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EDR Evaluation - Powershell Activity

Users of Endpoint Detection Response (EDR) systems know they are powerful tools for detecting Threat Actors (TA)'s. But there is often be a lot of mystery about how they work and hence the badness of what they detect and/or block. This mystery makes can not only make it difficult to understand EDR coverage of attacks, but more critically understand an major EDR pain point which is they tend to have a lot of false positives. For understanding how EDRs work, I really like this EDR Telemetry project from Kostas

The project divides EDR telemetry into these categories:

  • Process Activity

  • File Manipulation

  • User Account Activity

  • Network Activity

  • Hash Algorithms

  • Registry Activity

  • Schedules Task Activity

  • Service Activity

  • Drive/Module Activity

  • Device Operations

  • Other Related Events

  • Named Pipe Activity

  • EDR Sysops

  • WMI Activity

  • BITS Jobs activities

  • Powershell Activity

Understanding Powershell Activity

Reviewing important aspects of monitoring PowerShell activity, it is crucial to focus on PowerShell script block logging. Below is a table detailing different types of PowerShell logs, their descriptions, and their log locations. Analyzing script block logs allows for strong detections of suspicious software and tools executed within PowerShell scripts. For example, the logged script block can be examined for strings like 'mimikatz' (a popular hacking tool) or 'sekurlsa' (a module within mimikatz). While this detection method is not foolproof, skilled threat actors may alter common names, it serves as an additional layer of detection that would not be possible without this type of logging.

This article discussed Script Block Logging within the context of a specific EDR detection function. However, it is important to note that even if your EDR does not support PowerShell Script Block Logging analysis, you can still analyze PowerShell script blocks for malicious activity using other mechanisms. This flexibility is not always available for other types of EDR telemetry.

To analyze PowerShell script blocks outside of EDR, you need to enable PowerShell Script Block Logging and export these logs (event ID 4104) to an external logging system like a SIEM. The external logging system can then run queries to examine the content of these PowerShell logs for suspicious strings that could indicate malicious activity.

An important aspect of PowerShell Script Block Logging analysis is that many EDRs include alerts for detecting Base64 encoding in scripts. While Base64 encoding is increasingly common in legitimate scripts, including those used by Windows Defender EDR (which can lead to it flagging its own scripts as suspicious), its presence alone does not indicate malicious activity. Understanding the context of Base64 encoding is crucial for effective analysis. It's not the encoding itself that is suspicious, but rather how it is used. Therefore, a foundational understanding of Base64 is essential for contextualizing its presence and decoding it when necessary.


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