As cybersecurity threats evolve, it's incumbent upon security teams and project managers to continually adapt their strategies for detecting these risks. Detection engineering has emerged as a critical part of this process, serving as a continuous cycle that aims to reduce the time to detect, respond to, and recover from threats. Whether in the traditional internet (Web2) or the new decentralized world of Web3, detection engineering is the latest buzzword, representing a common category of products and strategies geared towards proactive monitoring and real-time threat detection.
Let's consider an analogy for detection engineering, specifically real-time monitoring. A medieval city with walls is only 50% protected. The city relies on its alerted watchtower guards for full protection. No matter how robust the city walls are, they can't protect the city for long on their own; they require vigilant guards who constantly monitor outside activities for signs of impending danger. These guards sound the alarm if a threat is detected, alerting the entire city and enabling a timely response.
In the same way, a digital ecosystem/network depends on real-time monitoring for its safety. It needs an automated monitoring solution that can detect and alert in case of attacks or hacks. This proactive real-time approach is what saves the city from destruction, and likewise, in the digital ecosystem.
Detection engineering is a system designed to identify threats before they can cause significant damage to business operations, servers, or networks. More than just a series of security steps, it is an ongoing innovative development within cybersecurity. It is a continual evolution of tuning detection measures to defend against different types of threats. It brings together developers, AI and ML experts, threat intelligence teams, and risk management professionals to build a robust threat-preventable defense system.
Real-time smart contract monitoring acts as the vigilant guardian of Web3. The system monitors the ecosystem in real-time, looking for anomalies that may indicate a cyberattack. When a threat is detected, it raises the alarm, allowing the system to respond quickly and effectively to neutralize it. Without this constant monitoring, even the most robust digital defenses, like having multiple audits by the top companies, could be rendered useless, just as city walls would be without their guards. In essence, real-time monitoring, which is at the heart of Detection engineering, is the frontline guard of the digital city, ensuring its security and resilience against potential attacks.
In the traditional web environment, referred to as "Web2", detection engineering is crucial in protecting websites, servers, and databases from security threats.
Websites: Detection engineering is employed on websites to detect and respond to anomalies such as unusual traffic patterns or login attempts, indicating potential Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks or brute force attacks. Security teams can use detection engineering principles to identify and block or mitigate malicious behavior patterns.
Servers: On servers, detection engineering can help identify signs of intrusion, such as unusual outbound traffic, which may indicate that a server has been compromised. By monitoring server logs and applying analytics to the data, detection engineering can help discover and mitigate threats before they cause significant damage.
Databases: Databases are often the target of cyberattacks due to their sensitive information. Detection engineering can help identify SQL injection attacks, unauthorized access attempts, and other database threats. Automated alerts can be set up based on specific rules to flag suspicious activity, such as repeated failed login attempts or unusual data access patterns.
In the Web3 or decentralized environment, the principles of detection engineering are adapted to the specific requirements of decentralized technologies.
Blockchain Platforms: Blockchain platforms can be subjected to various attacks, such as Sybil attacks, 51% attacks, or Double Spending attacks. Detection engineering in this context involves monitoring the network for unusual patterns of transactions or suspicious behavior, like a single node controlling or taking over a large amount of mining or staking power.
DAOs: DAOs are created with specific governance rules. When a protocol gives governance to the people based on the majority rule (for example), it also creates opportunities to be exploited in the case that an attacker gets a hold of the required amount to execute a vote. Therefore, each DAO governance has unique vulnerabilities.
Decentralized Applications (dApps): dApps, which operate through smart contracts, are especially vulnerable. dApps are not static applications, they are programmatically connected to the blockchain, and any interactions with them are recorded on the running blockchain. They can be targets of a wide variety of smart contract exploits, among many types of threats. Detection engineering through real-time monitoring helps identify malicious activity with the dApp. It is active runtime protection.
This is where OSWAR comes in. The Open Standard Web3 Attack Reference framework can provide extensive guidance for identifying, categorizing, and mitigating possible threats. However, before implementing the watch guards (real-time monitoring), it is essential to identify the vulnerabilities within your system.
In the Web3 context, the OSWAR framework can play a critical role. As a comprehensive tool to identify, categorize, and mitigate Web3-related attacks and vulnerabilities, OSWAR provides a structured, in-depth, and actionable understanding of attacker behaviors, techniques, and vulnerabilities related to decentralized systems like blockchain platforms and decentralized applications (dApps).
Web3 detection engineering involves identifying blockchain threats relevant to crypto entities. Using OSWAR, organizations can conduct a gap analysis and determine the most relevant threats. This mirrors the threat detection process in Web2 but focuses on the unique challenges and threats present in the decentralized world of Web3.
The process begins with threat modeling—identifying threats relevant to an organization. Frameworks like MITRE ATT&CK for Web2 and OSWAR (Open Standard Web3 Attack Reference) for Web3 can perform a gap analysis and ascertain what's pertinent. Next, organizations must consider the types of threats, threat actors, techniques, and relevant tools and demonstrate their relevance to the business.
After identifying the threats relevant to the business/network, the next step involves determining their mitigation strategies. This stage involves examining the vulnerability analysis and understanding the weak points in the system. Finally, organizations can begin deploying their autonomous runtime detection after thorough research and threat hypothesis.
The implementation phase involves developing specific detection content that is continually fine-tuned to prevent false positives and other nuances. It's crucial to review and update previous false-flag detections consistently. It is also necessary for the system itself to be updated with more examples if it does not detect malicious activity when it should.
Whether it's called proactive threat detection, real-time monitoring, or detection engineering, the essence remains the same: it's all about identifying and mitigating threats in real-time to protect the organization's digital assets. As the cyber landscape evolves and new threats emerge, the need for detection engineering—whether in Web2 or Web3—becomes critical.
In conclusion, detection engineering is a comprehensive but necessary step for any business or network to identify and secure its operations. It's a comprehensive, continuous process that necessitates constant vigilance and adjustment.
It's the future of cybersecurity in an increasingly digital and decentralized world. Are you a Web3 organization? Don't hesitate to reach out to the Cyvers team on Twitter or through the contact section on our website and find out how to secure your application today!