SEC511: Continuous Monitoring and Security Operations

Provided by SANS
GMON Certification
Qualification level
GMON Certification
Study type
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About the course

We continue to underestimate the tenacity of our adversaries! Organizations are investing a significant amount of time and financial and human resources trying to combat cyber threats and prevent cyber attacks, but despite this tremendous effort organizations are still getting compromised. The traditional perimeter-focused, prevention-dominant approach to security architecture has failed to prevent intrusions. No network is impenetrable, a reality that business executives and security professionals alike have to accept. Prevention is crucial, and we can't lose sight of it as the primary goal. However, a new proactive approach to security is needed to enhance the capabilities of organizations to detect threats that will inevitably slip through their defenses. SEC511: Continuous Monitoring and Security Operations will teach you how to strengthen your skills to undertake that proactive approach.

The underlying challenge for organizations victimized by an attack is timely incident detection. Industry data suggest that most security breaches typically go undiscovered for an average of seven months. Attackers simply have to find one way into most organizations, because they know that the lack of visibility and internal security controls will then allow them to methodically carry out their mission and achieve their goals.

The Defensible Security Architecture, Network Security Monitoring (NSM)/Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM)/Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM) taught in this course will best position your organization or Security Operations Center (SOC) to analyze threats and detect anomalies that could indicate cybercriminal behavior. The payoff for this new proactive approach would be early detection of an intrusion, or successfully thwarting the efforts of attackers altogether. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed guidelines described in NIST SP 800-137 for Continuous Monitoring (CM), and day five of this course will greatly increase your understanding and enhance your skills in implementing CM using the NIST framework.

SANS is uniquely qualified to offer this course. Course authors Eric Conrad (GSE #13) and Seth Misenar (GSE #28) hold the distinguished GIAC Security Expert Certification, and both are experienced, real-world, practitioners who apply the concepts and techniques they teach in this course on a daily basis. SEC511 will take you on quite a journey. We start by exploring traditional security architecture to assess its current state and the attacks against it. Next, we discuss and discover modern security design that represents a new proactive approach to such architecture that can be easily understood and defended. We then transition to how to actually build the network and endpoint security, and then carefully navigate our way through automation, NSM/CDM/CSM. For timely detection of potential intrusions, the network and systems must be proactively and continuously monitored for any changes in the security posture that might increase the likelihood that attackers will succeed.

Your SEC511 journey will conclude with one last hill to climb! The final day features a capture-the-flag competition that challenges you to apply the skills and techniques learned in the course to detect and defend the modern security architecture that has been designed. The competition has been designed to be fun, engaging, comprehensive, and challenging. You will not be disappointed!

With your training journey now complete and your skills enhanced and honed, it is time to go back to work and deliver on the SANS promise that you will be able to apply what you learn in this course the day you return to the office.


Course Syllabus

SEC511.1: Current State Assessment, Security Operations Centers, and Security Architecture


The prevention-dominant security model has failed. Given the frequency and extent of significant intrusions, this should not come as a surprise. In order to address the root of the problem, we must understand the current architecture and the design gaps that facilitate the adversary's dominance. What do we need to address to begin to make things better? Can we ever hope to win? What would winning look like? These are important questions that we must answer if we hope to substantially improve our security posture.

We begin with the end in mind, and define the key techniques and principles that will allow us to achieve that state. An effective modern Security Operations Center or Security Architecture must enable an organization's ability to rapidly find intrusions to facilitate containment and response. Both significant knowledge and a commitment to continuous monitoring are required to achieve this goal.


  • Detecting Traditional Attack Techniques
  • Detecting Modern Attack Techniques
  • Egress Analysis with ELSA
  • NetWars (Day 1): Immersive Cyber Challenges

CPE/CMU Credits: 8


Day 1: Current State Assessment, Security Operations Centers, and Security Architecture

  • Overview
    • Traditional Security Architecture
    • Perimeter-focused
    • Addressed Layer 3/4
    • Centralized Information Systems
    • Prevention-Oriented
    • Device-driven
    • Traditional Attack Techniques
  • Modern Security Architecture Principles
    • Detection-oriented
    • Post-Exploitation-focused
    • Decentralized Information Systems/Data
    • Risk-informed
    • Layer 7 Aware
    • Security Operations Centers
    • Network Security Monitoring
    • Continuous Security Monitoring
    • Modern Attack Techniques
    • Adversarial Dominance
  • Frameworks and Enterprise Security Architecture
    • Enterprise Security Architecture
    • Security Frameworks
  • Security Architecture - Key Techniques/Practices
    • Threat Vector Analysis
    • Data Exfiltration Analysis
    • Detection Dominant Design
    • Zero Trust Model (Kindervag)
    • Intrusion Kill Chain
    • Visibility Analysis
    • Data Visualization
    • Lateral Movement Analysis
    • Data Ingress/Egress Mapping
    • Internal Segmentation
    • Network Security Monitoring
    • Continuous Security Monitoring
  • Security Operations Center (SOC)
    • Purpose of a SOC
    • Key SOC roles
    • Relationship to Defensible Security Architecture

SEC511.2: Network Security Architecture


Understanding the problems with the current environment and realizing where we need to get to is far from sufficient: we need a detailed roadmap to bridge the gap between the current and desired state. Day two introduces and details the components of our infrastructure that become part of a defensible network security architecture and SOC. We are long past the days where a perimeter firewall and ubiquitous antivirus was sufficient security. There are many pieces and moving parts that comprise a modern defensible security architecture.

In addition to discussing technologies like Next Generation Firewalls, UTM devices, Malware Detonation Devices, SIMs, DLP, and Honeypots that may not be found in all organizations, we will focus on repurposing traditional devices such as layer 3/4 firewalls, routers, switches, and NIDS. The goal of this course is not to give you a long list of items to add to the next year's budget, so we will focus on maximizing the capabilities of your current information security architecture, while pointing out new technologies that may offer a compelling return on investment.


  • ModSecurity
  • Snort OpenAppId
  • HoneyTokens for Leak Detection
  • NetWars (Day 2): Immersive Cyber Challenges

CPE/CMU Credits: 8


Day 2: SOCs and Defensible Network Security Architecture

  • SOCs/Security Architecture - Key Infrastructure Devices
    • Traditional and Next Generation Firewalls, and NIPS
    • Web Application Firewall
    • Malware Detonation Devices
    • HTTP Proxies, Web Content Filtering, and SSL Decryption
    • SIMs, NIDS, Packet Captures, and DLP
    • Honeypots/Honeynets
    • Network Infrastructure - Routers, Switches, DHCP, DNS
    • Mobile Devices and Wireless Access Points
    • Threat Intelligence
  • Segmented Internal Networks
    • Routers
    • Internal SI Firewalls
    • VLANs
    • Detecting the Pivot
  • Defensible Network Security Architecture Principles Applied
    • Internal Segmentation
    • Threat Vector Analysis
    • Data Exfiltration Analysis
    • Detection Dominant Design
    • Zero Trust Model (Kindervag)
    • Intrusion Kill Chain
    • Visibility Analysis
    • Data Visualization
    • Lateral Movement Analysis
    • Data Ingress/Egress Mapping

SEC511.3: Network Security Monitoring


Designing a SOC or security architecture that enhances visibility and detective capabilities represents a paradigm shift for most organizations. However, the design is simply the beginning. The most important element of a modern security architecture is the emphasis on detection. The network security architecture presented in days one and two emphasized baking visibility and detective capabilities into the design. Now we must figure out how to look at the data and continuously monitor the enterprise for evidence of compromise or changes that increase the likelihood of compromise.

We must first understand the approach and goals of monitoring and define a methodology for analysis. Key terms such as Network Security Monitoring (NSM), Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM), and Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM) can cause confusion, and we will make sure these terms are understood, enabling the security professional to guide an organization in using the best practices. Speaking of best practices, we will emphasize the continuous monitoring of the Critical Security Controls.

Enabling continuous monitoring will be studied by developing a model for employing robust NSM. This will allow an organization to deal with and make sense of data to rapidly enable the detection of potential intrusions or unauthorized actions.


  • Pcap Carving with Bro
  • Sguil Service-Side Analysis
  • Final Exercise
  • NetWars (Day 3): Immersive Cyber Challenges Labs

CPE/CMU Credits: 8


Day 3: Network Security Monitoring

  • Continuous Monitoring Overview
    • Defined
    • Network Security Monitoring (NSM)
    • Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM)
    • Continuous Monitoring and the 20 Critical Security Controls
  • Network Security Monitoring (NSM)
    • Evolution of NSM
    • The NSM Toolbox
    • NIDS Design
    • Analysis Methodology
    • Understanding Data Sources
      • Full Packet Capture
      • Extracted Data
      • String Data
      • Flow Data
      • Transaction Data
      • Statistical Data
      • Alert Data
      • Tagged Data
      • Correlated Data
    • Practical NSM Issues
    • Cornerstone NSM
      • Service-Side and Client-Side Exploits
      • Identifying High-Entropy Strings
      • Tracking EXE Transfers
      • Identifying Command and Control (C2) Traffic
      • Tracking User Agents
      • C2 via HTTPS
      • Tracking Encryption Certificates

SEC511.4: Endpoint Security Architecture


One of the hallmarks of modern attacks is an emphasis on client-side exploitation. The days of breaking into networks via direct frontal assaults on unpatched mail, web, or DNS servers are largely behind us. We must focus on mitigating the risk of compromise of clients. Day four details ways in which endpoint systems can be both more resilient to attack and also enhance detective capabilities.


  • Sysmon
  • Autoruns
  • Persistence and Pivoting
  • Volatile Analysis of Pivoting and Pass-the-Hash
  • NetWars (Day 4): Immersive Cyber Challenges

CPE/CMU Credits: 8


Day 4: SOCs and Defensible Endpoint Security Architecture

  • Security Architecture - Endpoint Protection
    • Anti-Malware
    • Host-based Firewall, Host-based IDS/IPS
    • Application Whitelisting, Application Virtualization
    • Privileged Accounts, Authentication, Monitoring, and UAC
    • Whole Disk Encryption
    • Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
    • Browser Security
    • EMET
  • Dangerous Endpoint Applications
    • Java
    • Adobe Reader
    • Flash
    • Microsoft Office
    • Browsers
  • Patching
    • Process
    • To Test or Not to Test
    • Microsoft
    • Third Party

SEC511.5: Automation and Continuous Security Monitoring


Network Security Monitoring (NSM) is the beginning: we need to not only detect active intrusions and unauthorized actions, but also know when our systems, networks, and applications are at an increased likelihood for compromise. A strong way to achieve this is through Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM) or Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM). Rather than waiting for the results of a quarterly scan or an annual penetration test to determine what needs to be addressed, continuous monitoring proactively and repeatedly assesses and reassesses the current security posture for potential weaknesses that need be addressed.

The volume of data that must be continuously sought and mined is vast: the goal of continuous monitoring would be out of reach without scripting and automation. Naturally, there are vendors and tools to scratch this itch, but they will be incomplete and require their own care, feeding, and monitoring. Day five describes how to perform continuous monitoring with simple tools and scripts.

Knowing how to script and automate is pointless unless you know what data should be captured and analyzed on a continuous basis. Again leaning on the Critical Security Controls, we will determine high-value targets for continuous monitoring in an enterprise.


  • Inventory
  • Passive Fingerprinting
  • Windows Event Logs
  • PowerShell Scripting
  • NetWars (Day 5): Immersive Cyber Challenges

CPE/CMU Credits: 8


Day 5: Automation and Continuous Security Monitoring

  • Overview
    • Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM) vs. Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) vs. Information Security Continuous Monitoring (ISCM)
    • Cyberscope and SCAP
  • Industry Best Practices
    • Continuous Monitoring and the 20 Critical Security Controls
    • Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) Strategies to Mitigate Targeted Cyber Intrusions
  • Winning CSM Techniques
  • Maintaining Situational Awareness
  • Host, Port, and Service Discovery
  • Vulnerability Scanning
  • Monitoring Patching
  • Monitoring Applications
  • Monitoring Service Logs
    • Detecting Malware via DNS logs
  • Monitoring Change to Devices and Appliances
  • Leveraging Proxy and Firewall Data
  • Configuring Centralized Windows Event Log Collection
  • Monitoring Critical Windows Events
    • Hands on: Detecting Malware via Windows Event Logs
  • Scripting and Automation
    • Importance of Automation
    • PowerShell
    • Hands-on: Detecting Malicious Registry Run Keys with PowerShell

SEC511.6: Capstone: Design, Detect, Defend


The course culminates in a team-based design, detect, and defend the flag competition. Powered by NetWars, day six provides a full day of hands-on work applying the principles taught throughout the week.

Your team will progress through multiple levels and missions designed to ensure mastery of the modern cyber defense techniques promoted all week long. From security architecture, network security monitoring, endpoint security, and continuous monitoring, this challenging exercise will reinforce key principles in a fun, hands-on, team-based challenge.

CPE/CMU Credits: 6


Day 6: Capstone - Design/Detect/Defend

  • Security Architecture
  • Assess Provided Architecture
  • Continuous Security Monitoring
  • Using Tools/Scripts to Assess the Initial State
  • Quickly/Thoroughly Find All Changes Made

Who Should Attend

  • Security Architects
  • Senior Security Engineers
  • Technical Security Managers
  • SOC Analysts
  • SOC Engineers
  • SOC Managers
  • CND Analysts
  • Individuals working to implement Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM), Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM), or Network Security Monitoring (NSM)


  • Basic understanding of network protocols and devices
  • Experience with Linux and Windows from the command line

What You Will Receive

  • MP3 audio files of the complete course lecture
  • Intro and walkthrough videos of most labs
  • Licensed Windows 10 virtual machine
  • A Linux VM loaded with tons of extra logs, pcaps, and other resources
  • 32GB USB 3.0 stick that includes the above and more

This Course Will Prepare You To:

  • Analyze a security architecture for deficiencies
  • Apply the principles learned in the course to design a defensible security architecture
  • Understand the importance of a detection-dominant security architecture and Security Operations Centers (SOC)
  • Identify the key components of Network Security Monitoring (NSM)/Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM)/Continuous Monitoring (CM)
  • Determine appropriate security monitoring needs for organizations of all sizes
  • Implement robust Network Security Monitoring/Continuous Security Monitoring
  • Determine requisite monitoring capabilities for a SOC environment
  • Determine capabilities required to support continuous monitoring of key Critical Security Controls
  • Utilize tools to support implementation of Continuous Monitoring per NIST guidelines SP 800-137

While the above list briefly outlines the knowledge and skills you will learn, it barely scratches the surface of what this course has to offer. Hands-on labs throughout the course will reinforce key concepts and principles, as well as teach you how to use scripting to automate continuous monitoring. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Hands-on Training

SEC511 employs several different hands-on tactics that go well beyond simple lecture and instructor-led discussions:

  • Linux-based local labs
  • Linux-based networked labs
  • Windows 10-based local labs
  • Windows 10-based networked labs
  • Daily Immersive Cyber Challenges (NetWars game engine)
  • NetWars-based Final Capstone

The meticulously crafted SEC511 Workbook serves as the starting point for hands-on elements in the course. The workbook-driven labs include multiple paths to complete each exercise. This multifaceted approach allows the labs to better accommodate diverse student backgrounds and technical exposure.

A more recent development is the SEC511 Portal/Wiki available within the class virtual environment. The portal provides students with electronic versions of the workbook labs. Even cooler, for most labs the portal includes both an introduction and walkthrough video for each of the workbook-based labs.

Shall we play a game?

The NetWars game engine now permeates every single course day! Since the launch of SEC511, students have consistently found the NetWars-based Final Capstone to be great fun. Who would have guessed that a game would be fun, right? Students' praise did not stop at "fun" - they also found the game to be a tremendously successful way to further their learning. Taking this cue, we have now incorporated a game-style environment into every day, not just day six.

Contact the course provider: