Cortex 2: a Sneak Peek

Unless you’ve been living in a cave with no Internet connection during the last year or so, you certainly know a thing or two about Cortex, TheHive’s perfect sidekick, which allows you to analyze observables, at scale, using its 30+ analyzers.

As of this writing, the latest version of Cortex is 1.1.4. Cortex can be queried using its Web UI for quick assessment of an observable. But the true power of Cortex is unleashed when the engine is queried through its REST API, either from TheHive (which can leverage multiple Cortex instances), from alternative SIRPs (Security Incident Response Platforms), Threat Intelligence Platforms and programs thanks to Cortex4py. Indeed, when Cortex is called through the API, it can analyze large sets of observables. Each analysis generates a job. Jobs are queued on first-created, first-executed basis.

However, Cortex 1 has three limitations:

  1. It does not support authentication. If you install it and don’t shield it from abuse (using a firewall for example), anyone can submit analysis jobs and consume your query quotas for subscription-based, commercial services, for example. Non-CSIRT/CERT/SOC personnel or threat actors can also view all the jobs you’ve executed (what observables you have analyzed, using which analyzers and what the associated results were).
  2. It does not support rate-limiting. All it takes to ruin your quotas is an unexperienced analyst who’d create a case in TheHive from a MISP event containing thousands of attributes, select them all from the newly created case, and run them through various Cortex analyzers.
  3. It has no persistence. If you restart the Cortex service or the host it runs on, all your analysis results will disappear. Please note that if you query Cortex from TheHive, the latter will keep a copy of all the reports generated by the analyzers.

Moreover, analyzer configuration is not as easy as we’d like it to be. Enters Cortex 2.

Authentication, Organizations, Configuration and Rate Limiting

Cortex 2, due for release in February 2018, almost a year after the release of the first version, will support all the authentication methods TheHive supports: LDAP, Active Directory, local accounts, API keys and/or SSO using X.509 certificates (an experimental feature as of this writing).

Once created, users will be associated to an organization. Each organization has its own configuration: which analyzers are enabled, associated API keys and/or authentication credentials for services (VirusTotal, PassiveTotal, MISP, …) and a query quota.

For example, if you have an overall quota on VT for 10,000 queries/month, you can limit the number of queries to 5000 for org A, 3000 for org B and leave 2000 for other uses. Rate limits can be configured per month or per day.

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Cortex 2 — Architecture

More on Organizations

Organizations will be ideal for multi-tenant Cortex instances deployed, for a example, by the central CSIRT of a large company. They can then create orgs for their regional SOCs. Commercial teams such as MSSPs will also be able to use a single instance to serve all their customers.

Graphical Interface Enhancements

Administrators will not have to edit /etc/cortex/application.conf by hand to enable and configure analyzers per org. They will be able to do so from the Web UI. The Web UI will also allow them to manage users, orgs and authentication tokens when applicable.

Report Persistence and Freshness

Cortex 2 will use ES 5 for storage, like TheHive. That way, you will no longer lose your existing jobs when you reboot the Cortex host or restart the service. You will also be able to query historical results to monitor changes and so on. We will also add an optional parameter to make Cortex 2 to serve the latest report generated by an analyzer if it is called again, on the same observable in the last X seconds or minutes. That way, we’ll avoid running the same queries again and again for the same observable and thus consuming quotas and CPU and storage resources.

Pricing

Cortex 2 is a significant development over Cortex 1 … but it’ll still cost you nothing as it will remain free and open source. We could feel you itching when you started reading this paragraph. Chill out! But if you are willing to support the project, you can donate to Creative Source, the non-profit organization we have created to sustain TheHive, Cortex and Hippocampe in the long run. Interested? Contact us at support@thehive-project.org then.

Featured

Introducing Cerana

Update: 2 days after publishing this blog post, we’ve released Cerana 0.1 (TheHive 3.0.1) which fixes a number of issues. We encourage you to use 3.0.1 instead of 3.0.0.

The friendly honeybees at TheHive’s code kitchen were pretty busy lately even though winter came and temperatures have been close to zero Celsius in Paris, France. As we wrote a couple of weeks ago on this very blog, we are happy to announce Cerana to the world, available immediately.

Cerana or TheHive 3.0.0 is the latest (and obviously greatest) release of a now highly popular open source, free Security Incident Response Platform (or SIRP for short). Its flagship feature in comparison to previous releases is Dynamic Dashboards.

Dynamic Dashboards

Dynamic Dashboards replace the Statistics module in Cerana to allow you to explore the data available in Elasticsearch, which TheHive uses for storage, in many ways. For example, you can have a usage breakdown of Cortex analyzers, the number of open cases per assignee, the number of alerts per source (MISP, email notifications, DigitalShadows, Zerofox, Splunk, …), the number of observables that have been flagged as IOCs in a given time period, how many attributes were imported from MISP instances, top 10 tags of imported MISP attributes or incident categories.

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Dynamic Dashboards

Dynamic Dashboards can be created by an analyst and kept private or shared with the other team members. Dashboards can also be exported and imported into another instance. This would facilitate community participation in the establishment of valuable data exploration graphs to drive DFIR activity and seek continuous improvement.

When you’ll migrate to Cerana, you won’t have to build dashboards from scratch. We recreated more or less those which were available under the Statistics view and included them in the Cerana build.

Cortex and MISP Health Status

Cerana will also allow you to monitor the health status of all the Cortex and MISP instances that it is connected to. In the bottom right corner of TheHive’s Web UI, the Cortex and MISP logos appear when you have configured the integration with those products as in previous releases. However, the logos will have a small outer circle which color will change depending on whether Cortex and/or MISP instances are reachable or not.

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Cortex & MISP Health

If TheHive can’t reach N out of M Cortex/MISP instances, the outer circle will be orange. If it can’t reach all M instances, the circle will red. If everything is fine, the circle will be green. The exact status of each Cortex/MISP instance can be seen in the About page. And when you try to run analyzers on a Cortex which cannot be reached, TheHive will tell you so as well.

about
Cortex & MISP: Version & Status

Sighted IOCs

In previous releases of TheHive, observables can be flagged as IOCs. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve seen them in your network. Think for example of a suspicious attachment which you’ve submitted to Cuckoo or Joe Sandbox through Cortex. The analyzer returns some C2 addresses to which the sample tries to connect to. You’d be right to add those C2 addresses to your case and flag them as IOCs. Then you search for them in your proxy logs and you find connection attempts to one out of four. In previous versions, you’d add a seen label but this would be inconsistent among analysts. One may use found instead. Another will add a description and no labels.

To avoid such situations and give you a simple way to declare an IOC as seen, Cerana adds a sighted toggle which you can switch on/off. We will leverage this toggle in future versions to indicate sightings when sharing back cases to MISP.

Other Features and Improvements

Cerana contains numerous other features and improvements such as:

  • Case template import, export
  • The ability to assign default values to metrics and custom fields to case templates
  •  The ability to assign by default tasks to their rightful owners in case templates
  • Show already known observables when previewing MISP events in the Alerts page
  • Add autonomous systems to the list of default datatypes
  • Single-sign on using X.509 certificates (in BETA currently)

We will update the documentation for Cerana in the upcoming weeks. So stay tuned.

Download & Get Down to Work

If you have an existing installation of TheHive, please follow the migration guide.

If you are performing a fresh installation, read the installation guide corresponding to your needs and enjoy. Please note that you can install TheHive using an RPM or DEB package, use Docker, install it from a binary or build it from sources.

Support

Something does not work as expected? You have troubles installing or upgrading? No worries, please join our user forum, contact us on Gitter, or send us an email at support@thehive-project.org. We are here to help.

Introducing Cortex4py

Following popular demand, the chefs at TheHive Project‘s code kitchen are happy to announce the immediate availability of Cortex4py.

What Is It?

Cortex4py is a Python API client for Cortex, a powerful observable analysis engine where observables such as IP and email addresses, URLs, domain names, files or hashes can be analyzed one by one using a Web interface or en masse through the API.

Cortex4py allows analysts to automate these operations and submit observables in bulk mode through the Cortex REST API from alternative SIRP platforms (TheHive has native support for one or multiple Cortex instances) and custom scripts.

 

Use It

To install the client, use PIP:

$ sudo pip install cortex4py

 

How Much Does it Cost?

Cortex4py is released under an AGPL license as all the other products we publish to help the IR community fight the good fight. So apart from the effort it’ll cost you to install and use, the price of our software is nada, zero, rien. But if you are willing to contribute one way or another, do not hesitate to drop us an email at support@thehive-project.org or contact us via Twitter.

Support

Something does not work as expected? You have troubles installing or upgrading? No worries, please join our  user forum, contact us on Gitter, or send us an email at support@thehive-project.org. We are here to help.