Home > Articles > Data > SQL Server

This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Incident Verification

Because of the constraints you face when examining the victim infrastructure, you decide to use an interactive connection for the investigation. During a live interactive analysis, volatile and nonvolatile artifacts are identified and collected using minimal assistance from the victim system.

To automate the preservation of key database artifacts for analysis, you use a SQL Server incident response (IR) CD containing trusted tools—namely, your SQL Server IR scripts and the SQL Server extended version of Windows Forensic Toolchest (WFT). Inserting the IR CD into the victim system, you launch a trusted command shell using the full file path in addition to the binary name, thereby ensuring that the binary is loaded from the trusted CD.

On Sunday, August 31, at approximately 8:43 P.M., you execute the SQL Server extended version of WFT version 3.0.03 from the trusted command shell. This application executes predeveloped scripts and gathers SQL Server artifacts from various Distributed Management Views (DMV), and Database Console Commands (DBCC). You save the outputs from the tools run during the investigation to a sanitized USB drive that you've connected to the victim system as drive letter Z.

The WFT results are stored within the Artifacts\WFTSQL folder on the mapped Z drive. Once execution of WFT is complete, you image the default SQL Server error named Errorlog with no extension using dcfldd. This file is available within the Chapter 11\Artifacts folder of this book's companion DVD.

Preliminary Review of the SQL Server Error Log

You manually review the Errorlog file and identify several failed login attempts as seen in the following error log snippet:

2008-08-31 15:28:44.64 Logon        Login failed for user 'SA'. [CLIENT:]
2008-08-31 15:28:45.17 Logon        Error: 18456, Severity: 14, State: 8.
2008-08-31 15:28:45.17 Logon        Login failed for user 'SA'. [CLIENT:]
2008-08-31 15:28:45.72 Logon        Error: 18456, Severity: 14, State: 8.
2008-08-31 15:28:45.72 Logon        Login failed for user 'SA'. [CLIENT:]
2008-08-31 15:28:58.64 Logon        Error: 18456, Severity: 14, State: 5.
2008-08-31 15:28:58.64 Logon        Login failed for user 'Administrator'. [CLIENT:]

The error log contains several failed login attempts originating from IP address It's clear that a SQL Server client on this host tried to gain access to the PROD-SQL05 server using the SA, Administrator, Admin, DBAdmin, ASPNET, and MSmith login accounts. These unauthorized access attempts appear to have started at 2008-08-31 15:27:09.50. There were 256 failed login attempts using 6 different accounts over 4 minutes and 20 seconds, which indicates the intruder was using some type of automated brute-force attack tool.

Error messages resulting from failed login attempts using the Administrator, Admin, DBAdmin, and ASPNET accounts have a state value of 5, which signifies the logins did not exist on the server. By contrast, error messages for the SA and MSmith logins have a state value of 8, which signifies they were present on the system and at risk of compromise. A little later in the log, you confirm that the MSmith account—one of the targets of the brute-force attack—was used to gain access to the PROD-SQL05 server from IP address 192.168.20, which is the same source of the brute-force attack.

At this point in the investigation, you've confirmed that unauthorized access was gained to the PROD-SQL05 server via a successful brute-force attack on the MSmith login and that unauthorized access was gained by the attacker at 2008-08-31 15:31:35.24. This point will be the beginning of your investigation timeline. You also note that the attacker then used the login to gain access to the SQL Server four more times by using the compromised credentials, as seen within the following error log snippet:

2008-08-31 15:31:28.02 Logon       Login failed for user 'MSmith'. [CLIENT:]
2008-08-31 15:31:28.56 Logon       Error: 18456, Severity: 14, State: 8.
2008-08-31 15:31:28.56 Logon       Login failed for user 'MSmith'. [CLIENT:]
2008-08-31 15:31:29.10 Logon       Error: 18456, Severity: 14, State: 8.
2008-08-31 15:31:29.10 Logon       Login failed for user 'MSmith'. [CLIENT:]
2008-08-31 15:31:29.66 Logon       Error: 18456, Severity: 14, State: 8.
2008-08-31 15:31:29.66 Logon       Login failed for user 'MSmith'. [CLIENT:]
2008-08-31 15:31:35.24 Logon       Login succeeded for user 'MSmith'. Connection: non-
trusted. [CLIENT:]
2008-08-31 15:36:34.42 Logon       Login succeeded for user 'MSmith'. Connection: non-
trusted. [CLIENT:]
2008-08-31 15:38:15.31 Logon       Login succeeded for user 'MSmith'. Connection: non-
trusted. [CLIENT:]
2008-08-31 15:42:33.61 Logon       Login succeeded for user 'OSApp'. Connection: non-
trusted. [CLIENT: <local machine>]
2008-08-31 15:43:23.74 Logon       Login succeeded for user 'MSmith'. Connection: non-
trusted. [CLIENT:]

The OSApp account, which successfully logged on to the PROD-SQL05 instance at 2008-08-31 15:42:33.61, was used by an interactive user locally logged on to the server as indicated by the CLIENT: <local machine> information within the preceding log snippet. You also note that the OSApp account was not targeted during the brute-force attack, so it was not deemed malicious as part of your initial investigation.

Now that you've confirmed that a successful database intrusion occurred, you are ready to perform a preliminary review of artifacts collected by WFT in an effort to determine the actions the unauthorized user performed within the database server.

Preliminary Review of WFT Execution Results

You complete a preliminary review of the results of the SQL Server incident response scripts executed via WFT. These results are available within the Chapter 11\Artifacts\ WFTSQL folder of the companion DVD. You open the Artifacts\WFTSQL\PROD-SQL05\2008_08_31\15_47_29\index.htm file to open the main page of the WFT interface. From there, you select the DB Objects & Users | Logins link to view a list of SQL Server logins and their associated creation and last update dates. While searching this page for recent activity, you identify that the EASYACCESS account was created at 15:46:03:340 on the day of the incident. In addition, you note that the name of this account is suspect and nonstandard—that is, it does not follow the naming convention in place for the client. Figure 11.1 is a snippet of the details on the EASYACESS account creation.

Figure 11.1

Figure 11.1 A record of the EASYACCESS login creation

You also select the DB Objects & Users | Database Objects link to view a list of database objects, including information on object creation and modification activity within each database on the server. Your search identifies that the IllB3back table was created within the Master database at 15:41:55 on the day of the incident. This activity came after the MSmith account was compromised and used to gain access to the SQL Server; thus it is within the scope of your investigation. You also note that the table was created in close proximity to the EASYACCESS account previously identified. Figure 11.2 shows the record of the IllB3back table created within the Master database on the victim system.

Figure 11.2

Figure 11.2 A record of the IllB3back table creation

You note that #09DE7BCC, a temporary table, was also created within Tempdb at 15:32:41.367. This timing is also within the scope of the investigation and in close proximity to the other detected activity.

To further investigate the creation of the IllB3back table, you select the Recent Activity | MRE Transactions link within WFT and load a snapshot of recent SQL Server transaction activity for all databases within the database instance. Using the Internet Explorer find utility (Control-F), you search for the 'IllB3back' string on the page. The first hit returned is transaction 0000:00002725. The next hit immediately follows the first; this transaction, 0000:00002724, also affected the IllB3back table as seen in Figure 11.3.

Figure 11.3

Figure 11.3 A record of transaction activity affecting the IllB3back table

By checking the transaction begin time field, you discover that both transactions were executed within the same second. You also match the creation date and time of the IllB3back table to the second transaction. The Transaction Sid field shows that both transactions were executed by SID 0x501AEC871FD432488B4A487B06C61505, which was connected to the database server using SPID 55.

You copy the unique SID value 0x501AEC871FD432488B4A487B06C61505 to the clipboard and search for it on the DB Objects & Users | Logins page. You find that this SID leads to the MSmith login—the same login that was compromised during the brute-force attack.

At this point, you document your findings and present them to the client. She immediately authorizes a full investigation to be conducted with the objective of identifying whether sensitive credit card information had been compromised. You then immediately initiate artifact collection on the victim SQL Server instance.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020