System Services: Service Execution

ID Name
T1569.001 Launchctl
T1569.002 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.[1] 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.[2]

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.

ID: T1569.002
Sub-technique of:  T1569
Tactic: Execution
Platforms: Windows
Permissions Required: Administrator, SYSTEM
Data Sources: Process command-line parameters, Process monitoring, Windows Registry
Supports Remote:  Yes
Version: 1.0
Created: 10 March 2020
Last Modified: 28 March 2020

Procedure Examples

Name Description

APT32's backdoor has used Windows services as a way to execute its malicious payload. [28]


BBSRAT can start, stop, or delete services.[20]

Cobalt Strike

Cobalt Strike can use PsExec to execute a payload on a remote host. It can also use Service Control Manager to start new services.[7][8]


Empire can use PsExec to execute a payload on a remote host.[11]


FIN6 has created Windows services to execute encoded PowerShell commands.[29]


Honeybee launches a DLL file that gets executed as a service using svchost.exe[26]


HOPLIGHT has used svchost.exe to execute a malicious DLL .[24]


Hydraq uses svchost.exe to execute a malicious DLL included in a new service group.[15]


HyperBro has the ability to start and stop a specified service.[25]


Impacket contains various modules emulating other service execution tools such as PsExec.[10]


Ke3chang has used a tool known as RemoteExec (similar to PsExec) to remotely execute batch scripts and binaries.[27]


Koadic can run a command on another machine using PsExec.[4]


The net start and net stop commands can be used in Net to execute or stop Windows services.[3]

Net Crawler

Net Crawler uses PsExec to perform remote service manipulation to execute a copy of itself as part of lateral movement.[18]


NotPetya can use PsExec to help propagate itself across a network.[22][23]

Olympic Destroyer

Olympic Destroyer utilizes PsExec to help propagate itself across a network.[21]


PoshC2 contains an implementation of PsExec for remote execution.[12]


Proxysvc registers itself as a service on the victim’s machine to run as a standalone process.[14]


Microsoft Sysinternals PsExec is a popular administration tool that can be used to execute binaries on remote systems using a temporary Windows service.[2]


Pupy uses PsExec to execute a payload or commands on a remote host.[5]


RemoteCMD can execute commands remotely by creating a new service on the remote system.[13]


Shamoon creates a new service named "ntssrv" to execute the payload.[19]


Silence has used Winexe to install a service on the remote system.[30]


Winexe installs a service on the remote system, executes the command, then uninstalls the service.[9]


Wingbird uses services.exe to register a new autostart service named "Audit Service" using a copy of the local lsass.exe file.[16][17]


xCmd can be used to execute binaries on remote systems by creating and starting a service.[6]


Mitigation Description
Privileged Account Management

Ensure that permissions disallow services that run at a higher permissions level from being created or interacted with by a user with a lower permission level.

Restrict File and Directory Permissions

Ensure that high permission level service binaries cannot be replaced or modified by users with a lower permission level.


Changes to service Registry entries and command line invocation of tools capable of modifying services that do not correlate with known software, patch cycles, etc., may be suspicious. If a service is used only to execute a binary or script and not to persist, then it will likely be changed back to its original form shortly after the service is restarted so the service is not left broken, as is the case with the common administrator tool PsExec.


  1. Anthe, C. et al. (2016, December 14). Microsoft Security Intelligence Report Volume 21. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  2. Microsoft. (2017, November 9). Backdoor:Win32/Wingbird.A!dha. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  3. Cylance. (2014, December). Operation Cleaver. Retrieved September 14, 2017.
  4. Falcone, R.. (2016, November 30). Shamoon 2: Return of the Disttrack Wiper. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  5. Lee, B. Grunzweig, J. (2015, December 22). BBSRAT Attacks Targeting Russian Organizations Linked to Roaming Tiger. Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  6. Mercer, W. and Rascagneres, P. (2018, February 12). Olympic Destroyer Takes Aim At Winter Olympics. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  7. Chiu, A. (2016, June 27). New Ransomware Variant "Nyetya" Compromises Systems Worldwide. Retrieved March 26, 2019.
  8. US-CERT. (2017, July 1). Alert (TA17-181A): Petya Ransomware. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  9. US-CERT. (2019, April 10). MAR-10135536-8 – North Korean Trojan: HOPLIGHT. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  10. Falcone, R. and Lancaster, T.. (2019, May 28). Emissary Panda Attacks Middle East Government Sharepoint Servers. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  11. Sherstobitoff, R. (2018, March 02). McAfee Uncovers Operation Honeybee, a Malicious Document Campaign Targeting Humanitarian Aid Groups. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
  12. Smallridge, R. (2018, March 10). APT15 is alive and strong: An analysis of RoyalCli and RoyalDNS. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
  13. Dumont, R. (2019, March 20). Fake or Fake: Keeping up with OceanLotus decoys. Retrieved April 1, 2019.
  14. McKeague, B. et al. (2019, April 5). Pick-Six: Intercepting a FIN6 Intrusion, an Actor Recently Tied to Ryuk and LockerGoga Ransomware. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  15. GReAT. (2017, November 1). Silence – a new Trojan attacking financial organizations. Retrieved May 24, 2019.