Velociraptor is an open source project led and shaped by the community. Over the years, Velociraptor has become a real force in the field of DFIR making it the obvious choice for many operational situations.
The Velociraptor development team is committed to continue making Velociraptor the premier open source DFIR and security tool. We are therefore interested to hear about how the tool is used in the community and what the community expectations are in regard to capabilities, features and use cases. We use this information in order to shape future development direction, set priorities and develop our road map.
In early 2023, the Velociraptor team distributed a community survey which was very well received. We are grateful to the community members who took the time to respond. As an open source project, we depend on our community to contribute. There are many ways contributors can help the project, from developing code, to filing bugs or improving documentation. One of the most important ways users can contribute is by providing valuable feedback through channels such as this survey, to help shape the future road map and new features.
In this blog post I wanted to share some of the responses we received.
Overall there were 213 responses. By far the majority of responders
Analysts (57%) and
Managers (26%) indicating that most of the
respondents are people who know and use Velociraptor frequently.
We wanted to get a feel for the type of companies using Velociraptor. Users fell pretty evenly into company sizes, with about 30% of responses from small companies (less than 100 employees) and 20% of responses from very large companies of 10,000 employees or more.
These companies also came from a wide range of industries. While many were primarily in the information security fields such as Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP), Consultants and Cybersecurity businesses, we also saw a large number of responses from the Government sector, the Aerospace industries, Education, Banking/Finance, Health care, etc.
With such a wide range of users we were interested in how often users were using Velociraptor. About a third of users use Velociraptor frequently, a third use it occasionally and a third are in the process of evaluating and learning about the tool.
Velociraptor is a powerful tool with a wide feature set. We wanted to glimpse an idea of what features were most popular and how users prioritize these features. Specifically, we asked about the following main use cases:
Client monitoring and alerts (Detection).
Velociraptor can collect client event queries focused on detection. This allows the client to autonomously monitor the endpoint and send back high value events when certain conditions are met.
12% of users were actively using this feature to monitor the end point.
Proactively hunt for indicators (Threat intelligence)
Velociraptor’s unique ability to collect artifacts at scale from many system can be combined with threat intelligence information (such as hashes, etc.) to proactively hunt for compromises by known actors. This question was specifically related to hunting for threat feed indicators, such as hashes, IP addresses etc.
16% of users were utilizing this feature
Ongoing forwarding of events to another system
Velociraptor’s client monitoring queries can be used to simply forward events (such as ETW feeds).
6% of users were utilizing this feature
Collecting bulk files for analysis on another system (Digital Forensics)
Velociraptor can be used to collect bulk files from the endpoint
for later analysis by other tools (for example using the
20% of users were using this feature regularly.
Parse for indicators on the endpoint (Digital Forensics)
Velociraptor’s artifacts are used to directly parse files on the endpoint, returning actionable high value information quickly without the need for lengthy post processing.
21% of users use these types of queries.
Proactive hunt for indicators across many systems (Incident Response)
Velociraptor can hunt for artifacts from many endpoints at once.
21% of users use this capability.
We further asked for the relative importance of these features.
Users valued most the ability to collect bulk files and hunting for artifacts across many systems, followed by the ability to parse artifacts directly on the endpoints.
As developers we need to understand how important backwards compatibility is to users so we can develop effective update procedures.
Some users deployed Velociraptor for limited time engagements so they did not need backwards compatibility for stored data as they wouldn’t be upgrading to major versions within the same deployment.
Other users required more stable data migration but were generally happy with removing data compatibility if necessary. For example, with one response stating “I would rather you prioritize improvements over compatibility even if it breaks things.”
Another user explained: “In a typical Incident Response scenario, Digital Forensics data has a shelf life of a few weeks or months at best and I am comfortable with the convertibility and portability of much of the data that Velociraptor collects such that archival data can still be worked with even if newer versions of the server no longer support a deprecated format/archive. Just saying that I think there will be workarounds if this becomes an issue for folks with mountains of legacy data that hasn’t been exported somewhere more meaningful for longer term storage and historical data analytic/intelligence purposes.”
Generally most users indicated they rarely or never needed to go back to archived data and re-analyze.
The Velociraptor support policy officially only supports clients and servers on the same release version. However in reality it usually takes longer to upgrade clients than servers. While some users are able to upgrade clients promptly, many users estimate between 10-50% of deployed clients are a version older than the server.
The Velociraptor team therefore needs to maintain some compatibility with older clients to allow time for users to upgrade their endpoints.
The offline collector is a way to use Velociraptor’s artifacts without needing to deploy a server. This feature is used mainly when we need to rely on another party to run the actual collection or we are not able to deploy a new agent on the endpoint.
This feature is used exclusively by about 10% of users, while a further 30% of users use it frequently. It is an important feature for Velociraptor and the Velociraptor team should devote more time to making this even more seamless and easy to use.
Most users of the offline collection deploy it manually (50%), while deploying via another EDR tool, or via Group Policy are also robust options. Some users have created custom wrappers to deploy the offline collector in the field.
The Offline collection supports directly uploading the collection to a cloud server using a number of methods.
The most popular upload method is to an
AWS S3 bucket (30%) while
SFTP connector in the cloud or a
custom SFTP server on a VM
are also popular options (20% and 23%). Uploading directly to
Google Cloud Storage is the least popular option at about 5%.
Manual copy methods were also popular ranging from EDR based copying to Zoom file copy.
A commonly requested method was
Azure blob storage which
Velociraptor currently does not support. Many responses indicate that
SFTP is currently a workaround to the lack of direct Azure
support. The Velociraptor team should prioritize supporting Azure blob
Velociraptor supports collecting raw files (e.g. Event log files,
$MFT etc) for analysis in other tools. Alternatively Velociraptor
already contains extensive parsers for most forensic artifacts that
can be used directly on the endpoint.
Most users do use the built in forensic parsing and analysis artifacts
(55%) but many users also collect raw files (e.g. via the
Velociraptor uses the Velociraptor Query Language to perform
collections and analysis. The VQL is usually shared via an
with the community.
Most users utilize the built in artifacts as well as the artifact exchange. A significant number of users also develop their own artifacts for their own use. Over 60% of users report that they develop their own artifacts.
For those users who develop their own artifacts, we asked about limitations and difficulties in this process. A common theme that arose was around debugging artifacts and the lack of a VQL debugger and better error reporting.
Training and documentation was also pointed as needing improvements. A suggestion was made to enhance documentation with a lot more examples of how each VQL plugin can be used in practice.
Luckily the Velociraptor team is running a training course at BlackHat 2023 this year so users can learn from the Velociraptor developers detailed information of how to deploy Velociraptor and write effective custom VQL.
Velociraptor is a very powerful tool and concentrates a lot of
responsibility in the hands of a few users. To control access to the
tool, Velociraptor has a role based access control mechanism, where
users can be assigned roles from
read-only access provided by the
Users generally found this feature very useful, with 40% of users
moderately useful and a further 20% and 15% further
very useful and
extremely useful, respectively.
The main suggestions for improvements include:
In recent versions, Velociraptor offers a fully multi-tenanted mode, where organizations can be created and destroyed quickly with minimal resource overheads. This feature is used by 25% of respondents, who are mainly consultants using it to separate out different customers. Some companies use multi-tenancies to separate out different organizations in the same business or subsidiaries.
Velociraptor can run
event queries on the client. These VQL queries
run continuously and stream results to the server when certain
conditions are met. A common use case for these is to generate alerts
and for enhanced detection.
Some users deploy client monitoring artifacts frequently while others see it as an alternative to EDR tools, when these are available. The primary use case breakdown was:
While 30% of users do not use client monitoring at all.
The main pain point with client monitoring seems to be the lack of integrated alerting capability (an issue currently being worked on). Some useful feedback on this feature included:
Velociraptor can quarantine an endpoint by collecting the
Windows.Remediation.Quarantine artifact. This artifact tunes the
firewall rules on the endpoint to block all external network
communication while maintaining connectivity to the Velociraptor
host. This allows for an endpoint to be isolated during
The feature was “sometimes used” by about 30% of users and “always used” by 12%, making it a popular feature.
Velociraptor is a very light weight solution, typically taking a few minutes to provision a new deployment. For many of our users, Velociraptor is used in an Incident Response context on an as-needed basis (46%). Other users prefer a more permanent deployment (25%).
For larger environments, Velociraptor also supports multi-server configuration (used by 13% of users), while the more traditional single server deployment option is used by 70% of users.
While some users deploy very short lived deployments of several days or less (13%), most users keep their deployment for several weeks (27%) to months or permanently (44% of users).
Velociraptor is designed to work efficiently with many end points. We recommend a maximum of 15-20k endpoints on a single server before switching to a multi-server architecture (although users reported success with larger deployment sizes on a single server). This level of performance is adequate in practice for the majority of users.
Many users run deployments of less than 250 endpoints (44%) while a further 40% of users deploy to less than 5,000 endpoints.
Approximately 10% of users have deployment sizes larger than 25,000 endpoints with 2% of users over 100,000 endpoints.
Among Velociraptor’s supported operating systems, Windows 64-bit, is the most popular (with 82% of users ranking it the most deployed OS type), while Linux is the next most popular deployed endpoint OS (26% ranked second, and 48% third). Finally, Mac is the third popular choice for Velociraptor’s users, with 32-bit Windows systems still very prevalent.
Velociraptor’s web site at https://docs.velociraptor.app/ contains a wealth of reference material, training courses and presentations. We also have an active YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/@velocidexenterprises8702) with many instructional videos.
While some users ranked the website as
Extremely Useful (25%) there
is clearly room for improvements with 42% of users only rating it as
Very Useful or
Moderately Useful (28%).
Suggestions for improvements included:
Finally I wanted to share with you some of the testimonials that users wrote in the survey. We are humbled with the encouraging and positive words we read, and are excited to be making an impact on the DFIR field.
I have to congratulate you and thank you for developing such an amazing tool. It’s the future of DFIR. I hope Rapid7 won’t make it very expensive in the future.
Awesome product, can’t wait to use it in prod!
This is a game changer for the DFIR industry. Keep up the great work.
Keep the file system based back end, its simplicity makes chain of custody/court submissions possible.
I thoroughly love Velociraptor. The team and community are absolutely fantastic. I would go as far as to say that Mike and Matthew Green are my favorite infosec gentlemen in the industry.
Y’all are awesome. I feel like I was pretty critical but that’s because this is an amazing software, and want to see it continue to grow and improve.
We have been deploying Velociraptor to client environments almost since it was released. Our DFIR business model is entirely centered around it and it works very well for us. It is a great solution that just keeps getting better and better
This is our first Velociraptor community survey, and it has proven to be extremely useful. Since Velociraptor is a community-led open source project, we need an open feedback loop to our users, to understand where things need to be improved and what features should be prioritized.
At the same time, since Velociraptor is an open source project, I hope this survey will inspire contributions from the community. We value all contributions, from code to documentation, testing and bug reports.
Finally for all our US based users, we hope to see you all in person at BlackHat 2023 this year! Join us for an in depth Velociraptor training and to geek out with VQL for 4 days, learning practical, actionable skills and supporting this open source project.