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Novel Writing Techniques – On The Great Gatsby



The Great Gatsby is a true Great American novel. What is even more amazing is that F. Scott Fitzgerald did it in little more than a short story. How did he do it? Essentially, he wrote a Great American Story. Fitzgerald was able to create what may be the fundamental story structure of 20th Century America and weave together a number of characters that each express a different take on the problem that the structure exposes.

Let’s begin with the novel’s endpoints, because they tell us the structure. And the structure tells us more about how the story works than anything else. At the start of the book, Nick tells us a story about a person he met when he went east. At the end of the book, Nick says he went back home to the Midwest.

Looking at the story’s frame tells us two key points. First, the true main character is Nick. Fitzgerald uses the third-person storyteller. So the basic structure of the story will track how Gatsby changes Nick’s life. Second, Nick doesn’t go west. He goes east.

To see why this is so important to this novel and indeed all of American storytelling, we have to look at the fundamental movement of American history. That movement: “Go west, young man. Go west.” How did this movement define the American character? In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner wrote an essay entitled, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” one of the most important essays in the history of history.

The Frontier Hypothesis said:

o The frontier was the meeting point between savagery and civilization.
o As the immigrant confronted the crucible of the free, harsh land, the land transformed him from a European into an American.
o As the line of the frontier moved west, the country became gradually less English, more American.
o The most important effect of the frontier was that it promoted democracy. When you live on the frontier, central authority disappears, and even the little man can take control of his own life.

How did the frontier and the move west affect American character?

o The frontier created an American who was selfish and individualistic, valuing personal freedom above all, along with strength, inquisitiveness, a practical, inventive mind, and exuberance.

In short, said Turner, “America has been another name for opportunity.” But Turner ended his essay with a crucial point:

o In 1890, after 400 years, the frontier disappeared, and with it ended the first great period of American history.

Notice that if Turner is right, the close of the frontier means a fundamental shift in the American character, because the frontier is no longer exerting its power. Cut to 1925 and the publication of The Great Gatsby. We are now 35 years after the close of the frontier, and seven years after the Great War, fought among the corrupt European powers we originally fled to form America in the first place. In the America of 1925, the call of destiny is now: go east young man, go east.

In other words, the great American myth is no longer the Western, it’s the “Eastern.” This is precisely Nick’s movement: he starts in the Midwest – solid, nothing fake – and goes east, not to make things, but to sell bonds, to make a lot of money off of money. Nick goes to make it rich in the great American city of business. Gatsby undergoes the same eastern movement: he’s a Midwesterner who goes east and makes his fortune.

Gatsby’s opportunity to change his life, and go after this new American dream, comes with the arrival of a man named Dan Cody. Nick says Cody is ” — the pioneer debauchee, who during one phase of American life, brought back to the eastern seaboard the savage violence of the frontier brothel and saloon.”

Of course, Cody’s name takes us back to one of the legendary characters of the American West, Buffalo Bill Cody. Ironically, Buffalo Bill was one of the men most responsible for not only closing the west but also turning it into a mythical story and a commercial spectacle for Easterners to enjoy from the comfort of their seats.

One form of the “Eastern” is the gangster story. In the gangster story, instead of becoming a person of substance by confronting the land on the frontier, the immigrant enters the world of the city, of façades, of extreme differences of wealth and power. The gangster hero is corrupted by false goals and false success, by his craving for money and status. The gangster story was codified by three movies in the early ’30s: “Public Enemy,” “Little Caesar,” and “Scarface.” All were heavily influenced by The Great Gatsby. “Scarface” even makes direct steals, like the sign and the scene with the shirts.

Within the Eastern story structure, Fitzgerald places another structure, a simple love story. Gatsby wants Daisy. By placing the love story within the Eastern structure of going after American success in the city, Fitzgerald turns Daisy into the human expression of the American promise which is being corrupted by money and status. And love itself is twisted and destroyed.

Having set up this very clean, tight story structure, a love story set within an Eastern, Fitzgerald makes all of his characters’ variations on this theme. This is one of the techniques that allows Fitzgerald to tell the Great American Story so succinctly.

Nick, the main character, is solid, substantial, and moral. He says, “I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules.” Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine. I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.” Fitzgerald contrasts solid Nick with Gatsby: fake, hollow, immoral and illegal. But Gatsby has one saving grace; he’s going after the ideal of true love.

Nick says of Gatsby, “He smiled understandably. And much more than understandably — [the smile] assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey. Precisely at that point it vanished – and I was looking at an elegant young roughneck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd.”

Gatsby tells Nick: “I am the son of wealthy people in the Middle West – all dead now. I was brought up in America but educated at Oxford, because all my ancestors have been educated there for many years.”

“What part of the Middle West?” I inquired casually.

“San Francisco.”

Gatsby continues: “After that I lived like a young rajah in all the capitals of Europe – Paris, Venice, Rome – collecting jewels, chiefly rubies, hunting big game — I didn’t want you to think I was just some nobody.” Adding to this sense of Gatsby as a fake, Fitzgerald has everyone create rumors and false images of him. Myrtle’s sister says of Gatsby, “They say he’s a nephew or a cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm’s. That’s where all his money comes from.”

At one of his parties a woman says, “Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once.” Another replies, “– it’s more that he was a German spy during the war.” Tied in with the hollow characters and the rumors is everyone’s desire for status. Status is value bestowed in the eyes of others. By definition it is not substantial.

Status is a form of keeping score of success: I’m better because those people are worse. Mrs. McKee says, “I almost married a little kike who’d been after me for years. I knew he was below me.” Myrtle, talking about her husband, says, “I thought he knew something about breeding, but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe.”

One of the techniques that Fitzgerald uses is to slowly let out the real information of Gatsby’s past throughout the entire book. This has an important thematic effect. As the story unfolds, and we see who Gatsby really is, we find out that this story is larger than one man trying to win another man’s wife.

Gatsby and Nick are both trying to accomplish the great American project of remaking yourself. America is the land of the eternal clean slate. When you have no past, you can be anything you say you are. This gives you total freedom, but if it is based on deception, it can crumble quickly.

Nick says, “The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God – a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that – and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.”

The ultimate expression of a land of total opportunism is the gangster. The ethic of the gangster is that the goal is everything. What you do to get it is nothing. Gatsby’s business associate is Meyer Wolfsheim, rumored to be the man who fixed the 1919 World Series. When asked about this, Gatsby says, “He just saw the opportunity.” What about the character who is the object of Gatsby’s quest, his grail? Daisy is literally the dream girl. In fact she is the American dream girl.

Daisy is pretty, airy, childlike, charming, and full of money. But she is also completely hollow, and in her case, unlike Gatsby, she has no saving grace. She is cowardly and careless. When we first meet her, Nick says about her and Jordan, “The two young women ballooned slowly to the floor — there was an excitement in [Daisy’s] voice — a promise — that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.” When Daisy speaks she says things like: “Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it.”

Like David Copperfield’s child bride, she holds her little finger up for everyone to see and says, “Look! I hurt it — You did it, Tom.” Later, when describing Daisy’s voice, Nick says, “She’s got an indiscreet voice — It’s full of” – I hesitated.” Gatsby says, “Her voice is full of money.”

Nick’s girlfriend, Jordan, is a variation on Daisy and a foreshadowing of her actions. From the beginning, Nick wonders what Jordan is concealing. When she leaves a borrowed car out in the rain and lies about it, Nick remembers a newspaper story about how Jordan moved her ball from a bad lie in a golf tournament.

And then Jordan is driving and she almost hits someone with her car. She’s careless but she doesn’t care. When Nick confronts her on it, she says it’s up to other people to keep out of her way. Another technique that Fitzgerald uses to tell the Great American Story is the way he describes Gatsby’s parties. They are a microcosm of the novel, because everyone there is inflated, false, and insubstantial.

Fitzgerald switches to the present tense. Notice how he describes the party like air or water to express swelling and falling and nothing being permanent. “Laughter is easier minute by minute — The groups change more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same breath; already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave here and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp, joyous moment the center of a group, and then, excited by triumph, glide on through the sea-change of faces and voices and color under the constantly changing light.”

One of the guests confirms that the books in Gatsby’s library are real. He says, ” — they have pages and everything — It’s a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism!”

Of course, most of the guests are not invited and don’t even know the host. But Fitzgerald’s best technique for expressing these parties and the entire Eastern world is the way he names the guests. These names are as good as any Dickens ever created. Notice how Fitzgerald lists the fancy names and then follows with the harsh reality of who they really are or what became of them.

“From East Egg, then, came the Chester Beckers and the Leeches, and a man named Bunsen, whom I knew at Yale, and Doctor Webster Civet, who was drowned last summer up in Maine. And the Hornbeams and the Willie Voltaires — From farther out on the Island came the Cheadles and the O.R.P. Schraeders, and the Stonewall Jackson Abrams of Georgia, and the Fishguards and the Ripley Snells. Snell was there three days before he went to the penitentiary, so drunk on the gravel drive that Mrs. Ulysses Swett’s automobile ran over his right hand.”

Until the end of the novel, the sum total of all these actions is a few pompous parties and an unrequited love affair. But then the full moral ramifications of who these people are breaks through the surface, and the result is disillusionment and destruction.

What triggers this moral explosion is Gatsby’s battle with Tom over Daisy. We see that when forced to make a decision, Daisy is a coward. She fails to leave Tom, even though he is a racist, a bully, and is cheating on her. Then she kills Myrtle in a hit-and-run car accident and lets Gatsby take the fall for it.

Then Gatsby takes the fall again, when Tom tells Wilson who owned the car and he kills Gatsby. She and Tom leave town, once again proving what cowards they are.

Nick says, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness — and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

Careless is one of the key words of the book. Careless is where flightiness and false values take on moral force and become destructive. The story ends with Nick’s self-revelation and change. He says, “That’s my middle West…I am part of that, a little solemn with the feel of those long winters…After Gatsby’s death the East was haunted for me like that — So when the blue smoke of brittle leaves was in the air and the wind blew the wet laundry stiff on the line I decided to come back home.”

At the end, Nick is not rich or flashy or glamorous. But he is authentic. And when the chips are down, he is the only one who acts as a moral, decent person. We know this because he makes a number of moral decisions. The last thing he says to Gatsby is: “‘They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.’ I’ve always been glad I said that.” He stops seeing Jordan, then ties things up with her. He takes care of Gatsby’s funeral and is one of the very few who attends. And finally, he goes home.

The novel concludes not just with Nick’s change but also with America’s change. Here Fitzgerald uses the technique of Utopia, specifically the end of a Utopian moment. Utopia is key to the concept of America. It is the ultimate expression of a clean slate where you combine huge wealth with high ideals. In a Utopian place, all things are possible and all things are expected.

What utopias does Fitzgerald set up? Utopia is that one great summer with all the parties at the shore. Utopia is falling in love with that perfect girl. Utopia is the guy who could lift himself up by his bootstraps and make a fortune. But with utopias there’s always a rub. They are always temporary or fake. The endpoint is always disappointment.

So it is in Gatsby. The summer parties at the shore are full of phony hustlers and parasites sucking pleasure and money from their host. The perfect girl is hollow, and a coward when the chips are down. The rags-to-riches guy is making a fortune because he is doing it illegally.

Gatsby loses his utopia when Daisy slinks back to Tom. Nick says, ” — he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.” A moment later, he’s murdered.

Then, in maybe the best final page in American literature, Fitzgerald kicks the tragedy up one final level when he talks of the lost promise of the country itself. The spiritual ideal that we started with three hundred years ago has been corrupted to nothing but material craving. But he also says, for America, the party is over. The real value is the fields of the Republic, the land. The real value is a person of character like good ole Nick.

” — as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes – a fresh, green breast of the new world…for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

” — [Gatsby’s] dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run fast, stretch out our arms farther — And one fine morning —

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

So ends a Great American Story.

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Chinese Hackers Using Log4Shell Exploit Tools to Perform Post-Exploitation Attacks



Chinese Hackers Using Log4Shell Exploit Tools to Perform Post-Exploitation Attacks

The cybersecurity firm, CrowdStrike has warned that Chinese hackers are using the Log4Shell exploit tools to perform various post-exploitation operations.

The hacker group behind these malicious operations, Aquatic Panda was seen using the Log4Shell vulnerability, with the help of a large academic institution.

In early December the Log4Shell and LogJam vulnerability, which were tracked as CVE-2021-44228 was discovered in the popular Log4j logging library.

Aquatic Panda

Aquatic Panda is a Chinese hacking group that is operating since May 2020 and it has two primary goals:-

  • Intelligence collection.
  • Industrial espionage.

This hacking group mainly targets all its users from the following sectors:-

  • Telecommunications sectors
  • Technology sectors
  • Government sectors

Apart from this, the AQUATIC PANDA counts on the following tools for the execution of all its operations:-

  • Cobalt Strike
  • FishMaster (Unique Cobalt Strike downloader.)
  • njRAT

Technical Analysis

To gain initial access to the target system, the Aquatic Panda uses a modified version of the exploit for a bug in Log4j, and then it performs several post-exploitation activities like:-

  • Exploration
  • Credential collection

The hackers targeted VMware Horizon that used the vulnerable Log4j library to compromise a large academic institution, and on December 13, 2021, the exploit used in this attack was published on GitHub.

1641449105 417 Chinese Hackers Using Log4Shell Exploit Tools to Perform Post Exploitation Attacks

Using the DNS lookups for a subdomain running on VMware Horizon as part of Apache Tomcat, the threat actors performed a connection check.

1641449106 463 Chinese Hackers Using Log4Shell Exploit Tools to Perform Post Exploitation Attacks

On the Windows host where the Apache Tomcat service was running, the team ran a series of Linux commands, and not only that even they also performed the same on those aimed at deploying malicious tools that are hosted on remote infrastructure.

Here at this point to better understand privilege levels and learn more about the domain, the threat actors have also conducted surveillance efforts. While they also tried to interrupt a response solution and third-party endpoint threat detection solution.

The malware and three VBS files were extracted by the hackers through PowerShell commands, and to accomplish this, additional scripts were deployed by the hackers.

At this stage, by performing memory dumps and preparing them for theft, the threat actors of Aquatic Panda attempted several trials to collect credentials.

Moreover, the attacked academic institution was timely warned of suspicious activities to be able to quickly use the incident response protocol, fixing vulnerable software and deterring further development of the malicious activity.

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How to build and run a Security Operations Center



How to build and run a Security Operations Center

Today’s Cyber security operations center (CSOC) should have everything it needs to mount a competent defense of the ever-changing information technology (IT) enterprise.

This includes a vast array of sophisticated detection and prevention technologies, a virtual sea of cyber intelligence reporting, and access to a rapidly expanding workforce of talented IT professionals. Yet, most CSOCs continue to fall short in keeping the adversary—even the unsophisticated one—out of the enterprise.

Ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the modern information technology (IT) enterprise is a big job.

It incorporates many tasks, from robust systems engineering and configuration management (CM) to effective cybersecurity or information assurance (IA) policy and comprehensive workforce training.

It must also include cybersecurity operations, where a group of people is charged with monitoring and defending the enterprise against all measures of cyber attack.

What Is a SOC?

A SOC is a team primarily composed of security analysts organized to detect, analyze, respond to, report on, and prevent cybersecurity incidents.

The practice of defense against unauthorized activity within computer networks, including monitoring, detection, analysis (such as trend and pattern analysis), and response and restoration activities.

There are many terms that have been used to reference a team of cybersecurity experts assembled to perform CND.

They include: ‚

  • Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) ‚
  • Computer Incident Response Team (CIRT) ‚
  • Computer Incident Response Center (or Capability) (CIRC) ‚
  • Computer Security Incident Response Center (or Capability) (CSIRC) ‚
  • Security Operations Center (SOC) ‚
  • Cybersecurity Operations Center (CSOC)
  • ‚ Computer Emergency Response Team(CERT)

In order for an organization to be considered a SOC, it must:

  • 1. Provide a means for constituents to report suspected cybersecurity incidents
  • 2. Provide incident handling assistance to constituents
  • 3. Disseminate incident-related information to constituents and external parties.

Mission and Operations Tempo

SOCs can range from small, five-person operations to large, national coordination centers. A typical midsize SOC’s mission statement typically includes the following elements:

1. Prevention of cybersecurity incidents through proactive:

  • a. Continuous threat analysis
  • b. Network and host scanning for vulnerabilities
  • c. Countermeasure deployment coordination
  • d. Security policy and architecture consulting.

2. Monitoring, detection, and analysis of potential intrusions in real time and through historical trending on security-relevant data sources

3. Response to confirmed incidents, by coordinating resources and directing use of timely and appropriate countermeasures

4. Providing situational awareness and reporting on cybersecurity status, incidents, and trends in adversary behavior to appropriate organizations

5. Engineering and operating CND technologies such as IDSes and data collection/ analysis systems.

Of these responsibilities, perhaps the most time-consuming are the consumption and analysis of copious amounts of security-relevant data. Among the many security-relevant data feeds a Security Operations Center is likely to ingest, the most prominent are often IDSes.

IDS’es are systems placed on either the host or the network to detect potentially malicious or unwanted activity that warrants further attention by the SOC analyst. Combined with security audit logs and other data feeds, a typical SOC will collect, analyze, and store tens or hundreds of millions of security events every day.

According to an event is “Any observable occurrence in a system and/or network. Events sometimes provide an indication that an incident is occurring” (e.g., an alert generated by an IDS or a security audit service). An event is nothing more than raw data.

It takes human analysis—the process of evaluating the meaning of a collection of security-relevant Fundamentals Ten Strategies of a World-Class Cybersecurity Operations Center 11 data, typically with the assistance of specialized tools—to establish whether further action is warranted.

Tier Level:

  1. Tier 1
  2. Tier 2
  3. Tier 3
  4. Soc Manager

Tier 1: Alert Analyst


Continuously monitors the alert queue; triages security alerts; monitors health of security sensors and endpoints; collects data and context necessary to initiate Tier 2 work.

Required Training

Alert triage procedures; intrusion detection; network, security information and event management (SIEM) and host-based investigative training; and other tool-specific training. Certifications could include SANS SEC401: Security Essentials Bootcamp Style.

Tier 2: Incident Responder


Performs deep-dive incident analysis by correlating data from various sources; determines if a critical system or data set has been impacted; advises on remediation; provides support for new analytic methods for detecting threats.

Required Training

Advanced network forensics, host-based forensics, incident response procedures, log reviews, basic malware assessment, network forensics and threat intelligence. Certifications could include SANS SEC501: Advanced Security Essentials – Enterprise Defender; SANS SEC503: Intrusion Detection In-Depth; SANS SEC504: Hacker Tools, Techniques, Exploits and Incident Handling.

Tier 3 Subject Matter Expert/ Hunter


Possesses in-depth knowledge of network, endpoint, threat intelligence, forensics and malware reverse engineering, as well as the functioning of specific applications or underlying IT infrastructure; acts as an incident “hunter,” not waiting for escalated incidents; closely involved in developing, tuning and implementing threat detection analytics.

Required Training

Advanced training on anomaly detection; tool-specific training for data aggregation and analysis and threat intelligence. Certifications could include SANS SEC503: Intrusion Detection In-Depth; SANS SEC504: Hacker Tools, Techniques, Exploits and Incident Handling; SANS SEC561: Intense Hands-on Pen Testing Skill Development; SANS FOR610: Reverse-Engineering Malware: Malware Analysis Tools and Techniques.

SOC Manager


Manages resources to include personnel, budget, shift scheduling and technology strategy to meet SLAs; communicates with management; serves as organizational point person for business-critical incidents; provides overall direction for the SOC and input to the overall security strategy

Required Training

Project management, incident response management training, general people management skills. Certifications include CISSP, CISA, CISM or CGEIT.

The SOC typically will leverage internal and external resources in response to and recovery from the incident. It is important to recognize that a SOC may not always deploy countermeasures at the first sign of an intrusion. There are three reasons for this:

  • 1. The SOC wants to be sure that it is not blocking benign activity.
  • 2. A response action could impact a constituency’s mission services more than the incident itself.
  • 3. Understanding the extent and severity of the intrusion by watching the adversary is sometimes more effective than performing static forensic analysis on compromised systems, once the adversary is no longer present.

To determine the nature of the attack, the SOC often must perform advanced forensic analysis on artifacts such as hard drive images or full-session packet capture (PCAP), or malware reverse engineering on malware samples collected in support of an incident. Sometimes, forensic evidence must be collected and analyzed in a legally sound manner. In such cases, the SOC must observe greater rigor and repeatability in its procedures than would otherwise be necessary.

Building a Security Operations Center

In addition to SOC analysts, a security operations center requires a ringmaster for its many moving parts.

The SOC manager often fights fires, within and outside of the SOC. The SOC manager is responsible for prioritizing work and organizing resources with the ultimate goal of detecting, investigating and mitigating incidents that could impact the business.

1641449027 604 How to build and run a Security Operations Center

The SOC manager should develop a workflow model and implement standardized operating procedures (SOPs) for the incident-handling process that guides analysts through triage and response procedures.


Defining repeatable incident triage and investigation processes standardize the actions a SOC analyst takes and ensures no important tasks fall through the cracks.

By creating repeatable incident management workflow, team members’ responsibilities and actions from the creation of an alert and initial Tier 1 evaluation to escalation to Tier 2 or Tier 3 personnel are defined.

Based on the workflow, resources can be effectively allocated.

One of the most frequently used incident response process models is the DOE/CIAC model, which consists of six stages: preparation, identification, containment, eradication, recovery and lessons learned.


An enterprisewide data collection, aggregation, detection, analytic and management solution is the core technology of a successful SOC.

An effective security monitoring system incorporates data gathered from the continuous monitoring of endpoints (PCs, laptops, mobile devices and servers) as well as networks and log and event sources.

With the benefit of network, log and endpoint data gathered prior to and during the incident, SOC analysts can immediately pivot from using the security monitoring system as a detective tool to using it as an investigative tool, reviewing suspicious activities that make up the present incident, and even as a tool to manage the response to an incident or breach.

Compatibility of technologies is imperative, and data silos are bad—particularly if an organization has an existing security monitoring solution (SIEM, endpoint, network or other) and wants to incorporate that tool’s reporting into the incident management solution.

Adding Context to Security Incidents

The incorporation of threat intelligence, asset, identity and other context information is another way that an effective enterprise security monitoring solution can aid the SOC analyst’s investigative process.

Often, an alert is associated with network or host-based activity and, initially, may contain only the suspicious endpoint’s IP address. In order for Network Flows Network Traffic Security Events Identity/ Asset Context Endpoint Data System Logs Threat Intel Feeds SECURITY MONITORING SYSTEM.

Compatible Technologies Aid Detection Data Aggregation for Improved Incident Handling Visibility. By centralizing these various sources of data into a security monitoring system, the SOC gains actionable insight into possible anomalies indicative of threat activity. Action. Based on findings, automated and manual interventions can be made to include patching, firewall modification, system quarantine or reimage, and credential revocation. Analysis.

Security operations analysts can analyze data from various sources and further interrogate and triage devices of interest to scope an incident.

A Roadmap the SOC analyst to investigate the system in question, the analyst generally needs other information, such as the owner and hostname of the machine or DHCP-sourced records for mapping IP and host information at the time of the alert.

If the security monitoring system incorporates asset and identity information, it provides a huge advantage in time and analyst effort, not to mention key factors the analyst can use to prioritize the security incident—generally speaking, higher-value business assets should be prioritized over lower-value assets.

Defining Normal Through Baselining

The ability to create a baseline of activity for users, applications, infrastructure, network and other systems, establishing what normal looks like, is one advantage of aggregated data collected from various enterprise sources.

Armed with the definition of “normal,” detecting suspicious behavior—activities that are in some way outside of the norm— becomes easier.

A properly baselined and configured security monitoring system sends out actionable alerts that can be trusted and often automatically prioritized before getting to the Tier 1 analyst.

one of the top challenges in utilizing log data cited by respondents is the inability to discern normal from suspicious activity.

A best practice is to use platforms that can build baselines by monitoring network and endpoint activity for a period of time to help determine was “normal” looks like and then provide the capability to set event thresholds as key alert drivers.

When an unexpected behavior or deviation of normal activity is detected, the platform creates an alert, indicating further investigation is warranted.

Threat Intelligence

Mature SOCs continually develop the capability to consume and leverage threat intelligence from their past incidents and from information-sharing sources, such as a specialized threat intelligence vendor, industry partners, the cybercrimes division of law enforcement, information-sharing organizations (such as ISACs), or their security monitoring technology vendors.

According to the 2015 SANS Cyberthreat Intelligence (CTI) Survey, 69% of respondents reported that their organization implemented some cyberthreat intelligence capability, with 27% indicating that their teams fully embrace the concept of CTI and integrated response procedures across systems and staff.

A security monitoring system’s capability to operationalize threat intelligence and use it to help spot patterns in endpoint, log and network data, as well as associate anomalies with past alerts, incidents or attacks, can enhance an organization’s capability to detect a compromised system or user prior to it exhibiting the characteristics of a breach.

In fact, 55% of the respondents of the CTI Survey are currently using a centralized security management system to aggregate, analyze and operationalize their CTI.

Efficient SOC Incident Handling To achieve efficient incident handling, the SOC must avoid bottlenecks in the IR process that moves incidents through Tier 1, into Tier 2, and finally through Tier 3.

Bottlenecks can occur due to too much “white noise,” alerts of little consequence or false-positives that lead to analyst “alert fatigue.”

This phenomenon is a common experience among responders, Incident Response Survey results, where 15% reported responding to more than 20 false-positive alarms originally classified as incidents. When choosing an enterprise security monitoring tool, look for such features as alert threshold customization and the ability to combine many alerts into a single incident.

Also when incidents include additional context, analysts can triage them more quickly, reducing the layers of evaluation that must take place before an issue can be confirmed and quickly mitigated.

Types of SOC

Categorize SOCs that are internal to the constituency into five organizational models of how the team is comprised,

1. Security team.

No standing incident detection or response capability exists. In the event of a computer security incident, resources are gathered (usually from within the constituency) to deal with the problem, reconstitute systems, and then 16 stands down.

Results can vary widely as there is no central watch or consistent pool of expertise, and processes for incident handling are usually poorly defined. Constituencies composed of fewer than 1,000 users or IPs usually fall into this category.

2. Internal distributed SOC.

A standing SOC exists but is primarily composed of individuals whose organizational position is outside the SOC and whose primary job is IT or security related but not necessarily CND related.

One person or a small group is responsible for coordinating security operations, but the heavy lifting is carried out by individuals who are matrixed in from other organizations. SOCs supporting a small- to medium-sized constituency, perhaps 500 to 5,000 users or IPs, often fall into this category.

3. Internal centralized SOC.

A dedicated team of IT and cybersecurity professionals comprise a standing CND capability, providing ongoing services.

The resources and the authorities necessary to sustain the day-to-day network defense mission exist in a formally recognized entity, usually with its own budget. This team reports to a SOC manager who is responsible for overseeing the CND program for the constituency. Most SOCs fall into this category, typically serving constituencies ranging from 5,000 to 100,000 users or IP addresses.

4. Internal combined distributed and centralized SOC.

The Security Operations Center is composed of both a central team (as with internal centralized SOCs) and resources from elsewhere in the constituency (as with internal distributed SOCs). Individuals supporting CND operations outside of the main SOC are not recognized as a separate and distinct SOC entity.

For larger constituencies, this model strikes a balance between having a coherent, synchronized team and maintaining an understanding of edge IT assets and enclaves. SOCs with constituencies in the 25,000–500,000 user/IP range may pursue this approach, especially if their constituency is geographically distributed or they serve a highly heterogeneous computing environment.

5. Coordinating SOC.

The SOC mediates and facilitates CND activities between multiple subordinate distinct SOCs, typically for a large constituency, perhaps measured in the millions of users or IP addresses.

A coordinating SOC usually provides consulting services to a constituency that can be quite diverse.

It typically does not have active or comprehensive visibility down to the end host and most often has limited authority over its constituency.

Coordinating SOCs often serve as distribution hubs for cyber intel, best practices, and training. They also can offer analysis and forensics services, when requested by subordinate SOCs.


A SOC satisfies the constituency’s network monitoring and defense needs by offering a set of services.

SOCs have matured and adapted to increased demands, a changing threat environment, and tools that have dramatically enhanced the state of the art in CND operations. We also wish to articulate the full scope of what a SOC may do, regardless of whether a particular function serves the constituency, the SOC proper, or both. As a result, SOC services into a comprehensive list of SOC capabilities.

the SOC’s management chain is responsible for picking and choosing what capabilities best fits its constituency’s needs, given political and resource constraints.

  1. Real-Time Analysis
  2. Intel and Trending
  3. Incident Analysis and Response
  4. Artifact Analysis
  5. SOC Tool Life-Cycle Support
  6. Audit and Insider Threat
  7. Scanning and Assessment
  8. Outreach

Real-Time Analysis

Call Center

Tips, incident reports, and requests for CND services from constituents received via phone, email, SOC website postings, or other methods. This is roughly analogous to a traditional IT help desk, except that it is CND specific.

Real-Time Monitoring and Triage

Triage and short-turn analysis of real-time data feeds (such as system logs and alerts) for potential intrusions.

After a specified time threshold, suspected incidents are escalated to an incident analysis and response team for further study. Usually synonymous with a SOC’s Tier 1 analysts, focusing on real-time feeds of events and other data visualizations.

Note: This is one of the most easily recognizable and visible capabilities offered by a SOC, but it is meaningless without a corresponding incident analysis and response capability, discussed below.

Intel and Trending

Cyber Intel Collection and Analysis

Collection, consumption, and analysis of cyber intelligence reports, cyber intrusion reports, and news related to information security, covering new threats, vulnerabilities, products, and research. Materials are inspected for information requiring a response from the Security Operations Center or distribution to the constituency. Intel can be culled from coordinating SOCs, vendors, news media websites, online forums, and email distribution lists.

Cyber Intel Distribution

Synthesis, summarization, and redistribution of cyber intelligence reports, cyber intrusion reports, and news related to information security to members of the constituency on either a routine basis (such as a weekly or monthly cyber newsletter) or a non-routine basis (such as an emergency patch notice or phishing campaign alert).


Intel Creation Primary authorship of new cyber intelligence reporting, such as threat notices or highlights, based on primary research performed by the SOC. For example, analysis of a new threat or vulnerability not previously seen elsewhere. This is usually driven by the SOC’s own incidents, forensic analysis, malware analysis, and adversary engagements.

Cyber Intel Fusion

Extracting data from cyber intel and synthesizing it into new signatures, content, and understanding of adversary TTPs, thereby evolving monitoring operations (e.g., new signatures or SIEM content).


Long-term analysis of event feeds, collected malware, and incident data for evidence of malicious or anomalous activity or to better understand the constituency or adversary TTPs. This may include unstructured, open-ended, deep-dive analysis on various data feeds, trending and correlation over weeks or months of log data, “low and slow” data analysis, and esoteric anomaly detection methods.

Threat Assessment

Holistic estimation of threats posed by various actors against the constituency, its enclaves, or lines of business, within the cyber realm. This will include leveraging existing resources such as cyber intel feeds and trending, along with the enterprise’s architecture and vulnerability status. Often performed in coordination with other cybersecurity stakeholders.

Incident Analysis and Response

Incident Analysis

Prolonged, in-depth analysis of potential intrusions and of tips forwarded from other SOC members. This capability is usually performed by analysts in tiers 2 and above within the SOC’s incident escalation process. It must be completed in a specific time span so as to support a relevant and effective response. This capability will usually involve analysis leveraging various data artifacts to determine the who, what, when, where, and why of an intrusion—its extent, how to limit damage, and how to recover. An analyst will document the details of this analysis, usually with a recommendation for further action.

Tradecraft Analysis

Carefully coordinated adversary engagements, whereby SOC members perform a sustained “down-in-the-weeds” study and analysis of adversary TTPs, in an effort to better understand them and inform ongoing monitoring. This activity is distinct from other capabilities because (1) it sometimes involves ad-hoc instrumentation of networks and systems to focus on an activity of interest, such as a honeypot, and (2) an adversary will be allowed to continue its activity without immediately being cut off completely. This capability is closely supported by trending and malware and implant analysis and, in turn, can support cyber intel creation.

Incident Response Coordination

Work with affected constituents to gather further information about an incident, understand its significance, and assess mission impact. More important, this function includes coordinating response actions and incident reporting. This service does not involve the Security Operations Center directly implementing countermeasures.

Countermeasure Implementation

The actual implementation of response actions to an incident to deter, block, or cut off adversary presence or damage. Possible countermeasures include logical or physical isolation of involved systems, firewall blocks, DNS black holes, IP blocks, patch deployment, and account deactivation.

On-site Incident Response

Work with constituents to respond and recover from an incident on-site. This will usually require SOC members who are already located at, or who travel to, the constituent location to apply hands-on expertise in analyzing damage, eradicating changes left by an adversary, and recovering systems to a known good state. This work is done in partnership with system owners and sysadmins.

Remote Incident Response

Work with constituents to recover from an incident remotely. This involves the same work as on-site incident response. However, SOC members have comparatively less hands-on involvement in gathering artifacts or recovering systems. Remote support will usually be done via phone and email or, in rarer cases, remote terminal or administrative interfaces such as Microsoft Terminal Services or Secure Shell (SSH).

Artifact Analysis

Forensic Artifact Handling

Gathering and storing forensic artifacts (such as hard drives or removable media) related to an incident in a manner that supports its use in legal proceedings. Depending on jurisdiction, this may involve handling media while documenting chain of custody, ensuring secure storage, and supporting verifiable bit-by-bit copies of evidence.

Malware and Implant Analysis

Also known as malware reverse engineering or simply “reversing.” Extracting malware (viruses, Trojans, implants, droppers, etc.) from network traffic or media images and analyzing them to determine their nature. SOC members will typically look for initial infection vector, behavior, and, potentially, informal attribution to determine the extent of an intrusion and to support timely response. This may include either static code analysis through decompilation or runtime/execution analysis (e.g., “detonation”) or both. This capability is primarily meant to support effective monitoring and response. Although it leverages some of the same techniques as traditional “forensics,” it is not necessarily executed to support legal prosecution.

Forensic Artifact Analysis

Analysis of digital artifacts (media, network traffic, mobile devices) to determine the full extent and ground truth of an incident, usually by establishing a detailed timeline of events. This leverages techniques similar to some aspects of malware and implant analysis but follows a more exhaustive, documented process. This is often performed using processes and procedures such that its findings can support legal action against those who may be implicated in an incident.

SOC Tool Life-Cycle Support

Border Protection Device O&M

Operation and maintenance (O&M) of border protection devices (e.g., firewalls, Web proxies, email proxies, and content filters). Includes updates and CM of device policies, sometimes in response to a threat or incident. This activity is closely coordinated with a NOC.

SOC Infrastructure O&M

O&M of SOC technologies outside the scope of sensor tuning. This includes care and feeding of SOC IT equipment: servers, workstations, printers, relational databases, trouble-ticketing systems, storage area networks (SANs), and tape backup. If the Security Operations Center has its own enclave, this will likely include maintenance of its routers, switches, firewalls, and domain controllers, if any. This also may include O&M of monitoring systems, operating systems (OSes), and hardware. Personnel who support this service have “root” privileges on SOC equipment.

Sensor Tuning and Maintenance

Care and feeding of sensor platforms owned and operated by the SOC: IDS, IPS, SIEM, and so forth. This includes updating IDS/IPS and SIEM systems with new signatures, tuning their signature sets to keep event volume at acceptable levels, minimizing false positives, and maintaining up/down health status of sensors and data feeds. SOC members involved in this service must have a keen awareness of the monitoring needs of the SOC so that the SOC may keep pace with a constantly evolving consistency and threat environment. Changes to any in-line prevention devices (HIPS/NIPS) are usually coordinated with the NOC or other areas of IT operations. This capability may involve a significant ad-hoc scripting to move data around and to integrate tools and data feeds.

Custom Signature Creation

Authoring and implementing original detection content for monitoring systems (IDS signatures, SIEM use cases, etc.) on the basis of current threats, vulnerabilities, protocols, missions, or other specifics to the constituency environment. This capability leverages tools at the SOC’s disposal to fill gaps left by commercially or community-provided signatures. The SOC may share its custom signatures with other SOCs.

Tool Engineering and Deployment

Market research, product evaluation, prototyping, engineering, integration, deployment, and upgrades of SOC equipment, principally based on free or open source software (FOSS) or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies. This service includes budgeting, acquisition, and regular recapitalization of SOC systems. Personnel supporting this service must maintain a keen eye on a changing threat environment, bringing new capabilities to bear in a matter of weeks or months, in accordance with the demands of the mission.

Tool Research and Development

Research and development (R&D) of custom tools where no suitable commercial or open source capability fits an operational need. This activity’s scope spans from code development for a known, structured problem to multiyear academic research applied to a more complex challenge.

Audit and Insider Threat

Audit Data Collection and Distribution

Collection of a number of security-relevant data feeds for correlation and incident analysis purposes. This collection architecture may also be leveraged to support distribution and later retrieval of audit data for on-demand investigative or analysis purposes outside the scope of the SOC mission. This capability encompasses long-term retention of security-relevant data for use by constituents outside the SOC.

Audit Content Creation and Management

Creation and tailoring of SIEM or log maintenance (LM) content (correlation, dashboards, reports, etc.) for purposes of serving constituents’ audit review and misuse detection. This service builds on the audit data distribution capability, providing not only a raw data feed but also content built for constituents outside the SOC.

Insider Threat Case Support

Support to insider threat analysis and investigation in two related but distinct areas: 1. Finding tip-offs for potential insider threat cases (e.g., misuse of IT resources, time card fraud, financial fraud, industrial espionage, or theft).

The SOC will tip off appropriate investigative bodies (law enforcement, Inspector General [IG], etc.) with a case of interest. 2. On behalf of these investigative bodies, the SOC will provide further monitoring, information collection, and analysis in support of an insider threat case.

Insider Threat Case Investigation

The SOC leveraging its own independent regulatory or legal authority to investigate insider threat, to include focused or prolonged monitoring of specific individuals, without needing support or authorities from an external entity. In practice, few SOCs outside the law enforcement community have such authorities, so they usually act under another organization’s direction

Scanning and Assessment

Network Mapping

Sustained, regular mapping of constituency networks to understand the size, shape, makeup, and perimeter interfaces of the constituency, through automated or manual techniques. These maps often are built in cooperation with—and distributed to—other constituents.

Vulnerability Scanning

Interrogation of consistency hosts for vulnerability status, usually focusing on each system’s patch level and security compliance, typically through automated, distributed tools. As with network mapping, this allows the Security Operations Center to better understand what it must defend. The Security Operations Center can provide this data back to members of the constituency—perhaps in report or summary form. This function is performed regularly and is not part of a specific assessment or exercise

Vulnerability Assessment

Full-knowledge, open-security assessment of a constituency site, enclave, or system, sometimes known as “Blue Teaming.” SOC members work with system owners and sysadmins to holistically examine the security architecture and vulnerabilities of their systems, through scans, examining system configuration, reviewing system design documentation, and interviews.

This activity may leverage network and vulnerability scanning tools, plus more invasive technologies used to interrogate systems for configuration and status. From this examination, team members produce a report of their findings, along with recommended remediation. SOCs leverage vulnerability assessments as an opportunity to expand monitoring coverage and their analysts’ knowledge of the constituency

Penetration Testing

No-knowledge or limited-knowledge assessment of a specific area of the constituency, also known as “Red Teaming.” Members of the SOC conduct a simulated attack against a segment of the constituency to assess the target’s resiliency to an actual attack.

These operations usually are conducted only with the knowledge and authorization of the highest level executives within the consistency and without forewarning system owners. Tools used will actually execute attacks through various means: buffer overflows, Structured Query Language (SQL) injection, and input fuzzing. Red Teams usually will limit their objectives and resources to model that of a specific actor, perhaps simulating an adversary’s campaign that might begin with a phishing attack.

When the operation is over, the team will produce a report with its findings, in the same manner as a vulnerability assessment. However, because penetration testing activities have a narrow set of goals, they do not cover as many aspects of system configuration and best practices as a vulnerability assessment would.

In some cases, Security Operations Center personnel will only coordinate Red-Teaming activities, with a designated third party performing most of the actual testing to ensure that testers have no previous knowledge of constituency systems or vulnerabilities.


Product Assessment

Testing the security features of point products being acquired by constituency members. Analogous to miniature vulnerability assessments of one or a few hosts, this testing allows in-depth analysis of a particular product’s strengths and weaknesses from a security perspective. This may involve “in-house” testing of products rather than remote assessment of production or preproduction systems.

Security Consulting

Providing cybersecurity advice to constituents outside the scope of CND; supporting new system design, business continuity, and disaster recovery planning; cybersecurity policy; secure configuration guides; and other efforts.

Training and Awareness Building

Proactive outreach to constituents supporting general user training, bulletins, and other educational materials that help them understand various cybersecurity issues. The main goals are to help constituents protect themselves from common threats such as phishing/pharming schemes, better secure end systems, raise awareness of the SOC’s services, and help constituents correctly report incidents

Situational Awareness

Regular, repeatable repackaging and redistribution of the SOC’s knowledge of constituency assets, networks, threats, incidents, and vulnerabilities to constituents. This capability goes beyond cyber intel distribution, enhancing constituents’ understanding of the cybersecurity posture of the constituency and portions thereof, driving effective decision-making at all levels. This information can be delivered automatically through a SOC website, Web portal, or email distribution list.

Redistribution of TTPs

Sustained sharing of Security Operations Center internal products to other consumers such as partner or subordinate SOCs, in a more formal, polished, or structured format. This can include almost anything the SOC develops on its own (e.g., tools, cyber intel, signatures, incident reports, and other raw observables). The principle of quid pro quo often applies: information flow between SOCs is bidirectional.

Media Relations

Direct communication with the news media. The SOC is responsible for disclosing information without impacting the reputation of the constituency or ongoing response activities.


As you tackle the challenge of building a security operations center (SOC), your ability to anticipate common obstacles will facilitate smooth startup, build-out, and maturation over time. Though each organization is unique in its current security posture, risk tolerance, expertise, and budget, all share the goals of attempting to minimize and harden their attack surface and swiftly detecting, prioritizing and investigating security incidents when they occur.

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APT Groups Register Domain Used for C&C Long Before The Attack To Prevent Detection



APT Groups Register Domain Used for C&C Long Before The Attack To Prevent Detection

The APT groups are massively exploiting the long before registered domains for C&C to prevent detection. Exceedingly the higher numbers of malicious, dormant domains pose a serious risk to all internet users.

As security researchers from Unit 42 Palo Alto have warned recently that some 22.3% of strategically aged domain owners can still cause something dangerous.

This recent revelation has stunned the security experts since the threat actors behind SolarWinds have exploited the aged domains for all their malicious activities.

It implies that they don’t use any newly-registered domains for their malicious activities, instead, they use the domains that they have registered years before.

In SolarWinds supply chain attack, the threat actors have used SUNBURST trojan, and since the discovery of the SolarWinds supply chain attack, in October 2020, to uncover the other characteristics and detect generic APTs the Palo Alto Networks has constantly analyzed the campaign.

Moreover, the efforts to find old domains and systems before they get a chance to launch attacks and support malicious activities have increased.


In the month of September 2021, the security analysts at Palo Alto Networks has analyzed tens of thousands of domains each day to conduct their analysis and findings.

After investigating they concluded the output of their finding for domains in percentage:-

  • Approximately 3.8% are straight-out malicious.
  • Approximately 19% are suspicious.
  • 2% are unsafe for work environments.
1641449020 726 APT Groups Register Domain Used for CC Long Before The

Why aged domains?

The threat actors registered domains years before exploiting them, due to the creation of a clean record. Doing so will allow them to evade security detection systems and successfully execute their malicious campaigns.

Since the security solutions are efficient in detecting the suspicious newly registered domains (NRDs), in short, the NRDs are more prone to be vulnerable. That’s why they always prefer to use aged domains, as they are three times more malicious than NRDs.

Tools and TTPs used

The tools and the TTPs used by the threat actors are:-

  • APT Spyware
  • Phishing
  • Wildcard DNS Abuse

It’s concluded that for a long period of time or for years the malware can remain dormant, and then through their C2 domains, it can produce a massive amount of malicious traffic.

1641449020 487 APT Groups Register Domain Used for CC Long Before The

Ahead of the attacking services and then creating levelsquatting hostnames all these suspicious domains can abuse the DGA (Domain Generation Algorithm) to do the following things:-

  • Exfiltrate data through DNS traffic
  • Provide proxy layers

Apart from this, by monitoring the following DNS data the defenders can defend themself:-

  • Queries
  • Responses
  • IP addresses
  • Focusing on identifying patterns

All these are possible due to the complexity of DGA, as detecting DGA activity is still very challenging.

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