Flexible Network Security Detection And Response With Grapl


September 21st, 2020

53 mins 32 secs

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About this Episode


Servers and services that have any exposure to the public internet are under a constant barrage of attacks. Network security engineers are tasked with discovering and addressing any potential breaches to their systems, which is a never-ending task as attackers continually evolve their tactics. In order to gain better visibility into complex exploits Colin O’Brien built the Grapl platform, using graph database technology to more easily discover relationships between activities within and across servers. In this episode he shares his motivations for creating a new system to discover potential security breaches, how its design simplifies the work of identifying complex attacks without relying on brittle rules, and how you can start using it to monitor your own systems today.


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  • Your host as usual is Tobias Macey and today I’m interviewing Colin O’Brien about Grapl, an open source platform for detection and response of system security incidents


  • Introductions
  • How did you get introduced to Python?
  • Can you start by describing what Grapl is and the problem that you are trying to solve with it?
    • What was your original motivation to create it?
  • What were the existing options for security detection and response, and how is Grapl differentiated from them?
  • Who is the target audience for the Grapl project?
  • How is the Grapl system architected?
    • How has the design of the system evolved since you first began working on it?
    • How much effort would it be to separate the Grapl architecture from AWS to migrate it to other environments?
  • What have you found to be the benefits of splitting the implementation of the system between Rust for the system and Python for the exploration?
    • What challenges have you faced as a result of working across those languages?
  • What data sources does Grapl use to build its graph of events within a system?
  • Can you talk through the overall workflow for someone using Grapl?
  • What are some examples of the types of exploits that you can identify with Grapl?
  • What are some of the most interesting, unexpected, or innovative ways that you have seen Grapl used?
  • What are some of the most interesting, unexpected, or challenging lessons that you have learned while building it?
  • When is Grapl the wrong choice?
  • What do you have planned for the future of Grapl?

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The intro and outro music is from Requiem for a Fish The Freak Fandango Orchestra / CC BY-SA