The Highlighter™ Super Users series is a little something I've put together to reach out to the Highlighter community. As a user of this freeware tool from Mandiant, I want you to know there are many users out there who can help you get through your log analysis paralysis. This series is meant to highlight (see what I did there?) how some users have solved a various range of problems using Highlighter. These interviews will provide insight into the benefits and pitfalls of using Highlighter, some features you may not be aware of, and a few use cases you may not have considered.
Super User Interview #1: Ken Johnson
Ken Johnson is one of Highlighter's Twitter-friendly users. He is a malware analyst and incident responder extraordinaire; fighting evil one keyword search at a time. Known as @patories on Twitter, I reached out to him and asked some questions about his experience using Highlighter.
Realm of work
My primary work is focused on malware analysis and incident response. Occasionally I also do some forensics work.
How did you hear about Highlighter?
I first saw Highlighter when I was familiarizing myself with free tools. I have used Memoryze™ previously.
Do you know of any other tools that do what Highlighter does?
Highlighter is the only tool I know of, and it does what I need so I haven't looked for others.
How do you normally use Highlighter?
I use Highlighter to trim out known good traffic from proxy logs. This helps get to the unknown stuff quicker. When logs can be multiple gigabytes this is a time saver.
Can you describe one scenario in which Highlighter helped you
find evil and/or solve crime?
On more than one occasion I have used Highlighter to narrow down proxy log traffic to find connections that are malicious. There was an instance about 2 months ago where users fell for a Phish. We used Highlighter to find the C&C IP's that machines kept calling home to, by filtering out what was normal and analyzing what was left. Highlighter helped find almost 50 IP/URLS that were malicious.
On a scale from 1 (worst) to 5 (best), how well does
Highlighter address your use case(s)?
I would have to give Highlighter a 4.
What is missing from Highlighter for your use case(s)?
I would like to have the ability to whitelist traffic so I do not have to manually keep removing internal hosts that we see. This may be in the program and I have not found it.
What is one Highlighter feature addition that would serve the
Information Security community best?
I think the ability to whitelist hostnames would be a nice addition.
Are you aware of, or have you used, any of the following features:
Activity Over Time feature that lets you view log data as a
function of Entries Per Day
No, I was not aware of this one.
Ability to change basic font settings for your output
I know it is there, but for my use this is never used.
- Activity Over Time feature that lets you view log data as a function of Entries Per Day
Have you ever seen Highlighter used in such a way that your
eyeballs melted from all the Awesome?
I have only seen myself use it, but I have seen my co-workers eyeballs melt when I show them the awesomeness that they can do. Some are still stuck in the grep world...
Keep an eye out for the second post in the Highlighter Super Users Series featuring Russ McRee, author of ISSA Journal's toolsmith series and mastermind behind www.holisticinfosec.org. If you're interested in sharing your own experiences with this tool, please let me know by commenting below.