Update Date
02/07/2024

Class: Packed

Malicious programs are frequently compressed – or packed – using a variety of methods combined with file encryption in order to prevent reverse engineering of the program and to hinder analysis of program behaviour with proactive and heuristic methods. Antivirus programs detect the results of the actions of suspicious packers, i.e. packed items. There are ways to prevent packed files from being unpacked: for example, the packer may not decipher the code fully, only to the extent that it is executed; or it may fully decrypt and launch a malicious program only on a certain day of the week. The main features that differentiate behaviours in the Suspicious Packers subclass are the type and number of packers used in the file compression process.

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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: Trojan.Win32.Convagent

No family description

Tactics and Techniques: Mitre*

TA0002
Execution

Adversaries may abuse the at utility to perform task scheduling for initial or recurring execution of malicious code. The at utility exists as an executable within Windows, Linux, and macOS for scheduling tasks at a specified time and date. Although deprecated in favor of Scheduled Task’s schtasks in Windows environments, using at requires that the Task Scheduler service be running, and the user to be logged on as a member of the local Administrators group.


On Linux and macOS, at may be invoked by the superuser as well as any users added to the at.allow file. If the at.allow file does not exist, the at.deny file is checked. Every username not listed in at.deny is allowed to invoke at. If the at.deny exists and is empty, global use of at is permitted. If neither file exists (which is often the baseline) only the superuser is allowed to use at.(Citation: Linux at)


Adversaries may use at to execute programs at system startup or on a scheduled basis for Persistence. at can also be abused to conduct remote Execution as part of Lateral Movement and/or to run a process under the context of a specified account (such as SYSTEM).


In Linux environments, adversaries may also abuse at to break out of restricted environments by using a task to spawn an interactive system shell or to run system commands. Similarly, at may also be used for Privilege Escalation if the binary is allowed to run as superuser via sudo.(Citation: GTFObins at)


T1053.002
Scheduled Task/Job: At

Adversaries may abuse the at utility to perform task scheduling for initial or recurring execution of malicious code. The at utility exists as an executable within Windows, Linux, and macOS for scheduling tasks at a specified time and date. Although deprecated in favor of Scheduled Task’s schtasks in Windows environments, using at requires that the Task Scheduler service be running, and the user to be logged on as a member of the local Administrators group.


On Linux and macOS, at may be invoked by the superuser as well as any users added to the at.allow file. If the at.allow file does not exist, the at.deny file is checked. Every username not listed in at.deny is allowed to invoke at. If the at.deny exists and is empty, global use of at is permitted. If neither file exists (which is often the baseline) only the superuser is allowed to use at.(Citation: Linux at)


Adversaries may use at to execute programs at system startup or on a scheduled basis for Persistence. at can also be abused to conduct remote Execution as part of Lateral Movement and/or to run a process under the context of a specified account (such as SYSTEM).


In Linux environments, adversaries may also abuse at to break out of restricted environments by using a task to spawn an interactive system shell or to run system commands. Similarly, at may also be used for Privilege Escalation if the binary is allowed to run as superuser via sudo.(Citation: GTFObins at)


T1053.005
Scheduled Task/Job: Scheduled Task

Adversaries may abuse the Windows Task Scheduler to perform task scheduling for initial or recurring execution of malicious code. There are multiple ways to access the Task Scheduler in Windows. The schtasks utility can be run directly on the command line, or the Task Scheduler can be opened through the GUI within the Administrator Tools section of the Control Panel. In some cases, adversaries have used a .NET wrapper for the Windows Task Scheduler, and alternatively, adversaries have used the Windows netapi32 library to create a scheduled task.


The deprecated at utility could also be abused by adversaries (ex: At), though at.exe can not access tasks created with schtasks or the Control Panel.


An adversary may use Windows Task Scheduler to execute programs at system startup or on a scheduled basis for persistence. The Windows Task Scheduler can also be abused to conduct remote Execution as part of Lateral Movement and/or to run a process under the context of a specified account (such as SYSTEM). Similar to System Binary Proxy Execution, adversaries have also abused the Windows Task Scheduler to potentially mask one-time execution under signed/trusted system processes.(Citation: ProofPoint Serpent)


Adversaries may also create “hidden” scheduled tasks (i.e. Hide Artifacts) that may not be visible to defender tools and manual queries used to enumerate tasks. Specifically, an adversary may hide a task from `schtasks /query` and the Task Scheduler by deleting the associated Security Descriptor (SD) registry value (where deletion of this value must be completed using SYSTEM permissions).(Citation: SigmaHQ)(Citation: Tarrask scheduled task) Adversaries may also employ alternate methods to hide tasks, such as altering the metadata (e.g., `Index` value) within associated registry keys.(Citation: Defending Against Scheduled Task Attacks in Windows Environments)


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.


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.


T1569.002
System Services: Service Execution

Adversaries may abuse the Windows service control manager to execute malicious commands or payloads. The Windows service control manager (services.exe) is an interface to manage and manipulate services.(Citation: Microsoft Service Control Manager) The service control manager is accessible to users via GUI components as well as system utilities such as sc.exe and Net.


PsExec can also be used to execute commands or payloads via a temporary Windows service created through the service control manager API.(Citation: Russinovich Sysinternals) Tools such as PsExec and sc.exe can accept remote servers as arguments and may be used to conduct remote execution.


Adversaries may leverage these mechanisms to execute malicious content. This can be done by either executing a new or modified service. This technique is the execution used in conjunction with Windows Service during service persistence or privilege escalation.


TA0003
Persistence

Adversaries may abuse the at utility to perform task scheduling for initial or recurring execution of malicious code. The at utility exists as an executable within Windows, Linux, and macOS for scheduling tasks at a specified time and date. Although deprecated in favor of Scheduled Task’s schtasks in Windows environments, using at requires that the Task Scheduler service be running, and the user to be logged on as a member of the local Administrators group.


On Linux and macOS, at may be invoked by the superuser as well as any users added to the at.allow file. If the at.allow file does not exist, the at.deny file is checked. Every username not listed in at.deny is allowed to invoke at. If the at.deny exists and is empty, global use of at is permitted. If neither file exists (which is often the baseline) only the superuser is allowed to use at.(Citation: Linux at)


Adversaries may use at to execute programs at system startup or on a scheduled basis for Persistence. at can also be abused to conduct remote Execution as part of Lateral Movement and/or to run a process under the context of a specified account (such as SYSTEM).


In Linux environments, adversaries may also abuse at to break out of restricted environments by using a task to spawn an interactive system shell or to run system commands. Similarly, at may also be used for Privilege Escalation if the binary is allowed to run as superuser via sudo.(Citation: GTFObins at)


T1053.002
Scheduled Task/Job: At

Adversaries may abuse the at utility to perform task scheduling for initial or recurring execution of malicious code. The at utility exists as an executable within Windows, Linux, and macOS for scheduling tasks at a specified time and date. Although deprecated in favor of Scheduled Task’s schtasks in Windows environments, using at requires that the Task Scheduler service be running, and the user to be logged on as a member of the local Administrators group.


On Linux and macOS, at may be invoked by the superuser as well as any users added to the at.allow file. If the at.allow file does not exist, the at.deny file is checked. Every username not listed in at.deny is allowed to invoke at. If the at.deny exists and is empty, global use of at is permitted. If neither file exists (which is often the baseline) only the superuser is allowed to use at.(Citation: Linux at)


Adversaries may use at to execute programs at system startup or on a scheduled basis for Persistence. at can also be abused to conduct remote Execution as part of Lateral Movement and/or to run a process under the context of a specified account (such as SYSTEM).


In Linux environments, adversaries may also abuse at to break out of restricted environments by using a task to spawn an interactive system shell or to run system commands. Similarly, at may also be used for Privilege Escalation if the binary is allowed to run as superuser via sudo.(Citation: GTFObins at)


T1053.005
Scheduled Task/Job: Scheduled Task

Adversaries may abuse the Windows Task Scheduler to perform task scheduling for initial or recurring execution of malicious code. There are multiple ways to access the Task Scheduler in Windows. The schtasks utility can be run directly on the command line, or the Task Scheduler can be opened through the GUI within the Administrator Tools section of the Control Panel. In some cases, adversaries have used a .NET wrapper for the Windows Task Scheduler, and alternatively, adversaries have used the Windows netapi32 library to create a scheduled task.


The deprecated at utility could also be abused by adversaries (ex: At), though at.exe can not access tasks created with schtasks or the Control Panel.


An adversary may use Windows Task Scheduler to execute programs at system startup or on a scheduled basis for persistence. The Windows Task Scheduler can also be abused to conduct remote Execution as part of Lateral Movement and/or to run a process under the context of a specified account (such as SYSTEM). Similar to System Binary Proxy Execution, adversaries have also abused the Windows Task Scheduler to potentially mask one-time execution under signed/trusted system processes.(Citation: ProofPoint Serpent)


Adversaries may also create “hidden” scheduled tasks (i.e. Hide Artifacts) that may not be visible to defender tools and manual queries used to enumerate tasks. Specifically, an adversary may hide a task from `schtasks /query` and the Task Scheduler by deleting the associated Security Descriptor (SD) registry value (where deletion of this value must be completed using SYSTEM permissions).(Citation: SigmaHQ)(Citation: Tarrask scheduled task) Adversaries may also employ alternate methods to hide tasks, such as altering the metadata (e.g., `Index` value) within associated registry keys.(Citation: Defending Against Scheduled Task Attacks in Windows Environments)


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.


T1547.012
Boot or Logon Autostart Execution: Print Processors

Adversaries may abuse print processors to run malicious DLLs during system boot for persistence and/or privilege escalation. Print processors are DLLs that are loaded by the print spooler service, `spoolsv.exe`, during boot.(Citation: Microsoft Intro Print Processors)


Adversaries may abuse the print spooler service by adding print processors that load malicious DLLs at startup. A print processor can be installed through the AddPrintProcessor API call with an account that has SeLoadDriverPrivilege enabled. Alternatively, a print processor can be registered to the print spooler service by adding the HKLMSYSTEM\[CurrentControlSet or ControlSet001]ControlPrintEnvironments\[Windows architecture: e.g., Windows x64]Print Processors\[user defined]Driver Registry key that points to the DLL.


For the malicious print processor to be correctly installed, the payload must be located in the dedicated system print-processor directory, that can be found with the GetPrintProcessorDirectory API call, or referenced via a relative path from this directory.(Citation: Microsoft AddPrintProcessor May 2018) After the print processors are installed, the print spooler service, which starts during boot, must be restarted in order for them to run.(Citation: ESET PipeMon May 2020)


The print spooler service runs under SYSTEM level permissions, therefore print processors installed by an adversary may run under elevated privileges.


TA0004
Privilege Escalation

Adversaries may abuse the at utility to perform task scheduling for initial or recurring execution of malicious code. The at utility exists as an executable within Windows, Linux, and macOS for scheduling tasks at a specified time and date. Although deprecated in favor of Scheduled Task’s schtasks in Windows environments, using at requires that the Task Scheduler service be running, and the user to be logged on as a member of the local Administrators group.


On Linux and macOS, at may be invoked by the superuser as well as any users added to the at.allow file. If the at.allow file does not exist, the at.deny file is checked. Every username not listed in at.deny is allowed to invoke at. If the at.deny exists and is empty, global use of at is permitted. If neither file exists (which is often the baseline) only the superuser is allowed to use at.(Citation: Linux at)


Adversaries may use at to execute programs at system startup or on a scheduled basis for Persistence. at can also be abused to conduct remote Execution as part of Lateral Movement and/or to run a process under the context of a specified account (such as SYSTEM).


In Linux environments, adversaries may also abuse at to break out of restricted environments by using a task to spawn an interactive system shell or to run system commands. Similarly, at may also be used for Privilege Escalation if the binary is allowed to run as superuser via sudo.(Citation: GTFObins at)


T1053.002
Scheduled Task/Job: At

Adversaries may abuse the at utility to perform task scheduling for initial or recurring execution of malicious code. The at utility exists as an executable within Windows, Linux, and macOS for scheduling tasks at a specified time and date. Although deprecated in favor of Scheduled Task’s schtasks in Windows environments, using at requires that the Task Scheduler service be running, and the user to be logged on as a member of the local Administrators group.


On Linux and macOS, at may be invoked by the superuser as well as any users added to the at.allow file. If the at.allow file does not exist, the at.deny file is checked. Every username not listed in at.deny is allowed to invoke at. If the at.deny exists and is empty, global use of at is permitted. If neither file exists (which is often the baseline) only the superuser is allowed to use at.(Citation: Linux at)


Adversaries may use at to execute programs at system startup or on a scheduled basis for Persistence. at can also be abused to conduct remote Execution as part of Lateral Movement and/or to run a process under the context of a specified account (such as SYSTEM).


In Linux environments, adversaries may also abuse at to break out of restricted environments by using a task to spawn an interactive system shell or to run system commands. Similarly, at may also be used for Privilege Escalation if the binary is allowed to run as superuser via sudo.(Citation: GTFObins at)


T1053.005
Scheduled Task/Job: Scheduled Task

Adversaries may abuse the Windows Task Scheduler to perform task scheduling for initial or recurring execution of malicious code. There are multiple ways to access the Task Scheduler in Windows. The schtasks utility can be run directly on the command line, or the Task Scheduler can be opened through the GUI within the Administrator Tools section of the Control Panel. In some cases, adversaries have used a .NET wrapper for the Windows Task Scheduler, and alternatively, adversaries have used the Windows netapi32 library to create a scheduled task.


The deprecated at utility could also be abused by adversaries (ex: At), though at.exe can not access tasks created with schtasks or the Control Panel.


An adversary may use Windows Task Scheduler to execute programs at system startup or on a scheduled basis for persistence. The Windows Task Scheduler can also be abused to conduct remote Execution as part of Lateral Movement and/or to run a process under the context of a specified account (such as SYSTEM). Similar to System Binary Proxy Execution, adversaries have also abused the Windows Task Scheduler to potentially mask one-time execution under signed/trusted system processes.(Citation: ProofPoint Serpent)


Adversaries may also create “hidden” scheduled tasks (i.e. Hide Artifacts) that may not be visible to defender tools and manual queries used to enumerate tasks. Specifically, an adversary may hide a task from `schtasks /query` and the Task Scheduler by deleting the associated Security Descriptor (SD) registry value (where deletion of this value must be completed using SYSTEM permissions).(Citation: SigmaHQ)(Citation: Tarrask scheduled task) Adversaries may also employ alternate methods to hide tasks, such as altering the metadata (e.g., `Index` value) within associated registry keys.(Citation: Defending Against Scheduled Task Attacks in Windows Environments)


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.


T1547.012
Boot or Logon Autostart Execution: Print Processors

Adversaries may abuse print processors to run malicious DLLs during system boot for persistence and/or privilege escalation. Print processors are DLLs that are loaded by the print spooler service, `spoolsv.exe`, during boot.(Citation: Microsoft Intro Print Processors)


Adversaries may abuse the print spooler service by adding print processors that load malicious DLLs at startup. A print processor can be installed through the AddPrintProcessor API call with an account that has SeLoadDriverPrivilege enabled. Alternatively, a print processor can be registered to the print spooler service by adding the HKLMSYSTEM\[CurrentControlSet or ControlSet001]ControlPrintEnvironments\[Windows architecture: e.g., Windows x64]Print Processors\[user defined]Driver Registry key that points to the DLL.


For the malicious print processor to be correctly installed, the payload must be located in the dedicated system print-processor directory, that can be found with the GetPrintProcessorDirectory API call, or referenced via a relative path from this directory.(Citation: Microsoft AddPrintProcessor May 2018) After the print processors are installed, the print spooler service, which starts during boot, must be restarted in order for them to run.(Citation: ESET PipeMon May 2020)


The print spooler service runs under SYSTEM level permissions, therefore print processors installed by an adversary may run under elevated privileges.


TA0005
Defense Evasion

Adversaries may attempt to manipulate features of their artifacts to make them appear legitimate or benign to users and/or security tools. Masquerading occurs when the name or location of an object, legitimate or malicious, is manipulated or abused for the sake of evading defenses and observation. This may include manipulating file metadata, tricking users into misidentifying the file type, and giving legitimate task or service names.


Renaming abusable system utilities to evade security monitoring is also a form of Masquerading.(Citation: LOLBAS Main Site) Masquerading may also include the use of Proxy or VPNs to disguise IP addresses, which can allow adversaries to blend in with normal network traffic and bypass conditional access policies or anti-abuse protections.


T1036
Masquerading

Adversaries may attempt to manipulate features of their artifacts to make them appear legitimate or benign to users and/or security tools. Masquerading occurs when the name or location of an object, legitimate or malicious, is manipulated or abused for the sake of evading defenses and observation. This may include manipulating file metadata, tricking users into misidentifying the file type, and giving legitimate task or service names.


Renaming abusable system utilities to evade security monitoring is also a form of Masquerading.(Citation: LOLBAS Main Site) Masquerading may also include the use of Proxy or VPNs to disguise IP addresses, which can allow adversaries to blend in with normal network traffic and bypass conditional access policies or anti-abuse protections.


T1036.005
Masquerading: Match Legitimate Name or Location

Adversaries may match or approximate the name or location of legitimate files or resources when naming/placing them. This is done for the sake of evading defenses and observation. This may be done by placing an executable in a commonly trusted directory (ex: under System32) or giving it the name of a legitimate, trusted program (ex: svchost.exe). In containerized environments, this may also be done by creating a resource in a namespace that matches the naming convention of a container pod or cluster. Alternatively, a file or container image name given may be a close approximation to legitimate programs/images or something innocuous.


Adversaries may also use the same icon of the file they are trying to mimic.


T1055
Process Injection

Adversaries may inject code into processes in order to evade process-based defenses as well as possibly elevate privileges. Process injection is a method of executing arbitrary code in the address space of a separate live process. Running code in the context of another process may allow access to the process’s memory, system/network resources, and possibly elevated privileges. Execution via process injection may also evade detection from security products since the execution is masked under a legitimate process.


There are many different ways to inject code into a process, many of which abuse legitimate functionalities. These implementations exist for every major OS but are typically platform specific.


More sophisticated samples may perform multiple process injections to segment modules and further evade detection, utilizing named pipes or other inter-process communication (IPC) mechanisms as a communication channel.


T1070.006
Indicator Removal: Timestomp

Adversaries may modify file time attributes to hide new or changes to existing files. Timestomping is a technique that modifies the timestamps of a file (the modify, access, create, and change times), often to mimic files that are in the same folder. This is done, for example, on files that have been modified or created by the adversary so that they do not appear conspicuous to forensic investigators or file analysis tools.


Timestomping may be used along with file name Masquerading to hide malware and tools.(Citation: WindowsIR Anti-Forensic Techniques)


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)


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.


T1562.001
Impair Defenses: Disable or Modify Tools

Adversaries may modify and/or disable security tools to avoid possible detection of their malware/tools and activities. This may take many forms, such as killing security software processes or services, modifying / deleting Registry keys or configuration files so that tools do not operate properly, or other methods to interfere with security tools scanning or reporting information. Adversaries may also disable updates to prevent the latest security patches from reaching tools on victim systems.(Citation: SCADAfence_ransomware)


Adversaries may also tamper with artifacts deployed and utilized by security tools. Security tools may make dynamic changes to system components in order to maintain visibility into specific events. For example, security products may load their own modules and/or modify those loaded by processes to facilitate data collection. Similar to Indicator Blocking, adversaries may unhook or otherwise modify these features added by tools (especially those that exist in userland or are otherwise potentially accessible to adversaries) to avoid detection.(Citation: OutFlank System Calls)(Citation: MDSec System Calls)


Adversaries may also focus on specific applications such as Sysmon. For example, the “Start” and “Enable” values in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlWMIAutologgerEventLog-Microsoft-Windows-Sysmon-Operational may be modified to tamper with and potentially disable Sysmon logging.(Citation: disable_win_evt_logging)


On network devices, adversaries may attempt to skip digital signature verification checks by altering startup configuration files and effectively disabling firmware verification that typically occurs at boot.(Citation: Fortinet Zero-Day and Custom Malware Used by Suspected Chinese Actor in Espionage Operation)(Citation: Analysis of FG-IR-22-369)


In cloud environments, tools disabled by adversaries may include cloud monitoring agents that report back to services such as AWS CloudWatch or Google Cloud Monitor.


Furthermore, although defensive tools may have anti-tampering mechanisms, adversaries may abuse tools such as legitimate rootkit removal kits to impair and/or disable these tools.(Citation: chasing_avaddon_ransomware)(Citation: dharma_ransomware)(Citation: demystifying_ryuk)(Citation: doppelpaymer_crowdstrike) For example, adversaries have used tools such as GMER to find and shut down hidden processes and antivirus software on infected systems.(Citation: demystifying_ryuk)


Additionally, adversaries may exploit legitimate drivers from anti-virus software to gain access to kernel space (i.e. Exploitation for Privilege Escalation), which may lead to bypassing anti-tampering features.(Citation: avoslocker_ransomware)


TA0007
Discovery

Adversaries may attempt to gather information about attached peripheral devices and components connected to a computer system.(Citation: Peripheral Discovery Linux)(Citation: Peripheral Discovery macOS) Peripheral devices could include auxiliary resources that support a variety of functionalities such as keyboards, printers, cameras, smart card readers, or removable storage. The information may be used to enhance their awareness of the system and network environment or may be used for further actions.


T1120
Peripheral Device Discovery

Adversaries may attempt to gather information about attached peripheral devices and components connected to a computer system.(Citation: Peripheral Discovery Linux)(Citation: Peripheral Discovery macOS) Peripheral devices could include auxiliary resources that support a variety of functionalities such as keyboards, printers, cameras, smart card readers, or removable storage. The information may be used to enhance their awareness of the system and network environment or may be used for further actions.


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)


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.


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)


TA0040
Impact

Adversaries may stop or disable services on a system to render those services unavailable to legitimate users. Stopping critical services or processes can inhibit or stop response to an incident or aid in the adversary’s overall objectives to cause damage to the environment.(Citation: Talos Olympic Destroyer 2018)(Citation: Novetta Blockbuster)


Adversaries may accomplish this by disabling individual services of high importance to an organization, such as MSExchangeIS, which will make Exchange content inaccessible (Citation: Novetta Blockbuster). In some cases, adversaries may stop or disable many or all services to render systems unusable.(Citation: Talos Olympic Destroyer 2018) Services or processes may not allow for modification of their data stores while running. Adversaries may stop services or processes in order to conduct Data Destruction or Data Encrypted for Impact on the data stores of services like Exchange and SQL Server.(Citation: SecureWorks WannaCry Analysis)


T1489
Service Stop

Adversaries may stop or disable services on a system to render those services unavailable to legitimate users. Stopping critical services or processes can inhibit or stop response to an incident or aid in the adversary’s overall objectives to cause damage to the environment.(Citation: Talos Olympic Destroyer 2018)(Citation: Novetta Blockbuster)


Adversaries may accomplish this by disabling individual services of high importance to an organization, such as MSExchangeIS, which will make Exchange content inaccessible (Citation: Novetta Blockbuster). In some cases, adversaries may stop or disable many or all services to render systems unusable.(Citation: Talos Olympic Destroyer 2018) Services or processes may not allow for modification of their data stores while running. Adversaries may stop services or processes in order to conduct Data Destruction or Data Encrypted for Impact on the data stores of services like Exchange and SQL Server.(Citation: SecureWorks WannaCry Analysis)


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

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