File and Directory Permissions Modification

Adversaries may modify file or directory permissions/attributes to evade access control lists (ACLs) and access protected files.[1][2] 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, .bash_profile and .bashrc, or tainting/hijacking other instrumental binary/configuration files via Hijack Execution Flow.

ID: T1222
Sub-techniques:  T1222.001, T1222.002
Tactic: Defense Evasion
Platforms: Linux, Windows, macOS
Permissions Required: Administrator, SYSTEM, User, root
Data Sources: File monitoring, Process command-line parameters, Process monitoring, Windows event logs
Defense Bypassed: File system access controls
Contributors: CrowdStrike Falcon OverWatch; Jan Miller, CrowdStrike
Version: 2.1
Created: 17 October 2018
Last Modified: 29 March 2020

Mitigations

Mitigation Description
Privileged Account Management

Ensure critical system files as well as those known to be abused by adversaries have restrictive permissions and are owned by an appropriately privileged account, especially if access is not required by users nor will inhibit system functionality.

Restrict File and Directory Permissions

Applying more restrictive permissions to files and directories could prevent adversaries from modifying the access control lists.

Detection

Monitor and investigate attempts to modify ACLs and file/directory ownership. Many of the commands used to modify ACLs and file/directory ownership are built-in system utilities and may generate a high false positive alert rate, so compare against baseline knowledge for how systems are typically used and correlate modification events with other indications of malicious activity where possible.

Consider enabling file/directory permission change auditing on folders containing key binary/configuration files. For example, Windows Security Log events (Event ID 4670) are created when DACLs are modified.[3]

References