Update Date
12/30/2023

Class: HackTool

HackTool programs are used to create new users in the list of permitted system visitors, and to delete information from system logs in order to hide the malicious user’s presence on the system. These programs are also used to analyze and collect network packets to carry out specific malicious actions. Malicious users employ HackTool programs when setting up attacks on local or remote computers.

Read more

Platform: Win32

Win32 is an API on Windows NT-based operating systems (Windows XP, Windows 7, etc.) that supports execution of 32-bit applications. One of the most widespread programming platforms in the world.

Family: Club

No family description

Examples

5902E668E371BFCB2B9CC7FA6095FE3E
FB01D07368B7051851E667880C7E377B
00285816389ACBBE83DFE327CD01438C
71C80D77C6F3F8233CAF8FCDC9F053DD
463B94555F4423BED1BC1512D78924AA

Tactics and Techniques: Mitre*

TA0003
Persistence

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).


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).


T1547.001
Boot or Logon Autostart Execution: Registry Run Keys / Startup Folder

Adversaries may achieve persistence by adding a program to a startup folder or referencing it with a Registry run key. Adding an entry to the “run keys” in the Registry or startup folder will cause the program referenced to be executed when a user logs in.(Citation: Microsoft Run Key) These programs will be executed under the context of the user and will have the account’s associated permissions level.


The following run keys are created by default on Windows systems:


* HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRun

* HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunOnce

* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRun

* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunOnce


Run keys may exist under multiple hives.(Citation: Microsoft Wow6432Node 2018)(Citation: Malwarebytes Wow6432Node 2016) The HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunOnceEx is also available but is not created by default on Windows Vista and newer. Registry run key entries can reference programs directly or list them as a dependency.(Citation: Microsoft Run Key) For example, it is possible to load a DLL at logon using a “Depend” key with RunOnceEx: reg add HKLMSOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunOnceEx001Depend /v 1 /d "C:tempevil[.]dll" (Citation: Oddvar Moe RunOnceEx Mar 2018)


Placing a program within a startup folder will also cause that program to execute when a user logs in. There is a startup folder location for individual user accounts as well as a system-wide startup folder that will be checked regardless of which user account logs in. The startup folder path for the current user is C:Users\[Username]AppDataRoamingMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuProgramsStartup. The startup folder path for all users is C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuProgramsStartUp.


The following Registry keys can be used to set startup folder items for persistence:


* HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerUser Shell Folders

* HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerShell Folders

* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerShell Folders

* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerUser Shell Folders


The following Registry keys can control automatic startup of services during boot:


* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunServicesOnce

* HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunServicesOnce

* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunServices

* HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunServices


Using policy settings to specify startup programs creates corresponding values in either of two Registry keys:


* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesExplorerRun

* HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesExplorerRun


Programs listed in the load value of the registry key HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionWindows run automatically for the currently logged-on user.


By default, the multistring BootExecute value of the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESystemCurrentControlSetControlSession Manager is set to autocheck autochk *. This value causes Windows, at startup, to check the file-system integrity of the hard disks if the system has been shut down abnormally. Adversaries can add other programs or processes to this registry value which will automatically launch at boot.


Adversaries can use these configuration locations to execute malware, such as remote access tools, to maintain persistence through system reboots. Adversaries may also use Masquerading to make the Registry entries look as if they are associated with legitimate programs.


T1547.004
Boot or Logon Autostart Execution: Winlogon Helper DLL

Adversaries may abuse features of Winlogon to execute DLLs and/or executables when a user logs in. Winlogon.exe is a Windows component responsible for actions at logon/logoff as well as the secure attention sequence (SAS) triggered by Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Registry entries in HKLMSoftware[\Wow6432Node\]MicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionWinlogon and HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionWinlogon are used to manage additional helper programs and functionalities that support Winlogon.(Citation: Cylance Reg Persistence Sept 2013)


Malicious modifications to these Registry keys may cause Winlogon to load and execute malicious DLLs and/or executables. Specifically, the following subkeys have been known to be possibly vulnerable to abuse: (Citation: Cylance Reg Persistence Sept 2013)


* WinlogonNotify – points to notification package DLLs that handle Winlogon events

* WinlogonUserinit – points to userinit.exe, the user initialization program executed when a user logs on

* WinlogonShell – points to explorer.exe, the system shell executed when a user logs on


Adversaries may take advantage of these features to repeatedly execute malicious code and establish persistence.


TA0004
Privilege Escalation

Adversaries may modify access tokens to operate under a different user or system security context to perform actions and bypass access controls. Windows uses access tokens to determine the ownership of a running process. A user can manipulate access tokens to make a running process appear as though it is the child of a different process or belongs to someone other than the user that started the process. When this occurs, the process also takes on the security context associated with the new token.


An adversary can use built-in Windows API functions to copy access tokens from existing processes; this is known as token stealing. These token can then be applied to an existing process (i.e. Token Impersonation/Theft) or used to spawn a new process (i.e. Create Process with Token). An adversary must already be in a privileged user context (i.e. administrator) to steal a token. However, adversaries commonly use token stealing to elevate their security context from the administrator level to the SYSTEM level. An adversary can then use a token to authenticate to a remote system as the account for that token if the account has appropriate permissions on the remote system.(Citation: Pentestlab Token Manipulation)


Any standard user can use the runas command, and the Windows API functions, to create impersonation tokens; it does not require access to an administrator account. There are also other mechanisms, such as Active Directory fields, that can be used to modify access tokens.


T1134
Access Token Manipulation

Adversaries may modify access tokens to operate under a different user or system security context to perform actions and bypass access controls. Windows uses access tokens to determine the ownership of a running process. A user can manipulate access tokens to make a running process appear as though it is the child of a different process or belongs to someone other than the user that started the process. When this occurs, the process also takes on the security context associated with the new token.


An adversary can use built-in Windows API functions to copy access tokens from existing processes; this is known as token stealing. These token can then be applied to an existing process (i.e. Token Impersonation/Theft) or used to spawn a new process (i.e. Create Process with Token). An adversary must already be in a privileged user context (i.e. administrator) to steal a token. However, adversaries commonly use token stealing to elevate their security context from the administrator level to the SYSTEM level. An adversary can then use a token to authenticate to a remote system as the account for that token if the account has appropriate permissions on the remote system.(Citation: Pentestlab Token Manipulation)


Any standard user can use the runas command, and the Windows API functions, to create impersonation tokens; it does not require access to an administrator account. There are also other mechanisms, such as Active Directory fields, that can be used to modify access tokens.


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).


T1547.001
Boot or Logon Autostart Execution: Registry Run Keys / Startup Folder

Adversaries may achieve persistence by adding a program to a startup folder or referencing it with a Registry run key. Adding an entry to the “run keys” in the Registry or startup folder will cause the program referenced to be executed when a user logs in.(Citation: Microsoft Run Key) These programs will be executed under the context of the user and will have the account’s associated permissions level.


The following run keys are created by default on Windows systems:


* HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRun

* HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunOnce

* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRun

* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunOnce


Run keys may exist under multiple hives.(Citation: Microsoft Wow6432Node 2018)(Citation: Malwarebytes Wow6432Node 2016) The HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunOnceEx is also available but is not created by default on Windows Vista and newer. Registry run key entries can reference programs directly or list them as a dependency.(Citation: Microsoft Run Key) For example, it is possible to load a DLL at logon using a “Depend” key with RunOnceEx: reg add HKLMSOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunOnceEx001Depend /v 1 /d "C:tempevil[.]dll" (Citation: Oddvar Moe RunOnceEx Mar 2018)


Placing a program within a startup folder will also cause that program to execute when a user logs in. There is a startup folder location for individual user accounts as well as a system-wide startup folder that will be checked regardless of which user account logs in. The startup folder path for the current user is C:Users\[Username]AppDataRoamingMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuProgramsStartup. The startup folder path for all users is C:ProgramDataMicrosoftWindowsStart MenuProgramsStartUp.


The following Registry keys can be used to set startup folder items for persistence:


* HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerUser Shell Folders

* HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerShell Folders

* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerShell Folders

* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionExplorerUser Shell Folders


The following Registry keys can control automatic startup of services during boot:


* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunServicesOnce

* HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunServicesOnce

* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunServices

* HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRunServices


Using policy settings to specify startup programs creates corresponding values in either of two Registry keys:


* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesExplorerRun

* HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionPoliciesExplorerRun


Programs listed in the load value of the registry key HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionWindows run automatically for the currently logged-on user.


By default, the multistring BootExecute value of the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESystemCurrentControlSetControlSession Manager is set to autocheck autochk *. This value causes Windows, at startup, to check the file-system integrity of the hard disks if the system has been shut down abnormally. Adversaries can add other programs or processes to this registry value which will automatically launch at boot.


Adversaries can use these configuration locations to execute malware, such as remote access tools, to maintain persistence through system reboots. Adversaries may also use Masquerading to make the Registry entries look as if they are associated with legitimate programs.


T1547.004
Boot or Logon Autostart Execution: Winlogon Helper DLL

Adversaries may abuse features of Winlogon to execute DLLs and/or executables when a user logs in. Winlogon.exe is a Windows component responsible for actions at logon/logoff as well as the secure attention sequence (SAS) triggered by Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Registry entries in HKLMSoftware[\Wow6432Node\]MicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionWinlogon and HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionWinlogon are used to manage additional helper programs and functionalities that support Winlogon.(Citation: Cylance Reg Persistence Sept 2013)


Malicious modifications to these Registry keys may cause Winlogon to load and execute malicious DLLs and/or executables. Specifically, the following subkeys have been known to be possibly vulnerable to abuse: (Citation: Cylance Reg Persistence Sept 2013)


* WinlogonNotify – points to notification package DLLs that handle Winlogon events

* WinlogonUserinit – points to userinit.exe, the user initialization program executed when a user logs on

* WinlogonShell – points to explorer.exe, the system shell executed when a user logs on


Adversaries may take advantage of these features to repeatedly execute malicious code and establish persistence.


TA0005
Defense Evasion

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.


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.


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.


T1134
Access Token Manipulation

Adversaries may modify access tokens to operate under a different user or system security context to perform actions and bypass access controls. Windows uses access tokens to determine the ownership of a running process. A user can manipulate access tokens to make a running process appear as though it is the child of a different process or belongs to someone other than the user that started the process. When this occurs, the process also takes on the security context associated with the new token.


An adversary can use built-in Windows API functions to copy access tokens from existing processes; this is known as token stealing. These token can then be applied to an existing process (i.e. Token Impersonation/Theft) or used to spawn a new process (i.e. Create Process with Token). An adversary must already be in a privileged user context (i.e. administrator) to steal a token. However, adversaries commonly use token stealing to elevate their security context from the administrator level to the SYSTEM level. An adversary can then use a token to authenticate to a remote system as the account for that token if the account has appropriate permissions on the remote system.(Citation: Pentestlab Token Manipulation)


Any standard user can use the runas command, and the Windows API functions, to create impersonation tokens; it does not require access to an administrator account. There are also other mechanisms, such as Active Directory fields, that can be used to modify access tokens.


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)


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)


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.


TA0006
Credential Access

Adversaries may log user keystrokes to intercept credentials as the user types them. Keylogging is likely to be used to acquire credentials for new access opportunities when OS Credential Dumping efforts are not effective, and may require an adversary to intercept keystrokes on a system for a substantial period of time before credentials can be successfully captured. In order to increase the likelihood of capturing credentials quickly, an adversary may also perform actions such as clearing browser cookies to force users to reauthenticate to systems.(Citation: Talos Kimsuky Nov 2021)


Keylogging is the most prevalent type of input capture, with many different ways of intercepting keystrokes.(Citation: Adventures of a Keystroke) Some methods include:


* Hooking API callbacks used for processing keystrokes. Unlike Credential API Hooking, this focuses solely on API functions intended for processing keystroke data.

* Reading raw keystroke data from the hardware buffer.

* Windows Registry modifications.

* Custom drivers.

* Modify System Image may provide adversaries with hooks into the operating system of network devices to read raw keystrokes for login sessions.(Citation: Cisco Blog Legacy Device Attacks)


T1056.001
Input Capture: Keylogging

Adversaries may log user keystrokes to intercept credentials as the user types them. Keylogging is likely to be used to acquire credentials for new access opportunities when OS Credential Dumping efforts are not effective, and may require an adversary to intercept keystrokes on a system for a substantial period of time before credentials can be successfully captured. In order to increase the likelihood of capturing credentials quickly, an adversary may also perform actions such as clearing browser cookies to force users to reauthenticate to systems.(Citation: Talos Kimsuky Nov 2021)


Keylogging is the most prevalent type of input capture, with many different ways of intercepting keystrokes.(Citation: Adventures of a Keystroke) Some methods include:


* Hooking API callbacks used for processing keystrokes. Unlike Credential API Hooking, this focuses solely on API functions intended for processing keystroke data.

* Reading raw keystroke data from the hardware buffer.

* Windows Registry modifications.

* Custom drivers.

* Modify System Image may provide adversaries with hooks into the operating system of network devices to read raw keystrokes for login sessions.(Citation: Cisco Blog Legacy Device Attacks)


TA0007
Discovery

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)


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)


T1497.003
Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion: Time Based Evasion

Adversaries may employ various time-based methods to detect and avoid virtualization and analysis environments. This may include enumerating time-based properties, such as uptime or the system clock, as well as the use of timers or other triggers to avoid a virtual machine environment (VME) or sandbox, specifically those that are automated or only operate for a limited amount of time.


Adversaries may employ various time-based evasions, such as delaying malware functionality upon initial execution using programmatic sleep commands or native system scheduling functionality (ex: Scheduled Task/Job). Delays may also be based on waiting for specific victim conditions to be met (ex: system time, events, etc.) or employ scheduled Multi-Stage Channels to avoid analysis and scrutiny.(Citation: Deloitte Environment Awareness)


Benign commands or other operations may also be used to delay malware execution. Loops or otherwise needless repetitions of commands, such as Pings, may be used to delay malware execution and potentially exceed time thresholds of automated analysis environments.(Citation: Revil Independence Day)(Citation: Netskope Nitol) Another variation, commonly referred to as API hammering, involves making various calls to Native API functions in order to delay execution (while also potentially overloading analysis environments with junk data).(Citation: Joe Sec Nymaim)(Citation: Joe Sec Trickbot)


Adversaries may also use time as a metric to detect sandboxes and analysis environments, particularly those that attempt to manipulate time mechanisms to simulate longer elapses of time. For example, an adversary may be able to identify a sandbox accelerating time by sampling and calculating the expected value for an environment’s timestamp before and after execution of a sleep function.(Citation: ISACA Malware Tricks)


TA0011
Command and Control

Adversaries may dynamically establish connections to command and control infrastructure to evade common detections and remediations. This may be achieved by using malware that shares a common algorithm with the infrastructure the adversary uses to receive the malware’s communications. These calculations can be used to dynamically adjust parameters such as the domain name, IP address, or port number the malware uses for command and control.


Adversaries may use dynamic resolution for the purpose of Fallback Channels. When contact is lost with the primary command and control server malware may employ dynamic resolution as a means to reestablishing command and control.(Citation: Talos CCleanup 2017)(Citation: FireEye POSHSPY April 2017)(Citation: ESET Sednit 2017 Activity)


T1568
Dynamic Resolution

Adversaries may dynamically establish connections to command and control infrastructure to evade common detections and remediations. This may be achieved by using malware that shares a common algorithm with the infrastructure the adversary uses to receive the malware’s communications. These calculations can be used to dynamically adjust parameters such as the domain name, IP address, or port number the malware uses for command and control.


Adversaries may use dynamic resolution for the purpose of Fallback Channels. When contact is lost with the primary command and control server malware may employ dynamic resolution as a means to reestablishing command and control.(Citation: Talos CCleanup 2017)(Citation: FireEye POSHSPY April 2017)(Citation: ESET Sednit 2017 Activity)


* © 2024 The MITRE Corporation. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of The MITRE Corporation.

Kaspersky Next
Let’s go Next: redefine your business’s cybersecurity
Learn more
New Kaspersky!
Your digital life deserves complete protection!
Learn more
Confirm changes?
Your message has been sent successfully.