Automate threat response with playbooks in Microsoft Sentinel

This article explains what Microsoft Sentinel playbooks are, and how to use them to implement your Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) operations, achieving better results while saving time and resources.


Microsoft Sentinel is available as part of the public preview for the unified security operations platform in the Microsoft Defender portal. For more information, see Microsoft Sentinel in the Microsoft Defender portal.

What is a playbook?

SOC analysts are typically inundated with security alerts and incidents on a regular basis, at volumes so large that available personnel are overwhelmed. This results all too often in situations where many alerts are ignored and many incidents aren't investigated, leaving the organization vulnerable to attacks that go unnoticed.

Many, if not most, of these alerts and incidents conform to recurring patterns that can be addressed by specific and defined sets of remediation actions. Analysts are also tasked with basic remediation and investigation of the incidents they do manage to address. To the extent that these activities can be automated, a SOC can be that much more productive and efficient, allowing analysts to devote more time and energy to investigative activity.

A playbook is a collection of these remediation actions that you run from Microsoft Sentinel as a routine, to help automate and orchestrate your threat response. It can be run in two ways:

  • Manually on-demand, on a particular entity or alert
  • Automatically in response to specific alerts or incidents, when triggered by an automation rule.

For example, if an account and machine are compromised, a playbook can isolate the machine from the network and block the account by the time the SOC team is notified of the incident.

While the Active playbooks tab on the Automation page displays all the active playbooks available across any selected subscriptions, by default a playbook can be used only within the subscription to which it belongs, unless you specifically grant Microsoft Sentinel permissions to the playbook's resource group.

After onboarding to the unified security operations platform, the Active playbooks tab shows a pre-defined filter with onboarded workspace's subscription. In the Azure portal, add data for other subscriptions using the Azure subscription filter.

Playbook templates

A playbook template is a prebuilt, tested, and ready-to-use workflow that can be customized to meet your needs. Templates can also serve as a reference for best practices when developing playbooks from scratch, or as inspiration for new automation scenarios.

Playbook templates aren't usable as playbooks themselves. You create a playbook (an editable copy of the template) from them.

You can get playbook templates from the following sources:

  • On the Automation page, the Playbook templates tab lists the playbook templates installed. Multiple active playbooks can be created from the same template.

    When a new version of the template is published, the active playbooks created from that template show up in the Active playbooks tab displaying a label indicating that an update is available.

  • Playbook templates are available as part of product solutions or standalone content that you install from the Content hub page in Microsoft Sentinel. For more information, see Microsoft Sentinel content and solutions and Discover and manage Microsoft Sentinel out-of-the-box content.

  • The Microsoft Sentinel GitHub repository contains many playbook templates. They can be deployed to an Azure subscription by selecting the Deploy to Azure button.

Technically, a playbook template is an ARM template which consists of several resources: an Azure Logic Apps workflow and API connections for each connection involved.


Playbook templates are currently in PREVIEW. See the Supplemental Terms of Use for Microsoft Azure Previews for additional legal terms that apply to Azure features that are in beta, preview, or otherwise not yet released into general availability.

Azure Logic Apps basic concepts

Playbooks in Microsoft Sentinel are based on workflows built in Azure Logic Apps, a cloud service that helps you schedule, automate, and orchestrate tasks and workflows across systems throughout the enterprise. This means that playbooks can take advantage of all the power and capabilities of the built-in templates in Azure Logic Apps.


Azure Logic Apps creates separate resources, so additional charges might apply. For more information, visit the Azure Logic Apps pricing page.

Azure Logic Apps communicates with other systems and services using connectors. The following is a brief explanation of connectors and some of their important attributes:

  • Managed connector: A set of actions and triggers that wrap around API calls to a particular product or service. Azure Logic Apps offers hundreds of connectors to communicate with both Microsoft and non-Microsoft services. For more information, see Azure Logic Apps connectors and their documentation

  • Custom connector: You might want to communicate with services that aren't available as prebuilt connectors. Custom connectors address this need by allowing you to create (and even share) a connector and define its own triggers and actions. For more information, see Create your own custom Azure Logic Apps connectors.

  • Microsoft Sentinel connector: To create playbooks that interact with Microsoft Sentinel, use the Microsoft Sentinel connector. For more information, see the Microsoft Sentinel connector documentation.

  • Trigger: A connector component that starts a workflow, in this case, a playbook. The Microsoft Sentinel trigger defines the schema that the playbook expects to receive when triggered. The Microsoft Sentinel connector currently has three triggers:

  • Actions: Actions are all the steps that happen after the trigger. They can be arranged sequentially, in parallel, or in a matrix of complex conditions.

  • Dynamic fields: Temporary fields, determined by the output schema of triggers and actions and populated by their actual output, that can be used in the actions that follow.

Logic app types

Microsoft Sentinel now supports the following logic app resource types:

  • Consumption, which runs in multitenant Azure Logic Apps and uses the classic, original Azure Logic Apps engine.
  • Standard, which runs in single-tenant Azure Logic Apps and uses a redesigned Azure Logic Apps engine.

The Standard logic app type offers higher performance, fixed pricing, multiple workflow capability, easier API connections management, native network capabilities such as support for virtual networks and private endpoints (see note below), built-in CI/CD features, better Visual Studio Code integration, an updated workflow designer, and more.

To use this logic app version, create new Standard playbooks in Microsoft Sentinel (see note below). You can use these playbooks in the same ways that you use Consumption playbooks:

  • Attach them to automation rules and/or analytics rules.
  • Run them on demand, from both incidents and alerts.
  • Manage them in the Active Playbooks tab.


  • Standard workflows currently don't support Playbook templates, which means you can't create a Standard workflow-based playbook directly in Microsoft Sentinel. Instead, you must create the workflow in Azure Logic Apps. After you've created the workflow, it appears as a playbook in Microsoft Sentinel.

  • Logic apps' Standard workflows support private endpoints as mentioned above, but Microsoft Sentinel requires defining an access restriction policy in Logic apps in order to support the use of private endpoints in playbooks based on Standard workflows.

    If an access restriction policy is not defined, then workflows with private endpoints might still be visible and selectable when you're choosing a playbook from a list in Microsoft Sentinel (whether to run manually, to add to an automation rule, or in the playbooks gallery), and you'll be able to select them, but their execution will fail.

  • An indicator identifies Standard workflows as either stateful or stateless. Microsoft Sentinel doesn't support stateless workflows at this time. Learn about the differences between stateful and stateless workflows.

There are many differences between these two resource types, some of which affect some of the ways they can be used in playbooks in Microsoft Sentinel. In such cases, the documentation will point out what you need to know. For more information, see Resource type and host environment differences in the Azure Logic Apps documentation.

Permissions required

To give your SecOps team the ability to use Azure Logic Apps to create and run playbooks in Microsoft Sentinel, assign Azure roles to your security operations team or to specific users on the team. The following describes the different available roles, and the tasks for which they should be assigned:

Azure roles for Azure Logic Apps

  • Logic App Contributor lets you manage logic apps and run playbooks, but you can't change access to them (for that you need the Owner role).
  • Logic App Operator lets you read, enable, and disable logic apps, but you can't edit or update them.

Azure roles for Microsoft Sentinel

  • Microsoft Sentinel Contributor role lets you attach a playbook to an analytics or automation rule.

  • Microsoft Sentinel Responder role lets you access an incident in order to run a playbook manually. But to actually run the playbook, you also need...

    • Microsoft Sentinel Playbook Operator role lets you run a playbook manually.
    • Microsoft Sentinel Automation Contributor allows automation rules to run playbooks. It is not used for any other purpose.

Learn more

Steps for creating a playbook

Use cases for playbooks

The Azure Logic Apps platform offers hundreds of actions and triggers, so almost any automation scenario can be created. Microsoft Sentinel recommends starting with the following SOC scenarios, for which ready-made playbook templates are available out of the box:


Collect data and attach it to the incident in order to make smarter decisions.

For example:

A Microsoft Sentinel incident was created from an alert by an analytics rule that generates IP address entities.

The incident triggers an automation rule which runs a playbook with the following steps:

  • Start when a new Microsoft Sentinel incident is created. The entities represented in the incident are stored in the incident trigger's dynamic fields.

  • For each IP address, query an external Threat Intelligence provider, such as Virus Total, to retrieve more data.

  • Add the returned data and insights as comments of the incident.

Bi-directional sync

Playbooks can be used to sync your Microsoft Sentinel incidents with other ticketing systems.

For example:

Create an automation rule for all incident creation, and attach a playbook that opens a ticket in ServiceNow:


Use the SOC chat platform to better control the incidents queue.

For example:

A Microsoft Sentinel incident was created from an alert by an analytics rule that generates username and IP address entities.

The incident triggers an automation rule which runs a playbook with the following steps:

  • Start when a new Microsoft Sentinel incident is created.

  • Send a message to your security operations channel in Microsoft Teams or Slack to make sure your security analysts are aware of the incident.

  • Send all the information in the alert by email to your senior network admin and security admin. The email message will include Block and Ignore user option buttons.

  • Wait until a response is received from the admins, then continue to run.

  • If the admins have chosen Block, send a command to the firewall to block the IP address in the alert, and another to Microsoft Entra ID to disable the user.


Immediately respond to threats, with minimal human dependencies.

Two examples:

Example 1: Respond to an analytics rule that indicates a compromised user, as discovered by Microsoft Entra ID Protection:

  • Start when a new Microsoft Sentinel incident is created.

  • For each user entity in the incident suspected as compromised:

    • Send a Teams message to the user, requesting confirmation that the user took the suspicious action.

    • Check with Microsoft Entra ID Protection to confirm the user's status as compromised. Microsoft Entra ID Protection will label the user as risky, and apply any enforcement policy already configured - for example, to require the user to use MFA when next signing in.


      This particular Microsoft Entra action does not initiate any enforcement activity on the user, nor does it initiate any configuration of enforcement policy. It only tells Microsoft Entra ID Protection to apply any already defined policies as appropriate. Any enforcement depends entirely on the appropriate policies being defined in Microsoft Entra ID Protection.

Example 2: Respond to an analytics rule that indicates a compromised machine, as discovered by Microsoft Defender for Endpoint:

Manual response during investigation or while hunting

Respond to threats in the course of active investigative activity without pivoting out of context.

Thanks to the new entity trigger (now in Preview), you can take immediate action on individual threat actors you discover during an investigation, one at a time, right from within the investigation. This option is also available in the threat hunting context, unconnected to any particular incident. You can select an entity in context and perform actions on it right there, saving time and reducing complexity.

The actions you can take on entities using this playbook type include:

  • Blocking a compromised user.
  • Blocking traffic from a malicious IP address in your firewall.
  • Isolating a compromised host on your network.
  • Adding an IP address to a safe/unsafe address watchlist, or to your external CMDB.
  • Getting a file hash report from an external threat intelligence source and adding it to an incident as a comment.

How to run a playbook

Playbooks can be run either manually or automatically.

They are designed to be run automatically, and ideally that is how they should be run in the normal course of operations. You run a playbook automatically by defining it as an automated response in an analytics rule (for alerts), or as an action in an automation rule (for incidents).

There are circumstances, though, that call for running playbooks manually. For example:

  • When creating a new playbook, you'll want to test it before putting it in production.

  • There might be situations where you'll want to have more control and human input into when and whether a certain playbook runs.

    You run a playbook manually by opening an incident, alert, or entity and selecting and running the associated playbook displayed there. Currently this feature is generally available for alerts, and in preview for incidents and entities.

Set an automated response

Security operations teams can significantly reduce their workload by fully automating the routine responses to recurring types of incidents and alerts, allowing you to concentrate more on unique incidents and alerts, analyzing patterns, threat hunting, and more.

Setting automated response means that every time an analytics rule is triggered, in addition to creating an alert, the rule will run a playbook, which will receive as an input the alert created by the rule.

If the alert creates an incident, the incident will trigger an automation rule which might in turn run a playbook, which will receive as an input the incident created by the alert.

Alert creation automated response

For playbooks that are triggered by alert creation and receive alerts as their inputs (their first step is “Microsoft Sentinel alert"), attach the playbook to an analytics rule:

  1. Edit the analytics rule that generates the alert you want to define an automated response for.

  2. Under Alert automation in the Automated response tab, select the playbook or playbooks that this analytics rule will trigger when an alert is created.

Incident creation automated response

For playbooks that are triggered by incident creation and receive incidents as their inputs (their first step is “Microsoft Sentinel incident"), create an automation rule and define a Run playbook action in it. This can be done in 2 ways:

  • Edit the analytics rule that generates the incident you want to define an automated response for. Under Incident automation in the Automated response tab, create an automation rule. This will create an automated response only for this analytics rule.

  • From the Automation rules tab in the Automation page, create a new automation rule and specify the appropriate conditions and desired actions. This automation rule will be applied to any analytics rule that fulfills the specified conditions.


    Microsoft Sentinel requires permissions to run incident-trigger playbooks.

    To run a playbook based on the incident trigger, whether manually or from an automation rule, Microsoft Sentinel uses a service account specifically authorized to do so. The use of this account (as opposed to your user account) increases the security level of the service and enables the automation rules API to support CI/CD use cases.

    This account must be granted explicit permissions (taking the form of the Microsoft Sentinel Automation Contributor role) on the resource group where the playbook resides. At that point, you will be able to run any playbook in that resource group, either manually or from any automation rule.

    When you add the run playbook action to an automation rule, a drop-down list of playbooks will appear for your selection. Playbooks to which Microsoft Sentinel does not have permissions will show as unavailable ("grayed out"). You can grant permission to Microsoft Sentinel on the spot by selecting the Manage playbook permissions link.

    In a multi-tenant (Lighthouse) scenario, you must define the permissions on the tenant where the playbook lives, even if the automation rule calling the playbook is in a different tenant. To do that, you must have Owner permissions on the playbook's resource group.

    There's a unique scenario facing a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP), where a service provider, while signed into its own tenant, creates an automation rule on a customer's workspace using Azure Lighthouse. This automation rule then calls a playbook belonging to the customer's tenant. In this case, Microsoft Sentinel must be granted permissions on both tenants. In the customer tenant, you grant them in the Manage playbook permissions panel, just like in the regular multi-tenant scenario. To grant the relevant permissions in the service provider tenant, you need to add an additional Azure Lighthouse delegation that grants access rights to the Azure Security Insights app, with the Microsoft Sentinel Automation Contributor role, on the resource group where the playbook resides. Learn how to add this delegation.

See the complete instructions for creating automation rules.

Run a playbook manually

Full automation is the best solution for as many incident-handling, investigation, and mitigation tasks as you're comfortable automating. Having said that, there can be good reasons for a sort of hybrid automation: using playbooks to consolidate a string of activities against a range of systems into a single command, but running the playbooks only when and where you decide. For example:

  • You might prefer your SOC analysts have more human input and control over some situations.

  • You might also want them to be able to take action against specific threat actors (entities) on-demand, in the course of an investigation or a threat hunt, in context without having to pivot to another screen. (This ability is now in Preview.)

  • You might want your SOC engineers to write playbooks that act on specific entities (now in Preview) and that can only be run manually.

  • You would probably like your engineers to be able to test the playbooks they write before fully deploying them in automation rules.

For these and other reasons, Microsoft Sentinel allows you to run playbooks manually on-demand for entities and incidents (both now in Preview), as well as for alerts.

  • To run a playbook on a specific incident, select the incident from the grid in the Incidents page. In the Azure portal, select Actions from the incident details pane, and choose Run playbook (Preview) from the context menu. In the Defender portal, select Run playbook (Preview) directly from the incident details page.

    This opens the Run playbook on incident panel.

  • To run a playbook on an alert, select an incident, enter the incident details, and from the Alerts tab, choose an alert and select View playbooks.

    This opens the Alert playbooks panel.

  • To run a playbook on an entity, select an entity in any of the following ways:

    • From the Entities tab of an incident, choose an entity from the list and select the Run playbook (Preview) link at the end of its line in the list.
    • From the Investigation graph, select an entity and select the Run playbook (Preview) button in the entity side panel.
    • From Entity behavior, select an entity and from the entity page, select the Run playbook (Preview) button in the left-hand panel.

    These will all open the Run playbook on <entity type> panel.

In any of these panels, you'll see two tabs: Playbooks and Runs.

  • In the Playbooks tab, you'll see a list of all the playbooks that you have access to and that use the appropriate trigger - whether Microsoft Sentinel Incident, Microsoft Sentinel Alert, or Microsoft Sentinel Entity. Each playbook in the list has a Run button which you select to run the playbook immediately.
    If you want to run an incident-trigger playbook that you don't see in the list, see the note about Microsoft Sentinel permissions above.

  • In the Runs tab, you'll see a list of all the times any playbook has been run on the incident or alert you selected. It might take a few seconds for any just-completed run to appear in this list. Selecting a specific run will open the full run log in Azure Logic Apps.

Manage your playbooks

In the Active playbooks tab, there appears a list of all the playbooks which you have access to, filtered by the subscriptions which are currently displayed in Azure. The subscriptions filter is available from the Directory + subscription menu in the global page header.

Clicking on a playbook name directs you to the playbook's main page in Azure Logic Apps. The Status column indicates if it is enabled or disabled.

The Plan column indicates whether the playbook uses the Standard or Consumption resource type in Azure Logic Apps. You can filter the list by plan type to see only one type of playbook. You'll notice that playbooks of the Standard type use the LogicApp/Workflow naming convention. This convention reflects the fact that a Standard playbook represents a workflow that exists alongside other workflows in a single Logic App.

Trigger kind represents the Azure Logic Apps trigger that starts this playbook.

Trigger kind Indicates component types in playbook
Microsoft Sentinel Incident/Alert/Entity The playbook is started with one of the Sentinel triggers (incident, alert, entity)
Using Microsoft Sentinel Action The playbook is started with a non-Sentinel trigger but uses a Microsoft Sentinel action
Other The playbook does not include any Sentinel components
Not initialized The playbook has been created, but contains no components (triggers or actions).

In the playbook's Azure Logic Apps page, you can see more information about the playbook, including a log of all the times it has run, and the result (success or failure, and other details). You can also open the workflow designer in Azure Logic Apps, and edit the playbook directly, if you have the appropriate permissions.

API connections

API connections are used to connect Azure Logic Apps to other services. Every time a new authentication is made for a connector in Azure Logic Apps, a new resource of type API connection is created, and contains the information provided when configuring access to the service.

To see all the API connections, enter API connections in the header search box of the Azure portal. Note the columns of interest:

  • Display name - the "friendly" name you give to the connection every time you create one.
  • Status - indicates the connection status: error, connected.
  • Resource group - API connections are created in the resource group of the playbook (Azure Logic Apps) resource.

Another way to view API connections would be to go to the All Resources page and filter it by type API connection. This way allows the selection, tagging, and deletion of multiple connections at once.

In order to change the authorization of an existing connection, enter the connection resource, and select Edit API connection.

The following recommended playbooks, and other similar playbooks are available to you in the Content hub, or in the Microsoft Sentinel GitHub repository:

Next steps