Collecting Software Inventory Information: Osquery Tutorial

Blog Author
Guillaume Ross

Gathering software inventory is an important part of security and systems management. There’s a good reason software inventory is No. 2 in the list of CIS Critical Controls!


Software inventory can be easier said than done, as there are more and more sources for software on our workstations and servers. Regular applications, app stores, browser extensions, third-party package managers ... getting a thorough understanding of what is installed requires looking at many different sources of information.


Once you know the tables osquery has for software inventory, you will be able to automate the collection of that data, so it is always available to you. Next time you hear about a critical vulnerability on a Chrome extension, or you notice malware targeting a specific version of a PDF reader in your environment, you’ll be able to instantly see which assets are at risk.


Knowing which software repositories are configured also allows you to detect unauthorized repositories.


Below you'll find multiple tables available in osquery that will allow you to manage software inventory, from the standard package management software packages to browser extensions and much more.


Get started with threat hunting with osquery in our free on-demand webinar.


Tables to Gather Inventory From First-Party Package Managers & Built-In OS Application Installs:

  • apps: Applications installed on macOS
  • apt_sources: List of APT repositories
  • deb_packages: .deb packages (Debian, Ubuntu, etc.)
  • pkg_packages: FreeBSD pkg packages
  • portage_packages: Portage packages (Gentoo)
  • programs: Applications installed on Windows, typically shown in “Add/Remove Programs”
  • rpm_packages: .rpm packages (RedHat, CentOS, etc.)
  • yum_sources: List of Yum repositories


Browser Extension & Plugin-Related Tables: 

  • browser_plugins: All C/NPAPI browser plugin details for all users
  • chrome_extensions: Chrome extensions, which can be supplemented with chrome_extensions_content_scripts to see the actual content scripts in those extensions
  • firefox_addons: Firefox extensions, web apps, and add-ons
  • ie_extensions: Internet Explorer extensions
  • opera_extensions: Opera extensions
  • safari_extensions: Safari extensions


Tables Related to Common Third-Party Package Managers:

  • chocolatey_packages: All packages installed using the Windows package manager Chocolatey (similar to Homebrew on Mac)
  • homebrew_packages: Homebrew packages, which are super popular on Mac and need to be tracked if we want to be able to deal with vulnerabilities
  • npm_packages: Packages installed using the popular Node package manager npm
  • atom_packages: Atom (the text editor) packages installed
  • python_packages: Python packages, such as those installed with PyPI, the Python package manager


Tables Related to Containers:

  • docker_containers and docker_images: Information about running containers and their images

For each of these tables you find valuable, you will need to select information.

For example, here’s how you gather the name and version of Debian packages:

SELECT name, version FROM deb_packages;

And here’s how you can track the package repositories on a Debian/Ubuntu system:

SELECT source, base_uri, release, version, maintainer, components, architectures FROM apt_sources;

Some of these tables report per-user data. You will find this common with browser-related tables, such as the firefox_addons table. These tables need to be joined to the users table, so you can know which user profile has the add-on installed. The following query extracts valuable information about Firefox add-ons:

SELECT username, name, identifier, version, creator, active FROM users JOIN firefox_addons USING (uid);

Another way to join tables, demonstrated here with the chrome_extensions table:

SELECT * FROM chrome_extensions WHERE chrome_extensions.uid IN (SELECT uid FROM users);

By using all of these tables—by configuring queries for them in your query packs that get executed regularly—you will have a complete picture of the software installed on your systems, including browser extensions and software installed by third-party package managers.


Benefits & Compliance Requirements

Being able to track installed software is extremely important. It is useful to detect unauthorized software, in more locked-down environments, but it can also be useful to hunt down known versions of vulnerable software.


By having the full picture for all machines in your environment, you will be able to better understand the attack surface of your systems, and see if some specific packages could benefit from being managed by IT. This allows updates to be enforced, rather than letting end-users deal with the trouble of updates on their own.


Software inventory is the second of the CIS Critical Controls, but it's also an important part of PCI DSS. Requirement 2.4 states that software on systems in scope for PCI DSS must be inventoried and kept up to date. Other standards, like HIPAA, require risk assessments to be performed, which is facilitated by the existence of a good inventory of hardware and software.


With osquery, you can not only gather the inventory, but do it automatically, and leverage the data to improve the security of your environment.

Image by Martine Auvray from Pixabay.


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