[Dailydave] Analysis

Dave Aitel dave at immunityinc.com
Mon Jan 28 10:39:05 EST 2013

A large part of doing security consulting is doing "Analysis". This
means hugely different things to everyone, but I wanted to put together
some thoughts on the "Immunity Way" and some of the lessons we've learned.

First of all, when most people think "Analysis" they think "Deduce
things from your data set", and frankly, I think they're off on the
wrong foot already. This is what you get when people get fancy tools
with nice dashboards - a misplaced idea that they have only one data set
and that digesting it properly is how you get gold. People with
expensive SIEMs think that the machine does the work. But while machines
can do visualization, actual synthesis and the rest of the analytical
process is iffy at best. As Halvar used to say when building BinNavi -
"Now you have a ball of twine to look at. Pretty, no?" He doesn't talk
like that, but you get the point.

The first stage of analysis is generally what I would call synthesis.
I.E. taking all sorts of information sets from as far around as
possible, and finding a way to talk about them in the same terms, so you
can do some basic correlation. This takes forever in terms of man-hours,
but it's the key to focusing on "what's important" as opposed to
focusing on "things I can say from what I have in front of me".

The books will then say that the next step is "orienting to your
consumer" which is important, but frankly we like to surprise and amaze
our consumers, so I think this is really one of the later steps. In
reality, the next step is "reduction" - i.e. we want to look at a LOT
less data than we have. Unless your data gathering team is really bad at
their job, you have more data than you could look at or even run a
complex script against. So you want to do your best to remove data from
your working data set. And the best way to do this is to focus, at
first, purely on anomalies. Or as Justin Seitz would say "Why doesn't
this host have a Server: header again?"

After that it's about looking for connections - especially non-obvious
connections in time that allow you to develop causality arguments.
Grouping types of organizations together is one of those things where
you feel like you're making progress without having to use your thinky
bits too much. (aka "Looks like all the servers Joe set up that weekend
aren't on the patch management system.")

And then, finally deduction, which is where you get your four F's -1.
(aka, the "things you know" and "the things you think you know" and in
reality a long list of "the things you wish you knew"). Frankly, if you
don't have a list of "Things you wish you knew" that is ten times longer
than the list of "things you know" then you're a total failure as an

As a final note: Good hackers are better at this than you are, so skill up.


INFILTRATE - the world's best offensive information security conference.
April 2013 in Miami Beach

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