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Exploit.Win32.Certutil.gen

Class Exploit
Platform Win32
Family Certutil
Full name HEUR:Exploit.Win32.Certutil.gen
Examples D3AA0F41D38E7891EB50703F4F56B1A5
B5A030A6647778E0036E4ED288A232F6
2777C90498254800AA15C55B220EB2FD
0964C2A9CE1EA3205F08736F46ABDCF5
883E96539696A7EEC8A203C9B8F92CAD
Updated at 2023-12-30 22:24:25
Tactics &
techniques MITRE*

TA0002 Execution

The adversary is trying to run malicious code.


Execution consists of techniques that result in adversary-controlled code running on a local or remote system. Techniques that run malicious code are often paired with techniques from all other tactics to achieve broader goals, like exploring a network or stealing data. For example, an adversary might use a remote access tool to run a PowerShell script that does Remote System Discovery.


T1203 Exploitation for Client Execution

Adversaries may exploit software vulnerabilities in client applications to execute code. Vulnerabilities can exist in software due to unsecure coding practices that can lead to unanticipated behavior. Adversaries can take advantage of certain vulnerabilities through targeted exploitation for the purpose of arbitrary code execution. Oftentimes the most valuable exploits to an offensive toolkit are those that can be used to obtain code execution on a remote system because they can be used to gain access to that system. Users will expect to see files related to the applications they commonly used to do work, so they are a useful target for exploit research and development because of their high utility.

Several types exist:

### Browser-based Exploitation

Web browsers are a common target through Drive-by Compromise and Spearphishing Link. Endpoint systems may be compromised through normal web browsing or from certain users being targeted by links in spearphishing emails to adversary controlled sites used to exploit the web browser. These often do not require an action by the user for the exploit to be executed.

### Office Applications

Common office and productivity applications such as Microsoft Office are also targeted through Phishing. Malicious files will be transmitted directly as attachments or through links to download them. These require the user to open the document or file for the exploit to run.

### Common Third-party Applications

Other applications that are commonly seen or are part of the software deployed in a target network may also be used for exploitation. Applications such as Adobe Reader and Flash, which are common in enterprise environments, have been routinely targeted by adversaries attempting to gain access to systems. Depending on the software and nature of the vulnerability, some may be exploited in the browser or require the user to open a file. For instance, some Flash exploits have been delivered as objects within Microsoft Office documents.

The adversary is trying to run malicious code.


Execution consists of techniques that result in adversary-controlled code running on a local or remote system. Techniques that run malicious code are often paired with techniques from all other tactics to achieve broader goals, like exploring a network or stealing data. For example, an adversary might use a remote access tool to run a PowerShell script that does Remote System Discovery.


T1204.002 User Execution: Malicious File

An adversary may rely upon a user opening a malicious file in order to gain execution. Users may be subjected to social engineering to get them to open a file that will lead to code execution. This user action will typically be observed as follow-on behavior from Spearphishing Attachment. Adversaries may use several types of files that require a user to execute them, including .doc, .pdf, .xls, .rtf, .scr, .exe, .lnk, .pif, and .cpl.

Adversaries may employ various forms of Masquerading and Obfuscated Files or Information to increase the likelihood that a user will open and successfully execute a malicious file. These methods may include using a familiar naming convention and/or password protecting the file and supplying instructions to a user on how to open it.(Citation: Password Protected Word Docs)

While Malicious File frequently occurs shortly after Initial Access it may occur at other phases of an intrusion, such as when an adversary places a file in a shared directory or on a user's desktop hoping that a user will click on it. This activity may also be seen shortly after Internal Spearphishing.

TA0003 Persistence

The adversary is trying to maintain their foothold.


Persistence consists of techniques that adversaries use to keep access to systems across restarts, changed credentials, and other interruptions that could cut off their access. Techniques used for persistence include any access, action, or configuration changes that let them maintain their foothold on systems, such as replacing or hijacking legitimate code or adding startup code.


T1098 Account Manipulation

Adversaries may manipulate accounts to maintain and/or elevate access to victim systems. Account manipulation may consist of any action that preserves or modifies adversary access to a compromised account, such as modifying credentials or permission groups. These actions could also include account activity designed to subvert security policies, such as performing iterative password updates to bypass password duration policies and preserve the life of compromised credentials.

In order to create or manipulate accounts, the adversary must already have sufficient permissions on systems or the domain. However, account manipulation may also lead to privilege escalation where modifications grant access to additional roles, permissions, or higher-privileged Valid Accounts.

The adversary is trying to maintain their foothold.


Persistence consists of techniques that adversaries use to keep access to systems across restarts, changed credentials, and other interruptions that could cut off their access. Techniques used for persistence include any access, action, or configuration changes that let them maintain their foothold on systems, such as replacing or hijacking legitimate code or adding startup code.


T1133 External Remote Services

Adversaries may leverage external-facing remote services to initially access and/or persist within a network. Remote services such as VPNs, Citrix, and other access mechanisms allow users to connect to internal enterprise network resources from external locations. There are often remote service gateways that manage connections and credential authentication for these services. Services such as Windows Remote Management and VNC can also be used externally.(Citation: MacOS VNC software for Remote Desktop)

Access to Valid Accounts to use the service is often a requirement, which could be obtained through credential pharming or by obtaining the credentials from users after compromising the enterprise network.(Citation: Volexity Virtual Private Keylogging) Access to remote services may be used as a redundant or persistent access mechanism during an operation.

Access may also be gained through an exposed service that doesn’t require authentication. In containerized environments, this may include an exposed Docker API, Kubernetes API server, kubelet, or web application such as the Kubernetes dashboard.(Citation: Trend Micro Exposed Docker Server)(Citation: Unit 42 Hildegard Malware)

The adversary is trying to maintain their foothold.


Persistence consists of techniques that adversaries use to keep access to systems across restarts, changed credentials, and other interruptions that could cut off their access. Techniques used for persistence include any access, action, or configuration changes that let them maintain their foothold on systems, such as replacing or hijacking legitimate code or adding startup code.


T1136.001 Create Account: Local Account

Adversaries may create a local account to maintain access to victim systems. Local accounts are those configured by an organization for use by users, remote support, services, or for administration on a single system or service.

For example, with a sufficient level of access, the Windows net user /add command can be used to create a local account. On macOS systems the dscl -create command can be used to create a local account. Local accounts may also be added to network devices, often via common Network Device CLI commands such as username, or to Kubernetes clusters using the `kubectl` utility.(Citation: cisco_username_cmd)(Citation: Kubernetes Service Accounts Security)

Such accounts may be used to establish secondary credentialed access that do not require persistent remote access tools to be deployed on the system.

The adversary is trying to maintain their foothold.


Persistence consists of techniques that adversaries use to keep access to systems across restarts, changed credentials, and other interruptions that could cut off their access. Techniques used for persistence include any access, action, or configuration changes that let them maintain their foothold on systems, such as replacing or hijacking legitimate code or adding startup code.


T1543.003 Create or Modify System Process: Windows Service

Adversaries may create or modify Windows services to repeatedly execute malicious payloads as part of persistence. When Windows boots up, it starts programs or applications called services that perform background system functions.(Citation: TechNet Services) Windows service configuration information, including the file path to the service's executable or recovery programs/commands, is stored in the Windows Registry.

Adversaries may install a new service or modify an existing service to execute at startup in order to persist on a system. Service configurations can be set or modified using system utilities (such as sc.exe), by directly modifying the Registry, or by interacting directly with the Windows API.

Adversaries may also use services to install and execute malicious drivers. For example, after dropping a driver file (ex: `.sys`) to disk, the payload can be loaded and registered via Native API functions such as `CreateServiceW()` (or manually via functions such as `ZwLoadDriver()` and `ZwSetValueKey()`), by creating the required service Registry values (i.e. Modify Registry), or by using command-line utilities such as `PnPUtil.exe`.(Citation: Symantec W.32 Stuxnet Dossier)(Citation: Crowdstrike DriveSlayer February 2022)(Citation: Unit42 AcidBox June 2020) Adversaries may leverage these drivers as Rootkits to hide the presence of malicious activity on a system. Adversaries may also load a signed yet vulnerable driver onto a compromised machine (known as "Bring Your Own Vulnerable Driver" (BYOVD)) as part of Exploitation for Privilege Escalation.(Citation: ESET InvisiMole June 2020)(Citation: Unit42 AcidBox June 2020)

Services may be created with administrator privileges but are executed under SYSTEM privileges, so an adversary may also use a service to escalate privileges. Adversaries may also directly start services through Service Execution. To make detection analysis more challenging, malicious services may also incorporate Masquerade Task or Service (ex: using a service and/or payload name related to a legitimate OS or benign software component).

TA0004 Privilege Escalation

The adversary is trying to gain higher-level permissions.


Privilege Escalation consists of techniques that adversaries use to gain higher-level permissions on a system or network. Adversaries can often enter and explore a network with unprivileged access but require elevated permissions to follow through on their objectives. Common approaches are to take advantage of system weaknesses, misconfigurations, and vulnerabilities. Examples of elevated access include:


* SYSTEM/root level

* local administrator

* user account with admin-like access

* user accounts with access to specific system or perform specific function


These techniques often overlap with Persistence techniques, as OS features that let an adversary persist can execute in an elevated context.


T1543.003 Create or Modify System Process: Windows Service

Adversaries may create or modify Windows services to repeatedly execute malicious payloads as part of persistence. When Windows boots up, it starts programs or applications called services that perform background system functions.(Citation: TechNet Services) Windows service configuration information, including the file path to the service's executable or recovery programs/commands, is stored in the Windows Registry.

Adversaries may install a new service or modify an existing service to execute at startup in order to persist on a system. Service configurations can be set or modified using system utilities (such as sc.exe), by directly modifying the Registry, or by interacting directly with the Windows API.

Adversaries may also use services to install and execute malicious drivers. For example, after dropping a driver file (ex: `.sys`) to disk, the payload can be loaded and registered via Native API functions such as `CreateServiceW()` (or manually via functions such as `ZwLoadDriver()` and `ZwSetValueKey()`), by creating the required service Registry values (i.e. Modify Registry), or by using command-line utilities such as `PnPUtil.exe`.(Citation: Symantec W.32 Stuxnet Dossier)(Citation: Crowdstrike DriveSlayer February 2022)(Citation: Unit42 AcidBox June 2020) Adversaries may leverage these drivers as Rootkits to hide the presence of malicious activity on a system. Adversaries may also load a signed yet vulnerable driver onto a compromised machine (known as "Bring Your Own Vulnerable Driver" (BYOVD)) as part of Exploitation for Privilege Escalation.(Citation: ESET InvisiMole June 2020)(Citation: Unit42 AcidBox June 2020)

Services may be created with administrator privileges but are executed under SYSTEM privileges, so an adversary may also use a service to escalate privileges. Adversaries may also directly start services through Service Execution. To make detection analysis more challenging, malicious services may also incorporate Masquerade Task or Service (ex: using a service and/or payload name related to a legitimate OS or benign software component).

TA0005 Defense Evasion

The adversary is trying to avoid being detected.


Defense Evasion consists of techniques that adversaries use to avoid detection throughout their compromise. Techniques used for defense evasion include uninstalling/disabling security software or obfuscating/encrypting data and scripts. Adversaries also leverage and abuse trusted processes to hide and masquerade their malware. Other tactics’ techniques are cross-listed here when those techniques include the added benefit of subverting defenses.


T1027 Obfuscated Files or Information

Adversaries may attempt to make an executable or file difficult to discover or analyze by encrypting, encoding, or otherwise obfuscating its contents on the system or in transit. This is common behavior that can be used across different platforms and the network to evade defenses.

Payloads may be compressed, archived, or encrypted in order to avoid detection. These payloads may be used during Initial Access or later to mitigate detection. Sometimes a user's action may be required to open and Deobfuscate/Decode Files or Information for User Execution. The user may also be required to input a password to open a password protected compressed/encrypted file that was provided by the adversary. (Citation: Volexity PowerDuke November 2016) Adversaries may also use compressed or archived scripts, such as JavaScript.

Portions of files can also be encoded to hide the plain-text strings that would otherwise help defenders with discovery. (Citation: Linux/Cdorked.A We Live Security Analysis) Payloads may also be split into separate, seemingly benign files that only reveal malicious functionality when reassembled. (Citation: Carbon Black Obfuscation Sept 2016)

Adversaries may also abuse Command Obfuscation to obscure commands executed from payloads or directly via Command and Scripting Interpreter. Environment variables, aliases, characters, and other platform/language specific semantics can be used to evade signature based detections and application control mechanisms. (Citation: FireEye Obfuscation June 2017) (Citation: FireEye Revoke-Obfuscation July 2017)(Citation: PaloAlto EncodedCommand March 2017)

The adversary is trying to avoid being detected.


Defense Evasion consists of techniques that adversaries use to avoid detection throughout their compromise. Techniques used for defense evasion include uninstalling/disabling security software or obfuscating/encrypting data and scripts. Adversaries also leverage and abuse trusted processes to hide and masquerade their malware. Other tactics’ techniques are cross-listed here when those techniques include the added benefit of subverting defenses.


T1070.004 Indicator Removal: File Deletion

Adversaries may delete files left behind by the actions of their intrusion activity. Malware, tools, or other non-native files dropped or created on a system by an adversary (ex: Ingress Tool Transfer) may leave traces to indicate to what was done within a network and how. Removal of these files can occur during an intrusion, or as part of a post-intrusion process to minimize the adversary's footprint.

There are tools available from the host operating system to perform cleanup, but adversaries may use other tools as well.(Citation: Microsoft SDelete July 2016) Examples of built-in Command and Scripting Interpreter functions include del on Windows and rm or unlink on Linux and macOS.

The adversary is trying to avoid being detected.


Defense Evasion consists of techniques that adversaries use to avoid detection throughout their compromise. Techniques used for defense evasion include uninstalling/disabling security software or obfuscating/encrypting data and scripts. Adversaries also leverage and abuse trusted processes to hide and masquerade their malware. Other tactics’ techniques are cross-listed here when those techniques include the added benefit of subverting defenses.


T1112 Modify Registry

Adversaries may interact with the Windows Registry to hide configuration information within Registry keys, remove information as part of cleaning up, or as part of other techniques to aid in persistence and execution.

Access to specific areas of the Registry depends on account permissions, some requiring administrator-level access. The built-in Windows command-line utility Reg may be used for local or remote Registry modification. (Citation: Microsoft Reg) Other tools may also be used, such as a remote access tool, which may contain functionality to interact with the Registry through the Windows API.

Registry modifications may also include actions to hide keys, such as prepending key names with a null character, which will cause an error and/or be ignored when read via Reg or other utilities using the Win32 API. (Citation: Microsoft Reghide NOV 2006) Adversaries may abuse these pseudo-hidden keys to conceal payloads/commands used to maintain persistence. (Citation: TrendMicro POWELIKS AUG 2014) (Citation: SpectorOps Hiding Reg Jul 2017)

The Registry of a remote system may be modified to aid in execution of files as part of lateral movement. It requires the remote Registry service to be running on the target system. (Citation: Microsoft Remote) Often Valid Accounts are required, along with access to the remote system's SMB/Windows Admin Shares for RPC communication.

The adversary is trying to avoid being detected.


Defense Evasion consists of techniques that adversaries use to avoid detection throughout their compromise. Techniques used for defense evasion include uninstalling/disabling security software or obfuscating/encrypting data and scripts. Adversaries also leverage and abuse trusted processes to hide and masquerade their malware. Other tactics’ techniques are cross-listed here when those techniques include the added benefit of subverting defenses.


T1140 Deobfuscate/Decode Files or Information

Adversaries may use Obfuscated Files or Information to hide artifacts of an intrusion from analysis. They may require separate mechanisms to decode or deobfuscate that information depending on how they intend to use it. Methods for doing that include built-in functionality of malware or by using utilities present on the system.

One such example is the use of certutil to decode a remote access tool portable executable file that has been hidden inside a certificate file.(Citation: Malwarebytes Targeted Attack against Saudi Arabia) Another example is using the Windows copy /b command to reassemble binary fragments into a malicious payload.(Citation: Carbon Black Obfuscation Sept 2016)

Sometimes a user's action may be required to open it for deobfuscation or decryption as part of User Execution. The user may also be required to input a password to open a password protected compressed/encrypted file that was provided by the adversary. (Citation: Volexity PowerDuke November 2016)

The adversary is trying to avoid being detected.


Defense Evasion consists of techniques that adversaries use to avoid detection throughout their compromise. Techniques used for defense evasion include uninstalling/disabling security software or obfuscating/encrypting data and scripts. Adversaries also leverage and abuse trusted processes to hide and masquerade their malware. Other tactics’ techniques are cross-listed here when those techniques include the added benefit of subverting defenses.


T1497.001 Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion: System Checks

Adversaries may employ various system checks to detect and avoid virtualization and analysis environments. This may include changing behaviors based on the results of checks for the presence of artifacts indicative of a virtual machine environment (VME) or sandbox. If the adversary detects a VME, they may alter their malware to disengage from the victim or conceal the core functions of the implant. They may also search for VME artifacts before dropping secondary or additional payloads. Adversaries may use the information learned from Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion during automated discovery to shape follow-on behaviors.(Citation: Deloitte Environment Awareness)

Specific checks will vary based on the target and/or adversary, but may involve behaviors such as Windows Management Instrumentation, PowerShell, System Information Discovery, and Query Registry to obtain system information and search for VME artifacts. Adversaries may search for VME artifacts in memory, processes, file system, hardware, and/or the Registry. Adversaries may use scripting to automate these checks into one script and then have the program exit if it determines the system to be a virtual environment.

Checks could include generic system properties such as host/domain name and samples of network traffic. Adversaries may also check the network adapters addresses, CPU core count, and available memory/drive size.

Other common checks may enumerate services running that are unique to these applications, installed programs on the system, manufacturer/product fields for strings relating to virtual machine applications, and VME-specific hardware/processor instructions.(Citation: McAfee Virtual Jan 2017) In applications like VMWare, adversaries can also use a special I/O port to send commands and receive output.

Hardware checks, such as the presence of the fan, temperature, and audio devices, could also be used to gather evidence that can be indicative a virtual environment. Adversaries may also query for specific readings from these devices.(Citation: Unit 42 OilRig Sept 2018)

The adversary is trying to avoid being detected.


Defense Evasion consists of techniques that adversaries use to avoid detection throughout their compromise. Techniques used for defense evasion include uninstalling/disabling security software or obfuscating/encrypting data and scripts. Adversaries also leverage and abuse trusted processes to hide and masquerade their malware. Other tactics’ techniques are cross-listed here when those techniques include the added benefit of subverting defenses.


T1562.004 Impair Defenses: Disable or Modify System Firewall

Adversaries may disable or modify system firewalls in order to bypass controls limiting network usage. Changes could be disabling the entire mechanism as well as adding, deleting, or modifying particular rules. This can be done numerous ways depending on the operating system, including via command-line, editing Windows Registry keys, and Windows Control Panel.

Modifying or disabling a system firewall may enable adversary C2 communications, lateral movement, and/or data exfiltration that would otherwise not be allowed. For example, adversaries may add a new firewall rule for a well-known protocol (such as RDP) using a non-traditional and potentially less securitized port (i.e. Non-Standard Port).(Citation: change_rdp_port_conti)

The adversary is trying to avoid being detected.


Defense Evasion consists of techniques that adversaries use to avoid detection throughout their compromise. Techniques used for defense evasion include uninstalling/disabling security software or obfuscating/encrypting data and scripts. Adversaries also leverage and abuse trusted processes to hide and masquerade their malware. Other tactics’ techniques are cross-listed here when those techniques include the added benefit of subverting defenses.


T1564.001 Hide Artifacts: Hidden Files and Directories

Adversaries may set files and directories to be hidden to evade detection mechanisms. To prevent normal users from accidentally changing special files on a system, most operating systems have the concept of a ‘hidden’ file. These files don’t show up when a user browses the file system with a GUI or when using normal commands on the command line. Users must explicitly ask to show the hidden files either via a series of Graphical User Interface (GUI) prompts or with command line switches (dir /a for Windows and ls –a for Linux and macOS).

On Linux and Mac, users can mark specific files as hidden simply by putting a “.” as the first character in the file or folder name (Citation: Sofacy Komplex Trojan) (Citation: Antiquated Mac Malware). Files and folders that start with a period, ‘.’, are by default hidden from being viewed in the Finder application and standard command-line utilities like “ls”. Users must specifically change settings to have these files viewable.

Files on macOS can also be marked with the UF_HIDDEN flag which prevents them from being seen in Finder.app, but still allows them to be seen in Terminal.app (Citation: WireLurker). On Windows, users can mark specific files as hidden by using the attrib.exe binary. Many applications create these hidden files and folders to store information so that it doesn’t clutter up the user’s workspace. For example, SSH utilities create a .ssh folder that’s hidden and contains the user’s known hosts and keys.

Adversaries can use this to their advantage to hide files and folders anywhere on the system and evading a typical user or system analysis that does not incorporate investigation of hidden files.

TA0007 Discovery

The adversary is trying to figure out your environment.


Discovery consists of techniques an adversary may use to gain knowledge about the system and internal network. These techniques help adversaries observe the environment and orient themselves before deciding how to act. They also allow adversaries to explore what they can control and what’s around their entry point in order to discover how it could benefit their current objective. Native operating system tools are often used toward this post-compromise information-gathering objective.


T1082 System Information Discovery

An adversary may attempt to get detailed information about the operating system and hardware, including version, patches, hotfixes, service packs, and architecture. Adversaries may use the information from System Information Discovery during automated discovery to shape follow-on behaviors, including whether or not the adversary fully infects the target and/or attempts specific actions.

Tools such as Systeminfo can be used to gather detailed system information. If running with privileged access, a breakdown of system data can be gathered through the systemsetup configuration tool on macOS. As an example, adversaries with user-level access can execute the df -aH command to obtain currently mounted disks and associated freely available space. Adversaries may also leverage a Network Device CLI on network devices to gather detailed system information (e.g. show version).(Citation: US-CERT-TA18-106A) System Information Discovery combined with information gathered from other forms of discovery and reconnaissance can drive payload development and concealment.(Citation: OSX.FairyTale)(Citation: 20 macOS Common Tools and Techniques)

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud providers such as AWS, GCP, and Azure allow access to instance and virtual machine information via APIs. Successful authenticated API calls can return data such as the operating system platform and status of a particular instance or the model view of a virtual machine.(Citation: Amazon Describe Instance)(Citation: Google Instances Resource)(Citation: Microsoft Virutal Machine API)

The adversary is trying to figure out your environment.


Discovery consists of techniques an adversary may use to gain knowledge about the system and internal network. These techniques help adversaries observe the environment and orient themselves before deciding how to act. They also allow adversaries to explore what they can control and what’s around their entry point in order to discover how it could benefit their current objective. Native operating system tools are often used toward this post-compromise information-gathering objective.


T1497.001 Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion: System Checks

Adversaries may employ various system checks to detect and avoid virtualization and analysis environments. This may include changing behaviors based on the results of checks for the presence of artifacts indicative of a virtual machine environment (VME) or sandbox. If the adversary detects a VME, they may alter their malware to disengage from the victim or conceal the core functions of the implant. They may also search for VME artifacts before dropping secondary or additional payloads. Adversaries may use the information learned from Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion during automated discovery to shape follow-on behaviors.(Citation: Deloitte Environment Awareness)

Specific checks will vary based on the target and/or adversary, but may involve behaviors such as Windows Management Instrumentation, PowerShell, System Information Discovery, and Query Registry to obtain system information and search for VME artifacts. Adversaries may search for VME artifacts in memory, processes, file system, hardware, and/or the Registry. Adversaries may use scripting to automate these checks into one script and then have the program exit if it determines the system to be a virtual environment.

Checks could include generic system properties such as host/domain name and samples of network traffic. Adversaries may also check the network adapters addresses, CPU core count, and available memory/drive size.

Other common checks may enumerate services running that are unique to these applications, installed programs on the system, manufacturer/product fields for strings relating to virtual machine applications, and VME-specific hardware/processor instructions.(Citation: McAfee Virtual Jan 2017) In applications like VMWare, adversaries can also use a special I/O port to send commands and receive output.

Hardware checks, such as the presence of the fan, temperature, and audio devices, could also be used to gather evidence that can be indicative a virtual environment. Adversaries may also query for specific readings from these devices.(Citation: Unit 42 OilRig Sept 2018)

The adversary is trying to figure out your environment.


Discovery consists of techniques an adversary may use to gain knowledge about the system and internal network. These techniques help adversaries observe the environment and orient themselves before deciding how to act. They also allow adversaries to explore what they can control and what’s around their entry point in order to discover how it could benefit their current objective. Native operating system tools are often used toward this post-compromise information-gathering objective.


T1518 Software Discovery

Adversaries may attempt to get a listing of software and software versions that are installed on a system or in a cloud environment. Adversaries may use the information from Software Discovery during automated discovery to shape follow-on behaviors, including whether or not the adversary fully infects the target and/or attempts specific actions.

Adversaries may attempt to enumerate software for a variety of reasons, such as figuring out what security measures are present or if the compromised system has a version of software that is vulnerable to Exploitation for Privilege Escalation.

The adversary is trying to figure out your environment.


Discovery consists of techniques an adversary may use to gain knowledge about the system and internal network. These techniques help adversaries observe the environment and orient themselves before deciding how to act. They also allow adversaries to explore what they can control and what’s around their entry point in order to discover how it could benefit their current objective. Native operating system tools are often used toward this post-compromise information-gathering objective.


T1518.001 Software Discovery: Security Software Discovery

Adversaries may attempt to get a listing of security software, configurations, defensive tools, and sensors that are installed on a system or in a cloud environment. This may include things such as firewall rules and anti-virus. Adversaries may use the information from Security Software Discovery during automated discovery to shape follow-on behaviors, including whether or not the adversary fully infects the target and/or attempts specific actions.

Example commands that can be used to obtain security software information are netsh, reg query with Reg, dir with cmd, and Tasklist, but other indicators of discovery behavior may be more specific to the type of software or security system the adversary is looking for. It is becoming more common to see macOS malware perform checks for LittleSnitch and KnockKnock software.

Adversaries may also utilize cloud APIs to discover the configurations of firewall rules within an environment.(Citation: Expel IO Evil in AWS) For example, the permitted IP ranges, ports or user accounts for the inbound/outbound rules of security groups, virtual firewalls established within AWS for EC2 and/or VPC instances, can be revealed by the DescribeSecurityGroups action with various request parameters. (Citation: DescribeSecurityGroups - Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud)

TA0008 Lateral Movement

The adversary is trying to move through your environment.


Lateral Movement consists of techniques that adversaries use to enter and control remote systems on a network. Following through on their primary objective often requires exploring the network to find their target and subsequently gaining access to it. Reaching their objective often involves pivoting through multiple systems and accounts to gain. Adversaries might install their own remote access tools to accomplish Lateral Movement or use legitimate credentials with native network and operating system tools, which may be stealthier.


T1021.001 Remote Services: Remote Desktop Protocol

Adversaries may use Valid Accounts to log into a computer using the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). The adversary may then perform actions as the logged-on user.

Remote desktop is a common feature in operating systems. It allows a user to log into an interactive session with a system desktop graphical user interface on a remote system. Microsoft refers to its implementation of the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) as Remote Desktop Services (RDS).(Citation: TechNet Remote Desktop Services)

Adversaries may connect to a remote system over RDP/RDS to expand access if the service is enabled and allows access to accounts with known credentials. Adversaries will likely use Credential Access techniques to acquire credentials to use with RDP. Adversaries may also use RDP in conjunction with the Accessibility Features or Terminal Services DLL for Persistence.(Citation: Alperovitch Malware)

TA0011 Command and Control

The adversary is trying to communicate with compromised systems to control them.


Command and Control consists of techniques that adversaries may use to communicate with systems under their control within a victim network. Adversaries commonly attempt to mimic normal, expected traffic to avoid detection. There are many ways an adversary can establish command and control with various levels of stealth depending on the victim’s network structure and defenses.


T1071 Application Layer Protocol

Adversaries may communicate using OSI application layer protocols to avoid detection/network filtering by blending in with existing traffic. Commands to the remote system, and often the results of those commands, will be embedded within the protocol traffic between the client and server.

Adversaries may utilize many different protocols, including those used for web browsing, transferring files, electronic mail, or DNS. For connections that occur internally within an enclave (such as those between a proxy or pivot node and other nodes), commonly used protocols are SMB, SSH, or RDP.

The adversary is trying to communicate with compromised systems to control them.


Command and Control consists of techniques that adversaries may use to communicate with systems under their control within a victim network. Adversaries commonly attempt to mimic normal, expected traffic to avoid detection. There are many ways an adversary can establish command and control with various levels of stealth depending on the victim’s network structure and defenses.


T1071.001 Application Layer Protocol: Web Protocols

Adversaries may communicate using application layer protocols associated with web traffic to avoid detection/network filtering by blending in with existing traffic. Commands to the remote system, and often the results of those commands, will be embedded within the protocol traffic between the client and server.

Protocols such as HTTP/S(Citation: CrowdStrike Putter Panda) and WebSocket(Citation: Brazking-Websockets) that carry web traffic may be very common in environments. HTTP/S packets have many fields and headers in which data can be concealed. An adversary may abuse these protocols to communicate with systems under their control within a victim network while also mimicking normal, expected traffic.

The adversary is trying to communicate with compromised systems to control them.


Command and Control consists of techniques that adversaries may use to communicate with systems under their control within a victim network. Adversaries commonly attempt to mimic normal, expected traffic to avoid detection. There are many ways an adversary can establish command and control with various levels of stealth depending on the victim’s network structure and defenses.


T1105 Ingress Tool Transfer

Adversaries may transfer tools or other files from an external system into a compromised environment. Tools or files may be copied from an external adversary-controlled system to the victim network through the command and control channel or through alternate protocols such as ftp. Once present, adversaries may also transfer/spread tools between victim devices within a compromised environment (i.e. Lateral Tool Transfer).

On Windows, adversaries may use various utilities to download tools, such as `copy`, `finger`, certutil, and PowerShell commands such as IEX(New-Object Net.WebClient).downloadString() and Invoke-WebRequest. On Linux and macOS systems, a variety of utilities also exist, such as `curl`, `scp`, `sftp`, `tftp`, `rsync`, `finger`, and `wget`.(Citation: t1105_lolbas)

Adversaries may also abuse installers and package managers, such as `yum` or `winget`, to download tools to victim hosts.

Files can also be transferred using various Web Services as well as native or otherwise present tools on the victim system.(Citation: PTSecurity Cobalt Dec 2016) In some cases, adversaries may be able to leverage services that sync between a web-based and an on-premises client, such as Dropbox or OneDrive, to transfer files onto victim systems. For example, by compromising a cloud account and logging into the service's web portal, an adversary may be able to trigger an automatic syncing process that transfers the file onto the victim's machine.(Citation: Dropbox Malware Sync)
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