Interact overview

Use Tanium Interact to issue questions to managed endpoints, analyze their answers, and deploy actions to the endpoints based on the answers. Although it is licensed as part of the Tanium Core Platform, Interact is a Tanium module, so you can update it separately from the Tanium Console and the Tanium Server.

What is a question?

A Tanium question is a query that you issue from the Tanium Server to managed endpoints. A dynamic question is one that you create and issue through the Explore Data or Question Builder features in Interact. A saved question is a configuration object that enables you to reissue a question without reconstructing it through those features.

The Explore Data feature is built on a natural language parser that enables you to get started with natural questions rather than a specialized query language. You do not need to enter questions as complete sentences or particularly well-formed inquiries. Word forms are not case sensitive and can even include misspellings. The parser interprets your input and suggests a number of valid queries that you can use to formalize the question that is sent to Tanium Clients. Interact provides the Explore Data feature as a text-entry field at the top of the Interact Overview page and the Tanium Home page.

The following figure shows an example of how Interact uses the natural language parser to propose valid queries based on user input. First, the user enters the fragment last logged in user and clicks Search. In response, Interact returns a list of queries cast in valid syntax.

Figure  1:  Natural language parser

Questions have a get clause that specifies the information to retrieve and a from clause that specifies the target endpoints. Basic questions include the following:

  • One or more sensor names (such as Last Logged In User) in the get clause
  • From all machines (all endpoints that host the Tanium Client) in the from clause

Advanced questions include filter clauses and parameterized sensors.

For the steps to issue questions and view question history, see Asking questions . For more information about question syntax, see Reference: Example questions and Reference: Advanced question syntax.

What is a sensor?

A sensor is a script that runs on an endpoint to compute a response to a Tanium question. Tanium as a Service (TaaS) The Tanium Server distributes sensors to endpoints during Tanium Client registration. Sensors enable you to ask questions that collect information such as the following:

  • Hardware and software inventory and configuration
  • Running applications and processes
  • Files and directories
  • Network connections

TaaS provides The installation process for the Tanium Server automatically imports the Tanium™ Default Content and Tanium™ Interact content packs that include sensors for a wide range of common questions. Other Tanium solutions that you import might provide more sensors, depending on which Tanium content packs or Tanium solution modules you import. If you cannot find a sensor that you need within Tanium-provided content, you can create custom sensors.

For more information, see Tanium Console User Guide: Managing sensors.

Counting questions and non-counting questions

A counting question returns results in which it is possible for any particular answer string to be the same for multiple endpoints. The Question Results grid displays a Count column that indicates how many endpoints provided each common answer. A counting question can have only one sensor. Get Operating System from all machines is an example of a counting question, with a sensor that returns the operating system of managed endpoints. When an endpoint adds its answer to the answer message, it increments the tally of the answer that its value matches. The Tanium Server maintains a table of answer strings. In many cases, such as the operating system, many endpoints provide just a few common answers, so the question has a relatively small footprint on the Tanium Server.

Figure  2:  Counting question

A non-counting question has sensors that return a unique answer string from each endpoint. For example, Get IP Address from all machines returns IP addresses, which are unique. For a non-counting question, the Tanium Client adds a new string to the answer message instead of incrementing the tally for an existing string. Therefore, the data footprint for a non-counting question can be large on the Tanium Server.

Figure  3:  Non-counting question

When using the Question Builder to construct a single-sensor question, you have the option to convert a counting question to a non-counting question for cases where a counting question returns the too many results answer.

Questions with multiple sensors

When you construct a question, use the AND operator in the get clause to specify multiple sensors. The Question Results page groups results by the first sensor, then by the next sensor, and so on, as the following example illustrates.

Figure  4:  Question with multiple sensors

Questions with parameterized sensors

A parameterized sensor uses a value that you specify when entering the question in the Explore Data field or Question Builder. The following example shows the Registry Value Data sensor. The Tanium Console prompts you to specify a registry path and value.

Figure  5:  Parameterized sensor

Another example is the High CPU Processes sensor. You can specify a parameter that is the number of CPU processes to return from each machine. For example, you might want to get the top 5 highest CPU utilizing processes. The question has the following syntax:

Get High CPU Process[5] from all machines

For sensors with multiple parameters, you can specify an ordered list of comma-separated parameters. For example, to see the first 10 lines from the action log for the action with ID 1, specify a parameter list as follows:

Get Tanium Action Log[1,10] from all machines

Questions with filters

You can use filters to create questions that target fewer endpoints than the default all machines. For example, the following advanced question targets only endpoints that have a specific process name or value.

Figure  6:  Question filter

The left side (get clause) is a complete and valid query; the right side contains a filter: the from all machines with expression. Filters in the from clause are the first part of a question that an endpoint processes. If the endpoint data does not match the filter, the endpoint does not process the question any further. If the question has multiple filters, the endpoint evaluates each filter. The filter expression must evaluate to a Boolean true or false. For example, the expression from all machines with Running Processes contains explore evaluates to true if the specified string matches the result string, or false if it does not. If a filter evaluates to true, the endpoint runs the sensors on the left side of the question and returns the results.

A parameterized sensor like File Exists[] returns the result File Exists: Filename or File does not exist, so be careful how you enter the sensor in a filter expression.

Figure  7:  Example: Question with parameterized sensor

The filter expression from all machines with File Exists["C:\Program Files\PuTTY\putty.exe"] containing "Exists" evaluates to true when the result is File Exists: C:\Program Files\PuTTY\putty.exe and false when the result is File does not exist, so you can use it to filter the set of responses.

Figure  8:  Example: Filter with parameterized sensor

Filter expressions can match strings or regular expressions. The following table describes the supported filter operators as they appear when you use the Question Builder. The table also describes how some operators are normalized after you load them from the Question Builder or enter the expressions in the Explore Data field.

Table 1:   Filter operators
Filter operator Usage
contains Sensor value contains the specified string.

Example: running processes contains "explore"

does not contain Sensor value does not contain the specified string.
starts with Sensor value starts with the specified string.

Example: starts with "explore"

When you load the question, the expression is translated to a regular expression using the matches operator.

does not start with Sensor value does not start with the specified string.
ends with Sensor value ends with the specified string.

Example: ends with "explore.exe"

When you load the question, the expression is translated to a regular expression using the matches operator.

does not end with Sensor value does not end with the specified string.
matches Sensor value matches the specified regular expression (in Boost syntax).
does not match Sensor value does not match the specified regular expression.
in Sensor value matches one of the specified strings. Use commas without spaces to separate the strings. When you load the question, the expression shown in the question field uses equals and or operators in place of in.

Example: The filter in "10.10.10.10,10.10.10.11" in the Question Builder becomes IP Address equals 10.10.10.10 or IP Address equals 10.10.10.11 when you load the question.

is equal to Sensor value is equal to the specified value or string. When you load the question, the expression shown in the question field uses equals in place of is equal to.
is not equal to Sensor value is not equal to the specified value or string. When you load the question, the expression shown in the question field uses not equals in place of is not equal to.
is less than Sensor value is less than the specified value. When you load the question, the expression shown in the question field uses a symbol (<) in place of the operator words.

Example: installed application version[chrome] < 12

is less than or equal to Sensor value is less than or equal to the specified string. When you load the question, the expression shown in the question field uses symbols (<=) in place of the operator words.

Example: installed application version[chrome] <= 12

is greater than Sensor value is greater than the specified value. When you load the question, the expression shown in the question field uses a symbol (>) in place of the operator words.

Example: installed application version[chrome] > 12

is greater than or equal to Sensor value is greater than or equal to the specified string. When you load the question, the expression shown in the question field uses symbols (>=) in place of the operator words.

Example: installed application version[chrome] >= 12

See Reference: Advanced question syntax for examples of complex filter expressions, including questions with multi-column sensors.

Question expiration

Upon issuing a dynamic or saved question, the Tanium Server assigns a question ID to the question. The question ID appears in the URL field of your web browser. For example, in the URL https://10.20.30.40/#/interact/q/376, the question ID is 376.

After 10 minutes, the question ID expires and its URL becomes invalid. This means you can refresh the page or share the link only within that 10-minute period.

If you navigate to the URL after 10 minutes, Interact displays a Question Expired message and provides the option to copy the question text to the question field so that you can reissue it.

Saved questions

Saved questions are questions that you can reissue without reconstructing them in the Interact Explore Data field. They are configuration objects for which you can define reissue intervals, access permissions, associated actions, and other settings. You can issue saved questions manually or based on a schedule. You can also issue saved questions through Tanium modules or through custom applications that use the Tanium XML API. For example, you can use Tanium™ Connect to periodically issue a saved question and send the results to an external server. You create saved questions by issuing a dynamic question through the Explore Data field and saving it. Tanium modules and content packs that you import also provide predefined saved questions. The Interact module organizes saved questions under dashboards and organizes dashboards under categories. Each category, dashboard, and saved question is assigned to one content set.

Dashboard

A dashboard is a group of saved questions that are related with respect to the information that they retrieve from endpoints. For example, the predefined Hardware Inventory dashboard contains questions that retrieve CPU, disk, memory, and BIOS information. You can issue all the questions in a dashboard simultaneously.

Category

A category is a group of dashboards. It serves as an umbrella term for questions that you use for a particular purpose. For example, the Security category includes multiple dashboards that contain security-related questions.

Content set

A content set is a group of saved questions, dashboards, categories, and other content to which you apply user role permissions to control access. Tanium provides several predefined content sets through the Default Content pack and through Tanium modules. You can also create custom content sets. For details and related tasks, see Managing content sets.

Questions results

After you issue a dynamic question, the Question Results page opens and displays a grid with the answers (results) from endpoints. The page facilitates analyzing the results by providing display options such as live updates, filters, and charts. For details and related procedures, see Managing question results.

Actions

After you use Tanium Interact to issue a question, analyze the question results, and determine which endpoints require administrative action, you can deploy a package to those endpoints so that the Tanium Client can run the associated action. For the procedure, see Deploying actions.