Velociraptor Artifacts

Velociraptor’s main job is to collect Artifacts, but what is an Artifact?. An artifact is simply a yaml file which tells Velociraptor how to collect a set of files or information in order to answer a specific question.

Before we can discuss how artifacts are used within Velociraptor, we need to understand what Artifacts are and how they relate of Velociraptor.

Artifact definitions

Artifacts are supposed to be defined and tweaked by the user. Therefore they are defined using YAML in a simple human readable file format.

Below is an example of a typical artifact definition.

name: Windows.Sys.Users
description: |
  List User accounts that were logged into the machine in the past by
  searching for registry artifacts.

  What local or domain users have previously logged into an endpoint?  

  - name: remoteRegKey
    default: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ProfileList\*

  - precondition:
      SELECT OS From info() where OS = 'windows'
        - SELECT "" as Uid, "" as Gid,
               ) as Name,
               Key.FullPath as Description,
               ProfileImagePath as Directory,
               basename(path=Key.FullPath) as UUID,
               Key.Mtime.Sec as Mtime,
               "roaming" as Type
           FROM read_reg_key(globs=remoteRegKey, accessor="reg")

  - type: CLIENT
    template: |

      Users that logged in previously.

      {{ .Description }}

      The following table shows basic information about the users on this system.

      {{ Query "users" "SELECT Name, UUID, Type, Mtime FROM source()" | Table }}

We can see the main sections:

  1. The name of the artifact is a dot separated string used to identify the Artifact in the UI. We typically name the artifact using a hierarchical category based naming scheme.

  2. The description section contains a human readable description of the purpose of this artifact, how it works and when to use it. The description section is searchable in the GUI so you should provide enough context there to assist a user in selecting this artifact.

  3. The parameters section is a list of parameters provided to the artifact. When the user selects this artifact in the GUI, they are also given the option to tweak these parameters. Parameters may also specify a default value and a helpful description to help users set the correct value.

  4. The sources section contains a list of evidence sources. Each source specifies a series of VQL queries. The queries may retrieve specific information or files.

    • A precondition is a VQL query which must be satisfied before the source is collected. This is typically used to limit an artifact to a specific operating system or version.

    • The queries section is a list of VQL queries, executed one at the time, which produce a single result set (i.e. a table with specified columns and rows). Typically the queries section consists of a list of LET VQL statements followed by a single SELECT.

  5. Finally the reports section specifies a set of report templates to be used to analyze the results collected from the artifact. You can read more about report templates.

At a high level, an artifact answers a specific question. As an investigator we ask questions relevant to our case, and the artifact maps these questions to a mechanical collection providing sufficient evidence to cast light on our question. The Velociraptor GUI allows one to search artifacts by their description section.


The artifact contains a report that helps the user make sense of the collected evidence and provides simple post processing capabilities. Reports are templates that are evaluated on the artifact’s results and produce simple markdown, graphs, tables and other primitives. Reports may issue VQL statements to further analyze the collected data and therefore may produce any output.

The report presents a human readable post processing on the collected artifact - collating and correlating evidence from multiple sources in order to answer the high level question posed by the artifact.

The purpose of the artifact is to encapsulate expert knowledge into the artifact to both document and guide investigators through the investigation process. Even experienced investigators can benefit from artifacts, since they do not need to worry about forgetting to collect a particular source, or wrongly interpreting some of its finding.

In the above example, the high level question is What domain users have logged into this endpoint?. To answer this question we extract registry artifacts created whenever a user gains an interactive logon session to a machine. The report helps us to understand what the registry artifacts actually mean. We can see the report can run further VQL queries to highlight or post process the results, perhaps drawing our attention to particularly interesting findings.

Artifact Types

Velociraptor uses VQL for many different purposes. Since Artifacts are a nice way to package VQL queries, there are a number of different types of artifacts depending on the specific VQL contained within them.

For a full reference of VQL see VQL Reference, but for now we just need to distinguish between two main types of VQL queries:

  1. A Collection Query is a query which runs once and collects a table of results, then terminates.

  2. An Event Query is a query which runs forever, waiting for some events to occur. When the event occurs, the query will emit one or more rows and continue waiting. Output from Event Queries is streamed for as long as the query continues running.

Therefore we have 4 types of artifacts:

  1. A client collection artifact encapsulates VQL queries primarily designed to run on the endpoint and return a table of results. These are typically used to capture some piece of information from the host - for example, the list of installed programs, the presence of a registry key etc.

  2. A client event artifact encapsulates Event Queries that are running on the client, streaming rows to the server. These are typically used to monitor for specific events on the client. For example, watching the event log for a new event of interest.

  3. A server collection artifact is an artifact that contains a Collection Query that is designed to run on the server. Typically these artifacts are used to perform some post processing on the server or provide server state information.

  4. A server event artifact is an artifact containing event queries permanently running on the server. These are typically used to watch the entire Velociraptor deployment for specific conditions. For example, a server event artifact might monitor process execution logs from all clients and automatically decode encoded powershell command lines, alerting on suspicious occurrences.