Cortex XSOAR Concepts

It is important to familiarize yourself with Cortex XSOAR components, UI terminology, and key concepts.

Content Packs

All Cortex XSOAR content is organized in Packs. Packs are essentially groups of artifacts that implement use cases in the product. Content Packs are created by Palo Alto Networks, Technology Partners, Consulting Companies, MSSPs, Customers and Individual Contributors. Content Packs may include a variety of different components, such as Integrations, Automations, Playbooks, Incident Types, Widgets and more. If you want to contribute the Content entities you created, you should create a Content Pack and submit it for review, in order for it to be added to the Cortex XSOAR Marketplace and become available to customers.

Incident Lifecycle

Cortex XSOAR is an orchestration and automation system used to bring all of the various pieces of your security apparatus together. Using Cortex XSOAR, you can define integrations with your 3rd-party security and incident management vendors. You can then trigger events from these integrations that become incidents in Cortex XSOAR. Once the incidents are created, you can run playbooks on these incidents to enrich them with information from other products in your system, which helps you complete the picture. In most cases, you can use rules and automation to determine if an incident requires further investigation or can be closed based on the findings. This enables your analysts to focus on the minority of incidents that require further investigation. More information here.

Incidents

Incidents are generated from 3rd-party systems, email, etc., or created manually. It's the combination of a ticket and real time data. Incidents are potential security data threats that SOC administrators identify and remediate. There are several incident triggers, including:

  • SIEM alerts
  • Email alerts
  • Security alerts from 3rd-party services, such as SIEM, mail boxes, data in CSV format, or from the Cortex XSOAR RESTful API.

Cortex XSOAR includes several out-of-the-box incident types, and users can add custom incident types with custom fields, as necessary. 

Incident Fields

Incident Fields are used for accepting or populating incident data coming from incidents. You create fields for information you know will be coming from 3rd-party integrations and in which you want to insert the information.

Integrations

Product integrations (or apps) are mechanisms through which security orchestration platforms communicate with other products. These integrations can be executed through REST APIs, webhooks, and other techniques. An integration can be unidirectional or bidirectional, with the latter allowing both products to execute cross-console actions. Integrations enable connections with third-party tools and services that the Cortex XSOAR platform orchestrates and automates SOC operations. In addition to third-party tools, you can create your own integration using the Bring Your Own Integration (BYOI) feature.

The following lists some of the integration categories available in Cortex XSOAR. The list is not exhaustive, and highlights the main categories:

  • Analytics and SIEM
  • Authentication
  • Case Management
  • Data Enrichment
  • Threat Intelligence
  • Database
  • Endpoint
  • Forensics and Malware Analysis
  • IT Services
  • Messaging
  • Network Security
  • Vulnerability Management

Integration Instance

A configuration of an integration. You can have multiple instances of an integration, for example, to connect to different environments. Additionally, if you are an MSSP and have multiple tenants, you could configure a separate instance for each tenant.

Playbooks

Playbooks are task-based graphical workflows that help visualize processes across security products. These playbooks can be fully automated, fully manual, or anywhere in between. Cortex XSOAR Playbooks are self-contained, fully documented prescriptive procedures that query, analyze, and take action based on the gathered results. Playbooks enable you to organize and document security monitoring, orchestration, and response activities. There are several out-of-the-box playbooks that cover common investigation scenarios. You can use these playbooks as-is, or customize them according to your requirements. Playbooks are written in YAML file format using the COPS standard.

Playbooks are made up of tasks, each of which perform a specific action. Tasks are either manual or automatic. Manual tasks are actions that are not associated with scripts. Automated tasks are associated with scripts, written in Python or JavaScript.

A key feature of Playbooks is the ability to structure and automate security responses, which were previously handled manually. You can reuse Playbook tasks as  building blocks for new playbooks, saving you time and streamlining knowledge retention.

Automations (Scripts)

The Automation section is where you manage, create, and modify Automations (aka Scripts). Single purpose automations generally manipulate data in the system, or are used to wrap multiple integrations or to develop single purpose tools that are not complete products. Maybe you have some library that is not a full product that you want to utilize, automations are a good use for this. These scripts perform a specific action, and are comprised of commands associated with an integration. Scripts are used as part of tasks, which are used in playbooks and commands in the War Room.

Scripts can access all Cortex XSOAR APIs, including access to incidents, investigations, share data to the War Room, and so on. Scripts can receive and access arguments, and you can password protect scripts.

The Automation section includes a Script Helper, which provides a list of available commands and scripts, ordered alphabetically.

Indicators and Indicator Types

Indicators are any type of data that you want to match using regular expressions, or add to the system. Indicators can be assigned certain integration commands, and automations in order to determine reputation, take action, enrich, the list goes on here. DBot can simplify your incident investigation process by collecting and analyzing information and artifacts found in War Room entries. Cortex XSOAR analyzes indicators to determine whether they are malicious. Using indicator types reveals predefined, regular expressions in the War Room.

Hits are indicators that are determined to have a bad reputation, and were previously identified in the network. The reputation is the indicator's level of maliciousness, determined manually or by hypersearch scripts. If a hypersearch script identifies an indicator, the source is DBot.

There are many out-of-the-box indicator types, but you can add custom indicator types as necessary. The following is a list of some of the indicator types, but the list is not exhaustive:

  • IP address (IP4, IP6)
  • Registry path
  • URL
  • Email
  • File hash (SHA-1, MD5)
  • Domains
  • CIDR 

When you add an indicator type, you can add enhancement and reputation scripts. Enhancement scripts enable you to gather additional data about the highlighted entry in the War Room. Reputation scripts calculate the reputation score for an entry that DBot analyzed, for example, DataIPReputation, which calculates the reputation of an IP address.

Other Concepts

As you use and develop on Cortex XSOAR, you'll find the following concepts useful.

Cortex XSOAR CLI

Think of the Cortex XSOAR CLI like an operating system CLI that is built into the product, and connects to every tool that you need. It allows the user to test and run integration commands, run automations, and more.

Commands

Cortex XSOAR has two different kinds of commands:

  • system commands - Commands that enable you to perform Cortex XSOAR operations, such as clearing the playground or closing an incident. These commands are not specific to an integration. System commands are entered in the command line using a /. For example /playground_create.

  • external commands - Integration-specific commands that enable you to perform actions specific to an integration. For example, you can quickly check the reputation of an ip. External commands are entered in the command line using a !. For example, !ip.

Context Data

The different commands and playbook tasks are tied together by way of something called the Cortex XSOAR Context. Every incident and playbook has a place to store data called the Context. The context stores the results from every integration command and every automation script that is run. It is a JSON storage for each incident. Whether you run an integration command from the CLI or from a playbook task, the output result is stored into the JSON context in the incident or the playground. Simply put, if you have a command like !whois query="cnn.com" it would return the data and store the results into the context.

War Room

The War Room is a collection of all investigation actions, artifacts, and collaboration pieces for an incident. It is a chronological journal of the incident investigation. You can run commands and playbooks from the War Room and filter the entries for easier viewing.

Playground

The playground is a non-production environment where you can safely develop and test automation scripts, APIs, commands, and more. It is an investigation area that is not connected to a live (active) investigation. It's also the place you go in order to test integration commands, automations, and other tools from the Cortex XSOAR CLI.

To erase a playground and create a new one, in the Cortex XSOAR CLI run the /playground_create command.

Jobs

You can create scheduled events in Cortex XSOAR using jobs. Jobs are triggered either by time-triggered events or feed-triggered events. For example, you can define a job to trigger a playbook when a specified TIM feed finishes a fetch operation that included a modification to the list.

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