Take response actions on a machine

Applies to:

  • Windows 10 Enterprise
  • Windows 10 Education
  • Windows 10 Pro
  • Windows 10 Pro Education
  • Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (Windows Defender ATP)
Important

Some information relates to prereleased product which may be substantially modified before it's commercially released. Microsoft makes no warranties, express or implied, with respect to the information provided here.

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.

Note

These response actions are only available for machines on Windows 10, version 1703.

Manage machine group and tags

Machine group and tags support proper mapping of the network, enabling you to attach different tags to machines to capture context and to enable dynamic groups creation as part of an incident.

Machine related properties are being extended to account for:

  • Group affiliation
  • Dynamic context capturing

Group machines

Machine group affiliation can represent geographic location, specific activity, importance level and others. Grouping machines with similar attributes can be handy when you need to apply contextual action on a specific list of machines. After creating groups, you can apply the Group filter on the Machines list to get a narrowed list of machines.

Machine group is defined in the following registry key entry of the machine:

  • Registry key: HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows Advanced Threat Protection\DeviceTagging\
  • Registry key value (string): Group

Set standard tags on machines

Dynamic context capturing is achieved using tags. By tagging machines, you can keep track of individual machines in your organization. After adding tags on machines, you can apply the Tags filter on the Machines list to get a narrowed list of machines with the tag.

  1. Select the machine that you want to manage tags on. You can select or search for a machine from any of the following views:

    • Security operations dashboard - Select the machine name from the Top machines with active alerts section.
    • Alerts queue - Select the machine name beside the machine icon from the alerts queue.
    • Machines list - Select the machine name from the list of machines.
    • Search box - Select Machine from the drop-down menu and enter the machine name.

    You can also get to the alert page through the file and IP views.

  2. Open the Actions menu and select Manage tags.

    Image of taking action to manage tags on a machine

  3. Enter tags on the machine. To add more tags, click the + icon.

  4. Click Save and close.

    Image of adding tags on a machine

    Tags are added to the machine view and will also be reflected on the Machines list view. You can then use the Tags or Groups filter to see the relevant list of machines.

Manage machine tags

You can manage tags from the Actions button or by selecting a machine from the Machines list and opening the machine details panel.

Image of adding tags on a machine

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.

You can download the package (Zip file) and investigate the events that occurred on a machine.

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.
- ActiveNetworkConnections.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.
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 the services.txt 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 the file contains the following message: “ERROR: The system was unable to find the specified registry key or value.”, it means that there were no SMB sessions of this type (inbound or outbound).
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.
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.
  1. Select the machine that you want to investigate. You can select or search for a machine from any of the following views:

    • Security operations dashboard - Select the machine name from the Top machines with active alerts section.
    • 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.
  2. Open the Actions menu and select Collect investigation package.

    Image of collect investigation package action

  3. Type a comment and select Yes, collect package to take action on the machine.

    Image of notification to collect package

    The Action center shows the submission information: Image of investigation package in action center

    • Submission time - Shows when the action was submitted.
    • Status - Indicates if the package was successfully collected from the network. When the collection is complete, you can download the package.
  4. Select Package available to download the package.
    When the package is available a new event will be added to the machine timeline.
    You can download the package from the machine page, or the Action center.

    Image of investigation package from machine view

    You can also search for historical packages in the machine timeline.

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.

Note

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.

  1. Select the machine that you want to run the scan on. You can select or search for a machine from any of the following views:

    • Security operations dashboard - Select the machine name from the Top machines with active alerts section.
    • Alerts queue - Select the machine name beside the machine icon from the alerts queue.
    • Machines list - Select the machine name from the list of machines.
    • Search box - Select Machine from the drop-down menu and enter the machine name.
  2. Open the Actions menu and select Run antivirus scan.

    Image of run antivirus scan

  3. Select the scan type that you'd like to run. You can choose between a quick or a full scan.

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

  4. Type a comment and select Yes, run scan to start the scan.

    The Action center shows the scan information:

    Image of action center with antivirus scan

    • Submission time - Shows when the isolation action was submitted.
    • Status - Indicates any pending actions or the results of completed actions.

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

The action to restrict an application from running applies a code integrity policy that only allows running of files that 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.

  1. Select the machine where you'd like to restrict an application from running from. You can select or search for a machine from any of the following views:

    • Security operations dashboard - Select the machine name from the Top machines with active alerts section.
    • Alerts queue - Select the machine name beside the machine icon from the alerts queue.
    • Machines list - Select the machine name from the list of machines.
    • Search box - Select Machine from the drop-down menu and enter the machine name.
  2. Open the Actions menu and select Restrict app execution.

    Image of restrict app execution action

  3. Type a comment and select Yes, restict app execution to take action on the file.

    Image of app restriction notification

    The Action center shows the submission information: Image of action center with app restriction

  • Submission time - Shows when the isolation action was submitted.
  • Status - Indicates any pending actions or the results of completed actions.

When the application execution restriction configuration is applied, a new event is reflected in the machine timeline.

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

Remove app restriction

Depending on the severity of the attack and the state of the machine, you can choose to reverse the restriction of applications policy after you have verified that the compromised machine has been remediated.

  1. Select the machine where you restricted an application from running from.

  2. Open the Actions menu and select Remove app restrictions.

    Image of remove app restrictions

  3. Type a comment and select Yes, remove restriction to take action on the application. The machine application restriction will no longer apply on the machine.

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.

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

On Windows 10, version 1710 and above, you'll have additional control over the network isolation level. You can also choose to enable Outlook and Skype for Business connectivity.

Note

You’ll be able to reconnect the machine back to the network at any time.

  1. Select the machine that you want to isolate. You can select or search for a machine from any of the following views:

    • Security operations dashboard - Select the machine name from the Top machines with active alerts section.
    • Alerts queue - Select the machine name beside the machine icon from the alerts queue.
    • Machines list - Select the machine name from the list of machines.
    • Search box - Select Machine from the drop-down menu and enter the machine name.
  2. Open the Actions menu and select Isolate machine.

    Image of isolate machine

  3. Select the check-box if you'd like to enable Outlook and Skype communication while the machine is isolated.

    Image of isolation confirmation

  4. Type a comment and select Yes, isolate machine to take action on the machine.

    Note

    The machine will remain connected to the Windows 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.

    The Action center shows the submission information: Image of machine isolation

    • Submission time - Shows when the isolation action was submitted.
    • Status - Indicates any pending actions or the results of completed actions. Additional indications will be provided if you've enabled Outlook and Skype for Business communication.

When the isolation configuration is applied, a new event is reflected in the machine timeline.

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

Release machine from isolation

Depending on the severity of the attack and the state of the machine you can choose to release the machine from isolation after you have verified that the compromised machine has been remediated.

  1. Select a machine that was previously isolated.

  2. Open the Actions menu and select Release from isolation.

    Image of release from isolation

  3. Type a comment and select Yes, release machine to take action on the machine. The machine will be reconnected to the network.

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 time, submitting user, and if the action succeeded or failed.

Image of action center with information