Get the Skills you need from Home with SANS Online Training - Special Offers Available Now

SANSFIRE 2020 - Live Online

Virtual, US Eastern | Sat, Jun 13 - Sat, Jun 20, 2020

FOR578: Cyber Threat Intelligence

Mon, June 15 - Fri, June 19, 2020

Associated Certification: GIAC Cyber Threat Intelligence (GCTI)

FOR578: Cyber Threat Intelligence course author Robert M. Lee explains recent updates


Every security practitioner should attend the FOR578: Cyber Threat Intelligence course. This course is unlike any other technical training you have experienced. It focuses on structured analysis in order to establish a solid foundation for any security skillset and to amplify existing skills. The course will help practitioners from across the security spectrum to:

  • Develop analysis skills to better comprehend, synthesize, and leverage complex scenarios
  • Identify and create intelligence requirements through practices such as threat modeling
  • Understand and develop skills in tactical, operational, and strategic-level threat intelligence
  • Generate threat intelligence to detect, respond to, and defeat focused and targeted threats
  • Learn the different sources to collect adversary data and how to exploit and pivot off of it
  • Validate information received externally to minimize the costs of bad intelligence
  • Create Indicators of Compromise (IOCs) in formats such as YARA, OpenIOC, and STIX
  • Move security maturity past IOCs into understanding and countering the behavioral tradecraft of threats
  • Establish structured analytical techniques to be successful in any security role

It is common for security practitioners to call themselves analysts. But how many of us have taken structured analysis training instead of simply attending technical training? Both are important, but very rarely do analysts focus on training on analytical ways of thinking. This course exposes analysts to new mindsets, methodologies, and techniques that will complement their existing knowledge as well as establish new best practices for their security teams. Proper analysis skills are key to the complex world that defenders are exposed to on a daily basis.

The analysis of an adversary's intent, opportunity, and capability to do harm is known as cyber threat intelligence. Intelligence is not a data feed, nor is it something that comes from a tool. Intelligence is actionable information that answers a key knowledge gap, pain point, or requirement of an organization. This collection, classification, and exploitation of knowledge about adversaries gives defenders an upper hand against adversaries and forces defenders to learn and evolve with each subsequent intrusion they face.

Cyber threat intelligence thus represents a force multiplier for organizations looking to establish or update their response and detection programs to deal with increasingly sophisticated threats. Malware is an adversary's tool, but the real threat is the human one, and cyber threat intelligence focuses on countering those flexible and persistent human threats with empowered and trained human defenders.

Knowledge about the adversary is core to all security teams. The red team needs to understand adversaries' methods in order to emulate their tradecraft. The Security Operations Center needs to know how to prioritize intrusions and quickly deal with those that need immediate attention. The incident response team needs actionable information on how to quickly scope and respond to targeted intrusions. The vulnerability management group needs to understand which vulnerabilities matter most for prioritization and the risk that each one presents. The threat hunting team needs to understand adversary behaviors to search out new threats.

In other words, cyber threat intelligence informs all security practices that deal with adversaries. FOR578: Cyber Threat Intelligence will equip you, your security team, and your organization in the tactical, operational, and strategic level cyber threat intelligence skills and tradecraft required to better understand the evolving threat landscape and to accurately and effectively counter those threats.

Course Syllabus

Peter Szczepankiewicz
Mon Jun 15th, 2020
9:00 AM - 12:15 PM ET
1:30 PM - 5:00 PM ET


Cyber threat intelligence is a rapidly growing field. However, intelligence was a profession long before the word "cyber" entered the lexicon. Understanding the key points regarding intelligence terminology, tradecraft, and impact is vital to understanding and using cyber threat intelligence. This section introduces students to the most important concepts of intelligence, analysis tradecraft, and levels of threat intelligence, and the value they can add to organizations. It also focuses on getting your intelligence program off to the right start with planning, direction, and the generation of intelligence requirements. As with all sections, the day includes immersive hands-on labs to ensure that students have the ability to turn theory into practice.

  • Using Structured Analytical Techniques
  • Consuming Along the Sliding Scale
  • Enriching and Understanding Limitations
  • Strategic Threat Modeling

CPE/CMU Credits: 6

  • Case-Study: Carbanak, "The Great Bank Robbery"
  • Understanding Intelligence
    • Intelligence Lexicon and Definitions
    • Traditional Intelligence Cycle
    • Sherman Kent and Intelligence Tradecraft
    • Structured Analytical Techniques
  • Understanding Cyber Threat Intelligence
    • Defining Threats
    • Understanding Risk
    • Cyber Threat Intelligence and Its Role
    • Expectation of Organizations and Analysts
    • Four Methods of Threat Detection
  • Threat Intelligence Consumption
    • Sliding Scale of Cybersecurity
    • Consuming Intelligence for Different Goals
    • Enabling Other Teams with Intelligence
  • Positioning the Team to Generate Intelligence
    • Building an Intelligence Team
    • Positioning the Team in the Organization
    • Prerequisites for Intelligence Generation
  • Planning and Direction (Developing Requirements)
    • Intelligence Requirements
    • Priority Intelligence Requirements
    • Beginning the Intelligence Lifecycle
    • Threat Modeling

Peter Szczepankiewicz
Tue Jun 16th, 2020
9:00 AM - 12:15 PM ET
1:30 PM - 5:00 PM ET


Intrusion analysis is at the heart of threat intelligence. It is a fundamental skillset for any security practitioner who wants to use a more complete approach to addressing security. Two of the most commonly used models for assessing adversary intrusions are the "kill chain" and the "Diamond Model". These models serve as a framework and structured scheme for analyzing intrusions and extracting patterns such as adversary behaviors and malicious indicators. In this section students will participate in and be walked through multi-phase intrusions from initial notification of adversary activity to the completion of analysis of the event. The section also highlights the importance of this process in terms of structuring and defining adversary campaigns.

  • Using Structured Analytical Techniques
  • Consuming Along the Sliding Scale
  • Enriching and Understanding Limitations
  • Strategic Threat Modeling

CPE/CMU Credits: 6

  • Primary Collection Source: Intrusion Analysis
    • Intrusion Analysis as a Core Skillset
    • Methods to Performing Intrusion Analysis
    • Intrusion Kill Chain
  • Kill Chain Courses of Action
    • Passively Discovering Activity in Historical Data and Logs
    • Detecting Future Threat Actions and Capabilities
    • Denying Access to Threats
    • Delaying and Degrading Adversary Tactics and Malware
  • Kill Chain Deep Dive
    • Scenario Introduction
    • Notification of Malicious Activity
    • Pivoting Off of a Single Indicator to Discover Adversary Activity
    • Identifying and Categorizing Malicious Actions
    • Using Network and Host-Based Data
    • Interacting with Incident Response Teams
    • Interacting with Malware Reverse Engineers
    • Effectively Leveraging Requests for Information
  • Handling Multiple Kill Chains
    • Identifying Different Simultaneous Intrusions
    • Managing and Constructing Multiple Kill Chains
    • Linking Related Intrusions
  • Collection Source: Malware
    • Data from Malware Analysis
    • Key Data Types to Analyze and Pivot On
    • VirusTotal and Malware Parsers
    • Identifying Intrusion Patterns and Key Indicators

Peter Szczepankiewicz
Wed Jun 17th, 2020
9:00 AM - 12:15 PM ET
1:30 PM - 5:00 PM ET


Cyber Threat Intelligence analysts must be able to interrogate and fully understand their collection sources. Analysts do not have to be malware reverse engineers as an example but they must at least understand that work and know what data can be sought. This section continues from the previous one in identifying key collection sources for analysts. There is also a lot of available information on what is commonly referred to as open-source intelligence (OSINT). In this section students will learn to seek and exploit information from Domains, External Datasets, Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer (TLS/SSL) Certificates, and more while also structuring the data to be exploited for purposes of sharing internally and externally.

  • Open-Source Intelligence and Domain Pivoting in DomainTools
  • Maltego Pivoting and Open-Source Intelligence
  • Sifting Through Massive Amounts of Open-Source Intelligence in RecordedFuture
  • TLS Certificate Pivoting
  • Storing Threat Data and Information in a Malware Information Sharing Platform (MISP)

CPE/CMU Credits: 6

  • Case Study: Axiom
  • Collection Source: Domains
    • Domain Deep Dive
    • Different Types of Adversary Domains
    • Pivoting off of Information in Domains
  • Case Study: GlassRAT
  • Collection Source: External Datasets
    • Building Repositories from External Datasets
    • Open-Source Intelligence Collection Tools and Frameworks
  • Collection Source: TLS Certificates
    • TLS/SSL Certificates
    • Tracking New Malware Samples and C2 with TLS
    • Pivoting off of Information in TLS Certificates
  • Case Study: Trickbots
  • Exploitation: Storing and Structuring Data
    • Storing Threat Data
    • Threat Information Sharing
    • MISP as a Storage Platform

Peter Szczepankiewicz
Thu Jun 18th, 2020
9:00 AM - 12:15 PM ET
1:30 PM - 5:00 PM ET


Many organizations seek to share intelligence but often fail to understand its value, its limitations, and the right formats to choose for each audience. Additionally, indicator and information shared without analysis is not intelligence. Structured analytical techniques such as the Analysis of Competing Hypotheses can help add considerable value to intelligence before it is disseminated. This section will focus on identifying both open-source and professional tools that are available for students as well as on sharing standards for each level of cyber threat intelligence both internally and externally. Students will learn about YARA and generate YARA rules to help incident responders, security operations personnel, and malware analysts. Students will gain hands-on experience with STIX and understand the CybOX and TAXII frameworks for sharing information between organizations. Finally, the section will focus on building the singular intrusions into campaigns and being able to communicate about those campaigns.

  • Analysis of Competing Hypotheses
  • Visual Analysis in Maltego
  • The Rule of 2
  • YARA Rule Development
  • STIX Framework IOC Extraction and Development
  • Building a Campaign Heat Map

CPE/CMU Credits: 6

  • Analysis: Exploring Hypotheses
    • Analysis of Competing Hypotheses
    • Hypotheses Generation
    • Understanding and Identifying Knowledge Gaps
  • Analysis: Building Campaigns
    • Different Methods of Campaign Correlation
    • Understanding Perceived Adversary Intentions
    • Leveraging the Diamond Model for Campaign Analysis
  • Dissemination: Tactical
    • Understanding the Audience and Consumer
    • Threat Data Feeds and Their Limitations
    • YARA
    • Advanced YARA Concepts and Examples
  • Case Study: Sony Attack
  • Dissemination: Operational
    • Partners and Collaboration
    • Government Intelligence Sharing
    • Traffic Light Protocol Standard
    • Information Sharing and Analysis Centers
    • CybOX, STIX, and TAXII
    • STIX Elements and Projects
    • TAXII Implementations
    • Threat Intelligence Metrics
    • Communicating About Campaigns
    • Campaign Heat Maps and Tracking Adversaries

Peter Szczepankiewicz
Fri Jun 19th, 2020
9:00 AM - 12:15 PM ET
1:30 PM - 5:00 PM ET


A core component of intelligence analysis at any level is the ability to defeat biases and analyze information. The skills required to think critically are exceptionally important and can have an organization-wide or national-level impact. In this section, students will learn about logical fallacies and cognitive biases as well as how to defeat them. They will also learn about nation-state attribution, including when it can be of value and when it is merely a distraction. Students will also learn about nation-state-level attribution from previously identified campaigns and take away a more holistic view of the cyber threat intelligence industry to date. The class will finish with a discussion on consuming threat intelligence and actionable takeaways for students to make significant changes in their organizations once they complete the course.

  • Identifying Cognitive Biases in Media Reporting
  • Analysis of Intelligence Reports
  • Capstone Exercise: Debating and Attributing Election Influencing - Part 1
  • Capstone Exercise: Debating and Attributing Election Influencing - Part 2

CPE/CMU Credits: 6

  • Logical Fallacies and Cognitive Biases
    • Identifying and Defeating Bias
    • Logical Fallacies and Examples
    • Common Cyber Threat Intelligence Informal Fallacies
    • Cognitive Biases and Examples
  • Dissemination: Strategic
    • Report Writing Pitfalls
    • Report Writing Best Practices
    • Different Types of Strategic Output
  • Case Study: Stuxnet
  • Fine-Tuning Analysis
    • Identifying and Remedying New Intelligence Requirements
    • Tuning the Collection Management Framework
  • Case Study: Sofacy
  • Attribution
    • Different Types of Attribution
    • Group Attribution
    • Campaign Attribution
    • Intrusion Set Attribution
    • True Attribution
    • Geopolitical Motivations for Cyber Attacks

Additional Information

A properly configured system is required to fully participate in this course. These requirements are the mandatory minimums. 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.

This is common sense, but we will say it anyway. Back up your system before class. Better yet, do not have any sensitive data stored on the system. SANS can't responsible for your system or data.


  • CPU: 64-bit Intel i5/i7 (4th generation+) - x64 bit 2.0+ GHz processor or more recent processor is mandatory for this class (Important - Please Read: a 64-bit system processor is mandatory)
  • 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. VMware provides a free tool for Windows that will detect whether or not your host supports 64-bit guest virtual machines. For further troubleshooting, this article also provides good instructions for Windows users to determine more about the CPU and OS capabilities. For Macs, please use this support page from Apple to determine 64-bit capability.
  • BIOS settings must be set to enable virtualization technology, such as "Intel-VT".
  • Be absolutely certain you can access your BIOS if it is password protected, in case changes are necessary. Test it!
  • 16 GB (Gigabytes) of RAM or higher is mandatory for this class (Important - Please Read: 16 GB of RAM or higher of RAM is mandatory and minimum.
  • USB 3.0 Type-A port is required. At least one open and working USB 3.0 Type-A port is required. (A Type-C to Type-A adapter may be necessary for newer laptops.) (Note: Some endpoint protection software prevents the use of USB devices - test your system with a USB drive before class to ensure you can load the course data.)
  • 100 Gigabytes of Free Space on your System Hard Drive - Free Space on Hard Drive is critical to host the VMs we distribute
  • Local Administrator Access is required. This is absolutely required. Don't let your IT team tell you otherwise. If your company will not permit this access for the duration of the course, then you should make arrangements to bring a different laptop.
  • Wireless 802.11 Capability


  • Host Operating System: Your system must be running either Windows 10 Pro or macOS 10.12 or later that also can install and run VMware virtualization products (VMware Workstation 15.5, VMware Fusion 11.5, or VMware Player 15.5).
  • Must have a Windows OS for the class either as your host or as a VM
  • Please note: It is necessary to fully update your host operating system prior to the class to ensure you have the right drivers and patches installed to utilize the latest USB 3.0 devices.
  • Those who use a Linux host must also be able to access ExFAT partitions using the appropriate kernel or FUSE modules.


  1. Microsoft Office (2012+) - Note that you can download Office Trial Software online (free for 60 days).
  2. Download and install VMware Workstation 15.5, VMware Fusion 11.5, or VMware Player 15.5 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 website.
  3. Download and install 7Zip (for Windows Hosts) or Keka (macOS).

If you have additional questions about the laptop specifications, please contact

  • Security Practitioners, should attend. This course is perfect match to any security skill set from red teamers to incident responders. The course is focused on analysis skills.
  • Incident Response Team Members who respond to complex security incidents/intrusions and need to know how to detect, investigate, remediate, and recover from compromised systems across an enterprise.
  • Threat Hunters who are seeking to understand threats more fully and how to learn from them to be able to more effectively hunt threats and counter the tradecraft behind them.
  • Security Operations Center Personnel and Information Security Practitioners who support hunting operations that seek to identify attackers in their network environments.
  • Digital Forensic Analysts and Malware Analysts who want to consolidate and expand their understanding of filesystem forensics, investigations of technically advanced adversaries, incident response tactics, and advanced intrusion investigations.
  • Federal Agents and Law Enforcement Officials who want to master advanced intrusion investigations and incident response, as well as expand their investigative skills beyond traditional host-based digital forensics.
  • Technical Managers who are looking to build intelligence teams or leverage intelligence in their organizations building off of their technical skillsets.
  • SANS Alumni looking to take their analytical skills to the next level.

FOR578 is a good course for anyone who has had security training or prior experience in the field. Students should be comfortable with using the command line in Linux for a few labs (though a walkthrough is provided) and be familiar with security terminology.

Some of the courses that lead in to FOR578:

Students who have not taken any of the above courses but have real-world experience or have attended other security training, such as any other SANS class, will be comfortable in the course. New students and veterans will be exposed to new concepts given the unique style of the class focused on analysis training.

  • SIFT Workstation
  • Electronic Download package containing:
    • Threat intel exercise data, memory captures, network captures, SIFT Workstation 3, tools, and documentation
  • Cyber Threat Intelligence Electroninc Exercise Workbook
    • Electronic Exercise book with detailed, step-by-step instructions and examples
  • Cyber Threat Intelligence Poster
  • MP3 audio files of the complete course lecture

We are proud that the FOR578: Cyber Threat Intelligence course has been reviewed by many of the leading minds in cyber threat intelligence, providing us with key input and recommendations from commercial, government, and DoD organizations.

FOR578 Technical Reviewers have included:

  • Chris Anthony, Johns Hopkins University
  • Rich Barger, ThreatConnect
  • J. Brett Cunningham, Allsum, LLC
  • Rick Holland
  • Robert Huber
  • Eric Hutchins
  • Bertha Marasky, Verizon
  • Kyle Maxwell
  • Vivek Nakkady
  • Scott J. Roberts
  • Ray Strubinger
  • Adam Vincent, ThreatConnect
  • Adam Weidemann

"Cyber Threat Intelligence is an entire discipline, not just a feed. This course will propel you along the path to understanding this rapidly maturing field of study." - Bertha Marasky, Verizon

"Threat Intelligence Analysis has been an art for too long, now it can finally become a science at SANS. Mike Cloppert and Robert M. Lee are the industry 'greybeards' who have seen it all. They are the thought leaders who should be shaping practitioners for years to come." - Rich Barger, CIO, ThreatConnect

"This is an awesome course and long overdue. I like the way you have mixed the technical with the intelligence and this is the first time I've seen this done in a meaningful way. Amazing work!" - Rowanne Mackie

"Fantastic class! I love the way the terminology was covered." - Nate DeWitt, eBay

"This training was invaluable. It provided me with insight on how to set up my own intel-driven defense." - Jason Miller, Warner Brothers

"This course is invaluable to organizations serious about defending their computer networks with operationalized intelligence." - Troy Wojewoda, Newport News Shipbuilding

"...You walk out different and start seeing everything from a different perspective." - Tok Yee Ching, Quann Singapore PTE LT

"I could take this course 5 times more and get something new each time! So much valuable info to take back to my organization." - Charity Willhoite, Armor Defense, Inc.

"This course gives a very smart and structured approach to CTI, something that the global community has been lacking to date." - John Geary, Citigroup

"I love and learn a lot with the course! Intense but fun, lots of practical-use cases that I can bring back to work and share with my team." - John Perea, KPMG

"This course was invaluable in framing my role as a hunter in the intelligence consumption/generation process." - Christopher Vega, Citigroup

"Stepping into an undeveloped role is very challenging. I feel the topics, materials, and views covered will help me to make expert decisions and aid the industry as a whole." - Drew Maher, Energy Future Holdings

"Best discussion of CTI in a formal way I have found." - Alexander Schraut, Experian

"Only course of its kind, and it is actually good info that I can use on day 1 when I get back to work." - Markis Vines, BB&T

"This course helps you get comfortable using a variety of tools for analysis so you can go back to work and immediately start using them." - Jessica Lee, Leidos

See also:

Statements From Our Authors

The author team of Mike Cloppert, Chris Sperry, and Robert M. Lee originally developed FOR578: Cyber Threat Intelligence with the understanding that the community was in need of a single concise collection of tradecraft. Cloppert and Sperry initiated the development of the course with the understanding that their schedules would not permit them to be able to constantly teach it. However, it was through their thought leadership that the class has become what it is today. Their influence on the development of the course remains relevant today, and SANS thanks them for their leadership.

"When considering the value of threat intelligence, most individuals and organizations ask themselves three questions: What is threat intelligence? When am I ready for it? How do I use it? This class answers these questions and more at a critical point in the development of the field of threat intelligence in the wider community. The course will empower analysts of any technical background to think more critically and be prepared to face persistent and focused threats."

- Robert M. Lee

"Threat intelligence is a powerful tool in the hands of a trained analyst. It can provide insight to all levels of a security program, from security analysts responding to tactical threats against the network to executives reporting strategic-level threats to the Board of Directors. This course will give students an understanding of the role of threat intelligence in security operations and how it can be leveraged as a game-changing resource to combat an increasingly sophisticated adversary."

- Rebekah Brown

"Before threat intelligence was a buzzword, it was something we all used to just do as part of incident response. But I'll admit that most of us used to do it badly. Or more accurately, ad hoc at best. We simply lacked structured models for intrusion analysis, campaign tracking, and consistent reporting of threats. Today, we need analysts trained in intelligence analysis techniques ready to perform proper campaign modeling, attribution, and threat analysis. The Cyber Threat Intelligence course teaches students all of that, as well as how to avoid cognitive biases in reporting and the use of the alternative competing hypothesis in intelligence analysis. These are critical skills that most in industry today absolutely lack."

- Jake Williams