Adversaries may attempt to manipulate features of their artifacts to make them appear legitimate or benign to users and/or security tools. Masquerading occurs when the name or location of an object, legitimate or malicious, is manipulated or abused for the sake of evading defenses and observation. This may include manipulating file metadata, tricking users into misidentifying the file type, and giving legitimate task or service names.

Renaming abusable system utilities to evade security monitoring is also a form of Masquerading.[1]

ID: T1036
Tactic: Defense Evasion
Platforms: Containers, Linux, Windows, macOS
Defense Bypassed: Application Control
Contributors: Bartosz Jerzman; David Lu, Tripwire; Elastic; Felipe Espósito, @Pr0teus; Goldstein Menachem; Nick Carr, Mandiant; Oleg Kolesnikov, Securonix
Version: 1.7
Created: 31 May 2017
Last Modified: 08 March 2024

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S0622 AppleSeed

AppleSeed can disguise JavaScript files as PDFs.[2]

G0007 APT28

APT28 has renamed the WinRAR utility to avoid detection.[3]

G0050 APT32

APT32 has disguised a Cobalt Strike beacon as a Flash Installer.[4]

S0268 Bisonal

Bisonal dropped a decoy payload with a .jpg extension that contained a malicious Visual Basic script.[5]

S0635 BoomBox

BoomBox has the ability to mask malicious data strings as PDF files.[6]


BRONZE BUTLER has masked executables with document file icons including Word and Adobe PDF.[7]

C0015 C0015

During C0015, the threat actors named a binary file compareForfor.jpg to disguise it as a JPG file.[8]

C0018 C0018

During C0018, AvosLocker was disguised using the victim company name as the filename.[9]

S0497 Dacls

The Dacls Mach-O binary has been disguised as a .nib file.[10]

S1111 DarkGate

DarkGate can masquerade as pirated media content for initial delivery to victims.[11]

S1066 DarkTortilla

DarkTortilla's payload has been renamed PowerShellInfo.exe.[12]

S0673 DarkWatchman

DarkWatchman has used an icon mimicking a text file to mask a malicious executable.[13]

G0035 Dragonfly

Dragonfly has created accounts disguised as legitimate backup and service accounts as well as an email administration account.[14]

S0634 EnvyScout

EnvyScout has used folder icons for malicious files to lure victims into opening them.[6]

S0512 FatDuke

FatDuke has attempted to mimic a compromised user's traffic by using the same user agent as the installed browser.[15]

G1016 FIN13

FIN13 has masqueraded staged data by using the Windows certutil utility to generate fake Base64 encoded certificates with the input file.[16][17]

S0696 Flagpro

Flagpro can download malicious files with a .tmp extension and append them with .exe prior to execution.[18]

S0661 FoggyWeb

FoggyWeb can masquerade the output of C2 commands as a fake, but legitimately formatted WebP file.[19]

G0140 LazyScripter

LazyScripter has used several different security software icons to disguise executables.[20]

G0045 menuPass

menuPass has used esentutl to change file extensions to their true type that were masquerading as .txt files.[21]

S1015 Milan

Milan has used an executable named companycatalogue to appear benign.[22]

S0637 NativeZone

NativeZone has, upon execution, displayed a message box that appears to be related to a Ukrainian electronic document management system.[23]

G0133 Nomadic Octopus

Nomadic Octopus attempted to make Octopus appear as a Telegram Messenger with a Russian interface.[24]

S0368 NotPetya

NotPetya drops PsExec with the filename dllhost.dat.[25]

G0049 OilRig

OilRig has used .doc file extensions to mask malicious executables.[26]

C0016 Operation Dust Storm

For Operation Dust Storm, the threat actors disguised some executables as JPG files.[27]

C0006 Operation Honeybee

During Operation Honeybee, the threat actors modified the MaoCheng dropper so its icon appeared as a Word document.[28]


PLATINUM has renamed rar.exe to avoid detection.[29]

S1046 PowGoop

PowGoop has disguised a PowerShell script as a .dat file (goopdate.dat).[30]

S0565 Raindrop

Raindrop was built to include a modified version of 7-Zip source code (including associated export names) and Far Manager source code.[31][32]

S0458 Ramsay

Ramsay has masqueraded as a JPG image file.[33]

S0662 RCSession

RCSession has used a file named English.rtf to appear benign on victim hosts.[34][35]

S0148 RTM

RTM has been delivered as archived Windows executable files masquerading as PDF documents.[36]

S0446 Ryuk

Ryuk can create .dll files that actually contain a Rich Text File format document.[37]

S1018 Saint Bot

Saint Bot has renamed malicious binaries as wallpaper.mp4 and slideshow.mp4 to avoid detection.[38][39]

G0034 Sandworm Team

Sandworm Team masqueraded malicious installers as Windows update packages to evade defense and entice users to execute binaries.[40]

S0615 SombRAT

SombRAT can use a legitimate process name to hide itself.[41]

G0127 TA551

TA551 has masked malware DLLs as dat and jpg files.[42]

G0139 TeamTNT

TeamTNT has disguised their scripts with docker-related file names.[43]

S0682 TrailBlazer

TrailBlazer has used filenames that match the name of the compromised system in attempt to avoid detection.[44]

S0266 TrickBot

The TrickBot downloader has used an icon to appear as a Microsoft Word document.[45]

S0689 WhisperGate

WhisperGate has been disguised as a JPG extension to avoid detection as a malicious PE file.[46]

G0112 Windshift

Windshift has used icons mimicking MS Office files to mask malicious executables.[47] Windshift has also attempted to hide executables by changing the file extension to ".scr" to mimic Windows screensavers.[48]

S0466 WindTail

WindTail has used icons mimicking MS Office files to mask payloads.[47]


XCSSET builds a malicious application bundle to resemble Safari through using the Safari icon and Info.plist. [49]


ZIRCONIUM has spoofed legitimate applications in phishing lures and changed file extensions to conceal installation of malware.[50][51]


ID Mitigation Description
M1049 Antivirus/Antimalware

Anti-virus can be used to automatically quarantine suspicious files.

M1040 Behavior Prevention on Endpoint

Implement security controls on the endpoint, such as a Host Intrusion Prevention System (HIPS), to identify and prevent execution of potentially malicious files (such as those with mismatching file signatures).

M1045 Code Signing

Require signed binaries.

M1038 Execution Prevention

Use tools that restrict program execution via application control by attributes other than file name for common operating system utilities that are needed.

M1022 Restrict File and Directory Permissions

Use file system access controls to protect folders such as C:\Windows\System32.

M1017 User Training

Train users not to open email attachments or click unknown links (URLs). Such training fosters more secure habits within your organization and will limit many of the risks.


ID Data Source Data Component Detects
DS0017 Command Command Execution

Monitor executed commands and arguments that may attempt to manipulate features of their artifacts to make them appear legitimate or benign to users and/or security tools. [52]

Note: For Windows, Event ID 4104 (from the Microsoft-Windows-Powershell/Operational log) captures Powershell script blocks, which can be analyzed and used to detect on potential Masquerading.

DS0022 File File Metadata

Collect file hashes; file names that do not match their expected hash are suspect. Perform file monitoring; files with known names but in unusual locations are suspect. Look for indications of common characters that may indicate an attempt to trick users into misidentifying the file type, such as a space as the last character of a file name or the right-to-left override characters"\u202E", "[U+202E]", and "%E2%80%AE".

Check and ensure that file headers/signature and extensions match using magic bytes detection and/or file signature validation.[53] In Linux, the file command may be used to check the file signature.[54]

File Modification

Monitor for changes made to files outside of an update or patch that may attempt to manipulate features of their artifacts to make them appear legitimate or benign to users and/or security tools. Windows Event ID 4663 (An Attempt Was Made to Access An Object) can be used to alert on attempted file accesses that may be associate with Masquerading.

DS0007 Image Image Metadata

Collecting disk and resource filenames for binaries, comparing that the InternalName, OriginalFilename, and/or ProductName match what is expected, could provide useful leads but may not always be indicative of malicious activity. [55]

DS0009 Process OS API Execution

Monitor for API calls such as fork() which can be abused to masquerade or manipulate process metadata.

Process Creation

Monitor for newly executed processes that may attempt to manipulate features of their artifacts to make them appear legitimate or benign to users and/or security tools. The RECYCLER and SystemVolumeInformation directories will be present on every drive. Replace %systemroot% and %windir% with the actual paths as configured by the endpoints.

Analytic 1 - Suspicious Run Locations

(source="WinEventLog:Microsoft-Windows-Sysmon/Operational" EventCode="1") OR (source="WinEventLog:Security" EventCode="4688") AND ( Image=":\RECYCLER*" OR Image=":\SystemVolumeInformation*" OR Image="%windir%\Tasks*" OR Image="%systemroot%\debug*")

Process Metadata

Monitor for file names that are mismatched between the file name on disk and that of the binary's PE metadata, this is a likely indicator that a binary was renamed after it was compiled.

DS0003 Scheduled Job Scheduled Job Metadata

Monitor for contextual data about a scheduled job, which may include information such as name, timing, command(s), etc.

On Windows, Event ID 4698 (Security Log - A scheduled task was created) can be used to alert on the creation of scheduled tasks and provides metadata including the task name and task content (as XML).

On Linux, auditing frameworks such as the Linux Auditing System (auditd) can be used to alert on invocations of cron, and provides the metadata included when executing the command.

Scheduled Job Modification

Monitor for changes made to scheduled jobs that may attempt to manipulate features of their artifacts to make them appear legitimate or benign to users and/or security tools.

DS0019 Service Service Creation

Monitor for newly constructed services/daemons that may attempt to manipulate features of their artifacts to make them appear legitimate or benign to users and/or security tools.

Service Metadata

Monitor for contextual data about a service/daemon, which may include information such as name, service executable, start type, etc.


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