Skip to main content



Cisco Defense Orchestrator

Cisco Secure Cloud Analytics and Dynamic Entity Modeling

Required License: Logging Analytics and Detection or Total Network Analytics and Monitoring

Cisco Secure Cloud Analytics is a software as a service (SaaS) solution that monitors your on-premises and cloud-based network deployments. By gathering information about your network traffic from sources including firewall events and network flow data, it creates observations about the traffic and automatically identifies roles for network entities based on their traffic patterns. Using this information combined with other sources of threat intelligence, such as Talos, Secure Cloud Analytics generates alerts, which constitute a warning that there is behavior that may be malicious in nature. Along with the alerts, Secure Cloud Analytics provides network and host visibility, and contextual information it has gathered to provide you with a better basis to research the alert and locate sources of malicious behavior.

Dynamic Entity Modeling

Dynamic entity modeling tracks the state of your network by performing a behavioral analysis on firewall events and network flow data. In the context of Secure Cloud Analytics, an entity is something that can be tracked over time, such as a host or endpoint on your network. Dynamic entity modeling gathers information about entities based on the traffic they transmit and activities they take on your network. Secure Cloud Analytics, integrated with a Logging Analytics and Detection license, can draw from firewall events and other traffic information in order to determine the types of traffic the entity usually transmits. If you purchase a Total Network Analytics and Monitoring license, Secure Cloud Analytics can also include NetFlow and other traffic information in modeling entity traffic. Secure Cloud Analytics updates these models over time, as the entities continue to send traffic, and potentially send different traffic, to keep an up-to-date model of each entity.

From this information, Secure Cloud Analytics identifies:

  • roles for the entity, which are a descriptor of what the entity usually does. For example, if an entity sends traffic that is generally associated with email servers, Secure Cloud Analytics assigns the entity an Email Server role. The role/entity relationship can be many-to-one, as entities may perform multiple roles.
  • observations for the entity, which are facts about the entity's behavior on the network, such as a heartbeat connection with an external IP address, or a remote access session established with another entity. If you integrate with CDO, these facts can be obtained from firewall events. If you also purchase a Total Network Analytics and Monitoring, license, the system can also obtain facts from NetFlow, and generate observations from both firewall events and NetFlow. Observations on their own do not carry meaning beyond the fact of what they represent. A typical customer may have many thousands of observations and a few alerts.

Alerts and Analysis

Based on the combination of roles, observations, and other threat intelligence, Secure Cloud Analytics generates alerts, which are actionable items that represent possible malicious behavior as identified by the system. Note that one alert may represent multiple observations. If a firewall logs multiple connection events related to the same connection and entities, this may result in only one alert.

For example, a New Internal Device observation on its own does not constitute possible malicious behavior. However, over time, if the entity transmits traffic consistent with a Domain Controller, then the system assigns a Domain Controller role to the entity. If the entity subsequently establishes a connection to an external server that it has not established a connection with previously, using unusual ports, and transfers large amounts of data, the system would log a New Large Connection (External) observation and an Exceptional Domain Controller observation. If that external server is identified as on a Talos watchlist, then the combination of all this information would lead Secure Cloud Analytics to generate an alert for this entity's behavior, prompting you to take further action to research, and remediate malicious behavior.

When you open an alert in the Secure Cloud Analytics web portal UI, you can view the supporting observations that led the system to generate the alert. From these observations, you can also view additional context about the entities involved, including the traffic that they transmitted, and external threat intelligence if it is available. You can also see other observations and alerts that entities were involved with, and determine if this behavior is
tied to other potentially malicious behavior.

Note that when you view and close alerts in Secure Cloud Analytics, you cannot allow or block traffic from the Secure Cloud Analytics UI. You must update your firewall access control rules to allow or block traffic, if you deployed your devices in active mode, or your firewall access control rules if your firewalls are deployed in passive mode.