Obfuscated Files or Information
Adversaries may attempt to make an executable or file difficult to discover or analyze by encrypting, encoding, or otherwise obfuscating its contents on the system or in transit. This is common behavior that can be used across different platforms and the network to evade defenses.
Portions of files can also be encoded to hide the plain-text strings that would otherwise help defenders with discovery.  Payloads may also be split into separate, seemingly benign files that only reveal malicious functionality when reassembled. 
Adversaries may also obfuscate commands executed from payloads or directly via a Command-Line Interface. Environment variables, aliases, characters, and other platform/language specific semantics can be used to evade signature based detections and whitelisting mechanisms.   
Another example of obfuscation is through the use of steganography, a technique of hiding messages or code in images, audio tracks, video clips, or text files. One of the first known and reported adversaries that used steganography activity surrounding Invoke-PSImage. The Duqu malware encrypted the gathered information from a victim's system and hid it into an image followed by exfiltrating the image to a C2 server.  By the end of 2017, an adversary group used Invoke-PSImage to hide PowerShell commands in an image file (png) and execute the code on a victim's system. In this particular case the PowerShell code downloaded another obfuscated script to gather intelligence from the victim's machine and communicate it back to the adversary. 
Most of the strings in ADVSTORESHELL are encrypted with an XOR-based algorithm; some strings are also encrypted with 3DES and reversed. API function names are also reversed, presumably to avoid detection in memory.
APT32 uses the Invoke-Obfuscation framework to obfuscate their PowerShell and also performs other code obfuscation. APT32 has also encoded payloads using Base64 and a framework called "Dont-Kill-My-Cat (DKMC). APT32 also encrypts the library used for network exfiltration with AES-256 in CBC mode in their macOS backdoor.
|Exaramel for Linux|
FinFisher is heavily obfuscated in many ways, including through the use of spaghetti code in its functions in an effort to confuse disassembly programs. It also uses a custom XOR algorithm to obfuscate code.
jRAT’s Java payload is encrypted with AES. Additionally, backdoor files are encrypted using DES as a stream cipher. Later variants of jRAT also incorporated AV evasion methods such as Java bytecode obfuscation via the commercial Allatori obfuscation tool.
Kazuar is obfuscated using the open source ConfuserEx protector. Kazuar also obfuscates the name of created files/folders/mutexes and encrypts debug messages written to log files using the Rijndael cipher.
MuddyWater has used Daniel Bohannon’s Invoke-Obfuscation framework. The group has also used other obfuscation methods, including Base64 obfuscation of VBScripts and PowerShell commands.
OopsIE uses the Confuser protector to obfuscate an embedded .Net Framework assembly used for C2. OopsIE also encodes collected data in hexadecimal format before writing to files on disk and obfuscates strings.
Pisloader obfuscates files by splitting strings into smaller sub-strings and including "garbage" strings that are never used. The malware also uses return-oriented programming (ROP) technique and single-byte XOR to obfuscate data.
POWERSTATS uses character replacement, PowerShell environment variables, and XOR encoding to obfuscate code. POWERSTATS's backdoor code is a multi-layer obfuscated, encoded, and compressed blob.
A Threat Group-3390 tool can encrypt payloads using XOR. Threat Group-3390 malware is also obfuscated using Metasploit’s shikata_ga_nai encoder as well as compressed with LZNT1 compression.
Ursnif has used an XOR-based algorithm to encrypt Tor clients dropped to disk. Ursnif droppers have also been delivered as password-protected zip files that execute base64 encoded PowerShell commands.
Consider utilizing the Antimalware Scan Interface (AMSI) on Windows 10 to analyze commands after being processed/interpreted.
Detection of file obfuscation is difficult unless artifacts are left behind by the obfuscation process that are uniquely detectable with a signature. If detection of the obfuscation itself is not possible, it may be possible to detect the malicious activity that caused the obfuscated file (for example, the method that was used to write, read, or modify the file on the file system).
Flag and analyze commands containing indicators of obfuscation and known suspicious syntax such as uninterpreted escape characters like '''^''' and '''"'''. Windows' Sysmon and Event ID 4688 displays command-line arguments for processes. Deobfuscation tools can be used to detect these indicators in files/payloads.   
Obfuscation used in payloads for Initial Access can be detected at the network. Use network intrusion detection systems and email gateway filtering to identify compressed and encrypted attachments and scripts. Some email attachment detonation systems can open compressed and encrypted attachments. Payloads delivered over an encrypted connection from a website require encrypted network traffic inspection.
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