The adversary is trying to maintain their foothold in your ICS environment.

Persistence consists of techniques that adversaries use to maintain access to ICS systems and devices across restarts, changed credentials, and other interruptions that could cut off their access. Techniques used for persistence include any access, action, or configuration changes that allow them to secure their ongoing activity and keep their foothold on systems. This may include replacing or hijacking legitimate code, firmware, and other project files, or adding startup code and downloading programs onto devices.

ID: TA0110
Created: 17 October 2018
Last Modified: 06 May 2022


Techniques: 5
ID Name Description
T0889 Modify Program Adversaries may modify or add a program on a controller to affect how it interacts with the physical process, peripheral devices and other hosts on the network. Modification to controller programs can be accomplished using a Program Download in addition to other types of program modification such as online edit and program append. Program modification encompasses the addition and modification of instructions and logic contained in Program Organization Units (POU) and similar programming elements found on controllers. This can include, for example, adding new functions to a controller, modifying the logic in existing functions and making new calls from one function to another. Some programs may allow an adversary to interact directly with the native API of the controller to take advantage of obscure features or vulnerabilities.
T0839 Module Firmware Adversaries may install malicious or vulnerable firmware onto modular hardware devices. Control system devices often contain modular hardware devices. These devices may have their own set of firmware that is separate from the firmware of the main control system equipment.
T0873 Project File Infection Adversaries may attempt to infect project files with malicious code. These project files may consist of objects, program organization units, variables such as tags, documentation, and other configurations needed for PLC programs to function. Using built in functions of the engineering software, adversaries may be able to download an infected program to a PLC in the operating environment enabling further [[execution]] and [[persistence]] techniques. Adversaries may export their own code into project files with conditions to execute at specific intervals. Malicious programs allow adversaries control of all aspects of the process enabled by the PLC. Once the project file is downloaded to a PLC the workstation device may be disconnected with the infected project file still executing.
T0857 System Firmware System firmware on modern assets is often designed with an update feature. Older device firmware may be factory installed and require special reprograming equipment. When available, the firmware update feature enables vendors to remotely patch bugs and perform upgrades. Device firmware updates are often delegated to the user and may be done using a software update package. It may also be possible to perform this task over the network. An adversary may exploit the firmware update feature on accessible devices to upload malicious or out-of-date firmware. Malicious modification of device firmware may provide an adversary with root access to a device, given firmware is one of the lowest programming abstraction layers.
T0859 Valid Accounts Adversaries may steal the credentials of a specific user or service account using credential access techniques. In some cases, default credentials for control system devices may be publicly available. Compromised credentials may be used to bypass access controls placed on various resources on hosts and within the network, and may even be used for persistent access to remote systems. Compromised and default credentials may also grant an adversary increased privilege to specific systems and devices or access to restricted areas of the network. Adversaries may choose not to use malware or tools, in conjunction with the legitimate access those credentials provide, to make it harder to detect their presence or to control devices and send legitimate commands in an unintended way.