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.

Payloads may be compressed, archived, or encrypted in order to avoid detection. These payloads may be used during Initial Access or later to mitigate detection. Sometimes a user's action may be required to open and Deobfuscate/Decode Files or Information for User Execution. The user may also be required to input a password to open a password protected compressed/encrypted file that was provided by the adversary. [1] Adversaries may also use compressed or archived scripts, such as JavaScript.

Portions of files can also be encoded to hide the plain-text strings that would otherwise help defenders with discovery. [2] Payloads may also be split into separate, seemingly benign files that only reveal malicious functionality when reassembled. [3]

Adversaries may also abuse Command Obfuscation to obscure commands executed from payloads or directly via Command and Scripting Interpreter. Environment variables, aliases, characters, and other platform/language specific semantics can be used to evade signature based detections and application control mechanisms. [4] [5][6]

ID: T1027
Tactic: Defense Evasion
Platforms: Linux, Network, Windows, macOS
Defense Bypassed: Application Control, Host Forensic Analysis, Host Intrusion Prevention Systems, Log Analysis, Signature-based Detection
Contributors: Christiaan Beek, @ChristiaanBeek; Red Canary
Version: 1.6
Created: 31 May 2017
Last Modified: 16 April 2024

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
C0025 2016 Ukraine Electric Power Attack

During the 2016 Ukraine Electric Power Attack, Sandworm Team used heavily obfuscated code with Industroyer in its Windows Notepad backdoor.[7]

S1028 Action RAT

Action RAT's commands, strings, and domains can be Base64 encoded within the payload.[8]


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.[9][10]

S0331 Agent Tesla

Agent Tesla has had its code obfuscated in an apparent attempt to make analysis difficult.[11] Agent Tesla has used the Rijndael symmetric encryption algorithm to encrypt strings.[12]

S1025 Amadey

Amadey has obfuscated strings such as antivirus vendor names, domains, files, and others.[13]

S0504 Anchor

Anchor has obfuscated code with stack strings and string encryption.[14]

S0584 AppleJeus

AppleJeus has XOR-encrypted collected system information prior to sending to a C2. AppleJeus has also used the open source ADVObfuscation library for its components.[15]

S0622 AppleSeed

AppleSeed has the ability to Base64 encode its payload and custom encrypt API calls.[16]

G0099 APT-C-36

APT-C-36 has used ConfuserEx to obfuscate its variant of Imminent Monitor, compressed payload and RAT packages, and password protected encrypted email attachments to avoid detection.[17]

G0022 APT3

APT3 obfuscates files or information to help evade defensive measures.[18]

G0067 APT37

APT37 obfuscates strings and payloads.[19][20][21]

G0096 APT41

APT41 used VMProtected binaries in multiple intrusions.[22]

S0640 Avaddon

Avaddon has used encrypted strings.[23]

S1053 AvosLocker

AvosLocker has used XOR-encoded strings.[24]

G0135 BackdoorDiplomacy

BackdoorDiplomacy has obfuscated tools and malware it uses with VMProtect.[25]

G0063 BlackOasis

BlackOasis's first stage shellcode contains a NOP sled with alternative instructions that was likely designed to bypass antivirus tools.[26]

S0635 BoomBox

BoomBox can encrypt data using AES prior to exfiltration.[27]

S0651 BoxCaon

BoxCaon used the "StackStrings" obfuscation technique to hide malicious functionalities.[28]

S1063 Brute Ratel C4

Brute Ratel C4 has used encrypted payload files and maintains an encrypted configuration structure in memory.[29][30]

S1039 Bumblebee

Bumblebee has been delivered as password-protected zipped ISO files and used control-flow-flattening to obfuscate the flow of functions.[31][32][33]

S0482 Bundlore

Bundlore has obfuscated data with base64, AES, RC4, and bz2.[34]


BUSHWALK can encrypt the resulting data generated from C2 commands with RC4.[35]

C0015 C0015

During C0015, the threat actors used Base64-encoded strings.[36]

C0017 C0017

During C0017, APT41 broke malicious binaries, including DEADEYE and KEYPLUG, into multiple sections on disk to evade detection.[37]

S0030 Carbanak

Carbanak encrypts strings to make analysis more difficult.[38]

S0335 Carbon

Carbon encrypts configuration files and tasks for the malware to complete using CAST-128 algorithm.[39][40]


CARROTBALL has used a custom base64 alphabet to decode files.[41]

S0660 Clambling

The Clambling executable has been obfuscated when dropped on a compromised host.[42]


COATHANGER can store obfuscated configuration information in the last 56 bytes of the file /date/.bd.key/preload.so.[43]

S0154 Cobalt Strike

Cobalt Strike can hash functions to obfuscate calls to the Windows API and use a public/private key pair to encrypt Beacon session metadata.[44][45]

S0369 CoinTicker

CoinTicker initially downloads a hidden encoded file.[46]

S0244 Comnie

Comnie uses RC4 and Base64 to obfuscate strings.[47]

S0126 ComRAT

ComRAT has encrypted its virtual file system using AES-256 in XTS mode.[48][49]

S0608 Conficker

Conficker has obfuscated its code to prevent its removal from host machines.[50]

S0575 Conti

Conti can use compiler-based obfuscation for its code, encrypt DLLs, and hide Windows API calls.[51][52][53]


CORESHELL obfuscates strings using a custom stream cipher.[54]

S0625 Cuba

Cuba has used multiple layers of obfuscation to avoid analysis, including its Base64 encoded payload.[55]

S1111 DarkGate

DarkGate uses a hard-coded string as a seed, along with the victim machine hardware identifier and input text, to generate a unique string used as an internal mutex value to evade static detection based on mutexes.[56]

S1066 DarkTortilla

DarkTortilla has been obfuscated with the DeepSea .NET and ConfuserEx code obfuscators.[57]

S0187 Daserf

Daserf uses encrypted Windows APIs and also encrypts data using the alternative base64+RC4 or the Caesar cipher.[58]

S0354 Denis

Denis obfuscates its code and encrypts the API names.[59]

S0659 Diavol

Diavol has Base64 encoded the RSA public key used for encrypting files.[60]

S0695 Donut

Donut can generate encrypted, compressed/encoded, or otherwise obfuscated code modules.[61]

S0694 DRATzarus

DRATzarus can be partly encrypted with XOR.[62]

S0384 Dridex

Dridex's strings are obfuscated using RC4.[63]

S0502 Drovorub

Drovorub has used XOR encrypted payloads in WebSocket client to server messages.[64]

S0062 DustySky

The DustySky dropper uses a function to obfuscate the name of functions and other parts of the malware.[65]

G1006 Earth Lusca

Earth Lusca used Base64 to encode strings.[66]

S0377 Ebury

Ebury has obfuscated its strings with a simple XOR encryption with a static key.[67]


ECCENTRICBANDWAGON has encrypted strings with RC4.[68]

S0624 Ecipekac

Ecipekac can use XOR, AES, and DES to encrypt loader shellcode.[69]


EKANS uses encoded strings in its process kill list.[70]

G1003 Ember Bear

Ember Bear has obfuscated malware to help avoid detection.[71]

S0091 Epic

Epic heavily obfuscates its code to make analysis more difficult.[72]

S0512 FatDuke

FatDuke can use base64 encoding, string stacking, and opaque predicates for obfuscation.[73]

S0355 Final1stspy

Final1stspy obfuscates strings with base64 encoding.[74]

S0182 FinFisher

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.[75][76]

S0696 Flagpro

Flagpro has been delivered within ZIP or RAR password-protected archived files.[77]


GALLIUM used a modified version of HTRAN in which they obfuscated strings such as debug messages in an apparent attempt to evade detection.[78]

G0084 Gallmaker

Gallmaker obfuscated shellcode used during execution.[79]

G0047 Gamaredon Group

Gamaredon Group has delivered self-extracting 7z archive files within malicious document attachments.[80]

S0477 Goopy

Goopy's decrypter have been inflated with junk code in between legitimate API functions, and also included infinite loops to avoid analysis.[59]

S0690 Green Lambert

Green Lambert has encrypted strings.[81][82]

S0632 GrimAgent

GrimAgent has used Rotate on Right (RoR) and Rotate on Left (RoL) functionality to encrypt strings.[83]

S0132 H1N1

H1N1 uses multiple techniques to obfuscate strings, including XOR.[84]

S0499 Hancitor

Hancitor has used Base64 to encode malicious links. Hancitor has also delivered compressed payloads in ZIP files to victims.[85][86]

S0070 HTTPBrowser

HTTPBrowser's code may be obfuscated through structured exception handling and return-oriented programming.[87]

S0203 Hydraq

Hydraq uses basic obfuscation in the form of spaghetti code.[88][89]

S0434 Imminent Monitor

Imminent Monitor has encrypted the spearphish attachments to avoid detection from email gateways; the debugger also encrypts information before sending to the C2.[17]

S0604 Industroyer

Industroyer uses heavily obfuscated code in its Windows Notepad backdoor.[7]

S0259 InnaputRAT

InnaputRAT uses an 8-byte XOR key to obfuscate API names and other strings contained in the payload.[90]

S0260 InvisiMole

InvisiMole avoids analysis by encrypting all strings, internal files, configuration data and by using a custom executable format.[91][92]

S0189 ISMInjector

ISMInjector is obfuscated with the off-the-shelf SmartAssembly .NET obfuscator created by red-gate.com.[93]

S0201 JPIN

A JPIN uses a encrypted and compressed payload that is disguised as a bitmap within the resource section of the installer.[94]

S0283 jRAT

jRAT’s Java payload is encrypted with AES.[95] 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.[96]

S0265 Kazuar

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.[97]

G0004 Ke3chang

Ke3chang has used Base64-encoded shellcode strings.[98]

S0585 Kerrdown

Kerrdown can encrypt, encode, and compress multiple layers of shellcode.[99]

S0607 KillDisk

KillDisk uses VMProtect to make reverse engineering the malware more difficult.[100]

G0094 Kimsuky

Kimsuky has obfuscated binary strings including the use of XOR encryption and Base64 encoding.[101][102] Kimsuky has also modified the first byte of DLL implants targeting victims to prevent recognition of the executable file format.[103]

S0641 Kobalos

Kobalos encrypts all strings using RC4 and bundles all functionality into a single function call.[104]

S0447 Lokibot

Lokibot has obfuscated strings with base64 encoding.[105]

S0167 Matryoshka

Matryoshka obfuscates API function names using a substitute cipher combined with Base64 encoding.[106]

S0449 Maze

Maze has decrypted strings and other important information during the encryption process. Maze also calls certain functions dynamically to hinder analysis.[107]

S0500 MCMD

MCMD can Base64 encode output strings prior to sending to C2.[108]

S0051 MiniDuke

MiniDuke can use control flow flattening to obscure code.[73]

G0129 Mustang Panda

Mustang Panda has delivered initial payloads hidden using archives and encoding measures.[109][110][111][112][113][114]

S0336 NanoCore

NanoCore’s plugins were obfuscated with Eazfuscater.NET 3.3.[115]


NETWIRE has used a custom obfuscation algorithm to hide strings including Registry keys, APIs, and DLL names.[116]

S1090 NightClub

NightClub can obfuscate strings using the congruential generator (LCG): staten+1 = (690069 × staten + 1) mod 232.[117]


NOKKI uses Base64 encoding for strings.[118]


OLDBAIT obfuscates internal strings and unpacks them at startup.[54]

S0264 OopsIE

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.[119][120]

S0229 Orz

Some Orz strings are base64 encoded, such as the embedded DLL known as MockDll.[121]

S0594 Out1

Out1 has the ability to encode data.[122]

S0598 P.A.S. Webshell

P.A.S. Webshell can use encryption and base64 encoding to hide strings and to enforce access control once deployed.[123]

S0664 Pandora

Pandora has the ability to compress stings with QuickLZ.[124]

S0517 Pillowmint

Pillowmint has been compressed and stored within a registry key. Pillowmint has also obfuscated the AES key used for encryption.[125]

S0124 Pisloader

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.[126]

S0013 PlugX

PlugX can use API hashing and modify the names of strings to evade detection.[42][114]

S0428 PoetRAT

PoetRAT has used a custom encryption scheme for communication between scripts.[127]

S0012 PoisonIvy

PoisonIvy hides any strings related to its own indicators of compromise.[128]

S0518 PolyglotDuke

PolyglotDuke can custom encrypt strings.[73]

S0453 Pony

Pony attachments have been delivered via compressed archive files. Pony also obfuscates the memory flow by adding junk instructions when executing to make analysis more difficult.[129]


POSHSPY appends a file signature header (randomly selected from six file types) to encrypted data prior to upload or download.[130]

S0393 PowerStallion

PowerStallion uses a XOR cipher to encrypt command output written to its OneDrive C2 server.[131]


PUNCHBUGGY has hashed most its code's functions and encrypted payloads with base64 and XOR.[132]


PUNCHTRACK is loaded and executed by a highly obfuscated launcher.[133]

S0650 QakBot

QakBot has hidden code within Excel spreadsheets by turning the font color to white and splitting it across multiple cells.[134]

S0458 Ramsay

Ramsay has base64-encoded its portable executable and hidden itself under a JPG header. Ramsay can also embed information within document footers.[135]

S0511 RegDuke

RegDuke can use control-flow flattening or the commercially available .NET Reactor for obfuscation.[73]

S0332 Remcos

Remcos uses RC4 and base64 to obfuscate data, including Registry entries and file paths.[136]

G0106 Rocke

Rocke has modified UPX headers after packing files to break unpackers.[137]


ROKRAT can encrypt data prior to exfiltration by using an RSA public key.[21][138]

S0148 RTM

RTM strings, network data, configuration, and modules are encrypted with a modified RC4 algorithm. RTM has also been delivered to targets as various archive files including ZIP, 7-ZIP, and RAR.[139][140]

S0446 Ryuk

Ryuk can use anti-disassembly and code transformation obfuscation techniques.[53]

S1018 Saint Bot

Saint Bot has been obfuscated to help avoid detection.[71]

S1099 Samurai

Samurai can encrypt the names of requested APIs and deliver its final payload as a compressed, encrypted and base64 encoded blob.[141]

G0034 Sandworm Team

Sandworm Team has used Base64 encoding within malware variants.[142]

S1085 Sardonic

Sardonic can use certain ConfuserEx features for obfuscation and can be encoded in a base64 string.[143]

S0461 SDBbot

SDBbot has the ability to XOR the strings for its installer component with a hardcoded 128 byte key.[144]

S0596 ShadowPad

ShadowPad has encrypted its payload, a virtual file system, and various files.[145][66]

S0140 Shamoon

Shamoon contains base64-encoded strings.[146]

S0444 ShimRat

ShimRat has been delivered as a package that includes compressed DLL and shellcode payloads within a .dat file.[147]

S0445 ShimRatReporter

ShimRatReporter encrypted gathered information with a combination of shifting and XOR using a static key.[147]


SHOTPUT is obscured using XOR encoding and appended to a valid GIF file.[148][149]

S0623 Siloscape

Siloscape itself is obfuscated and uses obfuscated API calls.[150]


SLOWPULSE can hide malicious code in the padding regions between legitimate functions in the Pulse Secure libdsplibs.so file.[151]

S1035 Small Sieve

Small Sieve has the ability to use a custom hex byte swapping encoding scheme combined with an obfuscated Base64 function to protect program strings and Telegram credentials.[152]

S1086 Snip3

Snip3 has the ability to obfuscate strings using XOR encryption.[153]

S0627 SodaMaster

SodaMaster can use "stackstrings" for obfuscation.[69]

S0615 SombRAT

SombRAT can encrypt strings with XOR-based routines and use a custom AES storage format for plugins, configuration, C2 domains, and harvested data.[154][155][156]

S0516 SoreFang

SoreFang has the ability to encode and RC6 encrypt data sent to C2.[157]

S0142 StreamEx

StreamEx obfuscates some commands by using statically programmed fragments of strings when starting a DLL. It also uses a one-byte xor against 0x91 to encode configuration data.[158]


SUNBURST strings were compressed and encoded in Base64.[159] SUNBURST also obfuscated collected system information using a FNV-1a + XOR algorithm.[160]


SUNSPOT encrypted log entries it collected with the stream cipher RC4 using a hard-coded key. It also uses AES128-CBC encrypted blobs for SUNBURST source code and data extracted from the SolarWinds Orion <MsBuild.exe process.[161]

S1064 SVCReady

SVCReady can encrypt victim data with an RC4 cipher.[162]

S0242 SynAck

SynAck payloads are obfuscated prior to compilation to inhibit analysis and/or reverse engineering.[163][164]

S0467 TajMahal

TajMahal has used an encrypted Virtual File System to store plugins.[165]


TEARDROP created and read from a file with a fake JPG header, and its payload was encrypted with a simple rotating XOR cipher.[160][166][167]

S0266 TrickBot

TrickBot uses non-descriptive names to hide functionality.[168]

S0094 Trojan.Karagany

Trojan.Karagany can base64 encode and AES-128-CBC encrypt data prior to transmission.[169]

S0647 Turian

Turian can use VMProtect for obfuscation.[25]

S0476 Valak

Valak has the ability to base64 encode and XOR encrypt strings.[170][171][172]

G0112 Windshift

Windshift has used string encoding with floating point calculations.[173]

S0117 XTunnel

A version of XTunnel introduced in July 2015 obfuscated the binary using opaque predicates and other techniques in a likely attempt to obfuscate it and bypass security products.[174]


ID Mitigation Description
M1049 Antivirus/Antimalware

Anti-virus can be used to automatically detect and quarantine suspicious files. Consider utilizing the Antimalware Scan Interface (AMSI) on Windows 10+ to analyze commands after being processed/interpreted. [175]

M1047 Audit

Consider periodic review of common fileless storage locations (such as the Registry or WMI repository) to potentially identify abnormal and malicious data.

M1040 Behavior Prevention on Endpoint

On Windows 10+, enable Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) rules to prevent execution of potentially obfuscated payloads. [176]

M1017 User Training

Ensure that a finite amount of ingress points to a software deployment system exist with restricted access for those required to allow and enable newly deployed software.


ID Data Source Data Component Detects
DS0017 Command Command Execution

Monitor executed commands and arguments for indicators of obfuscation and potentially suspicious syntax such as uninterpreted escape characters (e.g., ^).

Also monitor command-lines for syntax-specific signs of obfuscation, such as variations of arguments associated with encoding.

DS0022 File File Creation

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).

File Metadata

Monitor for contextual data about a file, which may include information such as name, the content (ex: signature, headers, or data/media), user/owner, permissions, etc.

File-based signatures may be capable of detecting code obfuscation depending on the methods used.[177][178][179]

DS0011 Module Module Load

Monitoring module loads, especially those not explicitly included in import tables, may highlight obfuscated code functionality. Dynamic malware analysis may also expose signs of code obfuscation.[178]

DS0009 Process OS API Execution

Monitor and analyze calls to functions such as GetProcAddress() that are associated with malicious code obfuscation.[177]

Process Creation

Monitor for newly executed processes that 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.

DS0012 Script Script Execution

Monitor executed scripts for indicators of obfuscation and potentially suspicious command syntax, such as uninterpreted escape characters (e.g., ^).

Also monitor commands within scripts for syntax-specific signs of obfuscation, such as encoded or otherwise unreadable blobs of characters.

DS0024 Windows Registry Windows Registry Key Creation

Monitor for the creation of Registry values that may highlight storage of malicious data such as commands or payloads.

DS0005 WMI WMI Creation

Monitor for the creation of WMI Objects and values that may highlight storage of malicious data such as commands or payloads.


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