Masquerading: Match Legitimate Name or Location

Adversaries may match or approximate the name or location of legitimate files or resources when naming/placing them. This is done for the sake of evading defenses and observation. This may be done by placing an executable in a commonly trusted directory (ex: under System32) or giving it the name of a legitimate, trusted program (ex: svchost.exe). In containerized environments, this may also be done by creating a resource in a namespace that matches the naming convention of a container pod or cluster. Alternatively, a file or container image name given may be a close approximation to legitimate programs/images or something innocuous.

Adversaries may also use the same icon of the file they are trying to mimic.

ID: T1036.005
Sub-technique of:  T1036
Tactic: Defense Evasion
Platforms: Containers, Linux, Windows, macOS
Defense Bypassed: Application control by file name or path
CAPEC ID: CAPEC-177
Contributors: Vishwas Manral, McAfee; Yossi Weizman, Azure Defender Research Team
Version: 1.1
Created: 10 February 2020
Last Modified: 20 April 2021

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
G0018 admin@338

admin@338 actors used the following command to rename one of their tools to a benign file name: ren "%temp%\upload" audiodg.exe[1]

S0622 AppleSeed

AppleSeed has the ability to rename its payload to ESTCommon.dll to masquerade as a DLL belonging to ESTsecurity.[2]

G0006 APT1

The file name AcroRD32.exe, a legitimate process name for Adobe's Acrobat Reader, was used by APT1 as a name for malware.[3][4]

G0007 APT28

APT28 has changed extensions on files containing exfiltrated data to make them appear benign, and renamed a web shell instance to appear as a legitimate OWA page.[5]

G0016 APT29

APT29 renamed software and DLL's with legitimate names to appear benign.[6][7][8]

G0050 APT32

APT32 has renamed a NetCat binary to kb-10233.exe to masquerade as a Windows update. APT32 has also renamed a Cobalt Strike beacon payload to install_flashplayers.exe. [9][10]

G0087 APT39

APT39 has used malware disguised as Mozilla Firefox and a tool named mfevtpse.exe to proxy C2 communications, closely mimicking a legitimate McAfee file mfevtps.exe.[11][12]

G0096 APT41

APT41 attempted to masquerade their files as popular anti-virus software.[13][14]

S0475 BackConfig

BackConfig has hidden malicious payloads in %USERPROFILE%\Adobe\Driver\dwg\ and mimicked the legitimate DHCP service binary.[15]

G0135 BackdoorDiplomacy

BackdoorDiplomacy has dropped implants in folders named for legitimate software.[16]

S0606 Bad Rabbit

Bad Rabbit has masqueraded as a Flash Player installer through the executable file install_flash_player.exe.[17][18]

S0128 BADNEWS

BADNEWS attempts to hide its payloads using legitimate filenames.[19]

S0534 Bazar

The Bazar loader has named malicious shortcuts "adobe" and mimicked communications software.[20][21][22]

S0520 BLINDINGCAN

BLINDINGCAN has attempted to hide its payload by using legitimate file names such as "iconcache.db".[23]

G0108 Blue Mockingbird

Blue Mockingbird has masqueraded their XMRIG payload name by naming it wercplsupporte.dll after the legitimate wercplsupport.dll file.[24]

G0060 BRONZE BUTLER

BRONZE BUTLER has given malware the same name as an existing file on the file share server to cause users to unwittingly launch and install the malware on additional systems.[25]

S0482 Bundlore

Bundlore has disguised a malicious .app file as a Flash Player update.[26]

S0274 Calisto

Calisto's installation file is an unsigned DMG image under the guise of Intego’s security solution for mac.[27]

G0008 Carbanak

Carbanak has named malware "svchost.exe," which is the name of the Windows shared service host program.[28]

S0484 Carberp

Carberp has masqueraded as Windows system file names, as well as "chkntfs.exe" and "syscron.exe".[29][30]

S0631 Chaes

Chaes has used an unsigned, crafted DLL module named hha.dll that was designed to look like a legitimate 32-bit Windows DLL.[31]

S0144 ChChes

ChChes copies itself to an .exe file with a filename that is likely intended to imitate Norton Antivirus but has several letters reversed (e.g. notron.exe).[32]

G0114 Chimera

Chimera has renamed malware to GoogleUpdate.exe and WinRAR to jucheck.exe, RecordedTV.ms, teredo.tmp, update.exe, and msadcs1.exe.[33]

S0625 Cuba

Cuba has been disguised as legitimate 360 Total Security Antivirus and OpenVPN programs.[34]

S0334 DarkComet

DarkComet has dropped itself onto victim machines with file names such as WinDefender.Exe and winupdate.exe in an apparent attempt to masquerade as a legitimate file.[35]

G0012 Darkhotel

Darkhotel has used malware that is disguised as a Secure Shell (SSH) tool.[36]

S0187 Daserf

Daserf uses file and folder names related to legitimate programs in order to blend in, such as HP, Intel, Adobe, and perflogs.[37]

S0600 Doki

Doki has disguised a file as a Linux kernel module.[38]

S0567 Dtrack

One of Dtrack can hide in replicas of legitimate programs like OllyDbg, 7-Zip, and FileZilla.[39]

S0605 EKANS

EKANS has been disguised as update.exe to appear as a valid executable.[40]

S0081 Elise

If installing itself as a service fails, Elise instead writes itself as a file named svchost.exe saved in %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Network.[41]

S0171 Felismus

Felismus has masqueraded as legitimate Adobe Content Management System files.[42]

G0137 Ferocious Kitten

Ferocious Kitten has named malicious files update.exe and loaded them into the compromise host's "Public" folder.[43]

G0046 FIN7

FIN7 has attempted to run Darkside ransomware with the filename sleep.exe.[44]

S0182 FinFisher

FinFisher renames one of its .dll files to uxtheme.dll in an apparent attempt to masquerade as a legitimate file.[45][46]

G0117 Fox Kitten

Fox Kitten has named binaries and configuration files svhost and dllhost respectively to appear legitimate.[47]

S0410 Fysbis

Fysbis has masqueraded as trusted software rsyncd and dbus-inotifier.[48]

S0493 GoldenSpy

GoldenSpy's setup file installs initial executables under the folder %WinDir%\System32\PluginManager.[49]

S0588 GoldMax

GoldMax appeared as a scheduled task impersonating systems management software within the corresponding ProgramData subfolder.[50]

S0477 Goopy

Goopy has impersonated the legitimate goopdate.dll, which was dropped on the target system with a legitimate GoogleUpdate.exe.[9]

S0531 Grandoreiro

Grandoreiro has named malicious browser extensions and update files to appear legitimate.[51][52]

S0070 HTTPBrowser

HTTPBrowser's installer contains a malicious file named navlu.dll to decrypt and run the RAT. navlu.dll is also the name of a legitimate Symantec DLL.[53]

G0119 Indrik Spider

Indrik Spider used fake updates for FlashPlayer plugin and Google Chrome as initial infection vectors.[54]

S0259 InnaputRAT

InnaputRAT variants have attempted to appear legitimate by using the file names SafeApp.exe and NeutralApp.exe.[55]

S0260 InvisiMole

InvisiMole has disguised its droppers as legitimate software or documents, matching their original names and locations, and saved its files as mpr.dll in the Windows folder.[56][57]

S0015 Ixeshe

Ixeshe has used registry values and file names associated with Adobe software, such as AcroRd32.exe.[58]

S0526 KGH_SPY

KGH_SPY has masqueraded as a legitimate Windows tool.[59]

S0356 KONNI

KONNI creates a shortcut called "Anti virus service.lnk" in an apparent attempt to masquerade as a legitimate file.[60]

G0032 Lazarus Group

Lazarus Group has renamed the TAINTEDSCRIBE main executable to disguise itself as Microsoft's narrator.[61]

S0395 LightNeuron

LightNeuron has used filenames associated with Exchange and Outlook for binary and configuration files, such as winmail.dat.[62]

S0582 LookBack

LookBack has a C2 proxy tool that masquerades as GUP.exe, which is software used by Notepad++.[63]

S0409 Machete

Machete renamed payloads to masquerade as legitimate Google Chrome, Java, Dropbox, Adobe Reader and Python executables.[64][65]

G0095 Machete

Machete's Machete MSI installer has masqueraded as a legitimate Adobe Acrobat Reader installer.[66]

S0652 MarkiRAT

MarkiRAT can masquerade as update.exe and svehost.exe; it has also mimicked legitimate Telegram and Chrome files.[43]

S0500 MCMD

MCMD has been named Readme.txt to appear legitimate.[67]

S0459 MechaFlounder

MechaFlounder has been downloaded as a file named lsass.exe, which matches the legitimate Windows file.[68]

G0045 menuPass

menuPass has been seen changing malicious files to appear legitimate.[69]

S0455 Metamorfo

Metamorfo has disguised an MSI file as the Adobe Acrobat Reader Installer and has masqueraded payloads as OneDrive, WhatsApp, or Spotify, for example.[70][71]

S0084 Mis-Type

Mis-Type saves itself as a file named msdtc.exe, which is also the name of the legitimate Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator service binary.[72][73]

S0083 Misdat

Misdat saves itself as a file named msdtc.exe, which is also the name of the legitimate Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator service binary.[72][73]

G0069 MuddyWater

MuddyWater has disguised malicious executables and used filenames and Registry key names associated with Windows Defender.[74][75][76]

G0129 Mustang Panda

Mustang Panda has used 'adobeupdate.dat' as a PlugX loader, and a file named 'OneDrive.exe' to load a Cobalt Strike payload.[77]

G0019 Naikon

Naikon has disguised malicious programs as Google Chrome, Adobe, and VMware executables.[78]

S0630 Nebulae

Nebulae uses functions named StartUserModeBrowserInjection and StopUserModeBrowserInjection indicating that it's trying to imitate chrome_frame_helper.dll.[78]

S0198 NETWIRE

NETWIRE has masqueraded as legitimate software including TeamViewer and macOS Finder.[79]

S0353 NOKKI

NOKKI is written to %LOCALAPPDATA%\MicroSoft Updatea\svServiceUpdate.exe prior being executed in a new process in an apparent attempt to masquerade as a legitimate folder and file.[80]

S0340 Octopus

Octopus has been disguised as legitimate programs, such as Java and Telegram Messenger.[81][82]

S0138 OLDBAIT

OLDBAIT installs itself in %ALLUSERPROFILE%\Application Data\Microsoft\MediaPlayer\updatewindws.exe; the directory name is missing a space and the file name is missing the letter "o."[83]

S0402 OSX/Shlayer

OSX/Shlayer can masquerade as a Flash Player update.[84][85]

S0072 OwaAuth

OwaAuth uses the filename owaauth.dll, which is a legitimate file that normally resides in %ProgramFiles%\Microsoft\Exchange Server\ClientAccess\Owa\Auth\; the malicious file by the same name is saved in %ProgramFiles%\Microsoft\Exchange Server\ClientAccess\Owa\bin\.[86]

G0040 Patchwork

Patchwork installed its payload in the startup programs folder as "Baidu Software Update." The group also adds its second stage payload to the startup programs as "Net Monitor."[87] They have also dropped QuasarRAT binaries as files named microsoft_network.exe and crome.exe.[88]

S0587 Penquin

Penquin has mimicked the Cron binary to hide itself on compromised systems.[89]

S0501 PipeMon

PipeMon modules are stored on disk with seemingly benign names including use of a file extension associated with a popular word processor.[90]

S0453 Pony

Pony has used the Adobe Reader icon for the downloaded file to look more trustworthy.[91]

G0033 Poseidon Group

Poseidon Group tools attempt to spoof anti-virus processes as a means of self-defense.[92]

G0056 PROMETHIUM

PROMETHIUM has disguised malicious installer files by bundling them with legitimate software installers.[93][94]

S0196 PUNCHBUGGY

PUNCHBUGGY mimics filenames from %SYSTEM%\System32 to hide DLLs in %WINDIR% and/or %TEMP%.[95][96]

S0583 Pysa

Pysa has executed a malicious executable by naming it svchost.exe.[97]

S0269 QUADAGENT

QUADAGENT used the PowerShell filenames Office365DCOMCheck.ps1 and SystemDiskClean.ps1.[98]

S0565 Raindrop

Raindrop was installed under names that resembled legitimate Windows file and directory names.[99][100]

S0629 RainyDay

RainyDay has used names to mimic legitimate software including "vmtoolsd.exe" to spoof Vmtools.[78]

S0458 Ramsay

Ramsay has masqueraded as a 7zip installer.[101][102]

S0495 RDAT

RDAT has masqueraded as VMware.exe.[103]

S0125 Remsec

The Remsec loader implements itself with the name Security Support Provider, a legitimate Windows function. Various Remsec .exe files mimic legitimate file names used by Microsoft, Symantec, Kaspersky, Hewlett-Packard, and VMWare. Remsec also disguised malicious modules using similar filenames as custom network encryption software on victims.[104][105]

S0496 REvil

REvil can mimic the names of known executables.[106]

G0106 Rocke

Rocke has used shell scripts which download mining executables and saves them with the filename "java".[107]

S0446 Ryuk

Ryuk has constructed legitimate appearing installation folder paths by calling GetWindowsDirectoryW and then inserting a null byte at the fourth character of the path. For Windows Vista or higher, the path would appear as C:\Users\Public.[108]

S0085 S-Type

S-Type may save itself as a file named msdtc.exe, which is also the name of the legitimate Microsoft Distributed Transaction Coordinator service binary.[72][73]

G0034 Sandworm Team

Sandworm Team has avoided detection by naming a malicious binary explorer.exe.[109][110]

S0445 ShimRatReporter

ShimRatReporter spoofed itself as AlphaZawgyl_font.exe, a specialized Unicode font.[111]

S0589 Sibot

Sibot has downloaded a DLL to the C:\windows\system32\drivers\ folder and renamed it with a .sys extension.[50]

G0121 Sidewinder

Sidewinder has named malicious files rekeywiz.exe to match the name of a legitimate Windows executable.[112]

G0091 Silence

Silence has named its backdoor "WINWORD.exe".[113]

S0468 Skidmap

Skidmap has created a fake rm binary to replace the legitimate Linux binary.[114]

S0533 SLOTHFULMEDIA

SLOTHFULMEDIA has mimicked the names of known executables, such as mediaplayer.exe.[115]

G0054 Sowbug

Sowbug named its tools to masquerade as Windows or Adobe Reader software, such as by using the file name adobecms.exe and the directory CSIDL_APPDATA\microsoft\security.[116]

S0058 SslMM

To establish persistence, SslMM identifies the Start Menu Startup directory and drops a link to its own executable disguised as an "Office Start," "Yahoo Talk," "MSN Gaming Z0ne," or "MSN Talk" shortcut.[117]

S0188 Starloader

Starloader has masqueraded as legitimate software update packages such as Adobe Acrobat Reader and Intel.[116]

S0491 StrongPity

StrongPity has been bundled with legitimate software installation files for disguise.[93]

S0559 SUNBURST

SUNBURST created VBScripts that were named after existing services or folders to blend into legitimate activities.[100]

S0562 SUNSPOT

SUNSPOT was identified on disk with a filename of taskhostsvc.exe and it created an encrypted log file at C:\Windows\Temp\vmware-vmdmp.log.[118]

S0578 SUPERNOVA

SUPERNOVA has masqueraded as a legitimate SolarWinds DLL.[119][120]

S0586 TAINTEDSCRIBE

The TAINTEDSCRIBE main executable has disguised itself as Microsoft’s Narrator.[61]

S0560 TEARDROP

TEARDROP files had names that resembled legitimate Window file and directory names.[121][100]

G0088 TEMP.Veles

TEMP.Veles has renamed files to look like legitimate files, such as Windows update files or Schneider Electric application files.[122]

S0595 ThiefQuest

ThiefQuest prepends a copy of itself to the beginning of an executable file while maintaining the name of the executable.[123][124]

G0134 Transparent Tribe

Transparent Tribe can mimic legitimate Windows directories by using the same icons and names.[125]

S0609 TRITON

TRITON disguised itself as the legitimate Triconex Trilog application.[126]

G0081 Tropic Trooper

Tropic Trooper has hidden payloads in Flash directories and fake installer files.[127]

S0386 Ursnif

Ursnif has used strings from legitimate system files and existing folders for its file, folder, and Registry entry names.[128]

S0136 USBStealer

USBStealer mimics a legitimate Russian program called USB Disk Security.[129]

G0107 Whitefly

Whitefly has named the malicious DLL the same name as DLLs belonging to legitimate software from various security vendors.[130]

S0141 Winnti for Windows

A Winnti for Windows implant file was named ASPNET_FILTER.DLL, mimicking the legitimate ASP.NET ISAPI filter DLL with the same name.[131]

S0086 ZLib

ZLib mimics the resource version information of legitimate Realtek Semiconductor, Nvidia, or Synaptics modules.[72]

Mitigations

ID Mitigation Description
M1045 Code Signing

Require signed binaries and images.

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.

Detection

ID Data Source Data Component
DS0022 File File Metadata
DS0007 Image Image Metadata
DS0009 Process Process 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. Likewise, files that are modified outside of an update or patch are suspect.

If file names 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. Collecting and comparing disk and resource filenames for binaries by looking to see if the InternalName, OriginalFilename, and/or ProductName match what is expected could provide useful leads, but may not always be indicative of malicious activity. [132] Do not focus on the possible names a file could have, but instead on the command-line arguments that are known to be used and are distinct because it will have a better rate of detection.[133]

In containerized environments, use image IDs and layer hashes to compare images instead of relying only on their names.[134] Monitor for the unexpected creation of new resources within your cluster in Kubernetes, especially those created by atypical users.

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