CSIRT Request Tracker Installation Guide

Sunday, September 28, 2014 Posted by Corey Harrell
In this post I'm releasing an installation guide to build a custom ticketing system to track and document security incidents. The guide contains nothing groundbreaking; just instructions on how to install and configure Request Tracker in CentOS with a PostgreSQL database and Apache web server. A significant portion of the work I compiled from others who are referenced in the beginning of the guide (some instructions were copied and pasted from these sources). The guide is released as is and my intention is not to be someone's technical support. I've seen numerous times people asking what ticketing systems do people use to track security incidents and the responses they receive is very limited. I'm releasing this for those interested in incident response (IR) ticketing systems so at least there will be another option to reference.

Why Request Tracker and Not Request Tracker for Incident Response

Request Tracker (RT) is an open source tracking system that organizations leverage for a range of uses. As written on the RT website, the uses include: "bug tracking, help desk ticketing, customer service, workflow processes, change management, network operations, and youth counseling." By design RT is very customizable making it an awesome choice as the platform for an IR ticketing system.

I know a common question will be why did I choose to use Request Tracker and not Request Tracker for Incident Response (RTIR). RTIR is after all a purposely built ticketing system for incident response. As I was exploring ticketing systems for incident response I spoke to two different people whose IR teams leveraged Request Tracker for their ticketing systems. I asked both of them the exact same question and they both had the same response. RTIR is not updated as frequently as RT so going with RT enables them to use newer functionality. After looking into both RT and RTIR I agreed with them. However, my decision was not solely based on frequent updates. RT allowed me to implement the workflow I wanted instead of being forced to use someone's else workflow in RTIR. My decision to use RT was for the more frequent updates and ability to implement my own workflow.

CSIRT Request Tracker Workflow

The image below shows the incident response workflow implemented in the ticketing system and the following subsections describes each area.

Incident Reported

One of my requirements for any ticketing system was the ability to automate documentation and communication amongst the Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) members. This is an area where RT excels and it does so using email. The Incident Reported area is where a security event is reported to the CSIRT. The report can come in through email and it will be automatically processed. The report can also be manual (i.e. by telephone) and either be converted into an email or typed directly into RT.

The ticketing system can be used even if email is not an option. RT has a nice web interface for managing and updating tickets.


The Queues area is where the ticket for the reported security event ends up. In the diagram there is only a General queue but RT supports having numerous queues. CSIRT members monitor the queue and any new tickets they take ownership of it. The ticket's status changes from new to triage once a member claims it.

Triage Activity

The Triage Activity area is where the reported security event is validated and escalated. The first decision made by the CSIRT member is determining if the rest of the CSIRT needs to be activated. Regardless if the CSIRT is activated or not, the reported event is triaged to determine if it meets the requirement to be declared an incident. If the reported event doesn't meet the security incident requirements then the CSIRT member who owns the ticket completes triaging it, resolves the event, and documents any IR metrics. Finally, the ticket's status is changed to closing. If reported event does meet the requirements to be declared a security incident then the ticket's status is changed to incident.

Incident Activity

The Incident Activity area is where all of the activities related to responding to, containing, and responding the security incident occur. All CSIRT members involved document their work in the ticket. The ticketing system sends out emails for every update to the ticket ensuring the whole CSIRT is aware of what is occurring and what other members are doing. Automating communication makes the response more efficient since time is not wasted holding unnecessary meetings. The ticket's status changes to closing once the incident is resolved.

Closing Activity

The Closing Activity area is for quality assurance and all tickets are forced though this area prior to being resolved. This is where the CSIRT lead reviews each ticket to verify all work has been completed and all metrics captured. Capturing metrics is critical for internal CSIRTs since it's one of the best ways to show value to management. The CSIRT lead also identifies in the ticket if there is a need to implement lessons learned or security monitoring improvements. If there isn't then the ticket is resolved. If there is then the ticket's status is changed to post incident status.

Post Incident Activity

The Post Incident Activity area is where the implementation of the lessons learned and security monitoring improvements are made. The work is appended to the same incident ticket to make easier to document and refer back to in the future. After the post incident work is completed then the ticket is finally resolved.


CSIRT Request Tracker Lifecycles

RT implements a workflow using something called a lifecycle. The lifecycle outlines ticket statuses and their behavior. Specifically, what a current status is allowed to be changed to. The diagram below shows the lifecycle that implements the workflow I described above. As can be seen in the diagram, the new and triage statuses have the ability to exit the workflow but once a ticket is changed to incident it is forced though the remaining workflow.

CSIRT Request Tracker Installation Guide

As I mentioned previously, this guide is released as is. I did test the installation procedure numerous times and believe I captured everything in the documentation. However, one item I didn't fully test is the email portion of the ticketing system since I didn't have a working email gateway for testing at the time.

This link points to the guides download location. The two guides are pretty much the same except one is to use fetchmail to retrieve email while the other uses sendmail to retrieve email. The latter makes the ticketing system into an email gateway. Due to this, my preference is for the fetchmail route since it's the easier path.
Labels: ,
  1. Thank you for sharing your experience with RT. It's always interesting to see other people's workflow and use of tools.

Post a Comment