Advanced Network Traffic Analysis Playbook

December 17, 20234 min read

Playbook Objectives:

  • To simulate an advanced cyber-attack scenario focusing on network traffic to test and improve participants’ skills in identifying, analyzing, and responding to complex threats.
  • To provide hands-on experience with real-world network traffic analysis tools and techniques.
  • To evaluate the effectiveness of the current network security measures and incident response plans.
  • To train the security team to recognize subtle indicators of compromise and malicious activity that blend in with legitimate traffic.
  • To draft and refine action plans and policies for dealing with sophisticated cyber incidents.

Difficulty Level:

  • Expert: This exercise is designed for participants with advanced knowledge of network traffic patterns, cybersecurity defense mechanisms, and incident response protocols.


  • Company Name: FinSecure Inc.
  • Background: FinSecure Inc. is a multinational financial services provider specializing in asset management, investment banking, and insurance policies. Due to the sensitive nature of the financial data it handles, maintaining robust cybersecurity measures is critical to safeguarding client information and ensuring regulatory compliance.
  • Reason for Exercise: Recent industry reports and threat intelligence suggest an increase in targeted attacks against financial institutions. FinSecure Inc. wants to proactively test its defenses against an advanced, persistent threat actor, capable of bypassing conventional security measures by blending malicious traffic with legitimate communications. The company aims to identify potential security gaps and refine its incident response strategy.
  • Specifics: The network consists of several key components, including the corporate WAN connecting multiple branches, a data center hosting client information, operationally critical web servers, and employee workstations. Advanced Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solution are in place.


  • Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) Simulation
  • Network Forensics and Traffic Analysis

Exercise Attack Steps:

  • Planning the Attack Scenario:
    • An external APT group, “PhantomLynx,” is known for its sophisticated methods and financial sector targets. They plan to infiltrate FinSecure Inc.’s network to exfiltrate sensitive client data.
  • Infiltration:
    • PhantomLynx initiates a spear-phishing campaign targeting high-profile employees within FinSecure Inc., aiming to compromise credentials.
    • The group exploits a zero-day vulnerability in the company’s VPN software, gaining a foothold in the network.
  • Lateral Movement:
    • Once inside, PhantomLynx uses stolen credentials to move laterally across the network, establishing a presence on multiple systems. They utilize secure tunnels to hide their traffic and employ protocol manipulation to avoid detection.
  • Internal Reconnaissance:
    • The attackers conduct network scanning and enumeration activities to identify critical assets, using legitimate network administration tools to blend in with regular traffic.
  • Data Harvesting:
    • PhantomLynx locates and begins to siphon off confidential financial reports, client databases, and proprietary company data, using custom encryption to obfuscate the stolen data within seemingly benign network traffic.
  • Exfiltration:
    • The captured data is slowly exfiltrated to foreign command and control (C&C) servers through DNS queries and HTTPS traffic designed to mirror typical outbound communications, making detection more challenging.
  • Establishing Persistence:
    • To maintain access for future exploitation, PhantomLynx deploys covert backdoors and alters system logs to erase their tracks.
  • Detection and Analysis:
    • The cybersecurity team at FinSecure Inc. must monitor the network for signs of the breach, analyze traffic patterns for anomalies, and employ advanced network analysis techniques to uncover the hidden malicious activity.
  • Response:
    • Upon identifying the indicators of compromise, the team must isolate affected systems, contain the breach, and eliminate the APT presence from the network.
  • Post-Exercise Review:
    • A comprehensive debriefing session is held to discuss findings, adjust threat models, and update response strategies. Security policies are revisited, and additional training needs are identified to enhance the team’s preparedness for real-world attacks.