Skip to content
Tutorial series: Automating abuse inbox management and phishing response (Part 3)


In part two of our deep-dive series into end-to-end automation of abuse inbox management and phishing response, we added additional URL threat intelligence services and submitted suspicious attachments to multiple malware sandboxes. We collected the results of URL and eMail analysis and sent the user a prompt-enabled email.
In part three, we’ll expand our automation story by:

Automating user activity confirmation

When a user clicks the prompt URL, Tines emits an event similar to the below. This event contains details of the prompt response and the event that originally triggered the prompt.
Tines prompt event
Prompt event
We’ll use a trigger agent to detect this case. We’ll name the agent “User confirmed interaction with malicious email”, the options block will look like the below:

Here we’re configuring the trigger agent to emit an event when the prompt status is “clicked”, the value we set in the prompt widget in part 2 of the tutorial.
If this agent emits an event, it indicates that the victim interacted with the malicious email. As such, we’ll need to take remediating action. We could quarantine the user’s machine with an EDR tool or submit a reimage ticket with our helpdesk team. For now, logging out the user and locking the account will suffice.

Automating account takeover response

As the user interacted with the malicious email, we need to remediate a potential account takeover. We’re using OneLogin for Identity and Access Management, so to expedite response we’ll use two HTTP request agents to first log the user out, and then lock their account.
Included below, is the options block for the log out agent. Unsurprisingly, this is similar in form to the “Get victim details” agent. We take the ID of the user we want to log out from the incoming event, sample shown below:
Tines OneLogin Get User API Event
OneLogin Get User API Event

Once we’ve logged out the victim, we now want to lock their account. With the account locked, we can safely perform additional investigation. As seen from the OneLogin API docs, we do this by setting the user’s “status” to 3 with another HTTP request agent. The corresponding options block is below:

After reemitting an event and letting it rundown the story, we confirm the account’s locked by viewing the victim’s profile.
Locked user in OneLogin GUI
OneLogin GUI Showing Locked User Account
With the addition of these agents, this section of our automation story now looks as follows:
Account takeover automation diagram
Account Takeover Remediation Diagram

Automating SIEM Searches (web proxy)

When an employee receives a malicious email, it’s quite likely that other employees will have been targeted in the same campaign. However, they may not have reported the email to the abuse inbox. Or worse, they may not have realised it was malicious and as a result actioned the email. As such, when security teams identify a malicious URL received by an employee, they will often search network logs (firewall, webproxy, etc.) to try and identify additional users that may have visited the malicious URL. We can automate this process with Tines.

Finding phishing domain

In our example, we’re collecting web proxy logs in Splunk:
border--round box-shadow-wide vdw
Sample web proxy log from Splunk
Splunk indexes the domain visited by employees in a field called “cs_host”. By extracting the domain from the malicious URL and searching that field in Splunk, we can identify victims in our environment. We’ll use an Event Transformation agent in “Extract” mode to extract the domain from the malicious URL. The new agent will receive events from the existing “URL is malicious” agent, its options block is shown below:

TIP: When building complex regular expressions to use in an extract-mode Event Transformation agent, a regex testing service such as Rubular can be useful to help test and debug expressions. For example:

Automating Splunk searches

Next, we’ll use a HTTP request agent and the Splunk REST API to find any records of users visiting the extracted domain we’ve identified from the malicious URL. We’ll have this agent (named “Search SIEM for visits to malicious domain”), receive events from the “URL is malicious” agent.
See the agent options block below. Here, we’re using basic authentication with the credential widget, the POST method, and a form submission send the search to Splunk. We include the extracted domain in the search string. We are particularly interested in the source IP of the visiting user (contained in s_ip) and the time they visited. So, we include these in our search request.

When we dry-run this agent, we can see that Splunk returns a search id called “sid” which we can use to find the results of the search.
Splunk DHCP Search via REST API
Splunk DHCP Search via REST API

Getting search status using Splunk REST API

We’ll use another HTTP Request agent, this time called “Get search status”, to determine if the search has completed. As shown in the agent options block below, we’re submitting the sid via a GET request.

This agent returns the status of the search in a field called “dispatchState”. A value of “DONE” indicates that the search is complete, a value of “RUNNING” means the search is still in progress.
Event emitted after checking Splunk search status
Event emitted after checking Splunk search status
As with the URLScan and Virustotal agents in previous parts of this tutorial series, we’ll use a pair of Trigger agents to:
  1. Check again if the search is still running. We’ll call this agent “Search still in progress”
  2. Emit an event if the search is complete. We’ll call this agent “Search complete”
See the configuration for both these agents below:
Configuration for search status trigger agents
Configuration for search status trigger agents

Getting search results using Splunk REST API

When the search is complete, we can use another HTTP Request agent to get the search results. The options block for this agent is shown below, it receives events from the “Search complete” trigger agent.

As Splunk returns a different structure when there are one result and multiple results, we’ll build two Trigger agents to account for both cases. Their respective options blocks are shown below:

Where there are multiple search results, we’ll configure an Event Transformation Agent to explode the results so they can be treated individually. The options block for this agent, which we call “Explode search results is shown below”

Every time the malicious domain was visited from our environment, we now have access to the source IP address and time of the visit. After our updates, this section of our story looks like the below:
Automated SIEM searches diagram
Automated SIEM searches diagram

Automating SIEM searches (DHCP)

Unfortunately, the web proxy in our example does not log the asset name or the user that visited the malicious domain. The only information we have to determine this critical context is the source IP address and the time of the visit. Thankfully, we also store DHCP logs in Splunk, so we can automate collection of the host (asset) name with Tines.

DHCP logs in Splunk

As the response from Splunk is slightly different when there are single and multiple results, see below, we’ll use a pair of HTTP Request agents which will receive events from the “One search result” and “Explode search results” agents respectively. The options blocks for these agents are similar, the “Get host from DHCP logs single result” is shown below:

Breaking down Splunk API search

This agent is slightly more complex than our previous HTTP Request Agents, so let’s unpack the payload being submitted with a POST to Splunk:
  1. search: We want to find DHCP logs that are related to the identified source IP Address which we take from incoming events. As we want to find the machine which was assigned the IP, we only look at logs related to ‘New’ or ‘Renew’ leases. By specifying “head 1”, we’re taking the most recent event within our specified time range, that is the last asset with the IP address. Finally, we want the asset name in question, so we specify that field via “fields “Host Name””
  2. output_mode: Here we tell Splunk to use the JSON encoding scheme.
  3. earliest_time: We want to know what machine received/renewed the IP address before the user visited the malicious domain. We do this with Splunk’s earliest_time parameter. We take the timestamp of the visit to the malicious domain and convert it into a UNIX epoch time with the date liquid filter: date: ‘%s’. Next we use the minus liquid filter to subtract 12 hours (43200 seconds) from the time the user visited the malicious domain, this should be sufficient to find a relevant DHCP event.
  4. latest_time: We set the upper time limit of the search to the time the user visited the malicious site. In our case, the IP assignee does not matter after this point.
Difference between single and multiple Splunk event results
Difference between single and multiple Splunk event results

Getting status of DHCP search in Splunk

As with the web proxy search, we’ll use a combination of HTTP Request agents and Trigger agents to monitor the status of the search and fetch the results when it’s complete.
When the search successfully identifies the Host the event will look similar to the below:
Event emitted after matching host identified
Event emitted after matching host identified
Next we’ll include a trigger agent to detect if the search failed to return any results. This tells us a machine could not be found to match the visit to the malicious domain. We’ll do this with a Trigger agent and use a corresponding Trigger agent for when a result was returned. We could create an email agent to notify us when the DHCP search failed to get a result.

We’ve now collected the machine name. With this, we could isolate the machine from the network, take a forensic image, or perform additional log searches to collect other relevant context.

Automating asset management with Jira

We suspect that a user in our environment visited a malicious site. As such, we need to remediate the risk of their account bring compromised. For this, we need to retrieve the user associated with the asset we have identified through proxy and DHCP logs.
In our example, we have a dedicated Asset Management project in JIRA which contains all asset information in our environment.
Asset Management Project in Jira
Asset management project in JIRA
We’ll use a HTTP Request agent to fetch the asset owner from Jira. We’ll call this agent “Get asset owner” and configure it to receive events from the “Found matching host” Trigger agent.  This agent uses the JIRA Search API to find entries in the Asset Management JIRA project (AM) where the “Asset ID” field matches the host name value found in Splunk. We authenticate to JIRA using basic authentication.

When this agent runs, it will emit an event similar to the below. The field we’re most interested in is the assignee’s email address. This represents the owner of the asset and the account we need to remediate. In our case
Event from JIRA REST API
Event from JIRA REST API
We’ll reuse the agents we created previously to interact with OneLogin. You’ll recall that they fetch additional user information, log out the user, and lock their account.
Our final story diagram is below:
Automated phishing response diagram
Automated phishing response diagram


Over the course of this series, we’ve significantly evolved our automation story. From a simple five-agent story that analysed emails, to a comprehensive story containing over 50 agents. We’ve automated analysis of email links and attachments, determination of threat level, user activity confirmation, SIEM searches and more. However, in many ways, we could view this story as a jumping-off point for an even more capable story. We didn’t touch on case management, DMARC or additional threat hunting.
By automating this process in Tines, we have complete visibility into every step of the story. We also have unprecedented ability to expand, troubleshoot and scale.


Want the latest?

Sign up for our newsletter!

The Tines security automation platform helps the world's leading security teams automate any manual task.

Making them more effective and efficient.