Update Date
02/07/2024

Class: Trojan

A malicious program designed to electronically spy on the user’s activities (intercept keyboard input, take screenshots, capture a list of active applications, etc.). The collected information is sent to the cybercriminal by various means, including email, FTP, and HTTP (by sending data in a request).

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Platform: BAT

No platform description

Family: Trojan.Win64.Agent

No family description

Tactics and Techniques: Mitre*

TA0001
Initial Access

Adversaries may send spearphishing emails with a malicious link in an attempt to gain access to victim systems. Spearphishing with a link is a specific variant of spearphishing. It is different from other forms of spearphishing in that it employs the use of links to download malware contained in email, instead of attaching malicious files to the email itself, to avoid defenses that may inspect email attachments. Spearphishing may also involve social engineering techniques, such as posing as a trusted source.


All forms of spearphishing are electronically delivered social engineering targeted at a specific individual, company, or industry. In this case, the malicious emails contain links. Generally, the links will be accompanied by social engineering text and require the user to actively click or copy and paste a URL into a browser, leveraging User Execution. The visited website may compromise the web browser using an exploit, or the user will be prompted to download applications, documents, zip files, or even executables depending on the pretext for the email in the first place.


Adversaries may also include links that are intended to interact directly with an email reader, including embedded images intended to exploit the end system directly. Additionally, adversaries may use seemingly benign links that abuse special characters to mimic legitimate websites (known as an “IDN homograph attack”).(Citation: CISA IDN ST05-016) URLs may also be obfuscated by taking advantage of quirks in the URL schema, such as the acceptance of integer- or hexadecimal-based hostname formats and the automatic discarding of text before an “@” symbol: for example, `hxxp://google.com@1157586937`.(Citation: Mandiant URL Obfuscation 2023)


Adversaries may also utilize links to perform consent phishing, typically with OAuth 2.0 request URLs that when accepted by the user provide permissions/access for malicious applications, allowing adversaries to Steal Application Access Tokens.(Citation: Trend Micro Pawn Storm OAuth 2017) These stolen access tokens allow the adversary to perform various actions on behalf of the user via API calls. (Citation: Microsoft OAuth 2.0 Consent Phishing 2021)


T1566.002
Phishing: Spearphishing Link

Adversaries may send spearphishing emails with a malicious link in an attempt to gain access to victim systems. Spearphishing with a link is a specific variant of spearphishing. It is different from other forms of spearphishing in that it employs the use of links to download malware contained in email, instead of attaching malicious files to the email itself, to avoid defenses that may inspect email attachments. Spearphishing may also involve social engineering techniques, such as posing as a trusted source.


All forms of spearphishing are electronically delivered social engineering targeted at a specific individual, company, or industry. In this case, the malicious emails contain links. Generally, the links will be accompanied by social engineering text and require the user to actively click or copy and paste a URL into a browser, leveraging User Execution. The visited website may compromise the web browser using an exploit, or the user will be prompted to download applications, documents, zip files, or even executables depending on the pretext for the email in the first place.


Adversaries may also include links that are intended to interact directly with an email reader, including embedded images intended to exploit the end system directly. Additionally, adversaries may use seemingly benign links that abuse special characters to mimic legitimate websites (known as an “IDN homograph attack”).(Citation: CISA IDN ST05-016) URLs may also be obfuscated by taking advantage of quirks in the URL schema, such as the acceptance of integer- or hexadecimal-based hostname formats and the automatic discarding of text before an “@” symbol: for example, `hxxp://google.com@1157586937`.(Citation: Mandiant URL Obfuscation 2023)


Adversaries may also utilize links to perform consent phishing, typically with OAuth 2.0 request URLs that when accepted by the user provide permissions/access for malicious applications, allowing adversaries to Steal Application Access Tokens.(Citation: Trend Micro Pawn Storm OAuth 2017) These stolen access tokens allow the adversary to perform various actions on behalf of the user via API calls. (Citation: Microsoft OAuth 2.0 Consent Phishing 2021)


TA0002
Execution

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


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


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


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


T1053.002
Scheduled Task/Job: At

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


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


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


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


T1059
Command and Scripting Interpreter

Adversaries may abuse command and script interpreters to execute commands, scripts, or binaries. These interfaces and languages provide ways of interacting with computer systems and are a common feature across many different platforms. Most systems come with some built-in command-line interface and scripting capabilities, for example, macOS and Linux distributions include some flavor of Unix Shell while Windows installations include the Windows Command Shell and PowerShell.


There are also cross-platform interpreters such as Python, as well as those commonly associated with client applications such as JavaScript and Visual Basic.


Adversaries may abuse these technologies in various ways as a means of executing arbitrary commands. Commands and scripts can be embedded in Initial Access payloads delivered to victims as lure documents or as secondary payloads downloaded from an existing C2. Adversaries may also execute commands through interactive terminals/shells, as well as utilize various Remote Services in order to achieve remote Execution.(Citation: Powershell Remote Commands)(Citation: Cisco IOS Software Integrity Assurance – Command History)(Citation: Remote Shell Execution in Python)


T1204.001
User Execution: Malicious Link

An adversary may rely upon a user clicking a malicious link in order to gain execution. Users may be subjected to social engineering to get them to click on a link that will lead to code execution. This user action will typically be observed as follow-on behavior from Spearphishing Link. Clicking on a link may also lead to other execution techniques such as exploitation of a browser or application vulnerability via Exploitation for Client Execution. Links may also lead users to download files that require execution via Malicious File.


T1569.002
System Services: Service Execution

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


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


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


TA0003
Persistence

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


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


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


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


T1053.002
Scheduled Task/Job: At

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


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


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


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


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.


T1546.008
Event Triggered Execution: Accessibility Features

Adversaries may establish persistence and/or elevate privileges by executing malicious content triggered by accessibility features. Windows contains accessibility features that may be launched with a key combination before a user has logged in (ex: when the user is on the Windows logon screen). An adversary can modify the way these programs are launched to get a command prompt or backdoor without logging in to the system.


Two common accessibility programs are C:WindowsSystem32sethc.exe, launched when the shift key is pressed five times and C:WindowsSystem32utilman.exe, launched when the Windows + U key combination is pressed. The sethc.exe program is often referred to as “sticky keys”, and has been used by adversaries for unauthenticated access through a remote desktop login screen. (Citation: FireEye Hikit Rootkit)


Depending on the version of Windows, an adversary may take advantage of these features in different ways. Common methods used by adversaries include replacing accessibility feature binaries or pointers/references to these binaries in the Registry. In newer versions of Windows, the replaced binary needs to be digitally signed for x64 systems, the binary must reside in %systemdir%, and it must be protected by Windows File or Resource Protection (WFP/WRP). (Citation: DEFCON2016 Sticky Keys) The Image File Execution Options Injection debugger method was likely discovered as a potential workaround because it does not require the corresponding accessibility feature binary to be replaced.


For simple binary replacement on Windows XP and later as well as and Windows Server 2003/R2 and later, for example, the program (e.g., C:WindowsSystem32utilman.exe) may be replaced with “cmd.exe” (or another program that provides backdoor access). Subsequently, pressing the appropriate key combination at the login screen while sitting at the keyboard or when connected over Remote Desktop Protocol will cause the replaced file to be executed with SYSTEM privileges. (Citation: Tilbury 2014)


Other accessibility features exist that may also be leveraged in a similar fashion: (Citation: DEFCON2016 Sticky Keys)(Citation: Narrator Accessibility Abuse)


* On-Screen Keyboard: C:WindowsSystem32osk.exe

* Magnifier: C:WindowsSystem32Magnify.exe

* Narrator: C:WindowsSystem32Narrator.exe

* Display Switcher: C:WindowsSystem32DisplaySwitch.exe

* App Switcher: C:WindowsSystem32AtBroker.exe


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)


T1547.004
Boot or Logon Autostart Execution: Winlogon Helper DLL

Adversaries may abuse features of Winlogon to execute DLLs and/or executables when a user logs in. Winlogon.exe is a Windows component responsible for actions at logon/logoff as well as the secure attention sequence (SAS) triggered by Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Registry entries in HKLMSoftware[\Wow6432Node\]MicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionWinlogon and HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionWinlogon are used to manage additional helper programs and functionalities that support Winlogon.(Citation: Cylance Reg Persistence Sept 2013)


Malicious modifications to these Registry keys may cause Winlogon to load and execute malicious DLLs and/or executables. Specifically, the following subkeys have been known to be possibly vulnerable to abuse: (Citation: Cylance Reg Persistence Sept 2013)


* WinlogonNotify – points to notification package DLLs that handle Winlogon events

* WinlogonUserinit – points to userinit.exe, the user initialization program executed when a user logs on

* WinlogonShell – points to explorer.exe, the system shell executed when a user logs on


Adversaries may take advantage of these features to repeatedly execute malicious code and establish persistence.


T1548.002
Abuse Elevation Control Mechanism: Bypass User Account Control

Adversaries may bypass UAC mechanisms to elevate process privileges on system. Windows User Account Control (UAC) allows a program to elevate its privileges (tracked as integrity levels ranging from low to high) to perform a task under administrator-level permissions, possibly by prompting the user for confirmation. The impact to the user ranges from denying the operation under high enforcement to allowing the user to perform the action if they are in the local administrators group and click through the prompt or allowing them to enter an administrator password to complete the action.(Citation: TechNet How UAC Works)


If the UAC protection level of a computer is set to anything but the highest level, certain Windows programs can elevate privileges or execute some elevated Component Object Model objects without prompting the user through the UAC notification box.(Citation: TechNet Inside UAC)(Citation: MSDN COM Elevation) An example of this is use of Rundll32 to load a specifically crafted DLL which loads an auto-elevated Component Object Model object and performs a file operation in a protected directory which would typically require elevated access. Malicious software may also be injected into a trusted process to gain elevated privileges without prompting a user.(Citation: Davidson Windows)


Many methods have been discovered to bypass UAC. The Github readme page for UACME contains an extensive list of methods(Citation: Github UACMe) that have been discovered and implemented, but may not be a comprehensive list of bypasses. Additional bypass methods are regularly discovered and some used in the wild, such as:


* eventvwr.exe can auto-elevate and execute a specified binary or script.(Citation: enigma0x3 Fileless UAC Bypass)(Citation: Fortinet Fareit)


Another bypass is possible through some lateral movement techniques if credentials for an account with administrator privileges are known, since UAC is a single system security mechanism, and the privilege or integrity of a process running on one system will be unknown on remote systems and default to high integrity.(Citation: SANS UAC Bypass)


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.


T1574.007
Hijack Execution Flow: Path Interception by PATH Environment Variable

Adversaries may execute their own malicious payloads by hijacking environment variables used to load libraries. The PATH environment variable contains a list of directories (User and System) that the OS searches sequentially through in search of the binary that was called from a script or the command line.


Adversaries can place a malicious program in an earlier entry in the list of directories stored in the PATH environment variable, resulting in the operating system executing the malicious binary rather than the legitimate binary when it searches sequentially through that PATH listing.


For example, on Windows if an adversary places a malicious program named “net.exe” in `C:example path`, which by default precedes `C:Windowssystem32net.exe` in the PATH environment variable, when “net” is executed from the command-line the `C:example path` will be called instead of the system’s legitimate executable at `C:Windowssystem32net.exe`. Some methods of executing a program rely on the PATH environment variable to determine the locations that are searched when the path for the program is not given, such as executing programs from a Command and Scripting Interpreter.(Citation: ExpressVPN PATH env Windows 2021)


Adversaries may also directly modify the $PATH variable specifying the directories to be searched. An adversary can modify the `$PATH` variable to point to a directory they have write access. When a program using the $PATH variable is called, the OS searches the specified directory and executes the malicious binary. On macOS, this can also be performed through modifying the $HOME variable. These variables can be modified using the command-line, launchctl, Unix Shell Configuration Modification, or modifying the `/etc/paths.d` folder contents.(Citation: uptycs Fake POC linux malware 2023)(Citation: nixCraft macOS PATH variables)(Citation: Elastic Rules macOS launchctl 2022)


TA0004
Privilege Escalation

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


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


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


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


T1053.002
Scheduled Task/Job: At

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


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


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


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


T1055
Process Injection

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


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


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


T1055.004
Process Injection: Asynchronous Procedure Call

Adversaries may inject malicious code into processes via the asynchronous procedure call (APC) queue in order to evade process-based defenses as well as possibly elevate privileges. APC injection is a method of executing arbitrary code in the address space of a separate live process.


APC injection is commonly performed by attaching malicious code to the APC Queue (Citation: Microsoft APC) of a process’s thread. Queued APC functions are executed when the thread enters an alterable state.(Citation: Microsoft APC) A handle to an existing victim process is first created with native Windows API calls such as OpenThread. At this point QueueUserAPC can be used to invoke a function (such as LoadLibrayA pointing to a malicious DLL).


A variation of APC injection, dubbed “Early Bird injection”, involves creating a suspended process in which malicious code can be written and executed before the process’ entry point (and potentially subsequent anti-malware hooks) via an APC. (Citation: CyberBit Early Bird Apr 2018) AtomBombing (Citation: ENSIL AtomBombing Oct 2016) is another variation that utilizes APCs to invoke malicious code previously written to the global atom table.(Citation: Microsoft Atom Table)


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


T1055.013
Process Injection: Process Doppelganging

Adversaries may inject malicious code into process via process doppelganging in order to evade process-based defenses as well as possibly elevate privileges. Process doppelganging is a method of executing arbitrary code in the address space of a separate live process.


Windows Transactional NTFS (TxF) was introduced in Vista as a method to perform safe file operations. (Citation: Microsoft TxF) To ensure data integrity, TxF enables only one transacted handle to write to a file at a given time. Until the write handle transaction is terminated, all other handles are isolated from the writer and may only read the committed version of the file that existed at the time the handle was opened. (Citation: Microsoft Basic TxF Concepts) To avoid corruption, TxF performs an automatic rollback if the system or application fails during a write transaction. (Citation: Microsoft Where to use TxF)


Although deprecated, the TxF application programming interface (API) is still enabled as of Windows 10. (Citation: BlackHat Process Doppelganging Dec 2017)


Adversaries may abuse TxF to a perform a file-less variation of Process Injection. Similar to Process Hollowing, process doppelganging involves replacing the memory of a legitimate process, enabling the veiled execution of malicious code that may evade defenses and detection. Process doppelganging’s use of TxF also avoids the use of highly-monitored API functions such as NtUnmapViewOfSection, VirtualProtectEx, and SetThreadContext. (Citation: BlackHat Process Doppelganging Dec 2017)


Process Doppelganging is implemented in 4 steps (Citation: BlackHat Process Doppelganging Dec 2017):


* Transact – Create a TxF transaction using a legitimate executable then overwrite the file with malicious code. These changes will be isolated and only visible within the context of the transaction.

* Load – Create a shared section of memory and load the malicious executable.

* Rollback – Undo changes to original executable, effectively removing malicious code from the file system.

* Animate – Create a process from the tainted section of memory and initiate execution.


This behavior will likely not result in elevated privileges since the injected process was spawned from (and thus inherits the security context) of the injecting process. However, execution via process doppelganging may evade detection from security products since the execution is masked under a legitimate process.


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.


T1134.002
Access Token Manipulation: Create Process with Token

Adversaries may create a new process with an existing token to escalate privileges and bypass access controls. Processes can be created with the token and resulting security context of another user using features such as CreateProcessWithTokenW and runas.(Citation: Microsoft RunAs)


Creating processes with a token not associated with the current user may require the credentials of the target user, specific privileges to impersonate that user, or access to the token to be used. For example, the token could be duplicated via Token Impersonation/Theft or created via Make and Impersonate Token before being used to create a process.


While this technique is distinct from Token Impersonation/Theft, the techniques can be used in conjunction where a token is duplicated and then used to create a new process.


T1134.004
Access Token Manipulation: Parent PID Spoofing

Adversaries may spoof the parent process identifier (PPID) of a new process to evade process-monitoring defenses or to elevate privileges. New processes are typically spawned directly from their parent, or calling, process unless explicitly specified. One way of explicitly assigning the PPID of a new process is via the CreateProcess API call, which supports a parameter that defines the PPID to use.(Citation: DidierStevens SelectMyParent Nov 2009) This functionality is used by Windows features such as User Account Control (UAC) to correctly set the PPID after a requested elevated process is spawned by SYSTEM (typically via svchost.exe or consent.exe) rather than the current user context.(Citation: Microsoft UAC Nov 2018)


Adversaries may abuse these mechanisms to evade defenses, such as those blocking processes spawning directly from Office documents, and analysis targeting unusual/potentially malicious parent-child process relationships, such as spoofing the PPID of PowerShell/Rundll32 to be explorer.exe rather than an Office document delivered as part of Spearphishing Attachment.(Citation: CounterCept PPID Spoofing Dec 2018) This spoofing could be executed via Visual Basic within a malicious Office document or any code that can perform Native API.(Citation: CTD PPID Spoofing Macro Mar 2019)(Citation: CounterCept PPID Spoofing Dec 2018)


Explicitly assigning the PPID may also enable elevated privileges given appropriate access rights to the parent process. For example, an adversary in a privileged user context (i.e. administrator) may spawn a new process and assign the parent as a process running as SYSTEM (such as lsass.exe), causing the new process to be elevated via the inherited access token.(Citation: XPNSec PPID Nov 2017)


T1484.001
Domain Policy Modification: Group Policy Modification

Adversaries may modify Group Policy Objects (GPOs) to subvert the intended discretionary access controls for a domain, usually with the intention of escalating privileges on the domain. Group policy allows for centralized management of user and computer settings in Active Directory (AD). GPOs are containers for group policy settings made up of files stored within a predictable network path `SYSVOLPolicies`.(Citation: TechNet Group Policy Basics)(Citation: ADSecurity GPO Persistence 2016)


Like other objects in AD, GPOs have access controls associated with them. By default all user accounts in the domain have permission to read GPOs. It is possible to delegate GPO access control permissions, e.g. write access, to specific users or groups in the domain.


Malicious GPO modifications can be used to implement many other malicious behaviors such as Scheduled Task/Job, Disable or Modify Tools, Ingress Tool Transfer, Create Account, Service Execution, and more.(Citation: ADSecurity GPO Persistence 2016)(Citation: Wald0 Guide to GPOs)(Citation: Harmj0y Abusing GPO Permissions)(Citation: Mandiant M Trends 2016)(Citation: Microsoft Hacking Team Breach) Since GPOs can control so many user and machine settings in the AD environment, there are a great number of potential attacks that can stem from this GPO abuse.(Citation: Wald0 Guide to GPOs)


For example, publicly available scripts such as New-GPOImmediateTask can be leveraged to automate the creation of a malicious Scheduled Task/Job by modifying GPO settings, in this case modifying <GPO_PATH>MachinePreferencesScheduledTasksScheduledTasks.xml.(Citation: Wald0 Guide to GPOs)(Citation: Harmj0y Abusing GPO Permissions) In some cases an adversary might modify specific user rights like SeEnableDelegationPrivilege, set in <GPO_PATH>MACHINEMicrosoftWindows NTSecEditGptTmpl.inf, to achieve a subtle AD backdoor with complete control of the domain because the user account under the adversary’s control would then be able to modify GPOs.(Citation: Harmj0y SeEnableDelegationPrivilege Right)


T1546.008
Event Triggered Execution: Accessibility Features

Adversaries may establish persistence and/or elevate privileges by executing malicious content triggered by accessibility features. Windows contains accessibility features that may be launched with a key combination before a user has logged in (ex: when the user is on the Windows logon screen). An adversary can modify the way these programs are launched to get a command prompt or backdoor without logging in to the system.


Two common accessibility programs are C:WindowsSystem32sethc.exe, launched when the shift key is pressed five times and C:WindowsSystem32utilman.exe, launched when the Windows + U key combination is pressed. The sethc.exe program is often referred to as “sticky keys”, and has been used by adversaries for unauthenticated access through a remote desktop login screen. (Citation: FireEye Hikit Rootkit)


Depending on the version of Windows, an adversary may take advantage of these features in different ways. Common methods used by adversaries include replacing accessibility feature binaries or pointers/references to these binaries in the Registry. In newer versions of Windows, the replaced binary needs to be digitally signed for x64 systems, the binary must reside in %systemdir%, and it must be protected by Windows File or Resource Protection (WFP/WRP). (Citation: DEFCON2016 Sticky Keys) The Image File Execution Options Injection debugger method was likely discovered as a potential workaround because it does not require the corresponding accessibility feature binary to be replaced.


For simple binary replacement on Windows XP and later as well as and Windows Server 2003/R2 and later, for example, the program (e.g., C:WindowsSystem32utilman.exe) may be replaced with “cmd.exe” (or another program that provides backdoor access). Subsequently, pressing the appropriate key combination at the login screen while sitting at the keyboard or when connected over Remote Desktop Protocol will cause the replaced file to be executed with SYSTEM privileges. (Citation: Tilbury 2014)


Other accessibility features exist that may also be leveraged in a similar fashion: (Citation: DEFCON2016 Sticky Keys)(Citation: Narrator Accessibility Abuse)


* On-Screen Keyboard: C:WindowsSystem32osk.exe

* Magnifier: C:WindowsSystem32Magnify.exe

* Narrator: C:WindowsSystem32Narrator.exe

* Display Switcher: C:WindowsSystem32DisplaySwitch.exe

* App Switcher: C:WindowsSystem32AtBroker.exe


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)


T1547.004
Boot or Logon Autostart Execution: Winlogon Helper DLL

Adversaries may abuse features of Winlogon to execute DLLs and/or executables when a user logs in. Winlogon.exe is a Windows component responsible for actions at logon/logoff as well as the secure attention sequence (SAS) triggered by Ctrl-Alt-Delete. Registry entries in HKLMSoftware[\Wow6432Node\]MicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionWinlogon and HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftWindows NTCurrentVersionWinlogon are used to manage additional helper programs and functionalities that support Winlogon.(Citation: Cylance Reg Persistence Sept 2013)


Malicious modifications to these Registry keys may cause Winlogon to load and execute malicious DLLs and/or executables. Specifically, the following subkeys have been known to be possibly vulnerable to abuse: (Citation: Cylance Reg Persistence Sept 2013)


* WinlogonNotify – points to notification package DLLs that handle Winlogon events

* WinlogonUserinit – points to userinit.exe, the user initialization program executed when a user logs on

* WinlogonShell – points to explorer.exe, the system shell executed when a user logs on


Adversaries may take advantage of these features to repeatedly execute malicious code and establish persistence.


T1574.007
Hijack Execution Flow: Path Interception by PATH Environment Variable

Adversaries may execute their own malicious payloads by hijacking environment variables used to load libraries. The PATH environment variable contains a list of directories (User and System) that the OS searches sequentially through in search of the binary that was called from a script or the command line.


Adversaries can place a malicious program in an earlier entry in the list of directories stored in the PATH environment variable, resulting in the operating system executing the malicious binary rather than the legitimate binary when it searches sequentially through that PATH listing.


For example, on Windows if an adversary places a malicious program named “net.exe” in `C:example path`, which by default precedes `C:Windowssystem32net.exe` in the PATH environment variable, when “net” is executed from the command-line the `C:example path` will be called instead of the system’s legitimate executable at `C:Windowssystem32net.exe`. Some methods of executing a program rely on the PATH environment variable to determine the locations that are searched when the path for the program is not given, such as executing programs from a Command and Scripting Interpreter.(Citation: ExpressVPN PATH env Windows 2021)


Adversaries may also directly modify the $PATH variable specifying the directories to be searched. An adversary can modify the `$PATH` variable to point to a directory they have write access. When a program using the $PATH variable is called, the OS searches the specified directory and executes the malicious binary. On macOS, this can also be performed through modifying the $HOME variable. These variables can be modified using the command-line, launchctl, Unix Shell Configuration Modification, or modifying the `/etc/paths.d` folder contents.(Citation: uptycs Fake POC linux malware 2023)(Citation: nixCraft macOS PATH variables)(Citation: Elastic Rules macOS launchctl 2022)


TA0005
Defense Evasion

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


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


T1036
Masquerading

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


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


T1036.005
Masquerading: Match Legitimate Name or Location

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


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


T1055.004
Process Injection: Asynchronous Procedure Call

Adversaries may inject malicious code into processes via the asynchronous procedure call (APC) queue in order to evade process-based defenses as well as possibly elevate privileges. APC injection is a method of executing arbitrary code in the address space of a separate live process.


APC injection is commonly performed by attaching malicious code to the APC Queue (Citation: Microsoft APC) of a process’s thread. Queued APC functions are executed when the thread enters an alterable state.(Citation: Microsoft APC) A handle to an existing victim process is first created with native Windows API calls such as OpenThread. At this point QueueUserAPC can be used to invoke a function (such as LoadLibrayA pointing to a malicious DLL).


A variation of APC injection, dubbed “Early Bird injection”, involves creating a suspended process in which malicious code can be written and executed before the process’ entry point (and potentially subsequent anti-malware hooks) via an APC. (Citation: CyberBit Early Bird Apr 2018) AtomBombing (Citation: ENSIL AtomBombing Oct 2016) is another variation that utilizes APCs to invoke malicious code previously written to the global atom table.(Citation: Microsoft Atom Table)


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


T1055.012
Process Injection: Process Hollowing

Adversaries may inject malicious code into suspended and hollowed processes in order to evade process-based defenses. Process hollowing is a method of executing arbitrary code in the address space of a separate live process.


Process hollowing is commonly performed by creating a process in a suspended state then unmapping/hollowing its memory, which can then be replaced with malicious code. A victim process can be created with native Windows API calls such as CreateProcess, which includes a flag to suspend the processes primary thread. At this point the process can be unmapped using APIs calls such as ZwUnmapViewOfSection or NtUnmapViewOfSection before being written to, realigned to the injected code, and resumed via VirtualAllocEx, WriteProcessMemory, SetThreadContext, then ResumeThread respectively.(Citation: Leitch Hollowing)(Citation: Elastic Process Injection July 2017)


This is very similar to Thread Local Storage but creates a new process rather than targeting an existing process. This behavior will likely not result in elevated privileges since the injected process was spawned from (and thus inherits the security context) of the injecting process. However, execution via process hollowing may also evade detection from security products since the execution is masked under a legitimate process.


T1055.013
Process Injection: Process Doppelganging

Adversaries may inject malicious code into process via process doppelganging in order to evade process-based defenses as well as possibly elevate privileges. Process doppelganging is a method of executing arbitrary code in the address space of a separate live process.


Windows Transactional NTFS (TxF) was introduced in Vista as a method to perform safe file operations. (Citation: Microsoft TxF) To ensure data integrity, TxF enables only one transacted handle to write to a file at a given time. Until the write handle transaction is terminated, all other handles are isolated from the writer and may only read the committed version of the file that existed at the time the handle was opened. (Citation: Microsoft Basic TxF Concepts) To avoid corruption, TxF performs an automatic rollback if the system or application fails during a write transaction. (Citation: Microsoft Where to use TxF)


Although deprecated, the TxF application programming interface (API) is still enabled as of Windows 10. (Citation: BlackHat Process Doppelganging Dec 2017)


Adversaries may abuse TxF to a perform a file-less variation of Process Injection. Similar to Process Hollowing, process doppelganging involves replacing the memory of a legitimate process, enabling the veiled execution of malicious code that may evade defenses and detection. Process doppelganging’s use of TxF also avoids the use of highly-monitored API functions such as NtUnmapViewOfSection, VirtualProtectEx, and SetThreadContext. (Citation: BlackHat Process Doppelganging Dec 2017)


Process Doppelganging is implemented in 4 steps (Citation: BlackHat Process Doppelganging Dec 2017):


* Transact – Create a TxF transaction using a legitimate executable then overwrite the file with malicious code. These changes will be isolated and only visible within the context of the transaction.

* Load – Create a shared section of memory and load the malicious executable.

* Rollback – Undo changes to original executable, effectively removing malicious code from the file system.

* Animate – Create a process from the tainted section of memory and initiate execution.


This behavior will likely not result in elevated privileges since the injected process was spawned from (and thus inherits the security context) of the injecting process. However, execution via process doppelganging may evade detection from security products since the execution is masked under a legitimate process.


T1070.001
Indicator Removal: Clear Windows Event Logs

Adversaries may clear Windows Event Logs to hide the activity of an intrusion. Windows Event Logs are a record of a computer’s alerts and notifications. There are three system-defined sources of events: System, Application, and Security, with five event types: Error, Warning, Information, Success Audit, and Failure Audit.


The event logs can be cleared with the following utility commands:


* wevtutil cl system

* wevtutil cl application

* wevtutil cl security


These logs may also be cleared through other mechanisms, such as the event viewer GUI or PowerShell. For example, adversaries may use the PowerShell command Remove-EventLog -LogName Security to delete the Security EventLog and after reboot, disable future logging. Note: events may still be generated and logged in the .evtx file between the time the command is run and the reboot.(Citation: disable_win_evt_logging)


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.


T1070.006
Indicator Removal: Timestomp

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


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


T1070.009
Indicator Removal: Clear Persistence

Adversaries may clear artifacts associated with previously established persistence on a host system to remove evidence of their activity. This may involve various actions, such as removing services, deleting executables, Modify Registry, Plist File Modification, or other methods of cleanup to prevent defenders from collecting evidence of their persistent presence.(Citation: Cylance Dust Storm) Adversaries may also delete accounts previously created to maintain persistence (i.e. Create Account).(Citation: Talos – Cisco Attack 2022)


In some instances, artifacts of persistence may also be removed once an adversary’s persistence is executed in order to prevent errors with the new instance of the malware.(Citation: NCC Group Team9 June 2020)


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.


T1134.002
Access Token Manipulation: Create Process with Token

Adversaries may create a new process with an existing token to escalate privileges and bypass access controls. Processes can be created with the token and resulting security context of another user using features such as CreateProcessWithTokenW and runas.(Citation: Microsoft RunAs)


Creating processes with a token not associated with the current user may require the credentials of the target user, specific privileges to impersonate that user, or access to the token to be used. For example, the token could be duplicated via Token Impersonation/Theft or created via Make and Impersonate Token before being used to create a process.


While this technique is distinct from Token Impersonation/Theft, the techniques can be used in conjunction where a token is duplicated and then used to create a new process.


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.


T1134.004
Access Token Manipulation: Parent PID Spoofing

Adversaries may spoof the parent process identifier (PPID) of a new process to evade process-monitoring defenses or to elevate privileges. New processes are typically spawned directly from their parent, or calling, process unless explicitly specified. One way of explicitly assigning the PPID of a new process is via the CreateProcess API call, which supports a parameter that defines the PPID to use.(Citation: DidierStevens SelectMyParent Nov 2009) This functionality is used by Windows features such as User Account Control (UAC) to correctly set the PPID after a requested elevated process is spawned by SYSTEM (typically via svchost.exe or consent.exe) rather than the current user context.(Citation: Microsoft UAC Nov 2018)


Adversaries may abuse these mechanisms to evade defenses, such as those blocking processes spawning directly from Office documents, and analysis targeting unusual/potentially malicious parent-child process relationships, such as spoofing the PPID of PowerShell/Rundll32 to be explorer.exe rather than an Office document delivered as part of Spearphishing Attachment.(Citation: CounterCept PPID Spoofing Dec 2018) This spoofing could be executed via Visual Basic within a malicious Office document or any code that can perform Native API.(Citation: CTD PPID Spoofing Macro Mar 2019)(Citation: CounterCept PPID Spoofing Dec 2018)


Explicitly assigning the PPID may also enable elevated privileges given appropriate access rights to the parent process. For example, an adversary in a privileged user context (i.e. administrator) may spawn a new process and assign the parent as a process running as SYSTEM (such as lsass.exe), causing the new process to be elevated via the inherited access token.(Citation: XPNSec PPID Nov 2017)


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.


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)


T1222
File and Directory Permissions Modification

Adversaries may modify file or directory permissions/attributes to evade access control lists (ACLs) and access protected files.(Citation: Hybrid Analysis Icacls1 June 2018)(Citation: Hybrid Analysis Icacls2 May 2018) File and directory permissions are commonly managed by ACLs configured by the file or directory owner, or users with the appropriate permissions. File and directory ACL implementations vary by platform, but generally explicitly designate which users or groups can perform which actions (read, write, execute, etc.).


Modifications may include changing specific access rights, which may require taking ownership of a file or directory and/or elevated permissions depending on the file or directory’s existing permissions. This may enable malicious activity such as modifying, replacing, or deleting specific files or directories. Specific file and directory modifications may be a required step for many techniques, such as establishing Persistence via Accessibility Features, Boot or Logon Initialization Scripts, Unix Shell Configuration Modification, or tainting/hijacking other instrumental binary/configuration files via Hijack Execution Flow.


Adversaries may also change permissions of symbolic links. For example, malware (particularly ransomware) may modify symbolic links and associated settings to enable access to files from local shortcuts with remote paths.(Citation: new_rust_based_ransomware)(Citation: bad_luck_blackcat)(Citation: falconoverwatch_blackcat_attack)(Citation: blackmatter_blackcat)(Citation: fsutil_behavior)


T1484.001
Domain Policy Modification: Group Policy Modification

Adversaries may modify Group Policy Objects (GPOs) to subvert the intended discretionary access controls for a domain, usually with the intention of escalating privileges on the domain. Group policy allows for centralized management of user and computer settings in Active Directory (AD). GPOs are containers for group policy settings made up of files stored within a predictable network path `SYSVOLPolicies`.(Citation: TechNet Group Policy Basics)(Citation: ADSecurity GPO Persistence 2016)


Like other objects in AD, GPOs have access controls associated with them. By default all user accounts in the domain have permission to read GPOs. It is possible to delegate GPO access control permissions, e.g. write access, to specific users or groups in the domain.


Malicious GPO modifications can be used to implement many other malicious behaviors such as Scheduled Task/Job, Disable or Modify Tools, Ingress Tool Transfer, Create Account, Service Execution, and more.(Citation: ADSecurity GPO Persistence 2016)(Citation: Wald0 Guide to GPOs)(Citation: Harmj0y Abusing GPO Permissions)(Citation: Mandiant M Trends 2016)(Citation: Microsoft Hacking Team Breach) Since GPOs can control so many user and machine settings in the AD environment, there are a great number of potential attacks that can stem from this GPO abuse.(Citation: Wald0 Guide to GPOs)


For example, publicly available scripts such as New-GPOImmediateTask can be leveraged to automate the creation of a malicious Scheduled Task/Job by modifying GPO settings, in this case modifying <GPO_PATH>MachinePreferencesScheduledTasksScheduledTasks.xml.(Citation: Wald0 Guide to GPOs)(Citation: Harmj0y Abusing GPO Permissions) In some cases an adversary might modify specific user rights like SeEnableDelegationPrivilege, set in <GPO_PATH>MACHINEMicrosoftWindows NTSecEditGptTmpl.inf, to achieve a subtle AD backdoor with complete control of the domain because the user account under the adversary’s control would then be able to modify GPOs.(Citation: Harmj0y SeEnableDelegationPrivilege Right)


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)


T1548
Abuse Elevation Control Mechanism

Adversaries may circumvent mechanisms designed to control elevate privileges to gain higher-level permissions. Most modern systems contain native elevation control mechanisms that are intended to limit privileges that a user can perform on a machine. Authorization has to be granted to specific users in order to perform tasks that can be considered of higher risk. An adversary can perform several methods to take advantage of built-in control mechanisms in order to escalate privileges on a system.


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)


T1562.002
Impair Defenses: Disable Windows Event Logging

Adversaries may disable Windows event logging to limit data that can be leveraged for detections and audits. Windows event logs record user and system activity such as login attempts, process creation, and much more.(Citation: Windows Log Events) This data is used by security tools and analysts to generate detections.


The EventLog service maintains event logs from various system components and applications.(Citation: EventLog_Core_Technologies) By default, the service automatically starts when a system powers on. An audit policy, maintained by the Local Security Policy (secpol.msc), defines which system events the EventLog service logs. Security audit policy settings can be changed by running secpol.msc, then navigating to Security SettingsLocal PoliciesAudit Policy for basic audit policy settings or Security SettingsAdvanced Audit Policy Configuration for advanced audit policy settings.(Citation: Audit_Policy_Microsoft)(Citation: Advanced_sec_audit_policy_settings) auditpol.exe may also be used to set audit policies.(Citation: auditpol)


Adversaries may target system-wide logging or just that of a particular application. For example, the Windows EventLog service may be disabled using the Set-Service -Name EventLog -Status Stopped or sc config eventlog start=disabled commands (followed by manually stopping the service using Stop-Service -Name EventLog).(Citation: Disable_Win_Event_Logging)(Citation: disable_win_evt_logging) Additionally, the service may be disabled by modifying the “Start” value in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetServicesEventLog then restarting the system for the change to take effect.(Citation: disable_win_evt_logging)


There are several ways to disable the EventLog service via registry key modification. First, without Administrator privileges, adversaries may modify the “Start” value in the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlWMIAutologgerEventLog-Security, then reboot the system to disable the Security EventLog.(Citation: winser19_file_overwrite_bug_twitter) Second, with Administrator privilege, adversaries may modify the same values in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlWMIAutologgerEventLog-System and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlWMIAutologgerEventLog-Application to disable the entire EventLog.(Citation: disable_win_evt_logging)


Additionally, adversaries may use auditpol and its sub-commands in a command prompt to disable auditing or clear the audit policy. To enable or disable a specified setting or audit category, adversaries may use the /success or /failure parameters. For example, auditpol /set /category:”Account Logon” /success:disable /failure:disable turns off auditing for the Account Logon category.(Citation: auditpol.exe_STRONTIC)(Citation: T1562.002_redcanaryco) To clear the audit policy, adversaries may run the following lines: auditpol /clear /y or auditpol /remove /allusers.(Citation: T1562.002_redcanaryco)


By disabling Windows event logging, adversaries can operate while leaving less evidence of a compromise behind.


T1562.009
Impair Defenses: Safe Mode Boot

Adversaries may abuse Windows safe mode to disable endpoint defenses. Safe mode starts up the Windows operating system with a limited set of drivers and services. Third-party security software such as endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools may not start after booting Windows in safe mode. There are two versions of safe mode: Safe Mode and Safe Mode with Networking. It is possible to start additional services after a safe mode boot.(Citation: Microsoft Safe Mode)(Citation: Sophos Snatch Ransomware 2019)


Adversaries may abuse safe mode to disable endpoint defenses that may not start with a limited boot. Hosts can be forced into safe mode after the next reboot via modifications to Boot Configuration Data (BCD) stores, which are files that manage boot application settings.(Citation: Microsoft bcdedit 2021)


Adversaries may also add their malicious applications to the list of minimal services that start in safe mode by modifying relevant Registry values (i.e. Modify Registry). Malicious Component Object Model (COM) objects may also be registered and loaded in safe mode.(Citation: Sophos Snatch Ransomware 2019)(Citation: CyberArk Labs Safe Mode 2016)(Citation: Cybereason Nocturnus MedusaLocker 2020)(Citation: BleepingComputer REvil 2021)


T1574.007
Hijack Execution Flow: Path Interception by PATH Environment Variable

Adversaries may execute their own malicious payloads by hijacking environment variables used to load libraries. The PATH environment variable contains a list of directories (User and System) that the OS searches sequentially through in search of the binary that was called from a script or the command line.


Adversaries can place a malicious program in an earlier entry in the list of directories stored in the PATH environment variable, resulting in the operating system executing the malicious binary rather than the legitimate binary when it searches sequentially through that PATH listing.


For example, on Windows if an adversary places a malicious program named “net.exe” in `C:example path`, which by default precedes `C:Windowssystem32net.exe` in the PATH environment variable, when “net” is executed from the command-line the `C:example path` will be called instead of the system’s legitimate executable at `C:Windowssystem32net.exe`. Some methods of executing a program rely on the PATH environment variable to determine the locations that are searched when the path for the program is not given, such as executing programs from a Command and Scripting Interpreter.(Citation: ExpressVPN PATH env Windows 2021)


Adversaries may also directly modify the $PATH variable specifying the directories to be searched. An adversary can modify the `$PATH` variable to point to a directory they have write access. When a program using the $PATH variable is called, the OS searches the specified directory and executes the malicious binary. On macOS, this can also be performed through modifying the $HOME variable. These variables can be modified using the command-line, launchctl, Unix Shell Configuration Modification, or modifying the `/etc/paths.d` folder contents.(Citation: uptycs Fake POC linux malware 2023)(Citation: nixCraft macOS PATH variables)(Citation: Elastic Rules macOS launchctl 2022)


TA0006
Credential Access

An adversary may steal web application or service session cookies and use them to gain access to web applications or Internet services as an authenticated user without needing credentials. Web applications and services often use session cookies as an authentication token after a user has authenticated to a website.


Cookies are often valid for an extended period of time, even if the web application is not actively used. Cookies can be found on disk, in the process memory of the browser, and in network traffic to remote systems. Additionally, other applications on the targets machine might store sensitive authentication cookies in memory (e.g. apps which authenticate to cloud services). Session cookies can be used to bypasses some multi-factor authentication protocols.(Citation: Pass The Cookie)


There are several examples of malware targeting cookies from web browsers on the local system.(Citation: Kaspersky TajMahal April 2019)(Citation: Unit 42 Mac Crypto Cookies January 2019) There are also open source frameworks such as `Evilginx2` and `Muraena` that can gather session cookies through a malicious proxy (ex: Adversary-in-the-Middle) that can be set up by an adversary and used in phishing campaigns.(Citation: Github evilginx2)(Citation: GitHub Mauraena)


After an adversary acquires a valid cookie, they can then perform a Web Session Cookie technique to login to the corresponding web application.


T1539
Steal Web Session Cookie

An adversary may steal web application or service session cookies and use them to gain access to web applications or Internet services as an authenticated user without needing credentials. Web applications and services often use session cookies as an authentication token after a user has authenticated to a website.


Cookies are often valid for an extended period of time, even if the web application is not actively used. Cookies can be found on disk, in the process memory of the browser, and in network traffic to remote systems. Additionally, other applications on the targets machine might store sensitive authentication cookies in memory (e.g. apps which authenticate to cloud services). Session cookies can be used to bypasses some multi-factor authentication protocols.(Citation: Pass The Cookie)


There are several examples of malware targeting cookies from web browsers on the local system.(Citation: Kaspersky TajMahal April 2019)(Citation: Unit 42 Mac Crypto Cookies January 2019) There are also open source frameworks such as `Evilginx2` and `Muraena` that can gather session cookies through a malicious proxy (ex: Adversary-in-the-Middle) that can be set up by an adversary and used in phishing campaigns.(Citation: Github evilginx2)(Citation: GitHub Mauraena)


After an adversary acquires a valid cookie, they can then perform a Web Session Cookie technique to login to the corresponding web application.


TA0007
Discovery

Adversaries may check for Internet connectivity on compromised systems. This may be performed during automated discovery and can be accomplished in numerous ways such as using Ping, tracert, and GET requests to websites.


Adversaries may use the results and responses from these requests to determine if the system is capable of communicating with their C2 servers before attempting to connect to them. The results may also be used to identify routes, redirectors, and proxy servers.


T1016.001
System Network Configuration Discovery: Internet Connection Discovery

Adversaries may check for Internet connectivity on compromised systems. This may be performed during automated discovery and can be accomplished in numerous ways such as using Ping, tracert, and GET requests to websites.


Adversaries may use the results and responses from these requests to determine if the system is capable of communicating with their C2 servers before attempting to connect to them. The results may also be used to identify routes, redirectors, and proxy servers.


T1033
System Owner/User Discovery

Adversaries may attempt to identify the primary user, currently logged in user, set of users that commonly uses a system, or whether a user is actively using the system. They may do this, for example, by retrieving account usernames or by using OS Credential Dumping. The information may be collected in a number of different ways using other Discovery techniques, because user and username details are prevalent throughout a system and include running process ownership, file/directory ownership, session information, and system logs. Adversaries may use the information from System Owner/User Discovery during automated discovery to shape follow-on behaviors, including whether or not the adversary fully infects the target and/or attempts specific actions.


Various utilities and commands may acquire this information, including whoami. In macOS and Linux, the currently logged in user can be identified with w and who. On macOS the dscl . list /Users | grep -v '_' command can also be used to enumerate user accounts. Environment variables, such as %USERNAME% and $USER, may also be used to access this information.


On network devices, Network Device CLI commands such as `show users` and `show ssh` can be used to display users currently logged into the device.(Citation: show_ssh_users_cmd_cisco)(Citation: US-CERT TA18-106A Network Infrastructure Devices 2018)


T1069.001
Permission Groups Discovery: Local Groups

Adversaries may attempt to find local system groups and permission settings. The knowledge of local system permission groups can help adversaries determine which groups exist and which users belong to a particular group. Adversaries may use this information to determine which users have elevated permissions, such as the users found within the local administrators group.


Commands such as net localgroup of the Net utility, dscl . -list /Groups on macOS, and groups on Linux can list local groups.


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.


T1217
Browser Information Discovery

Adversaries may enumerate information about browsers to learn more about compromised environments. Data saved by browsers (such as bookmarks, accounts, and browsing history) may reveal a variety of personal information about users (e.g., banking sites, relationships/interests, social media, etc.) as well as details about internal network resources such as servers, tools/dashboards, or other related infrastructure.(Citation: Kaspersky Autofill)


Browser information may also highlight additional targets after an adversary has access to valid credentials, especially Credentials In Files associated with logins cached by a browser.


Specific storage locations vary based on platform and/or application, but browser information is typically stored in local files and databases (e.g., `%APPDATA%/Google/Chrome`).(Citation: Chrome Roaming Profiles)


T1482
Domain Trust Discovery

Adversaries may attempt to gather information on domain trust relationships that may be used to identify lateral movement opportunities in Windows multi-domain/forest environments. Domain trusts provide a mechanism for a domain to allow access to resources based on the authentication procedures of another domain.(Citation: Microsoft Trusts) Domain trusts allow the users of the trusted domain to access resources in the trusting domain. The information discovered may help the adversary conduct SID-History Injection, Pass the Ticket, and Kerberoasting.(Citation: AdSecurity Forging Trust Tickets)(Citation: Harmj0y Domain Trusts) Domain trusts can be enumerated using the `DSEnumerateDomainTrusts()` Win32 API call, .NET methods, and LDAP.(Citation: Harmj0y Domain Trusts) The Windows utility Nltest is known to be used by adversaries to enumerate domain trusts.(Citation: Microsoft Operation Wilysupply)


T1497.001
Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion: System Checks

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


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


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


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


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


T1497.003
Virtualization/Sandbox Evasion: Time Based Evasion

Adversaries may employ various time-based methods to detect and avoid virtualization and analysis environments. This may include enumerating time-based properties, such as uptime or the system clock, as well as the use of timers or other triggers to avoid a virtual machine environment (VME) or sandbox, specifically those that are automated or only operate for a limited amount of time.


Adversaries may employ various time-based evasions, such as delaying malware functionality upon initial execution using programmatic sleep commands or native system scheduling functionality (ex: Scheduled Task/Job). Delays may also be based on waiting for specific victim conditions to be met (ex: system time, events, etc.) or employ scheduled Multi-Stage Channels to avoid analysis and scrutiny.(Citation: Deloitte Environment Awareness)


Benign commands or other operations may also be used to delay malware execution. Loops or otherwise needless repetitions of commands, such as Pings, may be used to delay malware execution and potentially exceed time thresholds of automated analysis environments.(Citation: Revil Independence Day)(Citation: Netskope Nitol) Another variation, commonly referred to as API hammering, involves making various calls to Native API functions in order to delay execution (while also potentially overloading analysis environments with junk data).(Citation: Joe Sec Nymaim)(Citation: Joe Sec Trickbot)


Adversaries may also use time as a metric to detect sandboxes and analysis environments, particularly those that attempt to manipulate time mechanisms to simulate longer elapses of time. For example, an adversary may be able to identify a sandbox accelerating time by sampling and calculating the expected value for an environment’s timestamp before and after execution of a sleep function.(Citation: ISACA Malware Tricks)


T1614.001
System Location Discovery: System Language Discovery

Adversaries may attempt to gather information about the system language of a victim in order to infer the geographical location of that host. This information may be used to shape follow-on behaviors, including whether the adversary infects the target and/or attempts specific actions. This decision may be employed by malware developers and operators to reduce their risk of attracting the attention of specific law enforcement agencies or prosecution/scrutiny from other entities.(Citation: Malware System Language Check)


There are various sources of data an adversary could use to infer system language, such as system defaults and keyboard layouts. Specific checks will vary based on the target and/or adversary, but may involve behaviors such as Query Registry and calls to Native API functions.(Citation: CrowdStrike Ryuk January 2019)


For example, on a Windows system adversaries may attempt to infer the language of a system by querying the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlNlsLanguage or parsing the outputs of Windows API functions GetUserDefaultUILanguage, GetSystemDefaultUILanguage, GetKeyboardLayoutList and GetUserDefaultLangID.(Citation: Darkside Ransomware Cybereason)(Citation: Securelist JSWorm)(Citation: SecureList SynAck Doppelganging May 2018)


On a macOS or Linux system, adversaries may query locale to retrieve the value of the $LANG environment variable.


TA0008
Lateral Movement

Adversaries may use Valid Accounts to interact with a remote network share using Server Message Block (SMB). The adversary may then perform actions as the logged-on user.


SMB is a file, printer, and serial port sharing protocol for Windows machines on the same network or domain. Adversaries may use SMB to interact with file shares, allowing them to move laterally throughout a network. Linux and macOS implementations of SMB typically use Samba.


Windows systems have hidden network shares that are accessible only to administrators and provide the ability for remote file copy and other administrative functions. Example network shares include `C$`, `ADMIN$`, and `IPC$`. Adversaries may use this technique in conjunction with administrator-level Valid Accounts to remotely access a networked system over SMB,(Citation: Wikipedia Server Message Block) to interact with systems using remote procedure calls (RPCs),(Citation: TechNet RPC) transfer files, and run transferred binaries through remote Execution. Example execution techniques that rely on authenticated sessions over SMB/RPC are Scheduled Task/Job, Service Execution, and Windows Management Instrumentation. Adversaries can also use NTLM hashes to access administrator shares on systems with Pass the Hash and certain configuration and patch levels.(Citation: Microsoft Admin Shares)


T1021.002
Remote Services: SMB/Windows Admin Shares

Adversaries may use Valid Accounts to interact with a remote network share using Server Message Block (SMB). The adversary may then perform actions as the logged-on user.


SMB is a file, printer, and serial port sharing protocol for Windows machines on the same network or domain. Adversaries may use SMB to interact with file shares, allowing them to move laterally throughout a network. Linux and macOS implementations of SMB typically use Samba.


Windows systems have hidden network shares that are accessible only to administrators and provide the ability for remote file copy and other administrative functions. Example network shares include `C$`, `ADMIN$`, and `IPC$`. Adversaries may use this technique in conjunction with administrator-level Valid Accounts to remotely access a networked system over SMB,(Citation: Wikipedia Server Message Block) to interact with systems using remote procedure calls (RPCs),(Citation: TechNet RPC) transfer files, and run transferred binaries through remote Execution. Example execution techniques that rely on authenticated sessions over SMB/RPC are Scheduled Task/Job, Service Execution, and Windows Management Instrumentation. Adversaries can also use NTLM hashes to access administrator shares on systems with Pass the Hash and certain configuration and patch levels.(Citation: Microsoft Admin Shares)


T1021.006
Remote Services: Windows Remote Management

Adversaries may use Valid Accounts to interact with remote systems using Windows Remote Management (WinRM). The adversary may then perform actions as the logged-on user.


WinRM is the name of both a Windows service and a protocol that allows a user to interact with a remote system (e.g., run an executable, modify the Registry, modify services).(Citation: Microsoft WinRM) It may be called with the `winrm` command or by any number of programs such as PowerShell.(Citation: Jacobsen 2014) WinRM can be used as a method of remotely interacting with Windows Management Instrumentation.(Citation: MSDN WMI)


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.


T1039
Data from Network Shared Drive

Adversaries may search network shares on computers they have compromised to find files of interest. Sensitive data can be collected from remote systems via shared network drives (host shared directory, network file server, etc.) that are accessible from the current system prior to Exfiltration. Interactive command shells may be in use, and common functionality within cmd may be used to gather information.


T1115
Clipboard Data

Adversaries may collect data stored in the clipboard from users copying information within or between applications.


For example, on Windows adversaries can access clipboard data by using clip.exe or Get-Clipboard.(Citation: MSDN Clipboard)(Citation: clip_win_server)(Citation: CISA_AA21_200B) Additionally, adversaries may monitor then replace users’ clipboard with their data (e.g., Transmitted Data Manipulation).(Citation: mining_ruby_reversinglabs)


macOS and Linux also have commands, such as pbpaste, to grab clipboard contents.(Citation: Operating with EmPyre)


T1185
Browser Session Hijacking

Adversaries may take advantage of security vulnerabilities and inherent functionality in browser software to change content, modify user-behaviors, and intercept information as part of various browser session hijacking techniques.(Citation: Wikipedia Man in the Browser)


A specific example is when an adversary injects software into a browser that allows them to inherit cookies, HTTP sessions, and SSL client certificates of a user then use the browser as a way to pivot into an authenticated intranet.(Citation: Cobalt Strike Browser Pivot)(Citation: ICEBRG Chrome Extensions) Executing browser-based behaviors such as pivoting may require specific process permissions, such as SeDebugPrivilege and/or high-integrity/administrator rights.


Another example involves pivoting browser traffic from the adversary’s browser through the user’s browser by setting up a proxy which will redirect web traffic. This does not alter the user’s traffic in any way, and the proxy connection can be severed as soon as the browser is closed. The adversary assumes the security context of whichever browser process the proxy is injected into. Browsers typically create a new process for each tab that is opened and permissions and certificates are separated accordingly. With these permissions, an adversary could potentially browse to any resource on an intranet, such as Sharepoint or webmail, that is accessible through the browser and which the browser has sufficient permissions. Browser pivoting may also bypass security provided by 2-factor authentication.(Citation: cobaltstrike manual)


TA0010
Exfiltration

Adversaries may steal data by exfiltrating it over a different protocol than that of the existing command and control channel. The data may also be sent to an alternate network location from the main command and control server.


Alternate protocols include FTP, SMTP, HTTP/S, DNS, SMB, or any other network protocol not being used as the main command and control channel. Adversaries may also opt to encrypt and/or obfuscate these alternate channels.


Exfiltration Over Alternative Protocol can be done using various common operating system utilities such as Net/SMB or FTP.(Citation: Palo Alto OilRig Oct 2016) On macOS and Linux curl may be used to invoke protocols such as HTTP/S or FTP/S to exfiltrate data from a system.(Citation: 20 macOS Common Tools and Techniques)


Many IaaS and SaaS platforms (such as Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, GitHub, and AWS S3) support the direct download of files, emails, source code, and other sensitive information via the web console or Cloud API.


T1048
Exfiltration Over Alternative Protocol

Adversaries may steal data by exfiltrating it over a different protocol than that of the existing command and control channel. The data may also be sent to an alternate network location from the main command and control server.


Alternate protocols include FTP, SMTP, HTTP/S, DNS, SMB, or any other network protocol not being used as the main command and control channel. Adversaries may also opt to encrypt and/or obfuscate these alternate channels.


Exfiltration Over Alternative Protocol can be done using various common operating system utilities such as Net/SMB or FTP.(Citation: Palo Alto OilRig Oct 2016) On macOS and Linux curl may be used to invoke protocols such as HTTP/S or FTP/S to exfiltrate data from a system.(Citation: 20 macOS Common Tools and Techniques)


Many IaaS and SaaS platforms (such as Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint, GitHub, and AWS S3) support the direct download of files, emails, source code, and other sensitive information via the web console or Cloud API.


T1567
Exfiltration Over Web Service

Adversaries may use an existing, legitimate external Web service to exfiltrate data rather than their primary command and control channel. Popular Web services acting as an exfiltration mechanism may give a significant amount of cover due to the likelihood that hosts within a network are already communicating with them prior to compromise. Firewall rules may also already exist to permit traffic to these services.


Web service providers also commonly use SSL/TLS encryption, giving adversaries an added level of protection.


TA0011
Command and Control

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


Protocols such as SMTP/S, POP3/S, and IMAP that carry electronic mail may be very common in environments. Packets produced from these protocols may have many fields and headers in which data can be concealed. Data could also be concealed within the email messages themselves. An adversary may abuse these protocols to communicate with systems under their control within a victim network while also mimicking normal, expected traffic.


T1071.003
Application Layer Protocol: Mail Protocols

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


Protocols such as SMTP/S, POP3/S, and IMAP that carry electronic mail may be very common in environments. Packets produced from these protocols may have many fields and headers in which data can be concealed. Data could also be concealed within the email messages themselves. An adversary may abuse these protocols to communicate with systems under their control within a victim network while also mimicking normal, expected traffic.


T1102.002
Web Service: Bidirectional Communication

Adversaries may use an existing, legitimate external Web service as a means for sending commands to and receiving output from a compromised system over the Web service channel. Compromised systems may leverage popular websites and social media to host command and control (C2) instructions. Those infected systems can then send the output from those commands back over that Web service channel. The return traffic may occur in a variety of ways, depending on the Web service being utilized. For example, the return traffic may take the form of the compromised system posting a comment on a forum, issuing a pull request to development project, updating a document hosted on a Web service, or by sending a Tweet.


Popular websites and social media acting as a mechanism for C2 may give a significant amount of cover due to the likelihood that hosts within a network are already communicating with them prior to a compromise. Using common services, such as those offered by Google or Twitter, makes it easier for adversaries to hide in expected noise. Web service providers commonly use SSL/TLS encryption, giving adversaries an added level of protection.


T1568
Dynamic Resolution

Adversaries may dynamically establish connections to command and control infrastructure to evade common detections and remediations. This may be achieved by using malware that shares a common algorithm with the infrastructure the adversary uses to receive the malware’s communications. These calculations can be used to dynamically adjust parameters such as the domain name, IP address, or port number the malware uses for command and control.


Adversaries may use dynamic resolution for the purpose of Fallback Channels. When contact is lost with the primary command and control server malware may employ dynamic resolution as a means to reestablishing command and control.(Citation: Talos CCleanup 2017)(Citation: FireEye POSHSPY April 2017)(Citation: ESET Sednit 2017 Activity)


TA0040
Impact

Adversaries may encrypt data on target systems or on large numbers of systems in a network to interrupt availability to system and network resources. They can attempt to render stored data inaccessible by encrypting files or data on local and remote drives and withholding access to a decryption key. This may be done in order to extract monetary compensation from a victim in exchange for decryption or a decryption key (ransomware) or to render data permanently inaccessible in cases where the key is not saved or transmitted.(Citation: US-CERT Ransomware 2016)(Citation: FireEye WannaCry 2017)(Citation: US-CERT NotPetya 2017)(Citation: US-CERT SamSam 2018)


In the case of ransomware, it is typical that common user files like Office documents, PDFs, images, videos, audio, text, and source code files will be encrypted (and often renamed and/or tagged with specific file markers). Adversaries may need to first employ other behaviors, such as File and Directory Permissions Modification or System Shutdown/Reboot, in order to unlock and/or gain access to manipulate these files.(Citation: CarbonBlack Conti July 2020) In some cases, adversaries may encrypt critical system files, disk partitions, and the MBR.(Citation: US-CERT NotPetya 2017)


To maximize impact on the target organization, malware designed for encrypting data may have worm-like features to propagate across a network by leveraging other attack techniques like Valid Accounts, OS Credential Dumping, and SMB/Windows Admin Shares.(Citation: FireEye WannaCry 2017)(Citation: US-CERT NotPetya 2017) Encryption malware may also leverage Internal Defacement, such as changing victim wallpapers, or otherwise intimidate victims by sending ransom notes or other messages to connected printers (known as “print bombing”).(Citation: NHS Digital Egregor Nov 2020)


In cloud environments, storage objects within compromised accounts may also be encrypted.(Citation: Rhino S3 Ransomware Part 1)


T1486
Data Encrypted for Impact

Adversaries may encrypt data on target systems or on large numbers of systems in a network to interrupt availability to system and network resources. They can attempt to render stored data inaccessible by encrypting files or data on local and remote drives and withholding access to a decryption key. This may be done in order to extract monetary compensation from a victim in exchange for decryption or a decryption key (ransomware) or to render data permanently inaccessible in cases where the key is not saved or transmitted.(Citation: US-CERT Ransomware 2016)(Citation: FireEye WannaCry 2017)(Citation: US-CERT NotPetya 2017)(Citation: US-CERT SamSam 2018)


In the case of ransomware, it is typical that common user files like Office documents, PDFs, images, videos, audio, text, and source code files will be encrypted (and often renamed and/or tagged with specific file markers). Adversaries may need to first employ other behaviors, such as File and Directory Permissions Modification or System Shutdown/Reboot, in order to unlock and/or gain access to manipulate these files.(Citation: CarbonBlack Conti July 2020) In some cases, adversaries may encrypt critical system files, disk partitions, and the MBR.(Citation: US-CERT NotPetya 2017)


To maximize impact on the target organization, malware designed for encrypting data may have worm-like features to propagate across a network by leveraging other attack techniques like Valid Accounts, OS Credential Dumping, and SMB/Windows Admin Shares.(Citation: FireEye WannaCry 2017)(Citation: US-CERT NotPetya 2017) Encryption malware may also leverage Internal Defacement, such as changing victim wallpapers, or otherwise intimidate victims by sending ransom notes or other messages to connected printers (known as “print bombing”).(Citation: NHS Digital Egregor Nov 2020)


In cloud environments, storage objects within compromised accounts may also be encrypted.(Citation: Rhino S3 Ransomware Part 1)


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)


T1490
Inhibit System Recovery

Adversaries may delete or remove built-in data and turn off services designed to aid in the recovery of a corrupted system to prevent recovery.(Citation: Talos Olympic Destroyer 2018)(Citation: FireEye WannaCry 2017) This may deny access to available backups and recovery options.


Operating systems may contain features that can help fix corrupted systems, such as a backup catalog, volume shadow copies, and automatic repair features. Adversaries may disable or delete system recovery features to augment the effects of Data Destruction and Data Encrypted for Impact.(Citation: Talos Olympic Destroyer 2018)(Citation: FireEye WannaCry 2017) Furthermore, adversaries may disable recovery notifications, then corrupt backups.(Citation: disable_notif_synology_ransom)


A number of native Windows utilities have been used by adversaries to disable or delete system recovery features:


* vssadmin.exe can be used to delete all volume shadow copies on a system – vssadmin.exe delete shadows /all /quiet

* Windows Management Instrumentation can be used to delete volume shadow copies – wmic shadowcopy delete

* wbadmin.exe can be used to delete the Windows Backup Catalog – wbadmin.exe delete catalog -quiet

* bcdedit.exe can be used to disable automatic Windows recovery features by modifying boot configuration data – bcdedit.exe /set {default} bootstatuspolicy ignoreallfailures & bcdedit /set {default} recoveryenabled no

* REAgentC.exe can be used to disable Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) repair/recovery options of an infected system


On network devices, adversaries may leverage Disk Wipe to delete backup firmware images and reformat the file system, then System Shutdown/Reboot to reload the device. Together this activity may leave network devices completely inoperable and inhibit recovery operations.


Adversaries may also delete “online” backups that are connected to their network – whether via network storage media or through folders that sync to cloud services.(Citation: ZDNet Ransomware Backups 2020) In cloud environments, adversaries may disable versioning and backup policies and delete snapshots, machine images, and prior versions of objects designed to be used in disaster recovery scenarios.(Citation: Dark Reading Code Spaces Cyber Attack)(Citation: Rhino Security Labs AWS S3 Ransomware)


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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