Top Security Issues Facing the Enterprise

June EventSource Newsletter
By Danielle Ruest and Nelson Ruest

Collect Vista Events

Microsoft has made some considerable changes to event management in Windows Vista. One major change is the way you can now centrally collect events from a variety of systems. This article is the fifth in a series that demystifies the Vista Event Log.  

Windows Vista includes an updated implementation of Microsoft’s remote management infrastructure: Windows Remote Management (WinRM). The Vista Event Log uses WinRM along with the Windows Event Collector service as the engines for collecting events from remote machines and sending them to a central event collector system. This makes it very easy to troubleshoot problems or otherwise be aware of the type of events that occur on multiple systems because you only need to look at the collector system to review all events.

WinRM relies on WS-Management or Web Services Management which is a special protocol that integrates a series of operations within a Web services architecture. This is an industry standard that allows organizations to perform management operations over commonly-used TCP/IP protocols such as the HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) or secure HTTP (HTTPS). The advantage of WS-Management is that the common protocols on which it relies are often open in firewalls for other purposes. This means that you can manage remote systems without turning your firewall into Swiss cheese. This is a very valuable Vista feature.

Several steps are required to prepare systems for event collection:

  • Each system that will forward events must be running one service: WinRM.
  • Each system that will receive events must be running two services: WinRM and the Windows Event Collector. These services are set to manual by default.
  • WinRM must be configured on both the forwarding computers and the collector computer.
  • The Windows Event Collector service must be configured on the collector system.
  • Access rights must be granted to the collector system on each of the forwarding computers.
  • Then, once each of the above steps is performed, you can move to the creation of an event subscription.

Of course, elevated rights are required to perform the operation. Remember that because of User Account Control (UAC), all users, even administrative users run with a standard user token. This means that you must make sure you use elevated rights when running these commands.

If you are working with machines that are part of an Active Directory (AD), then use the following procedure:

  • Log on to the source computer or the computer that will forward events.
  • Right-click on the Command Prompt and select Run as Administrator. Provide appropriate credentials, usually domain credentials that have local administrative privileges.
  • Using the newly elevated command prompt, type the following command:winrm quickconfigThen, type y followed with Enter to make the changes. This command sets up the source system to accept WS-Management requests from other computers. In actual fact, this will set the WinRM service to delayed autostart, start the service, create a WinRM listener on HTTP and enable WinRM exceptions in the Windows Firewall (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Running the WinRM Quick Configuration Command

  • Next, you need to add the collector computer’s account to the local Administrator’s group. There are two ways to do this. Either add the collector computer account by itself to the Administrator’s group or create a new group in AD, add the computer account to this group and then, add this group to the local Administrator’s account. The second method is the preferred method since it will allow you to add more collector systems in the long run simply by adding them to the group in AD.
    • Open AD Users & Computers with a Run as Administratorcommand and apply the appropriate credentials for administrative rights in AD.
    • Locate the appropriate organizational unit (OU) and if one is not available, create one. This OU should be designed to contain computer groups.
    • Create a new security group. Call it Event Collection Systems.
    • Add the computer account of the collection system to this group.
    • Then, use Computer Management, under Local Users & Groups to add the Event Collection Systems group to thelocal Administrator’s group.Repeat steps 1 to 4 on each source system.
  • Now, move to the collection system. Repeat the WinRM commandused in step 3. This will allow you to control bandwidth usage or latency of the event forwarding process.
  • Next, using the same elevated command prompt, run the following command:wecutil qcThen, type y followed with Enter to make the changes. This will configure the Windows Event Collector service to delayed autostart and start the service.
  • Now you’re ready to prepare your first subscription.
    • Open the Event Viewer using Run as Administrator and provide the proper credentials.
    • Go to the Subscriptions item in the tree pane.
    • Right-click on the Subscriptions item to choose Create Subscription (see Figure 2). You can also use the command in the action pane.
    • Name your collection and provide a description.
    • Identify the destination log. By default, all collected events go to the ForwardedEvents log.
    • Click the Add button to select computers from AD. Add all the computers you want to collect events from. You can also use theTest button to verify that communication works between the forwarders and the collector.
    • Next, click on Select Events to identify which events to collect. This launches the Query Filter dialog box. Set the options to collect the events you need or use an existing filter.
    • Finally, click on the Advanced button. This opens the Advanced Subscriptions Settings dialog box (see Figure 3). This dialog box allows you to control three settings.
      • The account used for collection. Leave this as is since the machine account is often best to use.
      • Event Delivery Optimization which lets you either control bandwidth used or increase the bandwidth used to ensure prompt delivery of the events. The Normal mode is a pull mode—the collector pulls events from forwarders. The other two modes are push modes—the events are pushed from the forwarders or source systems to the collector. If latency is not an issue, then select Minimize Bandwidth.
      • The protocol to use—HTTP or HTTPS. If events are forwarded in your network, then HTTP is probably fine, but if events have to go over open connections or if they contain sensitive data, then use HTTPS. This will encrypt all data between forwarders and collectors, but additional configuration will be required.

Click OK when done to finish the preparation of the collection. If they exist on the source computers, selected events will begin accumulating almost immediately.

Figure 2. Creating a Subscription

Setting Advanced Options
Figure 3. Setting Advanced Options

If you choose to configure HTTPS as the transport protocol, you will need to enable port 443 in the Windows Firewall. Pull or Normal subscriptions only need this setting on the source computers. Push subscriptions need this port enabled on both forwarders and collectors.

If you do not have an Active Directory and are working in a workgroup, you need to be aware of some limitations and special configuration requirements.

  • Workgroup subscriptions only work in pull or normal mode.
  • Windows Firewall exceptions for Remote Event Log Management must be enabled on each system.
  • Since computer accounts do not trust each other in workgroups, you must create a special account on each system. Use the same account name and password on each system.
  • You must also tell the collector system to trust each source computer. Once again, this is done through the WinRM command.

As you can see, it is easier and simpler to configure subscriptions in an Active Directory environment. But, in either case, collecting events from remote systems is something that administrators of Windows systems have wanted to do for many years. Vista finally makes it possible. This was long overdue. But, the Vista event management and collection system is still in its infancy. In our next article we will compare Vista event management with commercial event collection systems and identify situations where each fits within your system management strategy.

About the Authors

Danielle Ruest and Nelson Ruest, MCSE+Security, MCT, Microsoft MVP, are IT professionals specializing in systems administration, migration planning, software management and architecture design. They are authors of multiple books, and are currently working on the Definitive Guide to Vista Migration for Realtime Publishers as well as the Complete Reference to Windows Server 2008 for McGraw-Hill Osborne. They have extensive experience in systems management and operating system migration projects.


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