Utilities such as at and schtasks, along with the Windows Task Scheduler, can be used to schedule programs or scripts to be executed at a date and time. A task can also be scheduled on a remote system, provided the proper authentication is met to use RPC and file and printer sharing is turned on. Scheduling a task on a remote system typically required being a member of the Administrators group on the remote system. 
An adversary may use task scheduling to execute programs at system startup or on a scheduled basis for persistence, to conduct remote Execution as part of Lateral Movement, to gain SYSTEM privileges, or to run a process under the context of a specified account.
Adversaries can instruct Duqu to spread laterally by copying itself to shares it has enumerated and for which it has obtained legitimate credentials (via keylogging or other means). The remote host is then infected by using the compromised credentials to schedule a task on remote machines that executes the malware.
POWERSTATS has established persistence through a scheduled task using the command
Toolkits like the PowerSploit framework contain PowerUp modules that can be used to explore systems for permission weaknesses in scheduled tasks that could be used to escalate privileges.
|Operating System Configuration||
Configure settings for scheduled tasks to force tasks to run under the context of the authenticated account instead of allowing them to run as SYSTEM. The associated Registry key is located at
|Privileged Account Management||
Configure the Increase Scheduling Priority option to only allow the Administrators group the rights to schedule a priority process. This can be can be configured through GPO: Computer Configuration > [Policies] > Windows Settings > Security Settings > Local Policies > User Rights Assignment: Increase scheduling priority.
|User Account Management||
Limit privileges of user accounts and remediate Privilege Escalation vectors so only authorized administrators can create scheduled tasks on remote systems.
Monitor scheduled task creation from common utilities using command-line invocation. Legitimate scheduled tasks may be created during installation of new software or through system administration functions. Monitor process execution from the
svchost.exe in Windows 10 and the Windows Task Scheduler
taskeng.exe for older versions of Windows.  If scheduled tasks are not used for persistence, then the adversary is likely to remove the task when the action is complete. Monitor Windows Task Scheduler stores in
%systemroot%\System32\Tasks for change entries related to scheduled tasks that do not correlate with known software, patch cycles, etc. Data and events should not be viewed in isolation, but as part of a chain of behavior that could lead to other activities, such as network connections made for Command and Control, learning details about the environment through Discovery, and Lateral Movement.
Configure event logging for scheduled task creation and changes by enabling the "Microsoft-Windows-TaskScheduler/Operational" setting within the event logging service.  Several events will then be logged on scheduled task activity, including: 
- Event ID 106 on Windows 7, Server 2008 R2 - Scheduled task registered
- Event ID 140 on Windows 7, Server 2008 R2 / 4702 on Windows 10, Server 2016 - Scheduled task updated
- Event ID 141 on Windows 7, Server 2008 R2 / 4699 on Windows 10, Server 2016 - Scheduled task deleted
- Event ID 4698 on Windows 10, Server 2016 - Scheduled task created
- Event ID 4700 on Windows 10, Server 2016 - Scheduled task enabled
- Event ID 4701 on Windows 10, Server 2016 - Scheduled task disabled
Tools such as Sysinternals Autoruns may also be used to detect system changes that could be attempts at persistence, including listing current scheduled tasks.  Look for changes to tasks that do not correlate with known software, patch cycles, etc. Suspicious program execution through scheduled tasks may show up as outlier processes that have not been seen before when compared against historical data.
Monitor processes and command-line arguments for actions that could be taken to create tasks. Remote access tools with built-in features may interact directly with the Windows API to perform these functions outside of typical system utilities. Tasks may also be created through Windows system management tools such as Windows Management Instrumentation and PowerShell, so additional logging may need to be configured to gather the appropriate data.
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