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SOC & CSIRT Response to Attacks & Threats based on attack defense graphs Evaluation Systems

Frank Fransen
Reinder Wolthuis

01 September 2019

01 September 2022

EC funded project

SOCCRATES develops key innovative technologies to improve the detection of and response to complex cyber-attacks

The H2020 project SOCCRATES brings together some of the best expertise in the field to develop, implement and evaluate an automated security platform to defend against ongoing cyber-attacks and emerging threats.

Over the past years, the cyber threat landscape has greatly evolved. Advanced cyber-attacks are now conducted by professional threat actors that have substantial resources and (technical) capabilities. Such attacks are often targeted in nature and may involve a great degree of automation, persistence and (technical) sophistication. Meanwhile the dependency on ICT and thus the potential impact of any cyber-attack is ever increasing. Combined with the continuously evolving ICT infrastructures with diverse and emerging technologies (e.g. IoT), organisations are faced with a challenging task.

To deal with these challenges, many organisations have increased their effort in security monitoring and incident response. Moreover, these organisations have setup Security Operation Centres (SOCs) and Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRTs) to perform these tasks, or outsourced these tasks to a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP). In recent years, these security operation activities have been extended with collection and processing of Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI), to anticipate upcoming threats and take appropriate precautions. Although these security operations have gotten more attention over the years, these SOCs and CSIRTs (both organisational and MSSP) are faced with challenges:

Improve and extend detection capability. Threat agents (attackers) continuously evolve and improve their Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs), including stealth techniques. The SOCs also need to improve the detection capability with more advanced techniques that assist the analyst in discovering indicators in a massive amount of data or reducing the number of false positives.

Automate the CTI process. As the amount of available Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) is increasing and the value of a large portion of that CTI is limited to a short time span, it is becoming more important to automatically assess and apply mitigation strategies to these threats.

Understand the ICT infrastructure. As SOC analysts need to interpret and understand the detected security events, insight in the continuously evolving ICT networks and systems is essential. The SOC analyst also needs to understand the critical attack surfaces and attack vectors that may lead to a compromise of critical business assets.  ‘Context knowledge’ has become key for the SOC and CSIRT analysts.

Assess business impact of an incident. In addition to understanding the ICT infrastructure, the SOC analyst needs to be able to assess the potential impact on the business of an ongoing attack or emerging threat. Business processes thus need to be mapped on the ICT infrastructure components, and insight in the consequences of a breach of confidentiality, integrity and/or availability of system resources or information assets needs to be (near real-time) available.

Recommend Course of Actions (CoAs). When faced with an attack or emerging threat, the SOC analyst needs to identify possible responses and determine which response is the best given the ICT infrastructure, available (on demand) reconfigurable security functions, and the effect on the business.

Attribute attacks to known adversaries. When engaged in an ongoing attack, it is beneficial to attribute the attack to a known adversary. This will improve forensics capability and ability to predict next steps.


SOCCRATES (SOC & CSIRT Response to Attacks & Threats based on attack defense graphs Evaluation Systems) is a H2020 project, led by TNO, that supports the SOC and CSIRT community in overcoming these challenges. The SOCCRATES partners are depicted in figure below. The main project objective is: ‘Develop and implement a Security Decision Support framework that enhances the effectiveness of SOC and CSIRT operations.’

The integrated Security Decision Support framework will consist of a platform with a modular set of components with standardized interfaces and a central orchestration function, see figure below.

The platform is a mix of technical innovations, which aim to increase the insight in the propagation of threats and cyber-attacks within the organisation’s ICT infrastructure, increase the insight in the business impact, increase the attribution to known adversaries, and increase the capability to effectively respond in an informed manner.

The platform will be build in three iterations between 2019 and 2022 and will be evaluated in three pilots organized by Mnemonic (Managed Security Service Provider), Vattenfall (internal ICT SOC) and Shadowserver (CTI collection, processing & analysis).

We would like to invite interesting parties to join our stakeholder group to get actively informed on the project deliverables and interact with the project members. See the contact details below.

SOCCRATES has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation program under Grant Agreement No. 833481.


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