Boot or Logon Initialization Scripts: Startup Items

Adversaries may use startup items automatically executed at boot initialization to establish persistence. Startup items execute during the final phase of the boot process and contain shell scripts or other executable files along with configuration information used by the system to determine the execution order for all startup items.[1]

This is technically a deprecated technology (superseded by Launch Daemon), and thus the appropriate folder, /Library/StartupItems isn’t guaranteed to exist on the system by default, but does appear to exist by default on macOS Sierra. A startup item is a directory whose executable and configuration property list (plist), StartupParameters.plist, reside in the top-level directory.

An adversary can create the appropriate folders/files in the StartupItems directory to register their own persistence mechanism.[2] Additionally, since StartupItems run during the bootup phase of macOS, they will run as the elevated root user.

ID: T1037.005
Sub-technique of:  T1037
Platforms: macOS
Permissions Required: Administrator
Version: 1.0
Created: 15 January 2020
Last Modified: 20 April 2022

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S0283 jRAT

jRAT can list and manage startup entries.[3]


ID Mitigation Description
M1022 Restrict File and Directory Permissions

Since StartupItems are deprecated, preventing all users from writing to the /Library/StartupItems directory would prevent any startup items from getting registered.


ID Data Source Data Component Detects
DS0017 Command Command Execution

Monitor executed commands and arguments for logon scripts

DS0022 File File Creation

Monitor for newly constructed files by unusual accounts outside of normal administration duties

File Modification

Monitor for changes made to files for unexpected modifications to /Library/StartupItem folder

DS0009 Process Process Creation

Monitor for newly constructed processes and/or command-lines that execute during the boot up process to check for unusual or unknown applications and behavior