Take response actions on a machine

Applies to:

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Quickly respond to detected attacks by isolating machines or collecting an investigation package. After taking action on machines, you can check activity details on the Action center.

Response actions run along the top of a specific machine page and include:

  • Manage tags
  • Initiate Automated Investigation
  • Initiate Live Response Session
  • Collect investigation package
  • Run antivirus scan
  • Restrict app execution
  • Isolate machine
  • Consult a threat expert
  • Action center

Image of response actions

You can find machine pages from any of the following views:

  • Security operations dashboard - Select a machine name from the Machines at risk card.
  • Alerts queue - Select the machine name beside the machine icon from the alerts queue.
  • Machines list - Select the heading of the machine name from the machines list.
  • Search box - Select Machine from the drop-down menu and enter the machine name.

Important

  • These response actions are only available for machines on Windows 10, version 1703 or later.
  • For non-Windows platforms, response capabilities (such as Machine isolation) are dependent on the third-party capabilities.

Manage tags

Add or manage tags to create a logical group affiliation. Machine tags support proper mapping of the network, enabling you to attach different tags to capture context and to enable dynamic list creation as part of an incident.

For more information on machine tagging, see Create and manage machine tags.

Initiate Automated Investigation

You can start a new general purpose automated investigation on the machine if needed. While an investigation is running, any other alert generated from the machine will be added to an ongoing Automated investigation until that investigation is completed. In addition, if the same threat is seen on other machines, those machines are added to the investigation.

For more information on automated investigations, see Overview of Automated investigations.

Initiate Live Response Session

Live response is a capability that gives you instantaneous access to a machine using a remote shell connection. This gives you the power to do in-depth investigative work and take immediate response actions to promptly contain identified threats – real-time.

Live response is designed to enhance investigations by enabling you to collect forensic data, run scripts, send suspicious entities for analysis, remediate threats, and proactively hunt for emerging threats.

For more information on live response, see Investigate entities on machines using live response

Collect investigation package from machines

As part of the investigation or response process, you can collect an investigation package from a machine. By collecting the investigation package, you can identify the current state of the machine and further understand the tools and techniques used by the attacker.

To download the package (Zip file) and investigate the events that occurred on a machine

  1. Select Collect investigation package from the row of response actions at the top of the machine page.
  2. Specify in the text box why you want to perform this action. Select Confirm.
  3. The zip file will download

Alternate way:

  1. Select Action center from the response actions section of the machine page.

    Image of action center button

  2. In the Action center fly-out, select Package collection package available to download the zip file.

    Image of download package button

The package contains the following folders:

Folder Description
Autoruns Contains a set of files that each represent the content of the registry of a known auto start entry point (ASEP) to help identify attacker’s persistency on the machine.
NOTE: If the registry key is not found, the file will contain the following message: “ERROR: The system was unable to find the specified registry key or value.”
Installed programs This .CSV file contains the list of installed programs that can help identify what is currently installed on the machine. For more information, see Win32_Product class.
Network connections This folder contains a set of data points related to the connectivity information which can help in identifying connectivity to suspicious URLs, attacker’s command and control (C&C) infrastructure, any lateral movement, or remote connections.
- ActiveNetConnections.txt – Displays protocol statistics and current TCP/IP network connections. Provides the ability to look for suspicious connectivity made by a process.

- Arp.txt – Displays the current address resolution protocol (ARP) cache tables for all interfaces.

ARP cache can reveal additional hosts on a network that have been compromised or suspicious systems on the network that night have been used to run an internal attack.

- DnsCache.txt - Displays the contents of the DNS client resolver cache, which includes both entries preloaded from the local Hosts file and any recently obtained resource records for name queries resolved by the computer. This can help in identifying suspicious connections.

- IpConfig.txt – Displays the full TCP/IP configuration for all adapters. Adapters can represent physical interfaces, such as installed network adapters, or logical interfaces, such as dial-up connections.

- FirewassExecutionLog.txt and pfirewall.log
Prefetch files Windows Prefetch files are designed to speed up the application startup process. It can be used to track all the files recently used in the system and find traces for applications that might have been deleted but can still be found in the prefetch file list.
- Prefetch folder – Contains a copy of the prefetch files from %SystemRoot%\Prefetch. NOTE: It is suggested to download a prefetch file viewer to view the prefetch files.

- PrefetchFilesList.txt – Contains the list of all the copied files which can be used to track if there were any copy failures to the prefetch folder.
Processes Contains a .CSV file listing the running processes which provides the ability to identify current processes running on the machine. This can be useful when identifying a suspicious process and its state.
Scheduled tasks Contains a .CSV file listing the scheduled tasks which can be used to identify routines performed automatically on a chosen machine to look for suspicious code which was set to run automatically.
Security event log Contains the security event log which contains records of login or logout activity, or other security-related events specified by the system's audit policy.
NOTE: Open the event log file using Event viewer.
Services Contains a .CSV file which lists services and their states.
Windows Server Message Block (SMB) sessions Lists shared access to files, printers, and serial ports and miscellaneous communications between nodes on a network. This can help identify data exfiltration or lateral movement.
Contains files for SMBInboundSessions and SMBOutboundSession.

NOTE: If there are no sessions (inbound or outbound), you'll get a text file which tell you that there are no SMB sessions found.
System Information Contains a SystemInformation.txt file which lists system information such as OS version and network cards.
Temp Directories Contains a set of text files that lists the files located in %Temp% for every user in the system.
This can help to track suspicious files that an attacker may have dropped on the system.

NOTE: If the file contains the following message: “The system cannot find the path specified”, it means that there is no temp directory for this user, and might be because the user didn’t log in to the system.
Users and Groups Provides a list of files that each represent a group and its members.
WdSupportLogs Provides the MpCmdRunLog.txt and MPSupportFiles.cab
CollectionSummaryReport.xls This file is a summary of the investigation package collection, it contains the list of data points, the command used to extract the data, the execution status, and the error code in case of failure. You can use this report to track if the package includes all the expected data and identify if there were any errors.

Run Windows Defender Antivirus scan on machines

As part of the investigation or response process, you can remotely initiate an antivirus scan to help identify and remediate malware that might be present on a compromised machine.

Important

  • This action is available for machines on Windows 10, version 1709 or later.
  • A Windows Defender Antivirus (Windows Defender AV) scan can run alongside other antivirus solutions, whether Windows Defender AV is the active antivirus solution or not. Windows Defender AV can be in Passive mode. For more information, see Windows Defender Antivirus compatibility.

One you have selected Run antivirus scan, select the scan type that you'd like to run (quick or full) and add a comment before confirming the scan.

Image of notification to select quick scan or full scan and add comment

The Action center will show the scan information and the machine timeline will include a new event, reflecting that a scan action was submitted on the machine. Windows Defender AV alerts will reflect any detections that surfaced during the scan.

Restrict app execution

In addition to containing an attack by stopping malicious processes, you can also lock down a device and prevent subsequent attempts of potentially malicious programs from running.

Important

  • This action is available for machines on Windows 10, version 1709 or later.
  • This feature is available if your organization uses Windows Defender Antivirus.
  • This action needs to meet the Windows Defender Application Control code integrity policy formats and signing requirements. For more information, see Code integrity policy formats and signing.

To restrict an application from running, a code integrity policy is applied that only allows files to run if they are signed by a Microsoft issued certificate. This method of restriction can help prevent an attacker from controlling compromised machines and performing further malicious activities.

Note

You’ll be able to reverse the restriction of applications from running at any time. The button on the machine page will change to say Remove app restrictions, and then you take the same steps as restricting app execution.

Once you have selected Restrict app execution on the machine page, type a comment and select Confirm. The Action center will show the scan information and the machine timeline will include a new event.

Image of app restriction notification

Notification on machine user:
When an app is restricted, the following notification is displayed to inform the user that an app is being restricted from running:

Image of app restriction

Isolate machines from the network

Depending on the severity of the attack and the sensitivity of the machine, you might want to isolate the machine from the network. This action can help prevent the attacker from controlling the compromised machine and performing further activities such as data exfiltration and lateral movement.

Important

  • Full isolation is available for machines on Windows 10, version 1703.
  • Selective isolation is available for machines on Windows 10, version 1709 or later.

This machine isolation feature disconnects the compromised machine from the network while retaining connectivity to the Microsoft Defender ATP service, which continues to monitor the machine.

On Windows 10, version 1709 or later, you'll have additional control over the network isolation level. You can also choose to enable Outlook, Microsoft Teams, and Skype for Business connectivity (a.k.a 'Selective Isolation').

Note

You’ll be able to reconnect the machine back to the network at any time. The button on the machine page will change to say Release from isolation, and then you take the same steps as isolating the machine.

Once you have selected Isolate machine on the machine page, type a comment and select Confirm. The Action center will show the scan information and the machine timeline will include a new event.

Image of isolate machine

Note

The machine will remain connected to the Microsoft Defender ATP service even if it is isolated from the network. If you've chosen to enable Outlook and Skype for Business communication, then you'll be able to communicate to the user while the machine is isolated.

Notification on machine user:
When a machine is being isolated, the following notification is displayed to inform the user that the machine is being isolated from the network:

Image of no network connection

Consult a threat expert

You can consult a Microsoft threat expert for more insights regarding a potentially compromised machine or already compromised ones. Microsoft Threat Experts can be engaged directly from within the Microsoft Defender Security Center for timely and accurate response. Experts provide insights not just regarding a potentially compromised machine, but also to better understand complex threats, targeted attack notifications that you get, or if you need more information about the alerts, or a threat intelligence context that you see on your portal dashboard.

See Consult a Microsoft Threat Expert for details.

Check activity details in Action center

The Action center provides information on actions that were taken on a machine or file. You’ll be able to view the following details:

  • Investigation package collection
  • Antivirus scan
  • App restriction
  • Machine isolation

All other related details are also shown, for example, submission date/time, submitting user, and if the action succeeded or failed.

Image of action center with information