Triage and acquisition

In DFIR Triaging means to quickly collect information about the system in order to establish its potential relevance to a forensic investigation.

While many think of triage as collecting files (perhaps as an alternative to full disk acquisition), in Velociraptor, there is no real difference between collecting files or other non-volatile artifacts: Everything that Velociraptor collects is just a VQL Artifact.

We like to think of triage as simply capturing machine state - where the state may be bulk files (like the $MFT or registry hives) or any other volatile data, such as process information, network connections etc.

Collecting files

Being able to efficiently and quickly collect and preserve evidence is important for being able to capture machine state at a point in time. It is also useful to be able to use these collected files with other forensic tools that might be able to handle the file formats involved.

One of the most commonly used artifact is the Windows.KapeFiles.Targets artifact. This artifact is automatically built from the open source KapeFiles repository.

While originally developed to support the non-opensource Kape tool, this repository contains many types of files which might be relevant to collect in a triage scenario. Each Kape “Target” is essentially a glob expression with a name.

In Velociraptor Windows.KapeFiles.Targets is the most popular artifact for mass file collection. It does no analysis but simply collects a bunch of files based on the targets specified.

Start by selecting the artifact from the “New Collection” wizard

The Windows.KapeFiles.Targets artifact
The Windows.KapeFiles.Targets artifact

Next we need to select the “Targets” in the “Configure Parameters” step. Many targets are simply collections of other targets. For example the _BasicCollection target automatically includes a number of other useful targets.

Selecting recursive targets
Selecting recursive targets

The Windows.KapeFiles.Targets artifact can transfer a large quantity of data from the endpoints, and take a long time to run. We therefore often need to update the resource control of the collection.

Specifying a maximum upload limit
Specifying a maximum upload limit

Once the collection is launched, we can monitor progress in the “Artifact Collection” tab.

Monitoring collection progress
Monitoring collection progress

Velociraptor is very careful about the performance and resource impact on endpoints. When collecting many files if it is often hard to determine in advance how much data will be collected or how long it will take. For safety, Velociraptor allows limits to be set after which the collection is cancelled. You can also interactively cancel the collection by clicking the “Stop” button.

Be aware that a lot of data can be collected which might fill up the VM disk.

Math is a harsh mistress: Collecting 100Mb from 10,000 endpoints = 1Tb

Note that typically $MFT is around 300-400Mb so collecting the $MFT from many endpoints is going to be huge!

Collections are automatically cancelled when they read the limit
Collections are automatically cancelled when they read the limit

Offline collections

We have seen previously how to collect many files using the Windows.KapeFiles.Targets artifact in the usual client/server mode. But what if we are unable to deploy Velociraptor on a new network in client/server mode? With Velociraptor not installed on the endpoint, how shall we collect and triage artifacts?

Velociraptor is just a VQL engine! All we need is Velociraptor to be able to collect the VQL artifacts into a file, and then we can transport the file ourselves for analysis. Velociraptor does not really need a server…

Often we rely of an external helper (such as a local admin) to actually perform the collection for us. However, these helpers are often not DFIR experts. We would like to provide them with a solution that performs the required collection with minimal intervention - even to the point where they do not need to type any command line arguments.

The Offline collector aims to solve this problem. Velociraptor allows the user to build a specially configured binary (which is actually just a preconfigured Velociraptor binary itself) that will automatically collect the artifacts we need.

Velociraptor allow us to build such a collector with the GUI using an intuitive process.

Creating a new Offline Collector
Creating a new Offline Collector

Select the offline collector builder from the Server Artifacts page. The artifacts selection page and the parameters page are exactly the same as previously shown.

Offline Collector artifacts selection
Offline Collector artifacts selection

Next select the collector configuration page.

Offline Collector configuration
Offline Collector configuration

Here we get to choose what kind of collector we would like:

  • Target Operating System: This specifies the specific version of the Velociraptor binary that will be packed.

  • Password: It is possible to specify a password to encrypt the zip file that Velociraptor will create. Note that when specifying a zip password, Velociraptor will create a second zip file called inside the output zip file. This is done because Zip password protection does not extend to the directory listing, so Velociraptor will hide the content of the zip by storing the data in an embedded zip.

  • Collection Type: This controls where the collection is stored.

    • Zip Archive: The collection will be stored in a zip file in the same directory the collector is launched from.

    • Google Cloud Bucket: The zip file will be uploaded to a cloud bucket. When selecting this you can provide GCP credentials to control the upload bucket.

    • AWS Bucket: The zip file will be uploaded to a cloud bucket. When selecting this you can provide AWS credentials and details to control the upload bucket.

    • SFTP: This allows the collector to upload the file to an SFTP server using a private key.

The Offline Collector Builder is simply a GUI wrapper around the Server.Utils.CreateCollector server artifact. Once it is collected, the artifact will automatically upload the pre-configured collector it created into the collection and the file will be available for download from the “Uploads” tab. Simply click on the link to get the collector.

Retrieving the Offline Collector binary
Retrieving the Offline Collector binary

Once the collector is run without command line arguments, the collection will automatically start. No need for the user to enter command line parameters, although they do need to be running in an elevated administrator shell.

Running the Offline Collector in the console
Running the Offline Collector in the console

The collector creates a zip file containing the collected files as well as an optional report.

Viewing the Offline Collector in the console
Viewing the Offline Collector in the console

Customizing the execution of the offline collector

You can see the embedded configuration of the offline collector using the config show command:

C:\Users\Administrator\Downloads>Collector_velociraptor.exe config show
  - artifacts
  - collect
  - Collector
  - --logfile
  - Collector_velociraptor.exe.log
  - -v
  - --require_admin
  - name: Collector
    - name: Artifacts
      default: |-
      type: json_array
    - name: Parameters
      default: '{}'
      type: json

The autoexec parameters are run when no other command line options are specified. The default command line simply collects a special custom artifact which collects the specified artifacts in the Artifacts parameter specified as a JSON list.

The primary use of the offline collector is to be able to run it without any needed command line options, which is why the configuration file specifies the full list of required artifacts to collect. However, sometimes it is useful to slightly tweak the collector from the command line. We do this by adding the -- flag which introduces other command line options to the default autoexec array specified in the configuration.

You can use this to change the list of collected artifacts on the fly by providing a new JSON encoded artifacts list to the collector:

Collector_velociraptor.exe -- --args Artifacts="["""Generic.Client.Info""","""Windows.Sys.Users"""]"

NOTE: The windows command interpreter (cmd.exe) uses an eclectic escaping scheme with each quote character encoded into three quotes. The same command using bash looks like:

Collector_velociraptor -- --args Artifacts='["Generic.Client.Info"]'

Include third party binaries

Sometimes we want to collect the output from other third party executables. It would be nice to be able to package them together with Velociraptor and include their output in the collection file.

Velociraptor fully supports incorporating external tools. When creating the offline collection, Velociraptor will automatically pack any third party binaries it needs to collect the artifacts specified.

Collecting across the network

By having a single executable collector, all we need is to run it remotely. We can use another EDR solution that allows remote execution if available. Alternatively, we can use Window’s own remote management mechanisms (such as PsExec or WinRM) to deploy our binary across the network. Simply, copy our collector binary across the network to C$ share on the remote system and use, e.g. wmic to launch our binary on the remote host.

Collecting across the network
Collecting across the network

Importing collections into the GUI

We can use the offline collector to fetch multiple artifacts from the endpoint. The results consist of bulk data as well as JSON file containing the result of any artifacts collected.

You can re-import these collection into the GUI so you can use the same notebook port processing techniques on the data. It also allows you to keep the results from several offline collections within the same host record in the Velociraptor GUI.

Offline collection + Import is very similar to client/server except that instead of the client connecting over the internet, the data is delivered via sneakernet!

Importing an offline collection can be done via the Server.Utils.ImportCollection artifact. This artifact will inspect the zip file from a path specified on the server and import it as a new collection (with new collection id) into either a specified client or a new randomly generated client.

Importing Offline Collector collections
Importing Offline Collector collections

Offline collections are typically very large, this is why we do not have a GUI facility to upload the collection zip file into the server. You will need to use an appropriate transfer mechanism (such as SFTP or SCP) to upload to the server itself.

Local collection considerations

Local collection can be done well without a server and permanent agent installed. A disadvantage is that we do not get feedback of how the collection is going and how many resources are consumed.

Offline collections are typically planned in advance and it is a bit more difficult to pivot and dig deeper based on analysis results to search for more results. For this reason offline collections tend to err on the side of collecting more data rather than being more targeted and focused on answering the investigative questions.