Command and Scripting Interpreter: PowerShell

Adversaries may abuse PowerShell commands and scripts for execution. PowerShell is a powerful interactive command-line interface and scripting environment included in the Windows operating system. [1] Adversaries can use PowerShell to perform a number of actions, including discovery of information and execution of code. Examples include the Start-Process cmdlet which can be used to run an executable and the Invoke-Command cmdlet which runs a command locally or on a remote computer (though administrator permissions are required to use PowerShell to connect to remote systems).

PowerShell may also be used to download and run executables from the Internet, which can be executed from disk or in memory without touching disk.

A number of PowerShell-based offensive testing tools are available, including Empire, PowerSploit, PoshC2, and PSAttack.[2]

PowerShell commands/scripts can also be executed without directly invoking the powershell.exe binary through interfaces to PowerShell's underlying System.Management.Automation assembly DLL exposed through the .NET framework and Windows Common Language Interface (CLI). [3][4][5]

ID: T1059.001
Sub-technique of:  T1059
Tactic: Execution
Platforms: Windows
Permissions Required: Administrator, User
Data Sources: DLL monitoring, File monitoring, Loaded DLLs, PowerShell logs, Process command-line parameters, Process monitoring, Windows event logs
Supports Remote:  Yes
Contributors: Praetorian
Version: 1.0
Created: 09 March 2020
Last Modified: 24 June 2020

Procedure Examples

Name Description

APT19 used PowerShell commands to execute payloads.[6]


APT28 downloads and executes PowerShell scripts.[7]


APT29 has used encoded PowerShell scripts uploaded to CozyCar installations to download and install SeaDuke. APT29 also used PowerShell scripts to evade defenses.[8][9][10]


APT3 has used PowerShell on victim systems to download and run payloads after exploitation.[11]


APT32 has used PowerShell-based tools, PowerShell one-liners, and shellcode loaders for execution.[12][13][14]


APT33 has utilized PowerShell to download files from the C2 server and run various scripts. [15][16]


APT39 has used PowerShell to execute malicious code.[17][18]


APT41 leveraged PowerShell to deploy malware families in victims’ environments.[19][20]

AutoIt backdoor

AutoIt backdoor downloads a PowerShell script that decodes to a typical shellcode loader.[21]

Blue Mockingbird

Blue Mockingbird has used PowerShell reverse TCP shells to issue interactive commands over a network connection.[22]


BONDUPDATER is written in PowerShell.[23][24]


BRONZE BUTLER has used PowerShell for execution.[25]


Chimera has used PowerShell scripts to execute malicious payloads.[26]

Cobalt Group

Cobalt Group has used powershell.exe to download and execute scripts.[27][28][29][30][31][32]

Cobalt Strike

Cobalt Strike can execute a payload on a remote host with PowerShell. This technique does not write any data to disk.[33][34] Cobalt Strike can also use PowerSploit and other scripting frameworks to perform execution.[35][36]


ComRAT has used PowerShell to load itself every time a user logs in to the system. ComRAT can execute PowerShell scripts loaded into memory or from the file system.[37]


CopyKittens has used PowerShell Empire.[38]


CrackMapExec can execute PowerShell commands via WMI.[39]


DarkHydrus leveraged PowerShell to download and execute additional scripts for execution.[40][41]


DarkVishnya used PowerShell to create shellcode loaders.[42]

Deep Panda

Deep Panda has used PowerShell scripts to download and execute programs in memory, without writing to disk.[43]


Denis has a version written in PowerShell.[14]


DownPaper uses PowerShell for execution.[44]

Dragonfly 2.0

Dragonfly 2.0 used PowerShell scripts for execution.[45][46][47]


Emotet has used Powershell to retrieve the malicious payload and download additional resources like Mimikatz. [48][49][50][51][52]


Empire leverages PowerShell for the majority of its client-side agent tasks. Empire also contains the ability to conduct PowerShell remoting with the Invoke-PSRemoting module.[53][54]


FatDuke has the ability to execute PowerShell scripts.[55]


FIN10 uses PowerShell for execution as well as PowerShell Empire to establish persistence.[56][53]


FIN6 has used PowerShell to gain access to merchant's networks, and a Metasploit PowerShell module to download and execute shellcode and to set up a local listener.[57][58][59]


FIN7 used a PowerShell script to launch shellcode that retrieved an additional payload.[60][61]


FIN8's malicious spearphishing payloads are executed as PowerShell. FIN8 has also used PowerShell during Lateral Movement and Credential Access.[62][63]


Frankenstein has used PowerShell to run a series of base64-encoded commands, that acted as a stager and enumerated hosts.[64]


Gallmaker used PowerShell to download additional payloads and for execution.[65]

Gorgon Group

Gorgon Group malware can use PowerShell commands to download and execute a payload and open a decoy document on the victim’s machine.[66]


GRIFFON has used PowerShell to execute the Meterpreter downloader TinyMet.[67]


HALFBAKED can execute PowerShell scripts.[60]


HAMMERTOSS is known to use PowerShell.[68]


Hancitor has used PowerShell to execute commands.[69]


One version of Helminth uses a PowerShell script.[70]


Inception has used PowerShell to execute malicious commands and payloads.[71][72]


JCry has used PowerShell to execute payloads.[73]


KeyBoy uses PowerShell commands to download and execute payloads.[74]


Kimsuky has executed a variety of PowerShell scripts.[75]


KONNI used PowerShell to download and execute a specific 64-bit version of the malware.[76]

Lazarus Group

Lazarus Group has used Powershell to download malicious payloads.[77]


Leviathan has used PowerShell for execution.[78][79]

Magic Hound

Magic Hound has used PowerShell for execution and privilege escalation.[80][81]


menuPass uses PowerSploit to inject shellcode into PowerShell.[82]


Molerats used PowerShell implants on target machines.[83]


Mosquito can launch PowerShell Scripts.[84]


MuddyWater has used PowerShell for execution.[85][86][87][88][89][90][91]


Netwalker has been written in PowerShell and executed directly in memory, avoiding detection.[92][93]


njRAT has executed PowerShell commands via auto-run registry key persistence.[94]


OilRig has used PowerShell scripts for execution, including use of a macro to run a PowerShell command to decode file contents.[23][95][96]


OSX_OCEANLOTUS.D uses PowerShell scripts.[97]


Patchwork used PowerSploit to download payloads, run a reverse shell, and execute malware on the victim's machine.[98][99]


Pillowmint has used a PowerShell script to install a shim database.[100]

Poseidon Group

The Poseidon Group's Information Gathering Tool (IGT) includes PowerShell components.[101]


POSHSPY uses PowerShell to execute various commands, one to execute its payload.[102]


PowerShower is a backdoor written in PowerShell.[71]


POWERSOURCE is a PowerShell backdoor.[103][104]


PowerSploit modules are written in and executed via PowerShell.[105][106]


PowerStallion uses PowerShell loops to iteratively check for available commands in its OneDrive C2 server.[107]


POWERSTATS uses PowerShell for obfuscation and execution.[108][89][109]


POWERTON is written in PowerShell.[110]


POWRUNER is written in PowerShell.[23]


PUNCHBUGGY has used PowerShell scripts.[111]


Pupy has a module for loading and executing PowerShell scripts.[112]


QUADAGENT uses PowerShell scripts for execution.[113]


There is a variant of RATANKBA that uses a PowerShell script instead of the traditional PE form.[114][115]


RegDuke can extract and execute PowerShell scripts from C2 communications.[55]

Revenge RAT

Revenge RAT uses the PowerShell command Reflection.Assembly to load itself into memory to aid in execution.[116]


REvil has used PowerShell to delete volume shadow copies and download files.[117][118][119][120]


RogueRobin uses a command prompt to run a PowerShell script from Excel.[40] To assist in establishing persistence, RogueRobin creates %APPDATA%\OneDrive.bat and saves the following string to it:powershell.exe -WindowStyle Hidden -exec bypass -File "%APPDATA%\OneDrive.ps1".[121][40]


SeaDuke uses a module to execute Mimikatz with PowerShell to perform Pass the Ticket.[8]


ServHelper has the ability to execute a PowerShell script to get information from the infected host.[122]


SHARPSTATS has the ability to employ a custom PowerShell script.[109]


Silence has used PowerShell to download and execute payloads.[123][124]


Socksbot can write and execute PowerShell scripts.[99]

Soft Cell

Soft Cell used PowerShell for execution to assist in lateral movement as well as for dumping credentials stored on compromised machines.[125]


SQLRat has used PowerShell to create a Meterpreter session.[126]

Stealth Falcon

Stealth Falcon malware uses PowerShell commands to perform various functions, including gathering system information via WMI and executing commands from its C2 server.[127]


StrongPity can use PowerShell to add files to the Windows Defender exclusions list.[128]


TA459 has used PowerShell for execution of a payload.[129]


TA505 has used PowerShell to download and execute malware and reconnaissance scripts.[130][131][132][133]


TEMP.Veles has used a publicly-available PowerShell-based tool, WMImplant.[134] The group has also used PowerShell to perform Timestomping.[135]

Threat Group-3390

Threat Group-3390 has used PowerShell for execution.[136]


Thrip leveraged PowerShell to run commands to download payloads, traverse the compromised networks, and carry out reconnaissance.[137]


Turla has used PowerShell to execute commands/scripts, in some cases via a custom executable or code from Empire's PSInject.[138][107][139] Turla has also used PowerShell scripts to load and execute malware in memory.


Ursnif droppers have used PowerShell in download cradles to download and execute the malware's full executable payload.[140]


Valak has used PowerShell to download additional modules.[141]


WellMess can execute PowerShell scripts received from C2.[142][143]


WIRTE has used PowerShell for script execution.[144]

Wizard Spider

Wizard Spider has used macros to execute PowerShell scripts to download malware on victims machines.[145]


Xbash can use scripts to invoke PowerShell to download a malicious PE executable or PE DLL for execution.[146]

Zeus Panda

Zeus Panda uses PowerShell to download and execute the payload.[147]


Mitigation Description

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

Code Signing

Set PowerShell execution policy to execute only signed scripts.

Disable or Remove Feature or Program

It may be possible to remove PowerShell from systems when not needed, but a review should be performed to assess the impact to an environment, since it could be in use for many legitimate purposes and administrative functions.

Disable/restrict the WinRM Service to help prevent uses of PowerShell for remote execution.

Privileged Account Management

When PowerShell is necessary, restrict PowerShell execution policy to administrators. Be aware that there are methods of bypassing the PowerShell execution policy, depending on environment configuration.[148]


If proper execution policy is set, adversaries will likely be able to define their own execution policy if they obtain administrator or system access, either through the Registry or at the command line. This change in policy on a system may be a way to detect malicious use of PowerShell. If PowerShell is not used in an environment, then simply looking for PowerShell execution may detect malicious activity.

Monitor for loading and/or execution of artifacts associated with PowerShell specific assemblies, such as System.Management.Automation.dll (especially to unusual process names/locations).[3][4]

It is also beneficial to turn on PowerShell logging to gain increased fidelity in what occurs during execution (which is applied to .NET invocations). [149] PowerShell 5.0 introduced enhanced logging capabilities, and some of those features have since been added to PowerShell 4.0. Earlier versions of PowerShell do not have many logging features.[150] An organization can gather PowerShell execution details in a data analytic platform to supplement it with other data.


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