Many organizations lack comprehensive visibility into activity occurring within their Windows environments. Without proper logging and monitoring, advanced attacks can slip by traditional security controls and avoid detection.
Sysmon (System Monitor) is a free tool from Microsoft that gives unmatched visibility into Windows system activity. By collecting critical event details that Windows itself does not log, Sysmon enables detecting adversary behaviors that would otherwise go unnoticed.
In this post, we’ll cover:
- What types of data Sysmon captures
- Key benefits Sysmon provides
- How to properly implement Sysmon
- Configuration best practices
Let’s dive in.
What Sysmon Captures
Sysmon logs highly detailed data about these types of Windows events:
- Process creation, termination, and tampering
- Network connections initiated by processes and related activity
- Changes to file creation time stamps
- Loading of drivers or DLLs
- Windows Defender scan activity
- Powershell launching and command logging
- Registry modifications and access
- File and directory creation, access, and changes
- Service configuration modifications
- WMI event filtering and consumers
- DNS query logging
This provides tremendous visibility compared to what Windows natively logs. Sysmon data gives critical context around threats – enabling you to reconstruct attack narratives.
Key Sysmon Benefits
Implementing Sysmon delivers several key benefits, such as:
Faster Threat Detection: By centralizing Sysmon’s highly detailed logs, you can more easily correlate discrete events to identify threats. This reduces time to detect adversary activity.
Improved Incident Response: Sysmon logs provide the crucial forensic evidence needed for thorough incident investigations. You can clearly see the sequence of events leading to a breach and understand the “how” behind attacks.
Enhanced Threat Hunting: With rich data documenting processes, command lines, registry changes and more, Sysmon feeds powerful threat hunting to uncover intrusions that evaded existing controls.
Free Solution: Sysmon does not cost anything to implement, making it budget friendly while still delivering immense value in strengthening security posture.
How to Properly Implement Sysmon
A successful Sysmon deployment requires:
- Installing Sysmon on all endpoints and servers.
- Thoughtfully configuring Sysmon based on what to log balanced with performance. Overlogging will strain resources.
- Ensuring Sysmon logs transmit securely to a centralized logging repository.
- Feeding logs into a SIEM, log analysis platform, or other consumer to correlate events and generate alerts.
Without proper implementation, you lose access to the valuable data Sysmon can provide.
Sysmon Configuration Best Practices
Sysmon’s configuration file controls what data it collects on the endpoints where it is installed. Careful configuration is vital – you want sufficient event capture to detect threats but avoid excess logging which creates performance problems.
Here are some best practices that strike the right balance:
- Record minimum process details needed for alerts and investigations. Overlogging process minutiae creates substantial data requiring more storage and processing.
- Log registry and file changes only where needed. These events are extremely high volume.
- Exclude extremely chatty processes (e.g. web browsers) from logging.
- Use include/exclude filters to control what gets logged.
- Funnel Sysmon data to centralized logging infrastructure. Avoid logging directly to local event logs.
- Continually tune configuration based on usage patterns, storage constraints, and noise reduction.
Sysmon delivers immense value for strengthening threat detection and incident response. Carefully planning deployment, thoughtfully tailoring configuration, and centrally analyzing its event data helps realize Sysmon’s full benefits. Leverage Sysmon to uncover stealthy attacks, accelerate incident response, and empower threat hunting.
For even more information on Sysmon, check out this in-depth discussion on Sysmon and threat hunting between Blumira’s Lead Incident Detection Engineer Amanda Berlin and security influencer Tom Lawrence.