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Recognizing that time is an integral part of an investigation, it was top-of-mind when we began our journey redesigning the PassiveTotal platform, namely the timebar feature.

One of the most critical aspects of any cyber investigation is establishing a timeline of events. How long have the attackers been inside of the organization? When did the first compromise occur? When was data seen leaving the network? How often were infected machines speaking with the malicious command and control? As an analyst, your job is sifting through various indicators or artifacts in order to build out this timeline of events and surface more.

Prior to our redesign, users conducting analysis on domains or IP addresses would be presented with an interactive heatmap that visualized the last six-months of resolution history. This was an excellent feature, but left users wanting more—they couldn’t adjust the heatmap or see deeper into the past. Additionally, interacting with the heatmap would not refine any of the additional data sets, so users were left having to scroll through hundreds of data points in order to find exactly what they wanted.

Recognizing that time is an integral part of an investigation, it was top-of-mind when we began our journey redesigning the PassiveTotal platform, namely the timebar feature.

Fig-1 The timebar feature inside PassiveTotal

When thinking of ways to make the platform more intuitive, we realized that the heatmap was already the solution, we just needed to expand the concept of visualizing the data beyond the last six months. This way, users can gain insight into any time period and filter out our existing data sets. The result was the timebar, a miniature version of the heatmap that spans the entire data collection period.

Recognizing that time is an integral part of an investigation, it was top-of-mind when we began our journey redesigning the PassiveTotal platform, namely the timebar feature.

Fig-2 A “miniature heatmap” spanning a certain period within the timebar

Located directly under the heatmap, users can now see a high-level visual of a query’s entire time history. Hovering over a specific period of time will reveal a six month viewfinder with exact dates for the range. Clicking on a specific part of the timebar forces the heatmap to re-render and constrains the below table data to only include that of which doesn’t exceed the time selection.

Recognizing that time is an integral part of an investigation, it was top-of-mind when we began our journey redesigning the PassiveTotal platform, namely the timebar feature.

Fig-3 the timebar constrained even further

After constraining the time period, users can then refine further by clicking on individual days or date ranges within the heatmap. Performing this action will refine the table of data even further to only include those specific days. Users can then use the facet filters on the left-hand side of the table to include or exclude specific values from the constrained period.

When we first introduced the heatmap, one of the biggest benefits we noticed was how certain periods of activity could stick out based on various colors or properties. After a couple of weeks, we found that the way we did analysis had actually changed because of the heatmap, and other analysts reported the same:

  • Seeing a blank heatmap meant no data
  • A heatmap with lots of on and off behavior signified potential operations
  • A heatmap with a lot of new resolutions every day meant a potential hosting provider

During our tests with the timebar, we began to notice a similar transformation in the way we perform our investigations. Being able to see a visual for the entire lifespan for a piece of infrastructure proved incredibly valuable. If something sticks out on the timebar, we can click into the time period and quickly see which data remains within the results table. This capability provides a new perspective into our data, and we think you’ll find it to be the one of the greatest enhancements to your investigation workflow since we introduced the original heatmap.

Sign up for a free PassiveTotal account to check out the new features, and see what else is new in the platform here. If you’re already a user, click here to login and experience our new timebar and heatmap features now.

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