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Use Cases for Network Forensics Tools

by Anton Chuvakin  |  February 5, 2013  |  3 Comments

Most of the network forensics tool discussion focuses on two types of use cases. These are, on a high level:

  1. incident response and investigations of captured traffic, either related to a specific incident or based on suspicions, such as about a user or an activity.
  2. ongoing monitoring such as by fusing decoded traffic captures with blacklist/reputation data or by NIDS-style pattern matching.

However, in this "age of APT" there is another sneaky use case for these tools that few security people understand (on the other hand, some of the pcap literati, who were brought up playing with packets since kindergarten, actually understand it pretty well).

This "mystery use case" is data exploration, which is neither clue-driven like investigations, nor constant and ongoing like monitoring. This use case is about getting a big pot of good coffee, a network forensics tool and a few terabytes (yes, terabytes – but, beginners, please start from mere gigabytes Smile) of freshly gathered packets. And then just letting the magic happen. Some organizations call it “hunting”, others call it “assuming a compromise – then looking for it”, while others (and myself in this post) prefer “data exploration” as a label for this exciting activity.

This process will sometimes reveal indicators to investigate, and sometimes new monitoring practices to initiate. In almost all cases, it will yield useful knowledge, such as that about your network, your systems, and about your threats and vulnerabilities. Or, occasionally,  about the fact that you were owned by the Chinese non-stop since 2010 Smile As I said, useful knowledge it would be!

Related posts:

Category: monitoring  network-forensics  security  

Anton Chuvakin
Research VP and Distinguished Analyst
5+ years with Gartner
17 years IT industry

Anton Chuvakin is a Research VP and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner's GTP Security and Risk Management group. Before Mr. Chuvakin joined Gartner, his job responsibilities included security product management, evangelist… Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Use Cases for Network Forensics Tools


  1. Jose Peñaloza says:

    The SIEMs solutions are playing here?

  2. Sort of (e.g. see recent announcements), but most of this is done via dedicated tools

  3. […] data exploration process aimed at understanding what is going on, was going on, which  may be based on a threat hypothesis or other suspicions (see additional details on this here) […]



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