Update Date
01/30/2024

Class: Trojan-Downloader

Programs classified as Trojan-Downloader download and install new versions of malicious programs, including Trojans and AdWare, on victim computers. Once downloaded from the Internet, the programs are launched or included on a list of programs which will run automatically when the operating system boots up. Information about the names and locations of the programs which are downloaded are in the Trojan code, or are downloaded by the Trojan from an Internet resource (usually a web page). This type of malicious program is frequently used in the initial infection of visitors to websites which contain exploits.

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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-Downloader.Win32.Adload

No family description

Examples

D56AAAF4CAEEC7B339D6B9A679FDA8FE
94F376333D4E5805F6B8246A8A2F6799
61ACDAA4B06E96E908FF28916743B7EA
5D2FB1E69F8643572A2FFB32FE8D51BF
5A525FCF56A9CA9151C06680217BC32E

Tactics and Techniques: Mitre*

TA0002
Execution

Adversaries may abuse PowerShell commands and scripts for execution. PowerShell is a powerful interactive command-line interface and scripting environment included in the Windows operating system.(Citation: TechNet PowerShell) Adversaries can use PowerShell to perform a number of actions, including discovery of information and execution of code. Examples include the Start-Process cmdlet which can be used to run an executable and the Invoke-Command cmdlet which runs a command locally or on a remote computer (though administrator permissions are required to use PowerShell to connect to remote systems).


PowerShell may also be used to download and run executables from the Internet, which can be executed from disk or in memory without touching disk.


A number of PowerShell-based offensive testing tools are available, including Empire, PowerSploit, PoshC2, and PSAttack.(Citation: Github PSAttack)


PowerShell commands/scripts can also be executed without directly invoking the powershell.exe binary through interfaces to PowerShell’s underlying System.Management.Automation assembly DLL exposed through the .NET framework and Windows Common Language Interface (CLI).(Citation: Sixdub PowerPick Jan 2016)(Citation: SilentBreak Offensive PS Dec 2015)(Citation: Microsoft PSfromCsharp APR 2014)


T1059.001
Command and Scripting Interpreter: PowerShell

Adversaries may abuse PowerShell commands and scripts for execution. PowerShell is a powerful interactive command-line interface and scripting environment included in the Windows operating system.(Citation: TechNet PowerShell) Adversaries can use PowerShell to perform a number of actions, including discovery of information and execution of code. Examples include the Start-Process cmdlet which can be used to run an executable and the Invoke-Command cmdlet which runs a command locally or on a remote computer (though administrator permissions are required to use PowerShell to connect to remote systems).


PowerShell may also be used to download and run executables from the Internet, which can be executed from disk or in memory without touching disk.


A number of PowerShell-based offensive testing tools are available, including Empire, PowerSploit, PoshC2, and PSAttack.(Citation: Github PSAttack)


PowerShell commands/scripts can also be executed without directly invoking the powershell.exe binary through interfaces to PowerShell’s underlying System.Management.Automation assembly DLL exposed through the .NET framework and Windows Common Language Interface (CLI).(Citation: Sixdub PowerPick Jan 2016)(Citation: SilentBreak Offensive PS Dec 2015)(Citation: Microsoft PSfromCsharp APR 2014)


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.


TA0003
Persistence

Adversaries may make new tokens and impersonate users to escalate privileges and bypass access controls. For example, if an adversary has a username and password but the user is not logged onto the system the adversary can then create a logon session for the user using the `LogonUser` function. The function will return a copy of the new session’s access token and the adversary can use `SetThreadToken` to assign the token to a thread.


This behavior is distinct from Token Impersonation/Theft in that this refers to creating a new user token instead of stealing or duplicating an existing one.


T1134.003
Access Token Manipulation: Make and Impersonate Token

Adversaries may make new tokens and impersonate users to escalate privileges and bypass access controls. For example, if an adversary has a username and password but the user is not logged onto the system the adversary can then create a logon session for the user using the `LogonUser` function. The function will return a copy of the new session’s access token and the adversary can use `SetThreadToken` to assign the token to a thread.


This behavior is distinct from Token Impersonation/Theft in that this refers to creating a new user token instead of stealing or duplicating an existing one.


T1197
BITS Jobs

Adversaries may abuse BITS jobs to persistently execute code and perform various background tasks. Windows Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) is a low-bandwidth, asynchronous file transfer mechanism exposed through Component Object Model (COM).(Citation: Microsoft COM)(Citation: Microsoft BITS) BITS is commonly used by updaters, messengers, and other applications preferred to operate in the background (using available idle bandwidth) without interrupting other networked applications. File transfer tasks are implemented as BITS jobs, which contain a queue of one or more file operations.


The interface to create and manage BITS jobs is accessible through PowerShell and the BITSAdmin tool.(Citation: Microsoft BITS)(Citation: Microsoft BITSAdmin)


Adversaries may abuse BITS to download (e.g. Ingress Tool Transfer), execute, and even clean up after running malicious code (e.g. Indicator Removal). BITS tasks are self-contained in the BITS job database, without new files or registry modifications, and often permitted by host firewalls.(Citation: CTU BITS Malware June 2016)(Citation: Mondok Windows PiggyBack BITS May 2007)(Citation: Symantec BITS May 2007) BITS enabled execution may also enable persistence by creating long-standing jobs (the default maximum lifetime is 90 days and extendable) or invoking an arbitrary program when a job completes or errors (including after system reboots).(Citation: PaloAlto UBoatRAT Nov 2017)(Citation: CTU BITS Malware June 2016)


BITS upload functionalities can also be used to perform Exfiltration Over Alternative Protocol.(Citation: CTU BITS Malware June 2016)


T1546.011
Event Triggered Execution: Application Shimming

Adversaries may establish persistence and/or elevate privileges by executing malicious content triggered by application shims. The Microsoft Windows Application Compatibility Infrastructure/Framework (Application Shim) was created to allow for backward compatibility of software as the operating system codebase changes over time. For example, the application shimming feature allows developers to apply fixes to applications (without rewriting code) that were created for Windows XP so that it will work with Windows 10. (Citation: Elastic Process Injection July 2017)


Within the framework, shims are created to act as a buffer between the program (or more specifically, the Import Address Table) and the Windows OS. When a program is executed, the shim cache is referenced to determine if the program requires the use of the shim database (.sdb). If so, the shim database uses hooking to redirect the code as necessary in order to communicate with the OS.


A list of all shims currently installed by the default Windows installer (sdbinst.exe) is kept in:


* %WINDIR%AppPatchsysmain.sdb and

* hklmsoftwaremicrosoftwindows ntcurrentversionappcompatflagsinstalledsdb


Custom databases are stored in:


* %WINDIR%AppPatchcustom & %WINDIR%AppPatchAppPatch64Custom and

* hklmsoftwaremicrosoftwindows ntcurrentversionappcompatflagscustom


To keep shims secure, Windows designed them to run in user mode so they cannot modify the kernel and you must have administrator privileges to install a shim. However, certain shims can be used to Bypass User Account Control (UAC and RedirectEXE), inject DLLs into processes (InjectDLL), disable Data Execution Prevention (DisableNX) and Structure Exception Handling (DisableSEH), and intercept memory addresses (GetProcAddress).


Utilizing these shims may allow an adversary to perform several malicious acts such as elevate privileges, install backdoors, disable defenses like Windows Defender, etc. (Citation: FireEye Application Shimming) Shims can also be abused to establish persistence by continuously being invoked by affected programs.


T1546.012
Event Triggered Execution: Image File Execution Options Injection

Adversaries may establish persistence and/or elevate privileges by executing malicious content triggered by Image File Execution Options (IFEO) debuggers. IFEOs enable a developer to attach a debugger to an application. When a process is created, a debugger present in an application’s IFEO will be prepended to the application’s name, effectively launching the new process under the debugger (e.g., C:dbgntsd.exe -g notepad.exe). (Citation: Microsoft Dev Blog IFEO Mar 2010)


IFEOs can be set directly via the Registry or in Global Flags via the GFlags tool. (Citation: Microsoft GFlags Mar 2017) IFEOs are represented as Debugger values in the Registry under HKLMSOFTWARE{Wow6432Node}MicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionImage File Execution Options where <executable> is the binary on which the debugger is attached. (Citation: Microsoft Dev Blog IFEO Mar 2010)


IFEOs can also enable an arbitrary monitor program to be launched when a specified program silently exits (i.e. is prematurely terminated by itself or a second, non kernel-mode process). (Citation: Microsoft Silent Process Exit NOV 2017) (Citation: Oddvar Moe IFEO APR 2018) Similar to debuggers, silent exit monitoring can be enabled through GFlags and/or by directly modifying IFEO and silent process exit Registry values in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionSilentProcessExit. (Citation: Microsoft Silent Process Exit NOV 2017) (Citation: Oddvar Moe IFEO APR 2018)


Similar to Accessibility Features, on Windows Vista and later as well as Windows Server 2008 and later, a Registry key may be modified that configures “cmd.exe,” or another program that provides backdoor access, as a “debugger” for an accessibility program (ex: utilman.exe). After the Registry is modified, pressing the appropriate key combination at the login screen while at the keyboard or when connected with Remote Desktop Protocol will cause the “debugger” program to be executed with SYSTEM privileges. (Citation: Tilbury 2014)


Similar to Process Injection, these values may also be abused to obtain privilege escalation by causing a malicious executable to be loaded and run in the context of separate processes on the computer. (Citation: Elastic Process Injection July 2017) Installing IFEO mechanisms may also provide Persistence via continuous triggered invocation.


Malware may also use IFEO to Impair Defenses by registering invalid debuggers that redirect and effectively disable various system and security applications. (Citation: FSecure Hupigon) (Citation: Symantec Ushedix June 2008)


T1555
Credentials from Password Stores

Adversaries may search for common password storage locations to obtain user credentials. Passwords are stored in several places on a system, depending on the operating system or application holding the credentials. There are also specific applications and services that store passwords to make them easier for users to manage and maintain, such as password managers and cloud secrets vaults. Once credentials are obtained, they can be used to perform lateral movement and access restricted information.


TA0004
Privilege Escalation

Adversaries may inject portable executables (PE) into processes in order to evade process-based defenses as well as possibly elevate privileges. PE injection is a method of executing arbitrary code in the address space of a separate live process.


PE injection is commonly performed by copying code (perhaps without a file on disk) into the virtual address space of the target process before invoking it via a new thread. The write can be performed with native Windows API calls such as VirtualAllocEx and WriteProcessMemory, then invoked with CreateRemoteThread or additional code (ex: shellcode). The displacement of the injected code does introduce the additional requirement for functionality to remap memory references. (Citation: Elastic Process Injection July 2017)


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 PE injection may also evade detection from security products since the execution is masked under a legitimate process.


T1055.002
Process Injection: Portable Executable Injection

Adversaries may inject portable executables (PE) into processes in order to evade process-based defenses as well as possibly elevate privileges. PE injection is a method of executing arbitrary code in the address space of a separate live process.


PE injection is commonly performed by copying code (perhaps without a file on disk) into the virtual address space of the target process before invoking it via a new thread. The write can be performed with native Windows API calls such as VirtualAllocEx and WriteProcessMemory, then invoked with CreateRemoteThread or additional code (ex: shellcode). The displacement of the injected code does introduce the additional requirement for functionality to remap memory references. (Citation: Elastic Process Injection July 2017)


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 PE injection may also evade detection from security products since the execution is masked under a legitimate process.


T1546.011
Event Triggered Execution: Application Shimming

Adversaries may establish persistence and/or elevate privileges by executing malicious content triggered by application shims. The Microsoft Windows Application Compatibility Infrastructure/Framework (Application Shim) was created to allow for backward compatibility of software as the operating system codebase changes over time. For example, the application shimming feature allows developers to apply fixes to applications (without rewriting code) that were created for Windows XP so that it will work with Windows 10. (Citation: Elastic Process Injection July 2017)


Within the framework, shims are created to act as a buffer between the program (or more specifically, the Import Address Table) and the Windows OS. When a program is executed, the shim cache is referenced to determine if the program requires the use of the shim database (.sdb). If so, the shim database uses hooking to redirect the code as necessary in order to communicate with the OS.


A list of all shims currently installed by the default Windows installer (sdbinst.exe) is kept in:


* %WINDIR%AppPatchsysmain.sdb and

* hklmsoftwaremicrosoftwindows ntcurrentversionappcompatflagsinstalledsdb


Custom databases are stored in:


* %WINDIR%AppPatchcustom & %WINDIR%AppPatchAppPatch64Custom and

* hklmsoftwaremicrosoftwindows ntcurrentversionappcompatflagscustom


To keep shims secure, Windows designed them to run in user mode so they cannot modify the kernel and you must have administrator privileges to install a shim. However, certain shims can be used to Bypass User Account Control (UAC and RedirectEXE), inject DLLs into processes (InjectDLL), disable Data Execution Prevention (DisableNX) and Structure Exception Handling (DisableSEH), and intercept memory addresses (GetProcAddress).


Utilizing these shims may allow an adversary to perform several malicious acts such as elevate privileges, install backdoors, disable defenses like Windows Defender, etc. (Citation: FireEye Application Shimming) Shims can also be abused to establish persistence by continuously being invoked by affected programs.


T1546.012
Event Triggered Execution: Image File Execution Options Injection

Adversaries may establish persistence and/or elevate privileges by executing malicious content triggered by Image File Execution Options (IFEO) debuggers. IFEOs enable a developer to attach a debugger to an application. When a process is created, a debugger present in an application’s IFEO will be prepended to the application’s name, effectively launching the new process under the debugger (e.g., C:dbgntsd.exe -g notepad.exe). (Citation: Microsoft Dev Blog IFEO Mar 2010)


IFEOs can be set directly via the Registry or in Global Flags via the GFlags tool. (Citation: Microsoft GFlags Mar 2017) IFEOs are represented as Debugger values in the Registry under HKLMSOFTWARE{Wow6432Node}MicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionImage File Execution Options where <executable> is the binary on which the debugger is attached. (Citation: Microsoft Dev Blog IFEO Mar 2010)


IFEOs can also enable an arbitrary monitor program to be launched when a specified program silently exits (i.e. is prematurely terminated by itself or a second, non kernel-mode process). (Citation: Microsoft Silent Process Exit NOV 2017) (Citation: Oddvar Moe IFEO APR 2018) Similar to debuggers, silent exit monitoring can be enabled through GFlags and/or by directly modifying IFEO and silent process exit Registry values in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionSilentProcessExit. (Citation: Microsoft Silent Process Exit NOV 2017) (Citation: Oddvar Moe IFEO APR 2018)


Similar to Accessibility Features, on Windows Vista and later as well as Windows Server 2008 and later, a Registry key may be modified that configures “cmd.exe,” or another program that provides backdoor access, as a “debugger” for an accessibility program (ex: utilman.exe). After the Registry is modified, pressing the appropriate key combination at the login screen while at the keyboard or when connected with Remote Desktop Protocol will cause the “debugger” program to be executed with SYSTEM privileges. (Citation: Tilbury 2014)


Similar to Process Injection, these values may also be abused to obtain privilege escalation by causing a malicious executable to be loaded and run in the context of separate processes on the computer. (Citation: Elastic Process Injection July 2017) Installing IFEO mechanisms may also provide Persistence via continuous triggered invocation.


Malware may also use IFEO to Impair Defenses by registering invalid debuggers that redirect and effectively disable various system and security applications. (Citation: FSecure Hupigon) (Citation: Symantec Ushedix June 2008)


TA0005
Defense Evasion

Adversaries may abuse a double extension in the filename as a means of masquerading the true file type. A file name may include a secondary file type extension that may cause only the first extension to be displayed (ex: File.txt.exe may render in some views as just File.txt). However, the second extension is the true file type that determines how the file is opened and executed. The real file extension may be hidden by the operating system in the file browser (ex: explorer.exe), as well as in any software configured using or similar to the system’s policies.(Citation: PCMag DoubleExtension)(Citation: SOCPrime DoubleExtension)


Adversaries may abuse double extensions to attempt to conceal dangerous file types of payloads. A very common usage involves tricking a user into opening what they think is a benign file type but is actually executable code. Such files often pose as email attachments and allow an adversary to gain Initial Access into a user’s system via Spearphishing Attachment then User Execution. For example, an executable file attachment named Evil.txt.exe may display as Evil.txt to a user. The user may then view it as a benign text file and open it, inadvertently executing the hidden malware.(Citation: SOCPrime DoubleExtension)


Common file types, such as text files (.txt, .doc, etc.) and image files (.jpg, .gif, etc.) are typically used as the first extension to appear benign. Executable extensions commonly regarded as dangerous, such as .exe, .lnk, .hta, and .scr, often appear as the second extension and true file type.


T1036.007
Masquerading: Double File Extension

Adversaries may abuse a double extension in the filename as a means of masquerading the true file type. A file name may include a secondary file type extension that may cause only the first extension to be displayed (ex: File.txt.exe may render in some views as just File.txt). However, the second extension is the true file type that determines how the file is opened and executed. The real file extension may be hidden by the operating system in the file browser (ex: explorer.exe), as well as in any software configured using or similar to the system’s policies.(Citation: PCMag DoubleExtension)(Citation: SOCPrime DoubleExtension)


Adversaries may abuse double extensions to attempt to conceal dangerous file types of payloads. A very common usage involves tricking a user into opening what they think is a benign file type but is actually executable code. Such files often pose as email attachments and allow an adversary to gain Initial Access into a user’s system via Spearphishing Attachment then User Execution. For example, an executable file attachment named Evil.txt.exe may display as Evil.txt to a user. The user may then view it as a benign text file and open it, inadvertently executing the hidden malware.(Citation: SOCPrime DoubleExtension)


Common file types, such as text files (.txt, .doc, etc.) and image files (.jpg, .gif, etc.) are typically used as the first extension to appear benign. Executable extensions commonly regarded as dangerous, such as .exe, .lnk, .hta, and .scr, often appear as the second extension and true file type.


T1055.002
Process Injection: Portable Executable Injection

Adversaries may inject portable executables (PE) into processes in order to evade process-based defenses as well as possibly elevate privileges. PE injection is a method of executing arbitrary code in the address space of a separate live process.


PE injection is commonly performed by copying code (perhaps without a file on disk) into the virtual address space of the target process before invoking it via a new thread. The write can be performed with native Windows API calls such as VirtualAllocEx and WriteProcessMemory, then invoked with CreateRemoteThread or additional code (ex: shellcode). The displacement of the injected code does introduce the additional requirement for functionality to remap memory references. (Citation: Elastic Process Injection July 2017)


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 PE injection may also evade detection from security products since the execution is masked under a legitimate process.


T1070
Indicator Removal

Adversaries may delete or modify artifacts generated within systems to remove evidence of their presence or hinder defenses. Various artifacts may be created by an adversary or something that can be attributed to an adversary’s actions. Typically these artifacts are used as defensive indicators related to monitored events, such as strings from downloaded files, logs that are generated from user actions, and other data analyzed by defenders. Location, format, and type of artifact (such as command or login history) are often specific to each platform.


Removal of these indicators may interfere with event collection, reporting, or other processes used to detect intrusion activity. This may compromise the integrity of security solutions by causing notable events to go unreported. This activity may also impede forensic analysis and incident response, due to lack of sufficient data to determine what occurred.


T1070.004
Indicator Removal: File Deletion

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


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


T1134.003
Access Token Manipulation: Make and Impersonate Token

Adversaries may make new tokens and impersonate users to escalate privileges and bypass access controls. For example, if an adversary has a username and password but the user is not logged onto the system the adversary can then create a logon session for the user using the `LogonUser` function. The function will return a copy of the new session’s access token and the adversary can use `SetThreadToken` to assign the token to a thread.


This behavior is distinct from Token Impersonation/Theft in that this refers to creating a new user token instead of stealing or duplicating an existing one.


T1140
Deobfuscate/Decode Files or Information

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


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


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


T1197
BITS Jobs

Adversaries may abuse BITS jobs to persistently execute code and perform various background tasks. Windows Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) is a low-bandwidth, asynchronous file transfer mechanism exposed through Component Object Model (COM).(Citation: Microsoft COM)(Citation: Microsoft BITS) BITS is commonly used by updaters, messengers, and other applications preferred to operate in the background (using available idle bandwidth) without interrupting other networked applications. File transfer tasks are implemented as BITS jobs, which contain a queue of one or more file operations.


The interface to create and manage BITS jobs is accessible through PowerShell and the BITSAdmin tool.(Citation: Microsoft BITS)(Citation: Microsoft BITSAdmin)


Adversaries may abuse BITS to download (e.g. Ingress Tool Transfer), execute, and even clean up after running malicious code (e.g. Indicator Removal). BITS tasks are self-contained in the BITS job database, without new files or registry modifications, and often permitted by host firewalls.(Citation: CTU BITS Malware June 2016)(Citation: Mondok Windows PiggyBack BITS May 2007)(Citation: Symantec BITS May 2007) BITS enabled execution may also enable persistence by creating long-standing jobs (the default maximum lifetime is 90 days and extendable) or invoking an arbitrary program when a job completes or errors (including after system reboots).(Citation: PaloAlto UBoatRAT Nov 2017)(Citation: CTU BITS Malware June 2016)


BITS upload functionalities can also be used to perform Exfiltration Over Alternative Protocol.(Citation: CTU BITS Malware June 2016)


T1205
Traffic Signaling

Adversaries may use traffic signaling to hide open ports or other malicious functionality used for persistence or command and control. Traffic signaling involves the use of a magic value or sequence that must be sent to a system to trigger a special response, such as opening a closed port or executing a malicious task. This may take the form of sending a series of packets with certain characteristics before a port will be opened that the adversary can use for command and control. Usually this series of packets consists of attempted connections to a predefined sequence of closed ports (i.e. Port Knocking), but can involve unusual flags, specific strings, or other unique characteristics. After the sequence is completed, opening a port may be accomplished by the host-based firewall, but could also be implemented by custom software.


Adversaries may also communicate with an already open port, but the service listening on that port will only respond to commands or trigger other malicious functionality if passed the appropriate magic value(s).


The observation of the signal packets to trigger the communication can be conducted through different methods. One means, originally implemented by Cd00r (Citation: Hartrell cd00r 2002), is to use the libpcap libraries to sniff for the packets in question. Another method leverages raw sockets, which enables the malware to use ports that are already open for use by other programs.


On network devices, adversaries may use crafted packets to enable Network Device Authentication for standard services offered by the device such as telnet. Such signaling may also be used to open a closed service port such as telnet, or to trigger module modification of malware implants on the device, adding, removing, or changing malicious capabilities. Adversaries may use crafted packets to attempt to connect to one or more (open or closed) ports, but may also attempt to connect to a router interface, broadcast, and network address IP on the same port in order to achieve their goals and objectives.(Citation: Cisco Synful Knock Evolution)(Citation: Mandiant – Synful Knock)(Citation: Cisco Blog Legacy Device Attacks) To enable this traffic signaling on embedded devices, adversaries must first achieve and leverage Patch System Image due to the monolithic nature of the architecture.


Adversaries may also use the Wake-on-LAN feature to turn on powered off systems. Wake-on-LAN is a hardware feature that allows a powered down system to be powered on, or woken up, by sending a magic packet to it. Once the system is powered on, it may become a target for lateral movement.(Citation: Bleeping Computer – Ryuk WoL)(Citation: AMD Magic Packet)


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)


T1497.002
Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion: User Activity Based Checks

Adversaries may employ various user activity 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)


Adversaries may search for user activity on the host based on variables such as the speed/frequency of mouse movements and clicks (Citation: Sans Virtual Jan 2016) , browser history, cache, bookmarks, or number of files in common directories such as home or the desktop. Other methods may rely on specific user interaction with the system before the malicious code is activated, such as waiting for a document to close before activating a macro (Citation: Unit 42 Sofacy Nov 2018) or waiting for a user to double click on an embedded image to activate.(Citation: FireEye FIN7 April 2017)


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)


T1562.004
Impair Defenses: Disable or Modify System Firewall

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


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


TA0006
Credential Access

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


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


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

* Reading raw keystroke data from the hardware buffer.

* Windows Registry modifications.

* Custom drivers.

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


T1056.001
Input Capture: Keylogging

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


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


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

* Reading raw keystroke data from the hardware buffer.

* Windows Registry modifications.

* Custom drivers.

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


T1552.004
Unsecured Credentials: Private Keys

Adversaries may search for private key certificate files on compromised systems for insecurely stored credentials. Private cryptographic keys and certificates are used for authentication, encryption/decryption, and digital signatures.(Citation: Wikipedia Public Key Crypto) Common key and certificate file extensions include: .key, .pgp, .gpg, .ppk., .p12, .pem, .pfx, .cer, .p7b, .asc.


Adversaries may also look in common key directories, such as ~/.ssh for SSH keys on * nix-based systems or C:\Users\(username)\.ssh\ on Windows. Adversary tools may also search compromised systems for file extensions relating to cryptographic keys and certificates.(Citation: Kaspersky Careto)(Citation: Palo Alto Prince of Persia)


When a device is registered to Azure AD, a device key and a transport key are generated and used to verify the device’s identity.(Citation: Microsoft Primary Refresh Token) An adversary with access to the device may be able to export the keys in order to impersonate the device.(Citation: AADInternals Azure AD Device Identities)


On network devices, private keys may be exported via Network Device CLI commands such as `crypto pki export`.(Citation: cisco_deploy_rsa_keys)


Some private keys require a password or passphrase for operation, so an adversary may also use Input Capture for keylogging or attempt to Brute Force the passphrase off-line. These private keys can be used to authenticate to Remote Services like SSH or for use in decrypting other collected files such as email.


TA0007
Discovery

Adversaries may attempt to get a listing of other systems by IP address, hostname, or other logical identifier on a network that may be used for Lateral Movement from the current system. Functionality could exist within remote access tools to enable this, but utilities available on the operating system could also be used such as Ping or net view using Net.


Adversaries may also analyze data from local host files (ex: C:WindowsSystem32Driversetchosts or /etc/hosts) or other passive means (such as local Arp cache entries) in order to discover the presence of remote systems in an environment.


Adversaries may also target discovery of network infrastructure as well as leverage Network Device CLI commands on network devices to gather detailed information about systems within a network (e.g. show cdp neighbors, show arp).(Citation: US-CERT-TA18-106A)(Citation: CISA AR21-126A FIVEHANDS May 2021)


T1018
Remote System Discovery

Adversaries may attempt to get a listing of other systems by IP address, hostname, or other logical identifier on a network that may be used for Lateral Movement from the current system. Functionality could exist within remote access tools to enable this, but utilities available on the operating system could also be used such as Ping or net view using Net.


Adversaries may also analyze data from local host files (ex: C:WindowsSystem32Driversetchosts or /etc/hosts) or other passive means (such as local Arp cache entries) in order to discover the presence of remote systems in an environment.


Adversaries may also target discovery of network infrastructure as well as leverage Network Device CLI commands on network devices to gather detailed information about systems within a network (e.g. show cdp neighbors, show arp).(Citation: US-CERT-TA18-106A)(Citation: CISA AR21-126A FIVEHANDS May 2021)


T1049
System Network Connections Discovery

Adversaries may attempt to get a listing of network connections to or from the compromised system they are currently accessing or from remote systems by querying for information over the network.


An adversary who gains access to a system that is part of a cloud-based environment may map out Virtual Private Clouds or Virtual Networks in order to determine what systems and services are connected. The actions performed are likely the same types of discovery techniques depending on the operating system, but the resulting information may include details about the networked cloud environment relevant to the adversary’s goals. Cloud providers may have different ways in which their virtual networks operate.(Citation: Amazon AWS VPC Guide)(Citation: Microsoft Azure Virtual Network Overview)(Citation: Google VPC Overview) Similarly, adversaries who gain access to network devices may also perform similar discovery activities to gather information about connected systems and services.


Utilities and commands that acquire this information include netstat, “net use,” and “net session” with Net. In Mac and Linux, netstat and lsof can be used to list current connections. who -a and w can be used to show which users are currently logged in, similar to “net session”. Additionally, built-in features native to network devices and Network Device CLI may be used (e.g. show ip sockets, show tcp brief).(Citation: US-CERT-TA18-106A)


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)


T1083
File and Directory Discovery

Adversaries may enumerate files and directories or may search in specific locations of a host or network share for certain information within a file system. Adversaries may use the information from File and Directory Discovery during automated discovery to shape follow-on behaviors, including whether or not the adversary fully infects the target and/or attempts specific actions.


Many command shell utilities can be used to obtain this information. Examples include dir, tree, ls, find, and locate.(Citation: Windows Commands JPCERT) Custom tools may also be used to gather file and directory information and interact with the Native API. Adversaries may also leverage a Network Device CLI on network devices to gather file and directory information (e.g. dir, show flash, and/or nvram).(Citation: US-CERT-TA18-106A)


T1087.001
Account Discovery: Local Account

Adversaries may attempt to get a listing of local system accounts. This information can help adversaries determine which local accounts exist on a system to aid in follow-on behavior.


Commands such as net user and net localgroup of the Net utility and id and groupson macOS and Linux can list local users and groups. On Linux, local users can also be enumerated through the use of the /etc/passwd file. On macOS the dscl . list /Users command can be used to enumerate local accounts.


T1497.002
Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion: User Activity Based Checks

Adversaries may employ various user activity 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)


Adversaries may search for user activity on the host based on variables such as the speed/frequency of mouse movements and clicks (Citation: Sans Virtual Jan 2016) , browser history, cache, bookmarks, or number of files in common directories such as home or the desktop. Other methods may rely on specific user interaction with the system before the malicious code is activated, such as waiting for a document to close before activating a macro (Citation: Unit 42 Sofacy Nov 2018) or waiting for a user to double click on an embedded image to activate.(Citation: FireEye FIN7 April 2017)


TA0009
Collection

Adversaries may search local system sources, such as file systems and configuration files or local databases, to find files of interest and sensitive data prior to Exfiltration.


Adversaries may do this using a Command and Scripting Interpreter, such as cmd as well as a Network Device CLI, which have functionality to interact with the file system to gather information.(Citation: show_run_config_cmd_cisco) Adversaries may also use Automated Collection on the local system.


T1005
Data from Local System

Adversaries may search local system sources, such as file systems and configuration files or local databases, to find files of interest and sensitive data prior to Exfiltration.


Adversaries may do this using a Command and Scripting Interpreter, such as cmd as well as a Network Device CLI, which have functionality to interact with the file system to gather information.(Citation: show_run_config_cmd_cisco) Adversaries may also use Automated Collection on the local system.


T1113
Screen Capture

Adversaries may attempt to take screen captures of the desktop to gather information over the course of an operation. Screen capturing functionality may be included as a feature of a remote access tool used in post-compromise operations. Taking a screenshot is also typically possible through native utilities or API calls, such as CopyFromScreen, xwd, or screencapture.(Citation: CopyFromScreen .NET)(Citation: Antiquated Mac Malware)


T1560.001
Archive Collected Data: Archive via Utility

Adversaries may use utilities to compress and/or encrypt collected data prior to exfiltration. Many utilities include functionalities to compress, encrypt, or otherwise package data into a format that is easier/more secure to transport.


Adversaries may abuse various utilities to compress or encrypt data before exfiltration. Some third party utilities may be preinstalled, such as tar on Linux and macOS or zip on Windows systems.


On Windows, diantz or makecab may be used to package collected files into a cabinet (.cab) file. diantz may also be used to download and compress files from remote locations (i.e. Remote Data Staging).(Citation: diantz.exe_lolbas) xcopy on Windows can copy files and directories with a variety of options. Additionally, adversaries may use certutil to Base64 encode collected data before exfiltration.


Adversaries may use also third party utilities, such as 7-Zip, WinRAR, and WinZip, to perform similar activities.(Citation: 7zip Homepage)(Citation: WinRAR Homepage)(Citation: WinZip Homepage)


TA0011
Command and Control

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


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


T1071
Application Layer Protocol

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


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


T1095
Non-Application Layer Protocol

Adversaries may use an OSI non-application layer protocol for communication between host and C2 server or among infected hosts within a network. The list of possible protocols is extensive.(Citation: Wikipedia OSI) Specific examples include use of network layer protocols, such as the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP), transport layer protocols, such as the User Datagram Protocol (UDP), session layer protocols, such as Socket Secure (SOCKS), as well as redirected/tunneled protocols, such as Serial over LAN (SOL).


ICMP communication between hosts is one example.(Citation: Cisco Synful Knock Evolution) Because ICMP is part of the Internet Protocol Suite, it is required to be implemented by all IP-compatible hosts.(Citation: Microsoft ICMP) However, it is not as commonly monitored as other Internet Protocols such as TCP or UDP and may be used by adversaries to hide communications.


T1105
Ingress Tool Transfer

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


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


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


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


T1571
Non-Standard Port

Adversaries may communicate using a protocol and port pairing that are typically not associated. For example, HTTPS over port 8088(Citation: Symantec Elfin Mar 2019) or port 587(Citation: Fortinet Agent Tesla April 2018) as opposed to the traditional port 443. Adversaries may make changes to the standard port used by a protocol to bypass filtering or muddle analysis/parsing of network data.


Adversaries may also make changes to victim systems to abuse non-standard ports. For example, Registry keys and other configuration settings can be used to modify protocol and port pairings.(Citation: change_rdp_port_conti)


TA0040
Impact

An adversary may deface systems internal to an organization in an attempt to intimidate or mislead users, thus discrediting the integrity of the systems. This may take the form of modifications to internal websites, or directly to user systems with the replacement of the desktop wallpaper.(Citation: Novetta Blockbuster) Disturbing or offensive images may be used as a part of Internal Defacement in order to cause user discomfort, or to pressure compliance with accompanying messages. Since internally defacing systems exposes an adversary’s presence, it often takes place after other intrusion goals have been accomplished.(Citation: Novetta Blockbuster Destructive Malware)


T1491.001
Defacement: Internal Defacement

An adversary may deface systems internal to an organization in an attempt to intimidate or mislead users, thus discrediting the integrity of the systems. This may take the form of modifications to internal websites, or directly to user systems with the replacement of the desktop wallpaper.(Citation: Novetta Blockbuster) Disturbing or offensive images may be used as a part of Internal Defacement in order to cause user discomfort, or to pressure compliance with accompanying messages. Since internally defacing systems exposes an adversary’s presence, it often takes place after other intrusion goals have been accomplished.(Citation: Novetta Blockbuster Destructive Malware)


T1565
Data Manipulation

Adversaries may insert, delete, or manipulate data in order to influence external outcomes or hide activity, thus threatening the integrity of the data. By manipulating data, adversaries may attempt to affect a business process, organizational understanding, or decision making.


The type of modification and the impact it will have depends on the target application and process as well as the goals and objectives of the adversary. For complex systems, an adversary would likely need special expertise and possibly access to specialized software related to the system that would typically be gained through a prolonged information gathering campaign in order to have the desired impact.


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

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