Gravwell and Windows Event Logging

Dec 18, 2017 9:00:00 AM / by Kris Watts


We are going to dive into Windows and show how to get logs flowing into Gravwell in under 5 minutes with the WinEvent ingester. Using the Windows queries we will audit login behavior, RDP usage, some Windows Defender, and identify when Bob from accounting is copying sensitive financial data to external storage devices. Also, Taylor Swift is involved; don't panic, just stay with me.


This Gravwell post is all about the wild world of Windows Event logging and analytics. Both Unix and Windows provide standardized central logging facilities; however, the structure and format of the stored logs are dramatically different. Syslog and most other logging systems with roots in Unix approach logging as an unstructured stream: a log entry is a string of text, no more, no less (we are going to ignore journald and its binary madness). Windows, however, logs all events in fully-formed XML and the logging system is integrated into the operating system itself.  We should also note that logging in Windows is... less than ideal.  If you are coming from the Unix world, throw out all your assumptions; things are different here.

Our goal for this post is to show how to quickly deploy and configure Gravwell ingesters to enable robust and secure Windows Event logging. We will show how to install the Gravwell ingesters, explain federation and isolation, and investigate some alternate data streams that can help system administrators better understand the health of a fleet of Windows machines and help security professionals identify and clean up breaches. Deploying and configuring Gravwell is easy and takes minutes, the Windows Ingesters are no different.

Gravwell Ingest Architecture

The Gravwell ingest API and our core ingesters are open source under the very liberal BSD 2-clause license, which allows you to inspect our ingesters or very quickly write your own. The ingesters and ingest API are available on Github. Fundamentally, ingesting data into Gravwell only requires two things: an array of bytes and a time stamp. As luck would have it, Windows Events have both those things, so let’s get to ingesting some Windows Events.

The Gravwell WinEvent Agent

The Windows Events API can perform filtering and pre-selection on-host, and the Gravwell WinEvent ingester can utilize these filters to attach to and tag streams on host. The pre-filtering can be useful, as the nature of Windows Events (XML) means that even simple things like “Bob logged into machine X” end up being pretty large chunks of data. Gravwell will happily eat these large streams (we have benchmarked a single indexer at over 1.25 million events per second at over 250MB per second), but at the end of the day you will need to store that data on something, which ultimately incurs cost (whether it be hardware or cloud storage). When Gravwell is running flat out, a single indexer can consume over 10TB per day of small log entries and upwards of 30TB per day of large log entries (like Windows Events); long story short, Gravwell will eat the elephant, but you may not want to store the elephant.

The Gravwell WinEvent agent runs as a background service and is designed to tolerate intermittent connectivity with Gravwell indexers. Intermittent connectivity may be due to mobile devices, or poor network connections such as a satellite office on a flaky VPN. The Gravwell WinEvent agent can deal with intermittent connectivity in one of two ways; the ingester can either rely on the Windows event storage system to cache event data or it can engage its own internal caching system. The Gravwell internal cache can be extremely useful as a second level of defense against sophisticated attackers that may alter events stored in the EventLog. The Gravwell internal cache also provides coverage when devices may be away from the home office for long periods of time and it is desirable to store hundreds or even thousands of megabytes of logs. To enable the Gravwell ingest cache, define the Ingest-Cache-Path parameter in the config file and point it at a writable location. By default, it points to C:\Program Files\gravwell\events.cache, if you modified the installation location of the ingester during installation be sure to update any paths in the config file.

Installing the Gravwell WinEvent Service

The Gravwell WinEvent service is packaged as a Microsoft Installer (MSI) that installs like any other application. The agent runs as a service, which will require Administrative privileges to install and configure. You can download the installer here. For a full description of the installation procedure, visit our documentation.

Installing the agent on more than a few machines should most likely be performed via a Domain Controller and group policy. Deploying software with Group Policy is beyond the scope of this post, but an abundance of information can be found via Microsoft support resources and independent blogs. A point worth mentioning is that the Gravwell Agent is a static binary and does not import any foreign code. Deployment can be as simple as pushing the executable and configuration file, then starting the service; there is no DLL or Plugin Hell here.




If log events are not flowing, there are a few things to check before calling support. Additional troubleshooting resources are available on in our documentation. If the WinEvent service flat out fails due to a bad configuration or security critical event, a log message will be sent to the Windows Event log store which can be viewed via Event Viewer.

  • Is the GravwellEvents service running?
  • Is the appropriate address and port specified in the config file?
  • Is the Ingest-Secret value correct?
  • Are the indexers or federator reachable (port 4023 and 4024 by default)?
  • Are event sources specified appropriately?
  • If a TLS transport is used, are indexer certificates trusted?
  • Are the clocks on the source machines correct?
    • You might be getting the logs, but they have the wrong timestamp.

Configuring the Gravwell WinEvent Service

A very basic WinEvent configuration is shipped and activated by default when the default Gravwell MSI is used to deploy the software. The installer will pop up the configuration file for editing the first time the package is installed. The Gravwell service lives in C:\Program Files\gravwell and the basic configuration (config.cfg) looks like so:

Ingest-Secret = IngestSecrets #CHANGE ME!
Connection-Timeout = 0
Verify-Remote-Certificates = true
Ingest-Cache-Path="C:\\Program Files\\gravwell\\events.cache"

[EventChannel "system"]
Channel=System #pull from the system channel

[EventChannel "application"]
Channel=Application #pull from the system channel

[EventChannel "security"]
Channel=Security #pull from the system channel

[EventChannel "setup"]
Channel=Setup #pull from the system channel


The default configuration is designed to use a cleartext transport to a single Gravwell indexer. It is feeding from the System, Application, Security, and Setup event channels. Each EventChannel specification accepts all event logs in the channel and does not filter based on provider, event ID, or level unless explicitly told to. However, you can establish filters in the EventChannel specifications that will allow for filtering. For example, if we only wanted Error and Warning level events from the System channel that are provided by the BugCheck provider and only Event IDs 1000, 1001, and 1002, the EventChannel definition would look like so:


[EventChannel "system"]
Channel=System #pull from the system channel


EventChannel specifications CAN overlap. This means that you could ingest everything under one tag, and only very specific things under another. When combined with the Gravwell aging system and Well configuration, we can fine tune data retention policies. For example, we might keep all BugCheck and Logon events for a year, but everything else can age out in three months.

Simple Windows Ingest Architecture

The most simple Windows Ingest architecture is a straight point-to-point system where any number of Windows machines directly talk to a Gravwell instance. Let’s assume there is a small shop of roughly 100 Windows devices resident on a single class B subnet. The small shop has a combination of domain and non-domain devices, some of which leave the network fairly regularly (think laptops). For this configuration, we are going to install the agent directly on the mobile devices, but use the domain controller for Windows Event collection on the desktops so that we can leverage the integrated caching system in the Gravwell ingest framework. The data flows will roughly look like this:

Gravwell Windows.png

Large Enterprise

Large enterprises with many domain controllers and a high volume of data will most likely deploy multiple Gravwell indexers and potentially many domain controllers. For simplicity, an IT staff may want the domain controllers to aggregate logs from each workstation and then ship the logs from the Domain Controllers to Gravwell.

Gravwell Windows Enterprise.png

High Security Segmented Network

Gravwell provides a special kind of ingester called the Federator. The Federator acts as an intermediary relay which can isolate network segments and insulate potentially sensitive information (like Ingest Secrets). The Federator also alleviates network strain by aggregating many connections into one and allowing for tiered caching (the Federator ingester is a High Availability ingester, meaning it supports local caching). Federation also helps extremely large organizations avoid congestion and the C10X problem. The Federation ingester also allows for unique authentication tokens and tag restrictions at each aggregation point, so a compromised workstation in the sales department can’t send entries tagged as operational data.

 Gravwell Windows Federated.png

Selecting Windows Events to Capture

The Windows event logging system can be tuned to track a very wide variety of events ranging from account activity, file accesses, application events, and hardware additions, removals, and failures. Not every potentially useful event ID is logged in a default Windows installation, and some require additional daemons. In this section, we are going to highlight a few Event IDs that are particularly useful from a system management and security auditing perspective which do not require additional tools. Microsoft provides a comprehensive list of Event IDs (there are thousands), but the meaty ones that you should REALLY pay attention to are well documented.


The "It’s Time To Freak Out" Event IDs

Let's start with a few Event IDs that warrant a freak out from a security perspective, mainly because they are weird and/or rare. These should should pretty much never show up in normal day to day operations. I have only seen them once or twice in my entire career; and nearly every time they showed up I was the one doing it or reviewing what another pentester had done.

Event ID Description
1102 The audit log was cleared
1100 The event logging service has shut down
3001, 3004, 3005      Kernel mode driver validation failed while attempting to load driver
3002, 3003 Usermode code integrity checks failed on a protected media path
24658 The Secure Boot Configuration changed unexpectedly

Event IDs 1100 and 1102 are pretty self explanatory. If you see these event IDs go by, you should REALLY go check out what was happening immediately prior. This is possible because Gravwell was streaming event logs out of the audit log; you were running Gravwell… right?

I ran into Event ID 3001-3005 when I was trying to load unsigned code into a system I had privileges on. These Event IDs are telling you that the machine attempted to load unsigned code from a location that should ONLY contain signed code. In my case, I had a kernel mode rootkit I was loading that obviously wasn’t signed. I had to reboot the machine and disable code signing to get it in, but the event log still went out. An apt security team should have shown up with sticks, bricks, and stabby things. Unfortunately, they didn’t…

Event ID 24658 signals that something went horribly wrong after a firmware update, or someone is tampering with things they shouldn’t. This error can happen when bootkits are trying to hotswap firmware signatures using races, but any system with a TPM should not get far enough to actually throw this error. We managed to cause this error when playing with a VM while it was booting, for some reason this security team DID feel that repeated reboots and security errors at 2AM warranted investigation...

There are definitely other Event IDs that should kick you into incident response mode; they are always evolving as attackers find ever more clever ways to push themselves into the heart of a system and Microsoft learns how to defend (or at the very least alert about). Some great cheat sheets are available.

Account Security Logs

Account security logs will comprise many of the day to day investigations, which are located in the 4XXX group (Event IDs 4000-4999). The account event IDs represent things like account creation, account deletion, login events, login failures, group policy changes, etc. Here is a list of 10 EventIDs, in no particular order, that every security professional and system administrator should monitor (documented at

Event ID Description
4624               An account was successfully logged on
4777 The domain controller failed to validate the credentials for an account
4782 The password hash an account was accessed
4772 A member was added to a security-enabled universal group
4625                       An account failed to logon
4742 A computer account was changed
4723 An attempt was made to change an account's password
4766 An attempt to add SID History to an account failed
4740 A user account was locked out
4724 An attempt was made to reset an account's password


This is not an exhaustive list, administrators and security staff should keep abreast of what attackers are doing and how Microsoft manages the audit log.

Tweaking The Audit Log

Many of the types of events that we would like to audit are not configured to generate Windows events by default.  Depending on the type of environment you are operating in, it can often be useful to watch a lot more than just account activity.

Logon Accounting

For reasons I may never understand, account logon activity auditing is not enabled by default.  If you only make one change to group policy for security purposes (and you should make MANY), it should be enabling account logon auditing. The auditing will produce logs whenever an account logs in, or fails to logon.

Account Auditing.png

The same audit policy tab can also enable logging account logon events, which is means that an event is generated when an account is validated. The difference between "Audit logon events" and "Audit account logon events" is where the event is generated.  "Audit logon events" generates an event on the machine actually hosting the logon/user session, whereas "Audit account logon events" generates the event on the machine doing the validation, like a domain controller. If you have local accounts on machines that may not authenticate against a domain controller enable both.


Notice there are two tabs in Group Policy Editor for auditing: the "Audit Policy" tab and the "Advanced Audit Policy Configuration." It is important to remember that any setting in the "Audity Policy" is overridden by settings in the "Advanced Audit Policy Configuration" settings. If things aren't showing up how you expect, check the "Advanced Audit Policy" section.

Removable Storage

Removable storage has broken more than a few high security environments; as any security professional knows, users just can't resist plugging in devices they find in the parking lot. Removable storage auditing is not enabled by default, but can easily be via group policy. The exact method of enabling removable storage auditing depends on whether you are pushing group policy via active directory and which version of Windows is being employed. Microsoft provides excellent documentation on this front, but, unfortunately, the ability to audit removable storage wasn't introduced until Windows 8 (and server 2012). For earlier versions of windows, 3rd party software is required. For Windows 10 we are going to enable the both Success and Failure auditing for the "Audit Removable Storage" then sprinkle some USB keys.


Process Accounting

Process auditing allows for kicking off a log event every time a process starts and/or exits. While noisy, the process auditing events can be extremely useful when tracking infections and lateral movement. A good policy is to tag extremely noisy event sources differently than the event sources you may want to keep long term; assign the noisy tags to a seperate Well with more aggressive age out timelines.


Windows Defender

AV choice has almost become as dogmatic as tabs vs. spaces (it's tabs, that is what the key is for you monsters!). It's my personal opinion that Windows Defender isn't a bad option, and my interactions with the Microsoft security teams (albeit limited) indicate they are top notch. So, if your organization has decided to roll with free, getting event logs out of Windows Defender is a great way to centralize reporting an management of AV data. Windows can provide metrics via the Event Log about its health, behavior, and what it finds; we often use the event logs to verify that devices are updating signatures and actually running scans. System administrators don't have to manage a huge swath of different monitoring tools for system health, security data, network data, etc...  Just throw it at Gravwell.

Unfortunately, Microsoft overloads an Event ID for Windows Defender and the Windows Defender source is not enabled by default. Event IDs 1000 and 1001 are used to indicate starts and stops of Windows Defender. Unfortunately, the IDs are also used to indicate many other things as well. Enabling the Windows Defender event logs for Gravwell consumption requires another EventChannel definition in our configuration file.  For this blog, we are just throwing everything into a single "windows" tag, but, in a real environment, it may be useful to add additional tags that help segment sources.  Add the following and restart the service to start watching Windows Defender:

[EventChannel "windowsdefender"]
Channel="Microsoft-Windows-Windows Defender/Operational"

We are monitoring the Operational channel for Windows Defender, but there is also a WHC channel which provides mostly informational events about the state of the Windows Defender process. An important point on Windows event channels, providers, and the like, is that there are a lot of them and it may not be immediately obvious how a log is generated and what configuration parameters you will need in order to get it. My handy dandy cheat is to just open up Event Viewer, find a log entry I care about, and pull the provider, channel, and source directly from the XML; it's just easier.



Useful Windows Queries

Tracking Login Events

Tracking Logon activity is an extremely common task for system administrators and security staff alike.  Sysadmins monitor logins and failures to help debug authentication problems and provide metrics to corporate about user behavior.  Security staff use login behavior to identify intrusion attempts, abnormal user activity, and basically monitor authentications.

The most basic query for tracking successful logons is to simply count using the username and computer keys, giving a table of the number of times each user logged into each machine in a sorted list. This isn't a query that one would use on a regular basis, but it shows the structure of the log entry and prepares us for dong other more interesting things.

The Event ID we are mainly focused on is 4624, which is used any time ANYTHING gets user session on the machine. We are specifically looking for interactive sessions, so we trim down using grep to look for only the LogonType of 2. Windows being Windows, we have to go one step further and filter based on LogonProcessName because we get a LogonType of 2 when the window manager draws the logon prompt. We only want logon records when the logon processes is "User32" which tells us a user actually logged in.

The Query

tag=windows grep "<EventID>4624</EventID>" | xml Event.System.Computer
Event.EventData.Data[Name]=="TargetUserName" as user Event.EventData.Data[Name]=="LogonType" as LogonType Event.EventData.Data[Name]=="LogonProcessName" as lprocname |
eval 2==LogonType |
grep -e lprocname User32 |
count by Computer user |
table count Computer user

The Breakdown


Pull only data that is tagged with the "windows" tag.

grep "<EventID>4624</EventID>"

Grep is fast, like really fast; use it to do the first level of filtering so the xml module isn't processing a ton of data we don't care about. The more you can filter with grep the faster your query will be.


The xml module does the heavy lifting in terms of Windows events and we have several parts. The crux of this module is to extract computer name, username, logon type, and logon process name.

Event.EventData.Data[Name]=="TargetUserName" as user Event.EventData.Data[Name]=="LogonType" as LogonType Event.EventData.Data[Name]=="LogonProcessName" as lprocname
eval 2==LogonType
The eval module allows for arbitrarily complex abstract syntax trees that assign or filter. In this case, we are filtering as the only argument is a boolean expression, essentially saying "only allow data items where the LogonType is the value 2."  Logon Type 2 means that we only want to look at interactive logons, or logons that come as a result of physical interaction with the machine.
grep -e lprocname User32
The lprocname value is populated with the process that actually performed the login operation. We have to filter again, even after the LogonType filter because several Windows processes also "Logon" to the machine interactively. We are only looking for logon processes kicked off by the User32 executable, which means a person actually initiated a session on the desktop.
count by Computer user
The count module simply counts the number of entries based on some set of keys. This query is counting the number of Computer and user pairs, e.g. how many times did a specific user log into a specific machine.
table count Computer user
The table renderer is pretty much exactly what you think, a table. We provide the arguments count, Computer, and user to specify the columns we want to use.
The Output
Screenshot from 2017-12-15 10-32-15.png 

Sometimes, getting a little more than just a list can be useful. If we modify the query to render the usernames and computer names as nodes in a force directed graph, we can visually see user to machine clustering.

tag=windows grep "<EventID>4624</EventID>" | xml Event.System.Computer Event.EventData.Data[Name]=="TargetUserName" as user Event.System.TimeCreated[SystemTime] Event.EventData.Data[Name]=="LogonType" as LogonType Event.EventData.Data[Name]=="LogonProcessName" as lprocname | grep -e lprocname User32 | eval 10==LogonType | count by Computer,user | fdg -v count user Computer

Screenshot from 2017-12-15 10-33-43.png


Failed Account Logons

Monitoring failed account logins is a great way to identify scanning tools, attempts at lateral movement, and employees misbehaving. Some logon failures are normal; we all fat finger passwords, but there is a threshhold where its time to take a look. Graphing logon failures over time makes it relatively easy to see abnormal activity.

tag=windows grep "<EventID>4625</EventID>" | xml Event.System.EventID==4625 Event.System.Computer Event.EventData.Data[Name]=="TargetUserName" as user Event.System.TimeCreated[SystemTime] Event.EventData.Data[Name]=="LogonType" as LogonType | eval 3==LogonType | count by Computer | chart count by Computer

Screenshot from 2017-12-15 11-01-38.png

Here we clearly see two big bursts of failed logons against a single machine, which is generally bad.

External Storage and "Bob Put What Where"?

Small USB based mass storage devices have completely changed the way data is moved, and completely wrecked more than one very well thought out air gap and or data control policy. Companies and organizations holding sensitive data, whether it be trade secrets or national security information, are painfully aware of how difficult it can be to audit when someone walks out the door with data. Let's take a look at a query that looks any file movement to an external storage device. While long, the query is comprised of fairly simple pieces:

tag=windows grep 4663 | xml Event.System.EventID==4663 Event.System.Computer Event.EventData.Data[Name]==ObjectServer as objserver Event.EventData.Data[Name]==ObjectType as objtype Event.EventData.Data[Name]==ObjectName as obj Event.EventData.Data[Name]==AccessMask as AccessMask Event.EventData.Data[Name]==SubjectUserName as user Event.EventData.Data[Name]==ProcessName as process | grep -e objtype File | grep -e objserver Security | grep -e AccessMask 0x4 | table Computer username process obj
The log entry we will crack open is a very large and ugly XML string.
<Event xmlns=''><System><Provider Name='Microsoft-Windows-Security-Auditing' Guid='{54849625-5478-4994-A5BA-3E3B0328C30D}'/><EventID>4663</EventID><Version>1</Version><Level>0</Level><Task>12812</Task><Opcode>0</Opcode><Keywords>0x8020000000000000</Keywords><TimeCreated SystemTime='2017-12-13T23:01:26.634739700Z'/><EventRecordID>8831</EventRecordID><Correlation/><Execution ProcessID='4' ThreadID='4188'/><Channel>Security</Channel><Computer>DESKTOP-19KIM7A</Computer><Security/></System><EventData><Data Name='SubjectUserSid'>S-1-5-21-2880652929-2813639029-62145511-1002</Data><Data Name='SubjectUserName'>BobFromAccounting</Data><Data Name='SubjectDomainName'>DESKTOP-19KIM7A</Data><Data Name='SubjectLogonId'>0x18dae1</Data><Data Name='ObjectServer'>Security</Data><Data Name='ObjectType'>File</Data><Data Name='ObjectName'>\Device\HarddiskVolume4\SuperSecretCompanyFinancials.txt</Data><Data Name='HandleId'>0x20a0</Data><Data Name='AccessList'>%%4418 </Data><Data Name='AccessMask'>0x4</Data><Data Name='ProcessId'>0x458</Data><Data Name='ProcessName'>C:\Windows\explorer.exe</Data><Data Name='ResourceAttributes'></Data></EventData></Event>
The output is a very clean and concise table, showing a computer name, a username, a process, and a destination file. To phrase it in layman's terms: "BobFromAccounting on DESKTOP-19KIM7A used explorer.exe to copy the file SuperSecretCompanyFinancials.txt to an external drive named HarddiskVolume4." Long story short, somebody better to figure out what Bob is up to.
Screenshot from 2017-12-13 16-03-06.png

Query Breakdown

Lets break down each core component of the query to understand what is happening in Gravwell.
tag=windows grep 4663
Look for only items tagged as windows and perform a quick first pass filter for the string "4663" using the grep module. Grep is by far the fastest module, and if you have something that you know will show up in an entry, using grep to downselect before the heavy lifting will dramatically improve query performance.
xml Event.System.EventID==4663
Invoke the xml module, digging down into the EventID and filtering for only events that have the EventID of 4663. This particular EventID is defined as "An attempt was made to access an object" and while extremely generic sounding essentially a process attempted to open an object.  In the Windows world, an Object is any resource, kind of like a file descriptor in Unix, pretty much everything is an object. The EventID value will be inserted into the set of enumerated values for this entry, which we can perform future operations on. There are several other arguments to the xml module as well:
Event.System.ComputerExtract the computer name
Event.EventData.Data[Name]==ObjectServer as objserver - extract ObjectServer and name
Event.EventData.Data[Name]==ObjectType as objtype - extract ObjectType and name
Event.EventData.Data[Name]==ObjectName as obj - extract ObjectName and name
Event.EventData.Data[Name]==AccessMask as AccessMask - extract AccessMask and name
Event.EventData.Data[Name]==SubjectUserName as user - extract SubjectUserName and name
Event.EventData.Data[Name]==ProcessName as process - extract ProcessName and name
grep -e objtype File
We are only looking for ObjectAccess values that are of type File (remember we named the enumerated value extracted from the EventData with the attribute name "ObjectAccess" as objtype.
grep -e objserver Security
Look for entries generated by the Security ObjectServer
grep -e AccessMask 0x4
Only look for items with an AccessMask of 4 which indicates a write took place to a file.
table Computer username process obj
Output everything in a nice clean table, giving us whodunit, wheredunit, and whatdunit.

Application Crashes and Failures

Program crashes happen for a variety of reasons, ranging from bad hardware to well... bad software. A devops shop may monitor crashes as a means to discover bugs, misconfigurations, and faults. A system administrator may monitor crashes to better understand service reliability. Security staff monitor crashes to potentially identify attackers crafting exploits against proprietary software or tuning payloads for systems that enable memory randomization. Crashes are generally bad for everyone, and what is an analytics platform if not a system to find "Bad Things?"

The Query

tag=windows grep "Application Error" | xml Event.System.Provider[Name]=="Application Error" Event.System.Computer Event.EventData.Data as process | count by process | chart count by process

The Output

Screenshot from 2017-12-14 15-19-43.png

Now, I completely expect CrashyMcCrashFace.exe to crash; it's just what he does. However, to see TotallySecureServer.exe crash 4 times in a short burst on a single machine, well, that just isn't like him. We should probably check that, and pull the network flows to the machine hosting TotallySecureServer.exe to see who was talking to him at the time. If we have full PCAP, we can look for any connections that got RST packets back and zero in on remote addresses that had active connections when the process went down.

Windows Defender Maintenance

Monitoring the Windows Defender logs is a post in and of itself, but to get you started in managing a install base.

Current Mix of Product and Signature Versions

The query is long due to XML, but the basic gist of it is:

  1. Fast filter using grep
  2. Extract and filter the fields we want using xml
  3. Get a trimmed set using the unique module
    • We have to do this because windows will log the same event multiple times
  4. Get a count of ProductVersion/SignatureVersion pairs with count
tag=windows grep Defender | xml Event.System.Channel=="Microsoft-Windows-Windows Defender/Operational" Event.EventData.Data[Name]=="Product Version" as ProductVersion Event.EventData.Data[Name]=="Current Signature Version" as SignatureVersion Event.System.Computer | unique Computer ProductVersion SignatureVersion | count by ProductVersion SignatureVersion | sort by count desc | table count ProductVersion SignatureVersion

Screenshot from 2017-12-14 09-41-56.png

Machines Using Old Signatures

Now that we have a listing of Product Versions and Signature Versions, let's go find machines that have old signature sets. The query is almost identical, but we will be adding a negated grep (-v) that only looks for signature versions that do not match the latest.  We will also table the Computer so that we know who is out of date.

tag=windows grep Defender | xml Event.System.Channel=="Microsoft-Windows-Windows Defender/Operational" Event.EventData.Data[Name]=="Current Signature Version" as SignatureVersion Event.System.Computer  | grep -v -e SignatureVersion "" | unique Computer SignatureVersion  | table Computer SignatureVersion

Screenshot from 2017-12-14 09-48-57.png

Sysmon and Taylor Swift (no, seriously…)

The popular Twitter personality (and quite frankly the best Twitter Account in the biz) @swiftonsecurity has released a pretty decent configuration set for the Microsoft sysmon tool. The configuration enables several useful features that typically don’t make it into many enterprises due to the additional load and cost induced on logging aggregation systems; but Gravwell is fast and unlimited, so ingest away.

Some of my favorite additions that sysmon and the @swiftonsecurity configuration provides are:

  • Processes starting in non-typical locations
  • File time creation activity retroactively changed
  • Network connections by services in non-standard locations
  • Remote Thread creation by non-standard processes
  • Raw disk access and alternate data stream creations

How much of the @swiftonsecurity configuration you want to actually keep is largely determined by the number of machines being monitored and the size of the storage pool available to Gravwell. I recommend leaving it all on and pointing the sysmon data at a Well that ages out relatively quickly, it’s the best of both worlds. There are few things more useful during an investigation than a robust audit of every application start and logs of network connection attempts.


Windows logging is a very different animal and getting Windows to actually give you the information you want can be a tricky process. The event structures also tend to be bloated and contain a lot of information that you either don't care about, or is repetitious. Windows logging can be an expensive prospect (especially if your product is charging you for every byte that hits the store), but, with Gravwell, we try to make it a point to enable you to consume first and ask questions later. Getting Windows to give you the appropriate data is hard enough. Worrying about filtering useless items or customizing formats to trim bytes is counter productive and wastes time; just ingest it, you never know when you might need something.

Next Time

For the next post in the Wild World of Windows series, we will be hunting infections and learning how Gravwell can make the process of tracking lateral movement in a Windows based enterprise much less painful. We will start combining Windows logs, network flows, and proxy logs to find indicators of compromise and perform cleanup, culminating in identifying patient zero. It better not be Bob from accounting...

Topics: Case study, EventLog, Windows, Security

Kris Watts

Written by Kris Watts

Founder and CTO