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I am happy to let you know that our paper entitled Survey and Taxonomy of Adversarial Reconnaissance Techniques has been accepted in the ACM Computing Surveys. [2020 Impact Factor: 10.282 (ranked 4/137 in Computer Science Theory & Methods)]

You can find the updated version here in Arxiv (revised version will be updated soon). And if you are curious about the earlier version we submitted, you can find it using this link -> Initial Version.

In this post, I will summarize how we categorized different reconnaissance techniques in both earlier and the revised version, and most importantly why we did that.

New Concepts

In the earlier work, we first claimed that the traditional kill chain model cannot answer all the questions and processes followed by the attackers. It is because of the reconnaissance phase described earlier.

Cyber reconnaissance used to be assumed to take place only at the very initial stage of an attack plan. However, from different attack perspectives, we divided the reconnaissance in two phases: external and internal reconnaissance.

The external reconnaissance is somewhat close to the earlier reconnaissance definition. Internal reconnaissance typically takes place after the attacker compromises at least one internal node. the following figure defines our thought in the modified kill chain.

Fig 1: Internal and External Recon in the Modified Kill Chain

Then we provided a taxonomy of target information which is divided initially as non-technical and technical information. The non-technical cluster includes physical location, logistics, and people information of an organization or an individual. Technical information includes different types of user, host, network, and application information. The whole taxonomy is provided in the paper.

We also categorized reconnaissance approaches as active and passive. Active recon directly involves the target and passive recon does not.

Later we categorized different reconnaissance techniques into four major categories:

  • Target Footprinting
  • Social Engineering
  • Cyber Scanning
  • Local Discovery

There are some survey papers regarding Social Engineering, and Cyber Scanning. However, there was no proper survey related to the Target Footprinting and Local Discovery, which we thought could be a nice addition in an overall comprehensive way.

The following figure is not included in the paper, I just have drawn it to illustrate the ways we have thought. Please, go through the earlier version for more details.

Fig 2: Dimensuins of Different Reconnaissance techniques


The reviewers questioned the way we categorized the reconnaissance techniques earlier. From the above figure, you can see, these techniques are not exclusive in any dimension mentioned above and overlaps in different criteria.

Therefore, in the revised version we categorized the techniques based on source: third-party, Human, and System. Then Human- and System-based reconnaissance techniques are again cetegorized as remote and local. Please, go through the paper for further details.

Learning how the cyber reconnaissance work is important for security researchers, engineers, and architects. This taxonomy provides the ides of how, when, and where these methods work for the attacker. And, that’s why we all should know these categorization since if you want to catch a thief, you have to think as a thief first.

I intend to post details of each categories in later posts. Stay tuned and have a good day. Cheers!!!

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