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Trojan-Downloader.HTA.SLoad.gen

Class Trojan-Downloader
Family SLoad
Full name HEUR:Trojan-Downloader.HTA.SLoad.gen
Examples 78342B2095450E6B9DC477C0A2C168DC
D83CD60EC2372B39498CD0FA4EF5DE19
0064CCFFE027CE1BB9CDA32B0F084149
F04FE85C157728ED070677620A47949C
587B7C51BD7655C511527AA37F6AE281
Updated at 2023-12-19 16:07:27
Tactics &
techniques MITRE*

TA0002 Execution

The adversary is trying to run malicious code.


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


T1047 Windows Management Instrumentation

Adversaries may abuse Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) to execute malicious commands and payloads. WMI is an administration feature that provides a uniform environment to access Windows system components. The WMI service enables both local and remote access, though the latter is facilitated by Remote Services such as Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) and Windows Remote Management (WinRM).(Citation: MSDN WMI) Remote WMI over DCOM operates using port 135, whereas WMI over WinRM operates over port 5985 when using HTTP and 5986 for HTTPS.(Citation: MSDN WMI)(Citation: FireEye WMI 2015)

An adversary can use WMI to interact with local and remote systems and use it as a means to execute various behaviors, such as gathering information for Discovery as well as remote Execution of files as part of Lateral Movement. (Citation: FireEye WMI SANS 2015) (Citation: FireEye WMI 2015)

The adversary is trying to run malicious code.


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


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)

The adversary is trying to run malicious code.


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


T1059.005 Command and Scripting Interpreter: Visual Basic

Adversaries may abuse Visual Basic (VB) for execution. VB is a programming language created by Microsoft with interoperability with many Windows technologies such as Component Object Model and the Native API through the Windows API. Although tagged as legacy with no planned future evolutions, VB is integrated and supported in the .NET Framework and cross-platform .NET Core.(Citation: VB .NET Mar 2020)(Citation: VB Microsoft)

Derivative languages based on VB have also been created, such as Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) and VBScript. VBA is an event-driven programming language built into Microsoft Office, as well as several third-party applications.(Citation: Microsoft VBA)(Citation: Wikipedia VBA) VBA enables documents to contain macros used to automate the execution of tasks and other functionality on the host. VBScript is a default scripting language on Windows hosts and can also be used in place of JavaScript on HTML Application (HTA) webpages served to Internet Explorer (though most modern browsers do not come with VBScript support).(Citation: Microsoft VBScript)

Adversaries may use VB payloads to execute malicious commands. Common malicious usage includes automating execution of behaviors with VBScript or embedding VBA content into Spearphishing Attachment payloads (which may also involve Mark-of-the-Web Bypass to enable execution).(Citation: Default VBS macros Blocking )

The adversary is trying to run malicious code.


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


T1059.007 Command and Scripting Interpreter: JavaScript

Adversaries may abuse various implementations of JavaScript for execution. JavaScript (JS) is a platform-independent scripting language (compiled just-in-time at runtime) commonly associated with scripts in webpages, though JS can be executed in runtime environments outside the browser.(Citation: NodeJS)

JScript is the Microsoft implementation of the same scripting standard. JScript is interpreted via the Windows Script engine and thus integrated with many components of Windows such as the Component Object Model and Internet Explorer HTML Application (HTA) pages.(Citation: JScrip May 2018)(Citation: Microsoft JScript 2007)(Citation: Microsoft Windows Scripts)

JavaScript for Automation (JXA) is a macOS scripting language based on JavaScript, included as part of Apple’s Open Scripting Architecture (OSA), that was introduced in OSX 10.10. Apple’s OSA provides scripting capabilities to control applications, interface with the operating system, and bridge access into the rest of Apple’s internal APIs. As of OSX 10.10, OSA only supports two languages, JXA and AppleScript. Scripts can be executed via the command line utility osascript, they can be compiled into applications or script files via osacompile, and they can be compiled and executed in memory of other programs by leveraging the OSAKit Framework.(Citation: Apple About Mac Scripting 2016)(Citation: SpecterOps JXA 2020)(Citation: SentinelOne macOS Red Team)(Citation: Red Canary Silver Sparrow Feb2021)(Citation: MDSec macOS JXA and VSCode)

Adversaries may abuse various implementations of JavaScript to execute various behaviors. Common uses include hosting malicious scripts on websites as part of a Drive-by Compromise or downloading and executing these script files as secondary payloads. Since these payloads are text-based, it is also very common for adversaries to obfuscate their content as part of Obfuscated Files or Information.

The adversary is trying to run malicious code.


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


T1204.002 User Execution: Malicious File

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

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

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

TA0003 Persistence

The adversary is trying to maintain their foothold.


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


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)

The adversary is trying to maintain their foothold.


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


T1546.002 Event Triggered Execution: Screensaver

Adversaries may establish persistence by executing malicious content triggered by user inactivity. Screensavers are programs that execute after a configurable time of user inactivity and consist of Portable Executable (PE) files with a .scr file extension.(Citation: Wikipedia Screensaver) The Windows screensaver application scrnsave.scr is located in C:WindowsSystem32, and C:WindowssysWOW64 on 64-bit Windows systems, along with screensavers included with base Windows installations.

The following screensaver settings are stored in the Registry (HKCUControl PanelDesktop) and could be manipulated to achieve persistence:

* SCRNSAVE.exe - set to malicious PE path
* ScreenSaveActive - set to '1' to enable the screensaver
* ScreenSaverIsSecure - set to '0' to not require a password to unlock
* ScreenSaveTimeout - sets user inactivity timeout before screensaver is executed

Adversaries can use screensaver settings to maintain persistence by setting the screensaver to run malware after a certain timeframe of user inactivity.(Citation: ESET Gazer Aug 2017)

The adversary is trying to maintain their foothold.


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


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.

TA0004 Privilege Escalation

The adversary is trying to gain higher-level permissions.


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


* SYSTEM/root level

* local administrator

* user account with admin-like access

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


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


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)

The adversary is trying to gain higher-level permissions.


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


* SYSTEM/root level

* local administrator

* user account with admin-like access

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


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


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.

The adversary is trying to gain higher-level permissions.


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


* SYSTEM/root level

* local administrator

* user account with admin-like access

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


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


T1546.002 Event Triggered Execution: Screensaver

Adversaries may establish persistence by executing malicious content triggered by user inactivity. Screensavers are programs that execute after a configurable time of user inactivity and consist of Portable Executable (PE) files with a .scr file extension.(Citation: Wikipedia Screensaver) The Windows screensaver application scrnsave.scr is located in C:WindowsSystem32, and C:WindowssysWOW64 on 64-bit Windows systems, along with screensavers included with base Windows installations.

The following screensaver settings are stored in the Registry (HKCUControl PanelDesktop) and could be manipulated to achieve persistence:

* SCRNSAVE.exe - set to malicious PE path
* ScreenSaveActive - set to '1' to enable the screensaver
* ScreenSaverIsSecure - set to '0' to not require a password to unlock
* ScreenSaveTimeout - sets user inactivity timeout before screensaver is executed

Adversaries can use screensaver settings to maintain persistence by setting the screensaver to run malware after a certain timeframe of user inactivity.(Citation: ESET Gazer Aug 2017)

The adversary is trying to gain higher-level permissions.


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


* SYSTEM/root level

* local administrator

* user account with admin-like access

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


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


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.

TA0005 Defense Evasion

The adversary is trying to avoid being detected.


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


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.

The adversary is trying to avoid being detected.


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


T1112 Modify Registry

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

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

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

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

The adversary is trying to avoid being detected.


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


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.

The adversary is trying to avoid being detected.


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


T1218.010 System Binary Proxy Execution: Regsvr32

Adversaries may abuse Regsvr32.exe to proxy execution of malicious code. Regsvr32.exe is a command-line program used to register and unregister object linking and embedding controls, including dynamic link libraries (DLLs), on Windows systems. The Regsvr32.exe binary may also be signed by Microsoft. (Citation: Microsoft Regsvr32)

Malicious usage of Regsvr32.exe may avoid triggering security tools that may not monitor execution of, and modules loaded by, the regsvr32.exe process because of allowlists or false positives from Windows using regsvr32.exe for normal operations. Regsvr32.exe can also be used to specifically bypass application control using functionality to load COM scriptlets to execute DLLs under user permissions. Since Regsvr32.exe is network and proxy aware, the scripts can be loaded by passing a uniform resource locator (URL) to file on an external Web server as an argument during invocation. This method makes no changes to the Registry as the COM object is not actually registered, only executed. (Citation: LOLBAS Regsvr32) This variation of the technique is often referred to as a "Squiblydoo" and has been used in campaigns targeting governments. (Citation: Carbon Black Squiblydoo Apr 2016) (Citation: FireEye Regsvr32 Targeting Mongolian Gov)

Regsvr32.exe can also be leveraged to register a COM Object used to establish persistence via Component Object Model Hijacking. (Citation: Carbon Black Squiblydoo Apr 2016)

The adversary is trying to avoid being detected.


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


T1497.001 Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion: System Checks

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

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

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

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

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

The adversary is trying to avoid being detected.


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


T1564.001 Hide Artifacts: Hidden Files and Directories

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

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

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

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

TA0007 Discovery

The adversary is trying to figure out your environment.


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


T1082 System Information Discovery

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

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

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

The adversary is trying to figure out your environment.


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


T1497.001 Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion: System Checks

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

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

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

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

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

TA0011 Command and Control

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


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


T1071.001 Application Layer Protocol: Web Protocols

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

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