Unveiling Synapse

When we’re not busy cooking new features, we go back to the trenches and face incidents like many of our fellow analysts who read our publications and use our tools. To do so, we swap our chef toques for firefighter helmets, not only because such shiny headwear is cool, but mainly because incident response (IR) is, at its very heart, firefighting (minus all the dangerous stuff).

If you think about it, when handling incidents you can see everything from cats in trees (spam) to major fire (APT). Thankfully, there are more cats to bring down than fire to extinguish. That being said, a big herd of cats could be a serious threat to your organization, to your mental health or both.

We tend to forget that incident handlers are humans, not robots. Unlike our metal cyberfriends, we need diversity. We can’t risk insanity like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times if we can avoid it. Unfortunately IR can be highly repetitive, especially if you only have cats to deal with.

Some could say ‘Nah, this is minor, nothing critical here’ but at some point, an analyst brainwashed by the same tasks again and again will be led to fault. In the worst case scenario, one could see an alert and immediately categorize it as false positive without any further consideration. Because ‘this alert is always a false positive’, until the day it is not…

Automation, a Solution?

Intuitively, we look in the direction of automation in order to minimize what we call ‘zombie’ tasks: highly repetitive and brainless tasks that need to be done. We believe that doing so will allow incident handlers to focus on the analysis and not on the tedious side of IR. Ultimately, we hope it will keep analysts stimulated and in a state of alert. Also, it should reduce time and effort spent on the low-hanging fruits.

One of the most dreary tasks in our opinion is to record the context around an incident.
What is the problem? When did it happen? What’s the origin? Who are the victims? How many are there? Answers to these questions let you have an overview of what is happening and are valuable to correlate incidents. So it is worth taking some minutes to add this information to your case. Sadly, most of the time it will look like a succession of ‘Ctrl+C; Alt+Tab; Ctrl+V’ from your incident source to TheHive. Exactly the kind of tasks we want to forego.


Having identified the threat that apathetic analysts pose, the root cause (highly repetitive tasks) and a solution (automate the recording of incident context), the question of the implementation has been raised.

The first challenge to solve is the number of incident sources. Almost everything can trigger an incident: a firewall, an IDS, antivirus, SIEM, users, etc… So the application must be designed to accept several sources and must permit to easily integrate new ones. And instead of having to configure multiple alert feeders to supply alerts to TheHive, we would have only one. To some extent, it can be assimilated to a meta feeder.

And if the application works as intended, we still have a second challenge. Let’s say you, dear reader, and ourselves use the galaxy renowned Stargazer IDS. Maybe you’d like to include the full packet capture in the case but we wouldn’t. Using the same product doesn’t mean using it the same way. So we have a variety of sources and for each source, we have a variety of configurations and workflows. Hence any app we design needs to accept multiple configurations and workflows for any given source.

Finally: the third challenge. We want to make the most out of TheHive. Creating cases, creating alerts, assigning cases, adding logs, adding observables … all those actions are not an option.


After several trials and failures, we came up with Synapse. Basically it is a Python 3 app which sits between TheHive and your incident sources:

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 09.54.28.png
Synapse Overview

To solve the first and third challenge, we rely on connectors. A connector is a Python object dedicated to interact with a security device. In the picture above, you can see the Exchange Connector and TheHive Connector. To extend the number of sources, you just have to develop the connector that corresponds to your device.

Regarding the second challenge, we rely on workflows. Workflows are python scripts who use connectors to automate repetitive tasks when tracking a case. Not happy with the current workflow? Develop your own using the connectors.

At this point, you probably wonder why there’s an API in the picture above. Well, the API is the link between the user and the workflows. By hitting a specific endpoint of the Synapse’s API, the corresponding workflow will be launched. That way the user can choose what to launch, especially if they are only interested in a particular workflow. Moreover, using an API allows us to listen to TheHive’s real-time stream and initiate some actions like closing a QRadar offense when the related case is solved.

At the moment, Synapse includes the Exchange connector and the associated Ews2Case workflow. The workflow features:

  • Case creation from emails
  • Case assignment
  • Adding email bodies to task logs
  • Adding email replies to the case
  • Adding email attachments as observables

And of course, everything is done to minimize the number of clicks! Check the workflow documentation to understand how it works under the hood.

We’re still working on the QRadar connector and the associated workflows but if you can’t wait, have a look at the work done by the community like pierrebarlet’s script.

Check it Out

As usual, Synapse is an open source and free software released under the AGPL (Affero General Public License).

Synapse has its own repository. Start with the user guide and read about the workflow you want to use as you’ll need to configure it.


Shall you encounter any difficulty, please join our user forum, contact us on Gitter, or send us an email at support@thehive-project.org. We will be more than happy to help!