Welcome back from the holidays! I imagine many of you are just returning from the holidays and are ready get started on those new year’s resolutions. If one of them was to implement continuous monitoring or learn more about scripting, do I have a treat for you! Now that I’m back from some holiday travel myself, I think it’s time to continue our series on automating continuous monitoring and the 20 Critical Controls.

I don’t want these blog posts on an introduction to PowerShell. There are plenty of fine references on that available to you. In talking with Jason Fossen (our resident Windows guru), I have to agree with him that one of the best starter books on the topic is Windows PowerShell in Action, by Bruce Payette. So if you’re looking to get started learning PowerShell, start here, or maybe try some of the Microsoft resources available at the Microsoft Scripting Center.

But let’s say you’ve already made a bit of an investment in coding and you already know what tasks you’d like to perform. For example, maybe you wonder who is a member of your Domain Admins group, so you use Quest’s ActiveRoles AD Management snap in to run the following command:

(Get-QADGroup ‘CN=Domain Admins,CN=Users,DC=auditscripts,DC=com’).members

Or on the other hand, maybe you are concerned about generating a list of user accounts in Active Directory who have their password set to never expire, you’d likely have code such as:

Get-QADUser -passwordneverexpires

Or maybe even you want to run an external binary, like nmap, to scan your machines, you might have a command such as:

Nmap –sS –sV –O –p1-65535

In any case, the first step is to come up with the code you want to automate. That’s step one.

Next, you don’t just want to run the code, you want the code to be emailed to you on a regular basis, say once a day or once a week. The next step is to use a mailer to email you the results of your script. Now you have a few choices here. One option is to use a third party tool like blat to generate your email. But since we’re using PowerShell, let’s stick with that. Version 2.0 of PowerShell also has some built in mailing capabilities in this regard.

The easiest way to get started is to save the output of the commands you want run to a temporary text file, mail the text file as the body of an email message, and then delete the temporary file. An easy way to do this to get started would be to use the following commands:

$filename = sometextfilewithoutputresultsinit.txt

$smtp = new-object Net.Mail.SmtpClient("mymailserver.auditscripts.com")
$subject="SANS Automated Report - $((Get-Date).ToShortDateString())"
$from="[email protected]"

$msg = New-Object system.net.mail.mailmessage
$msg.From = $from
$msg.To.add("[email protected]")
$msg.Subject = $subject
$msg.Body = [string]::join("`r`n", (Get-Content $filename))

remove-item $filename

Save your data as an appropriate PS1 file, automate the command to run once in a while using Task Scheduler, and you’re off to the races!

We certainly have more to discuss, but hopefully this inspires some thinking on the matter. I’ll post again soon with some other steps to consider, before we move on the Bash. There’s a lot we can talk about here. Until next time…