osquery's remote configuration and logger plugins are completely optional. The only built-in optional plugins are tls. They very simply, receive and report via https:// URI endpoints. osquery provides somewhat flexible node (the machine running osquery) authentication and identification though an 'enrollment' concept.

The remote settings and plugins are mostly provided as examples. It is best to write custom plugins that implement specific web services or integrations. The remote settings uses a lot of additional CLI-flags for configuring the osquery clients, they are mostly organized under the Remote Settings heading.

Remote authentication

The most important differentiator to the filesystem suite of plugins is an authentication (and enrollment) step. Machines running osqueryd processes are called nodes and must authenticate to the remote server for every config retrieval and log submission request.

The initial step is called an "enroll step" and in the case of tls plugins, uses an implicit enroll plugin, also called tls. If you enable either config or logger tls plugins the enrollment plugin will turn on automatically. Enrollment provides an initial secret to the remote server in order to negotiate a private node secret used for future identification. The process is simple:

  1. Configure a target --tls_hostname, --enroll_tls_endpoint.
  2. Place your server's root certificate authority's PEM-encoded certificate into a file, for example /path/to/server-root.pem and configure the note client to pin this root: --tls_server_certs=.
  3. Submit an --enroll_secret_path, an --enroll_secret_env, or use TLS-client authentication, to the enroll endpoint.
  4. Receive a node_key and store within the node's backing store (RocksDB).
  5. Make config/logger requests while providing node_key as identification/authentication.

The validity of a node_key is determined and implemented in the TLS server. The node only manages to ask for the content during enroll, and posts the content during subsequent requests.

With osquery version 1.7.0, OS X clients MUST use a --tls_server_certs bundle since osquery is built using LibreSSL and no default certificate bundle is available on OS X.

Simple shared secret enrollment

A deployment key, called an enrollment shared secret, is the simplest tls plugin enrollment authentication method. A protected shared secret is written to disk and osquery reads then posts the content to --enroll_tls_endpoint once during enrollment. The TLS server may implement an enrollment request approval process that requires manual intervention/approval for each new enrollment request.

After enrollment, a node maintains the response node_key for authenticated requests to config and logger TLS endpoints.

The shared secret can be stored in a plain-text file which is specified at runtime with the flag --enroll_secret_path=/path/to/file.ext. The shared secret can alternatively be kept in an environment variable which is specified with the flag --enroll_secret_env=NAME_OF_VARIABLE.

TLS client-auth enrollment

If the node machines have a deployed TLS client certificate and key they should include those paths using --tls_client_cert and --tls_client_key. The TLS server may implement an enroll process to supply nodes with identifying node_keys or return blank keys during enrollment and require TLS client authentication for every endpoint request.

If using TLS client authentication the enrollment step can be skipped entirely. Note that it is NOT skipped automatically. If your service does not need/implement enrollment include --disable_enrollment in the osquery configuration.

Remote server API

The most basic TLS-based server should implement 3 HTTP POST endpoints. This API is a simple reference and should be built upon using custom plugins based on the included tls plugin suite. Although this API is basic, it is functional using the built-in plugins.

Enrollment request POST body:

  "enroll_secret": "...", // Optional.
  "host_identifier": "..." // Determined by the --host_identifier flag

Enrollment response POST body:

  "node_key": "...", // Optionally blank
  "node_invalid": false // Optional, return true to indicate failure.

Configuration request POST body:

  "node_key": "..." // Optionally blank

Configuration responses should be exactly the same JSON/format as read by the filesystem config plugin. There is no concept of multiple configuration sources with the provided tls plugin. A server should amalgamate/merge several configs itself.

Configuration response POST body:

  "schedule": {
    "query_name": {
      "query": "...",
      "interval": 10
  "node_invalid": false // Optional, return true to indicate re-enrollment.

The POSTed logger data is exactly the same as logged to disk by the filesystem plugin with an additional important key: log_type. The filesystem plugin differentiates log types by writing distinct file names. The tls plugin includes: "result" or "status". Snapshot queries are "result" queries.

Logger request POST body:

  "node_key": "...", // Optionally blank
  "log_type": "result", // Either "result" or "status"
  "data": [
    {...} // Each result event, or status event

Logger response POST body:

  "node_invalid": false // Optional, return true to indicate re-enrollment.

Distributed queries

As of version 1.5.3 osquery provides support for "ad-hoc" or distributed queries. The concept of running a query outside of the schedule and having results returned immediately. Distributed queries must be explicitly enabled with a CLI flag or option and have the explicitly-enabled distributed plugin configured.

Distributed read request POST body:

  "node_key": "..." // Optionally blank

The read request sends the enrollment node_key for identification. The distributed plugin should work in concert with the enrollment plugin.

Distributed read response POST body:

  "queries": {
    "id1": "select * from osquery_info;",
    "id2": "select * from osquery_schedule;",
    "id3": "select * from does_not_exist;"
  "node_invalid": false // Optional, return true to indicate re-enrollment.

Distributed write request POST body:

  "node_key": "...",
  "queries": {
    "id1": [
      {"column1": "value1", "column2": "value2"},
      {"column1": "value1", "column2": "value2"}
    "id2": [
      {"column1": "value1", "column2": "value2"},
      {"column1": "value1", "column2": "value2"}
    "id3": []
  "statuses": {
    "id1": 0,
    "id2": 0,
    "id3": 2,

In version 2.1.2 the distributed write API added the top-level statuses key. These error codes correspond to SQLite error codes. Consider non-0 values to indicate query execution failures.

Distributed write response POST body:

  "node_invalid": false // Optional, return true to indicate re-enrollment.


There are several unlisted flags to further control the remote settings. These controls are helpful if using a somewhat opaque API.

--tls_secret_always=True will always send the enrollment secret. This will not perform an enrollment request with every config/logger attempt but rather "also" include the secret. If this is enabled, the secret is appended as a URI variable.

--tls_enroll_override=enroll_secret this allows one to rename the enrollment key request body or URI variable.

Remote logging buffering

In most cases the client plugins default to "3-strikes-you're-out" when attempting to GET/POST to the configured endpoints. If a configuration cannot be retrieved the client will exit non-0 but a non-responsive logger endpoint will cause logs to buffer in RocksDB. The logging buffer size can be controlled by a CLI flag, and if the size overflows the logs will drop.

The TLS client does not handle HTTP errors, if the service returns a bad request or otherwise an indicator of overflowed length, the request will fail. The default max size of values combined with the maximum number of log events to send per request are sane and should not overflow default HTTP server maximum request limits.

Server testing

We include a very basic example python TLS/HTTPS server: ./tools/tests/test_http_server.py. And a set of unit/integration tests: ./osquery/remote/transports/tests/tls_transports_tests.cpp for a reference server implementation.

The TLS clients built into osquery use the system-provided OpenSSL libraries. The clients use boost's ASIO header-libraries through the cpp-netlib HTTPS library. OpenSSL is very outdated on OS X (deprecated since OS X 10.7), so a Homebrew-provided Libressl is statically linked into the osquery tools.

On OS X, Linux, and FreeBSD the TLS client prefers the TLS 1.2 protocol, but includes TLS 1.1/1.0 as well as the following cipher suites:


Additionally, the osquery TLS clients use a osquery/X.Y.Z UserAgent, where "X.Y.Z" is the client build version.

Example projects

Heroku maintains a great project called Windmill, which implements the TLS remote settings API. It includes great documentation on compatibility, configuration, authentication, and enrollment. It is also a great place to start if you are considering writing an integration to the osquery remote settings API.

Doorman is another project that implements the TLS remote settings API. Doorman uses "tags", which can be applied to nodes, packs, and queries, in order to dynamically generate configurations for a unique set or all nodes being managed. Doorman also supports the distributed read and write API, allowing an administrator to schedule ad-hoc queries to be run immediately or in the future.

Zentral is a Framework and Django based web server, which implements the TLS remote settings API. Zentral will dynamically generate configurations in "probes", these can contain packs and single queries. Probes process events with input filters (added, removed, "tags", etc.), optionally trigger output actions, and notifications for results returned. Scope for "probes" is available for all devices, business units, and "tagged" device groups, sharding for "probes" is available for scopes. Zentral also supports the distributed read and write API to schedule ad-hoc queries.

Remote settings testing

The most basic example of a server implementing the remote settings API is the ./tools/tests/test_http_server.py example script. Let's start this server and have osqueryd exercise the API:

$ ./tools/tests/test_http_server.py -h
usage: test_http_server.py [-h] [--tls] [--persist] [--timeout TIMEOUT]
                           [--cert CERT_FILE] [--key PRIVATE_KEY_FILE]
                           [--ca CA_FILE] [--use_enroll_secret]
                           [--enroll_secret SECRET_FILE]

osquery python https server for client TLS testing.

positional arguments:
  PORT                  Bind to which local TCP port.

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  --tls                 Wrap the HTTP server socket in TLS.
  --persist             Wrap the HTTP server socket in TLS.
  --timeout TIMEOUT     If not persisting, exit after a number of seconds
  --cert CERT_FILE      TLS server cert.
                        TLS server cert private key.
  --ca CA_FILE          TLS server CA list for client-auth.
  --use_enroll_secret   Require an enrollment secret for node enrollment
  --enroll_secret SECRET_FILE
                        File containing enrollment secret
$ ./tools/tests/test_http_server.py --tls --persist --cert ./tools/tests/test_server.pem --key ./tools/tests/test_server.key --use_enroll_secret --enroll_secret ./tools/tests/test_enroll_secret.txt 8080
-- [DEBUG] Starting TLS/HTTPS server on TCP port: 8080

This starts a HTTPS server bound to port 8080 using some fake CA/server cert and an example shared enrollment key from the text file ./tools/tests/test_enroll_secret.txt. If you inspect the file, see that the enrollment secret is this_is_a_deployment_secret. The server's enroll step will expect osquery clients to submit this secret.

We will use an osqueryd client and set the required TLS settings. When enforcing TLS server authentication, note that the example server is using a toy certificate with the subject: C=US, ST=California, O=osquery-testing, CN=localhost:

$ osqueryd --verbose \
    --pidfile /tmp/osqueryd.pid \
    --database_path /tmp/osquery.db/ \
    --tls_hostname localhost:8080 \
    --tls_server_certs ./tools/tests/test_server_ca.pem \
    --config_plugin tls \
    --config_tls_endpoint /config \
    --logger_tls_endpoint /logger \
    --logger_plugin tls  \
    --enroll_tls_endpoint /enroll \
    --enroll_secret_path ./tools/tests/test_enroll_secret.txt

There is a LOT of command line switches here! The basics notes are (1) set a temporary pidfile and database for this osqueryd; (2) set the TLS hostname and port, note that no https:// is used, as well as the explicit set of certificates to expect; (3) set the plugin options for the config and logger; (4) set the plugin options for enrollment. Turning verbose mode on helps describe the expected behavior.

I1015 10:36:06.894544 2032685056 init.cpp:263] osquery initialized [version=1.5.3]
I1015 10:36:06.924180 2032685056 system.cpp:207] Writing osqueryd pid (19651) to /tmp/osqueryd.pid
I1015 10:36:06.925974 2032685056 db_handle.cpp:124] Opening RocksDB handle: /tmp/osquery.db/
I1015 10:36:06.935755 2032685056 tls.cpp:68] TLSEnrollPlugin requesting a node enroll key from: https://localhost:8080/enroll
I1015 10:36:06.936123 2032685056 tls.cpp:196] TLS/HTTPS POST request to URI: https://localhost:8080/enroll
I1015 10:36:06.947465 2032685056 tls.cpp:196] TLS/HTTPS POST request to URI: https://localhost:8080/config
I1015 10:36:10.288635 3825664 scheduler.cpp:56] Executing query: select * from processes
I1015 10:36:10.366140 3825664 scheduler.cpp:101] Found results for query (tls_proc) for host: YOURHOSTNAME.local
I1015 10:36:11.019227 528384 tls.cpp:196] TLS/HTTPS POST request to URI: https://localhost:8080/logger

And the example TLS server will show something similar: - - [15/Oct/2015 10:36:06] "POST /enroll HTTP/1.1" 200 -
-- [DEBUG] Request: {u'enroll_secret': u'this_is_a_deployment_secret', u'host_identifier': u'YOURHOSTNAME.local'}
-- [DEBUG] Replying: {u'node_key': u'this_is_a_node_secret'} - - [15/Oct/2015 10:36:06] "POST /config HTTP/1.1" 200 -
-- [DEBUG] Request: {u'node_key': u'this_is_a_node_secret'}
-- [DEBUG] Replying: {u'schedule': {u'tls_proc': {u'query': u'select * from processes', u'interval': 1}}} - - [15/Oct/2015 10:36:11] "POST /logger HTTP/1.1" 200 -
-- [DEBUG] Request: {u'node_key': u'this_is_a_node_secret', u'data': [...]}