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Description

The following analytic identifies searchprotocolhost.exe with no command line arguments. It is unusual for searchprotocolhost.exe to execute with no command line arguments present. This particular behavior is common with malicious software, including Cobalt Strike. During investigation, identify any network connections and parallel processes. Identify any suspicious module loads related to credential dumping or file writes. searchprotocolhost.exe is natively found in C:\Windows\system32 and C:\Windows\syswow64.

  • Type: TTP
  • Product: Splunk Enterprise, Splunk Enterprise Security, Splunk Cloud
  • Datamodel: Endpoint- Datasource: Splunk Add-on for Sysmon
  • Last Updated: 2022-03-15
  • Author: Michael Haag, Splunk
  • ID: f52d2db8-31f9-4aa7-a176-25779effe55c

Annotations

ATT&CK
ID Technique Tactic
T1055 Process Injection Defense Evasion, Privilege Escalation
Kill Chain Phase
  • Exploitation
NIST
CIS20
CVE
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
| tstats `security_content_summariesonly` count FROM datamodel=Endpoint.Processes where Processes.process_name=searchprotocolhost.exe by _time span=1h  Processes.process_id Processes.process_name Processes.dest Processes.process_path Processes.process Processes.parent_process_name 
| `drop_dm_object_name(Processes)` 
| `security_content_ctime(firstTime)` 
| `security_content_ctime(lastTime)` 
| regex process="(?i)(searchprotocolhost\.exe.{0,4}$)" 
| `suspicious_searchprotocolhost_no_command_line_arguments_filter`

Macros

The SPL above uses the following Macros:

Note that suspicious_searchprotocolhost_no_command_line_arguments_filter is a empty macro by default. It allows the user to filter out any results (false positives) without editing the SPL.

Required field

  • _time
  • Processes.dest
  • Processes.user
  • Processes.parent_process_name
  • Processes.parent_process
  • Processes.original_file_name
  • Processes.process_name
  • Processes.process
  • Processes.process_id
  • Processes.parent_process_path
  • Processes.process_path
  • Processes.parent_process_id

How To Implement

To successfully implement this search you need to be ingesting information on process that include the name of the process responsible for the changes from your endpoints into the Endpoint datamodel in the Processes node. In addition, confirm the latest CIM App 4.20 or higher is installed and the latest TA for the endpoint product.

Known False Positives

Limited false positives may be present in small environments. Tuning may be required based on parent process.

Associated Analytic story

RBA

Risk Score Impact Confidence Message
49.0 70 70 Suspicious searchprotocolhost.exe process with no command line arguments executed on $dest$ by $user$

Reference

Test Dataset

Replay any dataset to Splunk Enterprise by using our replay.py tool or the UI. Alternatively you can replay a dataset into a Splunk Attack Range

source | version: 3