) and immediately go into labs to get students comfortable with ingesting, manipulating, and reporting on log data.

    • SOF-ELK Orientation
    • Consuming logs using files or network ports
    • Finding ways to take "ordinary" logs and augment them to advanced detection capabilities
    • Develop visualizations and dashboards to find the adversary activity lurking within massive amounts of data
    • State of the SOC/SIEM
      • Industry statistics
      • Industry problems
    • Log Monitoring
      • Assets
        • Windows/Linux
        • Network devices
        • Security devices
      • Data gathering strategies
      • Pre-planning
    • Logging architecture
      • Log inconsistencies
      • Log collection and normalization
      • Log retention strategies
      • Correlation and gaining context
      • Reporting and analytics
      • Alerting
    • SIEM platforms
      • Commercial solutions
      • Home-grown solutions
    • Planning a SIEM
      • Ingestion control
      • What to collect
      • Mission
    • SIEM Architecture
    • Ingestion techniques and nodes
      • Acceptance and manipulation for value
      • Augmentation of logs for detection
    • Data queuing and resiliency
    • Storage and speed
    • Analytical reporting
      • Visualizations
      • Detection Dashboards
  • Overview

    A vast majority of network communication occurs over key network protocols and yet it is uncommon for organizations to use or collect this data. The sheer volume can be overwhelming. However, these common data sources provide an opportunity in identifying modern day attacks.

    This section covers how to collect and handle this massive amount of data. Methods for collecting these logs through service logs such as from DNS servers will be covered as well as passive ways of pulling the same data from the network itself. Techniques will be demonstrated to augment and add valuable context to the data as it is collected.

    Finally, analytical principles will be covered for finding the needles in the stack of needles. We will cover how even if we have the problem of searching through billions of logs that we can surface only meaningful items of interest. Active dashboards will be designed to quickly find the logs of interest and to provide analysts with additional context for what to do next.

    • Operationalizing massive amounts of DNS logs
    • Detecting C2 and other HTTP attacks by analyzing HTTP data across the enterprise
    • Use adversary tactics against them using HTTPS logs and advanced analytic principles
    • Develop dashboards and visualizations to identify adversarial activity
    • Detection methods and relevance to log analysis
      • Attacker patterns
      • Attacker behaviors
      • Abnormalities
    • Analyzing common application logs that generate tremendous amounts of data
      • DNS
        • Finding new domains being accessed
        • Pulling in addition information such as domain age
        • Finding randomly named domains
        • Discover domain shadowing techniques
        • Identifying recon
        • Find DNS C2 channels
      • HTTP
        • Use large datasets to find attacks
        • Identify bot traffic hiding in the clear
        • Discover requests that users do not make
          • Find ways to filter out legitimate noise
        • Use attacker randomness against them
        • Identify automated activity vs user activity
        • Filter approved web clients vs unauthorized
        • Find HTTP C2 channels
      • HTTPS
        • Alter information for large scale analysis
        • Analyze certificate fields to identify attack vectors
        • Track certificate validity
        • Apply techniques that overlap with standard HTTP
        • Find HTTPS C2 channels
      • SMTP
        • Identify where unauthorized email is coming from
        • Find compromised mail services
        • Fuzzy matching likely phishing domains
        • Data exfiltration detection
    • Apply threat intelligence to generic network logs
    • Active Dashboards and Visualizations
      • Correlate network datasets
      • Build frequency analysis tables
      • Establish network baseline activity
  • Overview

    The value in endpoint logs provides tremendous visibility in detecting attacks. Especially, in regards to finding post compromise activity, endpoint logs can quickly become second to none. However, logs even on a single desktop can range in the tens if not hundreds of thousand events per day. Multiply this by the number of systems in your environment and it is no surprise why organizations get overwhelmed.

    This section will cover the how and more importantly the why behind collecting system logs. Various collection strategies and tools will be used to gain hands on experience and to provide simplification with handling and filtering the seemingly infinite amount of data generated by both servers and workstations.

    Workstations log strategies will be covered in depth due to their value in today's modern attack vectors. After all, modern day attacks typically start and then spread from workstations.

    • Filtering endpoint logs
    • Detect compromise using key Windows events
    • Identify internal pivoting activity using system logs
    • Detect post exploitation using command line logging
    • Apply long tail analysis to identify abnormal program usage
    • Docker logging and monitoring
    • Endpoint logs
      • Understanding value
      • Methods of collection
        • Agents
        • Agentless
        • Scripting
      • Adding additional logging
        • EMET
        • Sysmon
        • Group Policy
      • Windows filtering and tuning
      • Analyze critical events based on attacker patterns
        • Finding signs of exploitation
        • Find signs of internal reconnaissance
        • Finding persistence
        • Privilege escalation
        • Establishing a foothold
        • Cleaning up tracks
      • Host-based firewall logs
        • Discover internal pivoting
        • Identify unauthorized listening executables
        • See scan activity
      • Credential theft and reuse
        • Multiple failed logons
        • Unauthorized account use
      • Monitor PowerShell
        • Configure PowerShell logging
        • Identify obfuscation
        • Identify modern attacks
      • Containers
        • Logging methods
        • Monitoring
  • Overview

    Know thyself is often quoted to defenders as a key defense strategy. And yet this one of the most difficult things to accomplish. Take something such as having a list of all assets in an organization and knowing if any non-company assets are on the network. The task sounds simple but ends up being incredibly difficult to maintain in today's ever evolving networks.

    This section focuses on applying techniques to automatically maintain a list of assets and their configurations as well as methods to distinguish if they are authorized vs unauthorized. Key locations to provide high fidelity data will be covered and techniques to correlate and combine multiple sources of data together will be demonstrated to build a master inventory list.

    Other forms of knowing thyself will be introduced such as gaining hands on experience in applying network and system baselining techniques. We will monitor network flows and identify abnormal activity such as C2 beaconing as well as look for unusual user activity.

    Finally, we will apply large data analysis techniques to sift through massive amounts of endpoint data. This will be used to find things such as unwanted persistence mechanisms, dual-homed devices, and more.

    • Develop a master asset list with detailed information
    • Discover unauthorized programs and processes
    • Identify encrypted C2 using flow data analysis
    • Discover post compromise activity through large scale baseline analysis
    • Cloud monitoring and baselining
    • Writing scripts to interact with a SIEM
    • Identify authorized and unauthorized assets

      • Active asset discovery
        • Scanners
        • Network Access Control
      • Passive asset discovery
        • DHCP
        • Network listeners such as p0f, bro, and prads
        • NetFlow
        • Switch CAM tables
      • Combining asset inventory into a master list
      • Adding contextual information
        • Vulnerability data
        • Authenticated device vs unauthenticated device
    • Identify authorized and unauthorized software
      • Source collection
        • Asset inventory systems
        • Patching management
        • Whitelisting solutions
        • Process monitoring
      • Discovering unauthorized software
    • Baseline data
      • Network data (from netflow, firewalls, etc)
        • Use outbound flows to discover unauthorized use or assets
        • Compare expected inbound/outbound protocol
        • Find persistence and beaconing
        • Utilize geolocation and reverse dns lookups
        • Establish device-to-device relationships
        • Identify lateral movement
        • Configure outbound communication thresholds
      • Monitor logons based on patterns
        • Time-based
        • Concurrency of logons
          • # logons by user
          • # logons by source device
          • Multiple geo locations
      • Endpoint baseline monitoring
        • Configure enterprise wide baseline collection
        • Large scale persistence monitoring
        • Finding abnormal local user accounts
        • Discover dual-homed devices
      • Cloud baselining (Example in class uses Amazon AWS)
  • Overview

    Multiple security devices exist but often are designed to be independent. Analysts are commonly divided into specialty areas and focus on their respective area such as a network intrusion detection system. However, alerts from a single security device lack context and are akin to the common analogy of "looking up from the bottom of a well".

    This section focuses on combining multiple security logs for central analysis. More importantly we will cover methods for combining multiple sources to provide improved context to analysts. We will also show how providing context with asset data can help prioritize analyst time, saving money and addressing risks that matter.

    After covering ways to optimize traditional security alerts we will jump into new methods to utilize logging technology to implement virtual tripwires. While it would be ideal to prevent attacker's from gaining access to your network it is a given that at some point you will be compromised. However, compromise is just the beginning and not the end goal. Adversaries will crawl your systems and network to achieve their own ends. Knowing this we will implement logging based tripwires that should a single one be "stepped on" we can quickly detect and respond to the adversary.

    • Use security alerts with log context to identify real attacks
    • Establish security control effectiveness and monitor for unauthorized outbound connections
    • Use log data to establish virtual tripwires for early detection
    • Perform post-mortem analysis to find previously undiscovered compromise
    • Centralize NIDS and HIDS alerts
    • Analyze endpoint security logs
      • Provide alternative analysis methods
      • Configure tagging to facilitate better reporting
    • Augment intrusion detection alerts
      • Extract CVE, OSVDB, etc for further context
      • Pull in rule info and other info such as geo
    • Analyze vulnerability information
      • Setup vulnerability reports
      • Correlate CVE, OSVDB, and other unique IDs with IDS alerts
      • Prioritize IDS alerts based on vulnerability context
    • Correlate malware sandbox logs with other systems to identify victims across enterprise
    • Monitor Firewall Activity
      • Identify scanning activity on inbound denies
      • Apply auto response based on alerts
      • Find unexpected outbound traffic
      • Baseline allow/denies to identify unexpected changes
      • Apply techniques to filter out noise in denied traffic
    • SIEM tripwires
      • Configure systems to generate early log alerts after compromise
        • Identify file and folder scan activity
        • Identify user token stealing
        • Operationalize virtual honeypots with central logging
        • Allow phone home tracking
    • Post mortem analysis
      • Re-analyze network traffic
        • Identify malicious domains and IPs
        • Look for beaconing activity
      • Identify unusual time-based activity
      • Use threat intel to reassess previous data fields such as user-agents
      • Utilize hashes in log to constantly re-evaluate for known bad files
  • Overview

    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 building a logging architecture, augmenting logs, analyzing network logs, analyzing system logs, and developing dashboards to find attacks, this challenging exercise will reinforce key principles in a fun, hands-on, team-based challenge.

    • Defend-the-Flag Challenge - Hands-on Experience

GIAC Certified Detection Analyst

"The GIAC Certified Detection Analyst (GCDA) is an industry certification that proves an individual knows how to collect, analyze, and tactically use modern network and endpoint data sources to detect malicious or unauthorized activity. This certification shows individuals not only know how to wield tools such as Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) but that they know how to use tools to turn attacker strengths into attacker weaknesses." - Justin Henderson, SANS SEC555 Course Author

  • SIEM Architecture and SOF-ELK

  • Service Profiling, Advanced Endpoint Analytics, Baselining and User Behavior Monitoring

  • Tactical SIEM Detection and Post-Mortem Analysis


A basic understanding of TCP/IP, logging methods and techniques, and general operating system fundamentals. Moderate familiarization with logging systems (both network and host), messaging queues, be accustomed to command-line activity, and commercial/open source SIEM solutions is a bonus.

Laptop Requirements

Important! Bring your own system configured according to these instructions!

A properly configured system is required to fully participate in this course. If you do not carefully read and follow these instructions, you will likely leave the class unsatisfied because you will not be able to participate in hands-on exercises that are essential to this course. Therefore, we strongly urge you to arrive with a system meeting all the requirements specified for the course.

CRITICAL NOTE: Apple systems using the M1 processor line cannot perform the necessary virtualization functionality and therefore cannot in any way be used for this course.

You can use the latest version of Windows 10, macOS 10.15.x or later, or Linux that also can install and run VMware virtualization products described below. 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.

Download and install either VMware Workstation 15.5.x, Fusion 11.5.x or Workstation Player 15.5 or higher versions before class. 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 website.

Other virtualization software, such as VirtualBox and Hyper-V, are not appropriate because of compatibility and troubleshooting problems you might encounter during class.

VMware Workstation Pro and VMware Player on Windows 10 is not compatible with Windows 10 Credential Guard and Device Guard technologies. Please disable these capabilities for the duration of the class, if they're enabled on your system, by following instructions in this document.


  • 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 15.5, Workstation Player 11.5, or Fusion 15.5 (or newer)
  • A Linux virtual machine will be provided in class

Your course media will now be delivered via download. The media files for class can be large, some in the 40 - 50 GB range. You need to allow plenty of time for the download to complete. Internet connections and speed vary greatly and are dependent on many different factors. Therefore, it is not possible to give an estimate of the length of time it will take to download your materials. Please start your course media downloads as you get the link. You will need your course media immediately on the first day of class. Waiting until the night before the class starts to begin your download has a high probability of failure.

SANS has begun providing printed materials in PDF form. Additionally, certain classes are using an electronic workbook in addition to the PDFs. The number of classes using eWorkbooks will grow quickly. In this new environment, we have found that a second monitor and/or a tablet device can be useful by keeping the class materials visible while the instructor is presenting or while you are working on lab exercises.

Author Statement

Today, security operations do not suffer from a "Big Data" problem but rather a "Data Analysis" problem. Let's face it, there are multiple ways to store and process large amounts of data without any real emphasis on gaining insight into the information collected. Added to that is the daunting idea of an infinite list of systems from which one could collect logs and it is easy to get lost in the perils of data saturation. This class is the switch from the typical churn and burn log systems to achieving actionable intelligence and developing a tactical Security Operations Center (SOC).

- Justin Henderson

"Justin Henderson is the best. A colleague recommended I take a course with him, and he has not disappointed. He's very well taught, thorough, and he's able to apply the coursework to normal everyday problems often encountered in our work place." - Christopher Collins, NIST

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