Data Model - Form Categories

Synapse forms can be broadly grouped into conceptual categories based on the object a form is meant to represent - an Entity, a Relationship, or an Event.

Synapse forms can also be broadly grouped based on how their primary properties (<form> = <valu>) are formed.

Recall that <form> = <valu> must be unique for all forms of a given type. In other words, the <valu> must be defined so that it uniquely identifies any given node of that form; it represents that form’s “essence” or “thinghood” in a way that allows the unambiguous deconfliction of all possible nodes of that form.

Conceptually speaking, the general categories of forms in Synapse are:

This list represents a conceptual framework for understanding the Synapse data model.

Simple Form

A simple form refers to a form whose primary property is a single typed <valu>. They are commonly used to represent an Entity, and so tend to be the most readily understood from a modeling perspective.


  • IP addresses. An IP address (IPv4 or IPv6) must be unique within its address space and can be defined by the address itself: inet:ipv4 = Secondary properties include the associated Autonomous System number and whether the IP belongs to a specialized or reserved group (e.g., private, multicast, etc.).

  • Email addresses. An email address must be unique in order to route email to the correct account / individual and can be defined by the address itself: inet:email = Secondary properties include the domain where the account receives mail and the username for the account.

Composite (Comp) Form

A composite (comp) form is one where the primary property is a comma-separated list of two or more typed <valu> elements. While no single element makes the form unique, a combination of elements can uniquely define a given node of that form. Comp forms are often (though not universally) used to represent a Relationship.


  • Fused DNS A records. A DNS A record can be uniquely defined by the combination of the domain (inet:fqdn) and the IP address (inet:ipv4) in the A record. Synapse’s inet:dns:a form represents the knowledge that a given domain resolved to a specific IP at some time, or within a time window (fused knowledge): inet:dns:a = (, The time window is captured by the universal .seen property.

  • Web-based accounts. An account at an online service (such as Github or Twitter) can be uniquely defined by the combination of the domain where the service is hosted (inet:fqdn) and the unique user ID (inet:user) used to identify the account: inet:web:acct = (, vtxproject).

  • Social networks. Many online services allow users to establish relationships with other users of that service. These relationships may be one-way (you can follow someone on Twitter) or two-way (you can mutually connect with someone on LinkedIn). A given one-way social network relationship (“Alice follows Bob”) can be uniquely defined by the two users (inet:web:acct) involved in the relationship: inet:web:follows = ( (,alice), (,bob) ). (A two-way relationship can be defined by two one-way relationships.)

    Note that each of the elements in the inet:web:follows comp form is itself a comp form (inet:web:acct).

Guid Form

A guid (Globally Unique Identifier) form is uniquely defined by a machine-generated 128-bit number. Guids account for cases where it is impossible to uniquely define a thing based on a property or set of properties. Guids are also useful for cases where the amount of data available to create a particular object (node) may vary greatly (i.e., not all properties / details are available from all data sources).

A guid form can be considered a special case of a Simple Form where the typed <valu> is of type <guid>.


Guid forms can be arbitrary (generated ad-hoc by Synapse) or predictable / deconflictable (generated based on a specific set of inputs). See the guid section of Storm Reference - Type-Specific Storm Behavior for a more detailed discussion of this concept.


  • People. Synapse uses a guid as the primary property for a person (ps:person) node. There is no single property or set of properties that uniquely and unambiguously define a person. A person’s full name, date of birth, or place of birth (or the combination of all three) are not guaranteed to be fully unique across an entire population. Identification numbers (such as Social Security or National ID numbers) are country-specific, and not all countries require each citizen to have an ID number.

  • Host execution / sandbox data. The ability to model detailed behavior of a process executing on a host (or in a sandbox) is important for disciplines such as incident response and malware analysis. Modeling this data is challenging because of the number of effects that execution may have on a system (files read, written, or deleted; network activity initiated). Even if we focus on a specific effect (“a process wrote a new file to disk”), there are still a number of details that may define a “unique instance” of “process writes file”: the specific host where the process ran, the program that wrote the file to disk, the process that launched the program, the time the execution occurred, the file that was written, the file’s path, and so on. While all of these elements could be used to create a comp form, in the “real world” not all of this data may be available in all cases, making a guid a better option for forms such as it:exec:file:write.

Generic Form

The Synapse data model includes a number of “generic” forms that can be used to represent metadata and / or arbitrary data.

In an ideal world, all data represented in Synapse would be accurately modeled using an appropriate form. However, designing a new form for the data model may require extended discussion, subject matter expertise, and testing against “real world” data - not to mention time to implement model changes. In addition, sometimes data needs to be added to a Cortex for reference or analysis purposes where the data simply does not have sufficient detail to be represented accurately, even if an appropriate form existed.

The use of generic forms is not ideal - the representation of “generic” data may be lossy, which may impact effective analysis. But generic forms may be necessary for adding arbitrary to Synapse, either because an appropriate model element does not yet exist but the data is needed now; or because there is no other effective way to represent the data.

These generic forms exist in two primary parts of the data model: meta:* forms and graph:* forms. Examples include:

  • meta:seen nodes, used to represent a data source used to ingest data into Synapse. Data sources may include sensors or third-party connectors such as Synapse Power-Ups. A meta:source is linked to the data it provides via a -(seen)> light edge.

  • meta:rule nodes, used to represent a generic detection rule for cases where a more specific form (such as it:av:sig or it:app:yara:rule) is not available.

Some generic forms are “edge forms” (see Digraph (Edge) Form, below) used to represent relationships between arbitrary forms.

Digraph (Edge) Form


The use of light edges (see Lightweight (Light) Edge) is preferred over edge forms (which predate light edges) where possible.

A digraph form (“edge” form) is a specialized Composite (Comp) Form whose primary property value consists of two <form>,<valu> pairs (“node definitions”, or ndefs). An edge form is a specialized relationship form that can be used to link two arbitrary forms in a generic relationship.

Edge forms have not been officially deprecated. However, edge forms (used to create nodes) incur some additional performance overhead vs. light edges (particularly for large numbers of edge nodes). In addition, there are some nuances to working with edge nodes using Storm (see Pivot to Digraph (Edge) Nodes, for example) that can make navigating Synapse data more complex. For these reasons, light edges are now preferred.