The adversary is trying to run malicious code.

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

ID: TA0002
Created: 17 October 2018
Last Modified: 19 July 2019


Techniques: 10
ID Name Description
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, many Linux distributions include Bash as a default shell while Windows installations include the Windows Command Shell and PowerShell.
.001 PowerShell Adversaries may abuse PowerShell commands and scripts for execution. PowerShell is a powerful interactive command-line interface and scripting environment included in the Windows operating system. Adversaries can use PowerShell to perform a number of actions, including discovery of information and execution of code. Examples include the Start-Process cmdlet which can be used to run an executable and the Invoke-Command cmdlet which runs a command locally or on a remote computer (though administrator permissions are required to use PowerShell to connect to remote systems).
.002 AppleScript Adversaries may abuse AppleScript for execution. AppleScript is a macOS scripting language designed to control applications and parts of the OS via inter-application messages called AppleEvents. These AppleEvent messages can be easily scripted with AppleScript for local or remote execution.
.003 Windows Command Shell Adversaries may abuse the Windows command shell for execution. The Windows command shell (cmd.exe) is the primary command prompt on Windows systems. The Windows command prompt can be used to control almost any aspect of a system, with various permission levels required for different subsets of commands.
.004 Bash Adversaries may abuse Bash commands and scripts for execution. Bash, the primary macOS (through Mojave) and Linux shell, can control every aspect of a system, with certain commands requiring elevated privileges.
.005 VBScript Adversaries may abuse VBScript scripts for execution. VBScript is a Windows scripting language modeled after the Visual Basic language, also known as Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). VBScript is built on top of the Component Object Model (COM), which allows it to interact with the environment. VBScript can also be used in place of JavaScript on webpages served to Internet Explorer, however, most modern browsers do not come with VBScript support.
.006 Python Adversaries may abuse Python commands and scripts for execution. Python is a very popular scripting/programming language, with capabilities to perform many functions. Python can be executed interactively from the command-line (via the python.exe interpreter) or via scripts (.py) that can be written and distributed to different systems. Python code can also be compiled into binary executables.
T1203 Exploitation for Client Execution Adversaries may exploit software vulnerabilities in client applications to execute code. Vulnerabilities can exist in software due to unsecure coding practices that can lead to unanticipated behavior. Adversaries can take advantage of certain vulnerabilities through targeted exploitation for the purpose of arbitrary code execution. Oftentimes the most valuable exploits to an offensive toolkit are those that can be used to obtain code execution on a remote system because they can be used to gain access to that system. Users will expect to see files related to the applications they commonly used to do work, so they are a useful target for exploit research and development because of their high utility.
T1559 Inter-Process Communication Adversaries may abuse inter-process communication (IPC) mechanisms for local code or command execution. IPC is typically used by processes to share data, communicate with each other, or synchronize execution. IPC is also commonly used to avoid situations such as deadlocks, which occurs when processes are stuck in a cyclic waiting pattern.
.001 Component Object Model Adversaries may use the Windows Component Object Model (COM) for local code execution. COM is an inter-process communication (IPC) component of the native Windows application programming interface (API) that enables interaction between software objects, or executable code that implements one or more interfaces. Through COM, a client object can call methods of server objects, which are typically binary Dynamic Link Libraries (DLL) or executables (EXE).
.002 Dynamic Data Exchange Adversaries may use Windows Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE) to execute arbitrary commands. DDE is a client-server protocol for one-time and/or continuous inter-process communication (IPC) between applications. Once a link is established, applications can autonomously exchange transactions consisting of strings, warm data links (notifications when a data item changes), hot data links (duplications of changes to a data item), and requests for command execution.
T1106 Native API Adversaries may interact with the native Windows application programming interface (API) to execute behaviors. Similar to the system call interface on UNIX systems, the Windows native API provides a controlled means to calling low-level OS services within the kernel, such as those involving hardware/devices, memory, and processes. The native API is leveraged by the OS during system boot (when other system components are not yet initialized) but is also exposed to user-mode applications via ntdll.dll and ntoskrnl.exe.
T1053 Scheduled Task/Job Adversaries may abuse task scheduling functionality to facilitate initial or recurring execution of malicious code. Utilities exist within all major operating systems to schedule programs or scripts to be executed at a specified date and time. A task can also be scheduled on a remote system, provided the proper authentication is met (ex: RPC and file and printer sharing in Windows environments). Scheduling a task on a remote system typically requires being a member of an admin or otherwise privileged group on the remote system.
.001 At (Linux) Adversaries may abuse the at utility to perform task scheduling for initial or recurring execution of malicious code. The at command within Linux operating systems enables administrators to schedule tasks.
.002 At (Windows) Adversaries may abuse the at.exe utility to perform task scheduling for initial or recurring execution of malicious code. The at utility exists as an executable within Windows for scheduling tasks at a specified time and date. 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.
.003 Cron Adversaries may abuse the cron utility to perform task scheduling for initial or recurring execution of malicious code. The cron utility is a time-based job scheduler for Unix-like operating systems. The crontab file contains the schedule of cron entries to be run and the specified times for execution. Any crontab files are stored in operating system-specific file paths.
.004 Launchd Adversaries may abuse the Launchd daemon to perform task scheduling for initial or recurring execution of malicious code. The launchd daemon, native to macOS, is responsible for loading and maintaining services within the operating system. This process loads the parameters for each launch-on-demand system-level daemon from the property list (plist) files found in /System/Library/LaunchDaemons and /Library/LaunchDaemons . These LaunchDaemons have property list files which point to the executables that will be launched .
.005 Scheduled Task Adversaries may abuse the Windows Task Scheduler to perform task scheduling for initial or recurring execution of malicious code. There are multiple ways to access the Task Scheduler in Windows. The schtasks can be run directly on the command line, or the Task Scheduler can be opened through the GUI within the Administrator Tools section of the Control Panel. In some cases, adversaries have used a .NET wrapper for the Windows Task Scheduler, and alternatively, adversaries have used the Windows netapi32 library to create a scheduled task.
T1129 Shared Modules Adversaries may abuse shared modules to execute malicious payloads. The Windows module loader can be instructed to load DLLs from arbitrary local paths and arbitrary Universal Naming Convention (UNC) network paths. This functionality resides in NTDLL.dll and is part of the Windows Native API which is called from functions like CreateProcess, LoadLibrary, etc. of the Win32 API.
T1072 Software Deployment Tools Adversaries may gain access to and use third-party software suites installed within an enterprise network, such as administration, monitoring, and deployment systems, to move laterally through the network. Third-party applications and software deployment systems may be in use in the network environment for administration purposes (e.g., SCCM, VNC, HBSS, Altiris, etc.).
T1569 System Services Adversaries may abuse system services or daemons to execute commands or programs. Adversaries can execute malicious content by interacting with or creating services. Many services are set to run at boot, which can aid in achieving persistence (Create or Modify System Process), but adversaries can also abuse services for one-time or temporary execution.
.001 Launchctl Adversaries may abuse launchctl to execute commands or programs. Launchctl controls the macOS launchd process, which handles things like Launch Agents and Launch Daemons, but can execute other commands or programs itself. Launchctl supports taking subcommands on the command-line, interactively, or even redirected from standard input.
.002 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. The service control manager is accessible to users via GUI components as well as system utilities such as sc.exe and Net.
T1204 User Execution An adversary may rely upon specific actions by a user in order to gain execution. Users may be subjected to social engineering to get them to execute malicious code by, for example, opening a malicious document file or link. These user actions will typically be observed as follow-on behavior from forms of Phishing.
.001 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.
.002 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.
T1047 Windows Management Instrumentation Adversaries may abuse Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) to achieve execution. WMI is a Windows administration feature that provides a uniform environment for local and remote access to Windows system components. It relies on the WMI service for local and remote access and the server message block (SMB) and Remote Procedure Call Service (RPCS) for remote access. RPCS operates over port 135.