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There are two basic problems to solve when managing data: storage, and retrieval. Storing your data should be quick and easy, and it should also be quick and easy for you to query the information you need from the tons of data you don’t. SQL (Structured Query Language) is an industry-standard language that allows you to create and maintain databases and to retrieve requested data from them when needed. It is a powerful and flexible tool for working with relational databases, and is used by Oracle, Sybase, Postgres, MS Access and countless other database systems.

osquery uses SQL and the relational data model to describe a device, by presenting an entire operating system as a high-performance relational database. Orbital uses osquery in order to provide you and your applications with detailed information about your endpoints. osquery allows you to write SQL queries to explore operating systems and device data. Orbital can be used by Cisco products to query endpoints and by Cisco customers to use osquery wherever they have Orbital deployed.

This topic provides a high-level introduction to SQL to be used as a foundation for working with Orbital. It is not intended to be a full tutorial.

About SQL

SQL was developed in the IBM labs in the late 70’s. Most actions that need to be performed on a database are done with SQL statements, including querying the data, data manipulation (insert, update, and delete), data definition, and data access control.

Orbital was developed to support SQL users of every level, from novice to expert. You do not need to know how to write SQL statements in order to use Orbital effectively. However, you will quickly want to learn more once you begin to appreciate its power.

SELECT Statement

One of the most common SQL statements is the SELECT statement. To find information stored in a relational database using SQL, you simply tell the system what you want to know written in the form of an SQL SELECT statement.

The SQL SELECT statement selects data from a database, using clauses (such as FROM and WHERE) to specify criteria or parameters. Client programs send SQL statements to the server, the server processes the statements and returns the results to the client program.

The most basic SELECT statement syntax looks like this: SELECT * FROM table_name;

Here is a simple example: SELECT column1, column2 FROM table1, table2 WHERE column2='value';

In this example, column1 and column2 are the field names of the table from which you want to select data from. To select all fields available in the table, use the following syntax: SELECT * FROM table1;

Types of Orbital Queries

There are two general types of queries that Orbital uses, Scheduled and Live.

Scheduled Queries

Scheduled queries are those queries that have a specific time and duration in which they are run. Refer to Schedule Orbital Queries for a more complete description of what scheduled queries are.

Live Queries

Note: Live Queries are also know as probes.

Live queries are those queries that return all of the query results for all of the responding endpoints. The query results for a Live query are contained within the response to the query itself. Additionally, Live queries provide only one set of results for any endpoints that meet the query’s criteria. The point of a live query is to allow you to iterate and test quickly, and it is assumed that you will likely not wish to save the results in a remote data store. This type of query is executed using the Live Query function. The results of the query are listed in the Query Results pane. Results from Live queries can also be viewed from the Results page.

Note If a Live query has begun its execution, any nodes that connect after the query has begun will not have the query run against them and their results will not be returned to the user.

Query Prefixes

Orbital can make use of query prefixes to specify the endpoints that the query will run against, whether the they are specifically identified or match a set of criteria. Query prefixes can be grouped into three categories, Special, Dynamic, or Static.

Special Prefixes

This prefix category currently contains only one prefix, the all prefix. If you type all into the Endpoints field of the Query page, it will force Orbital to search across all endpoints in the organization. Additionally, all cannot be used in conjunction with other prefixes, nor can it be used with the allowos filter.

Dynamic Prefixes

This prefix category consists of those prefixes where a set of search criteria has been specified. Providing any criteria for one or more of these dynamic prefixes will cause the query to be run against all endpoints that match the criteria specified by the prefix. Unlike static prefixes, any endpoints that match the prefix criteria, that are not online, will be included in the query once they have reconnected, until the query expires.

Static Prefixes

This prefix category consists of those prefixes that directly specify one or more known endpoints to run the query against. These prefixes can directly specify the endpoint or endpoints to query, or they can contain a wildcard (%) to specify a group of endpoints.

Note: All prefixes that use the wildcard character (%) will be treated as a dynamic prefix.

Any static prefixes that either refer to unknown endpoints or endpoints that are not connected at the time the query has begun will have the specified endpoints dropped from the query. If an endpoint has been dropped from the query, it will not be queried if it reconnects to the network, during the query’s execution.

Refer to the Query API’s Prefix Table for more information on Orbital’s query prefixes.

The allowos Filter and the Orbital Query Catalog

allowos is a filter that is used to specify which operating system must be running on an endpoint before the query will run against it.

The allowos filter can be used with queries stored in Orbital’s SQL Query Catalog. Because allowos influences the endpoints that will run the query, it is defined along with the endpoints, either by typing the value in the Endpoints field or defining it in the Operating System Filter popup, shown in the figure below.

Add Random Endpoints Popup

The SQL Query Catalog contains queries that should only be executed on endpoints running a specific operating system. For example, a query that searches through the Windows registry cannot be run on endpoints using macOS or Linux.

The allowos filter returns only the endpoints that are running the desired operating system. For example, if you run the query Apple System Log (ASL) System Events Monitoring, Orbital will run it against all endpoints specified in the Endpoints field, irrespective of OS. Since some endpoints queried may be running Windows or Linux, specifying that you only want macOS (allowos:mac) endpoints returned is a way of ensuring that you will receive accurate results.

Query Success

A query will be considered successful provided that at least one of the following conditions is met.

The allowos filter returns only the endpoints that are running the desired operating system. For example, if you run the query Apple System Log (ASL) System Events Monitoring, Orbital will run it against all endpoints specified in the Endpoints field, irrespective of OS. Since some endpoints queried may be running Windows or Linux, specifying that you only want macOS (allowos:mac) endpoints returned is a way of ensuring that you will receive accurate results.

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