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Scripting

Adversaries may use scripts to aid in operations and perform multiple actions that would otherwise be manual. Scripting is useful for speeding up operational tasks and reducing the time required to gain access to critical resources. Some scripting languages may be used to bypass process monitoring mechanisms by directly interacting with the operating system at an API level instead of calling other programs. Common scripting languages for Windows include VBScript and PowerShell but could also be in the form of command-line batch scripts.

Scripts can be embedded inside Office documents as macros that can be set to execute when files used in Spearphishing Attachment and other types of spearphishing are opened. Malicious embedded macros are an alternative means of execution than software exploitation through Exploitation for Client Execution, where adversaries will rely on macros being allowed or that the user will accept to activate them.

Many popular offensive frameworks exist which use forms of scripting for security testers and adversaries alike. Metasploit [1], Veil [2], and PowerSploit [3] are three examples that are popular among penetration testers for exploit and post-compromise operations and include many features for evading defenses. Some adversaries are known to use PowerShell. [4]

ID: T1064
Tactic: Defense Evasion, Execution
Platform: Linux, macOS, Windows
Permissions Required: User
Data Sources: Process monitoring, File monitoring, Process command-line parameters
Defense Bypassed: Process whitelisting, Data Execution Prevention, Exploit Prevention
Version: 1.0

Procedure Examples

Name Description
APT1 APT1 has used batch scripting to automate execution of commands. [73]
APT19 APT19 downloaded and launched code within a SCT file. [82]
APT28 An APT28 loader Trojan uses a batch script to run its payload. The group has also used macros to execute payloads. [104] [27] [105] [106]
APT29 APT29 has used encoded PowerShell scripts uploaded to CozyCar installations to download and install SeaDuke, as well as to evade defenses. [32] [66]
APT3 APT3 has used PowerShell on victim systems to download and run payloads after exploitation. [81]
APT32 APT32 has used macros, PowerShell scripts, COM scriptlets, and VBS scripts. [107] [40]
APT37 APT37 executes shellcode and a script to decode Base64 strings. [96]
APT39 APT39 utilized custom scripts to perform internal reconnaissance. [115]
Astaroth Astaroth uses JavaScript to perform its core functionalities. [49]
Bisonal Bisonal's dropper creates VBS scripts on the victim’s machine. [16]
BRONZE BUTLER BRONZE BUTLER has used VBS, VBE, and batch scripts for execution. [89]
China Chopper China Chopper's server component is a text based payload available in a variety of scripting languages. [52]
Cobalt Group Cobalt Group has sent Word OLE compound documents with malicious obfuscated VBA macros that will run upon user execution and executed JavaScript scriptlets on the victim's machine. The group has also used an exploit toolkit known as Threadkit that launches .bat files. [98] [99] [100] [101] [102] [103]
Cobalt Strike Cobalt Strike can use PowerShell, Python, VBA, PowerSploit, other scripting frameworks to perform execution. [5] [6]
CoinTicker CoinTicker executes a bash script to establish a reverse shell and a Python script to download its second stage. [53]
Comnie Comnie executes BAT and VBS scripts. [14]
Dark Caracal Dark Caracal has used macros in Word documents that would download a second stage if executed. [67]
DarkComet DarkComet can execute various types of scripts on the victim’s machine. [28]
Darkhotel Darkhotel has dropped an mspaint.lnk shortcut to disk which launches a shell script that downloads and executes a file. [97]
DealersChoice DealersChoice makes modifications to open-source scripts from GitHub and executes them on the victim’s machine. [17]
Deep Panda Deep Panda has used PowerShell scripts to download and execute programs in memory, without writing to disk. [4]
Denis Denis executes shellcode on the victim's machine. [40]
Dragonfly 2.0 Dragonfly 2.0 used various types of scripting to perform operations, including Python and batch scripts. The group was observed installing Python 2.7 on a victim. [84] [85]
Emotet Emotet has sent Microsoft Word documents with embedded macros that will invoke scripts to download additional payloads. [42] [43] [44] [45] [46]
Empire Empire has modules for executing scripts. [10]
EvilBunny EvilBunny has an integrated scripting engine to download and execute Lua scripts. [65]
Exaramel Exaramel has a command to execute VBS and GO scripts on the victim’s machine. [20]
FELIXROOT FELIXROOT executes batch scripts on the victim’s machine. [35]
FIN10 FIN10 has executed malicious .bat files containing PowerShell commands. [80]
FIN4 FIN4 has used VBA macros to display a dialog box and collect victim credentials. [108] [109]
FIN5 FIN5 scans processes on all victim systems in the environment and uses automated scripts to pull back the results. [92]
FIN6 FIN6 has used a Metasploit PowerShell module to download and execute shellcode and to set up a local listener. FIN6 has also used scripting to iterate through a list of compromised PoS systems, copy data to a log file, and remove the original data files. [87] [88]
FIN7 FIN7 used SQL, VBS and JavaScript scripts to help perform tasks on the victim's machine. [112] [62]
FIN8 FIN8 has used a Batch file to automate frequently executed post compromise cleanup activities. [83]
Gallmaker Gallmaker used PowerShell scripts for execution. [113]
Gamaredon Group Gamaredon Group has used various batch scripts to establish C2, download additional files, and conduct other functions. [94]
Gorgon Group Gorgon Group has used macros in Spearphishing Attachments as well as executed VBScripts on victim machines. [114]
Helminth One version of Helminth consists of VBScript and PowerShell scripts. The malware also uses batch scripting. [37]
HiddenWasp HiddenWasp uses a script to automate tasks on the victim's machine and to assist in execution. [64]
Honeybee Honeybee embeds a Visual Basic script within a malicious Word document as part of initial access; the script is executed when the Word document is opened. The actors also used batch scripting. [86]
JCry JCry has used VBS scripts. [61]
JHUHUGIT JHUHUGIT uses a .bat file to execute a .dll. [27]
jRAT jRAT has been distributed as HTA files with VBScript+JScript. [54]
Ke3chang Ke3chang has used batch scripts in its malware to install persistence mechanisms. [95]
KeyBoy KeyBoy uses Python and VBS scripts for installing files and performing execution. [60]
Keydnap Keydnap uses Python for scripting to execute additional commands. [22]
Koadic Koadic performs most of its operations using Windows Script Host (Jscript and VBScript) and runs arbitrary shellcode . [8]
Lazarus Group A Destover-like variant used by Lazarus Group uses a batch file mechanism to delete its binaries from the system. [13]
Leafminer Leafminer infected victims using JavaScript code. [90]
Leviathan Leviathan has used multiple types of scripting for execution, including JavaScript, JavaScript Scriptlets in XML, and VBScript. [31]
Magic Hound Magic Hound malware has used .vbs scripts for execution. [68]
menuPass menuPass has used malicious macros embedded inside Office documents to execute files. [78] [79]
MoonWind MoonWind uses batch scripts for various purposes, including to restart and uninstall itself. [11]
MuddyWater MuddyWater has used VBScript and JavaScript files to execute its POWERSTATS payload. MuddyWater has also used Microsoft scriptlets, macros, and PowerShell scripts.[ [69] [70] [71] [72] [21]
NanHaiShu NanHaiShu executes additional Jscript and VBScript code on the victim's machine. [33]
NanoCore NanoCore uses VBS and JavaScript files. [29]
NavRAT NavRAT loads malicious shellcode and executes it in memory. [36]
OceanSalt OceanSalt has been executed via malicious macros. [41]
OilRig OilRig has used various types of scripting for execution, including .bat and .vbs scripts. The group has also used macros to deliver malware such as QUADAGENT and OopsIE. [75] [76] [25] [18] [77]
OopsIE OopsIE creates and uses a VBScript as part of its persistent execution. [25] [26]
Orz Orz can execute commands with script as well as execute JavaScript. [31]
OSX_OCEANLOTUS.D OSX_OCEANLOTUS.D uses macros for execution as well as VBS and PowerShell scripts. [39]
Patchwork Patchwork used Visual Basic Scripts (VBS), JavaScript code, batch files, and .SCT files on victim machines. [110] [111]
PowerStallion PowerStallion uses PowerShell loops to iteratively check for available commands in its OneDrive C2 server. [63]
POWERSTATS POWERSTATS can use VBScript (VBE), PowerShell, and JavaScript code for execution. [21]
Proton Proton uses macOS' .command file type to script actions. [34]
Proxysvc Proxysvc uses a batch file to delete itself. [13]
PUNCHBUGGY PUNCHBUGGY has used PowerShell, python, and shellcode scripts. [59]
Pupy Pupy can use an add on feature when creating payloads that allows you to create custom Python scripts (“scriptlets”) to perform tasks offline (without requiring a session) such as sandbox detection, adding persistence, etc. [7]
QUADAGENT QUADAGENT uses VBScripts and batch scripts. [18]
Rancor Rancor has used shell and VBS scripts as well as embedded macros for execution. [91]
Remcos Remcos uses Python scripts. [9]
Remexi Remexi uses AutoIt and VBS scripts throughout its execution process. [51]
Revenge RAT Revenge RAT executes scripts on the victim's machine. [55] [56]
RogueRobin 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”. RogueRobin also uses Windows Script Components. [23] [24]
RunningRAT RunningRAT uses a batch file to kill a security program task and then attempts to remove itself. [12]
SamSam SamSam uses custom batch scripts to execute some of its components. [48]
SeaDuke SeaDuke uses a module to execute Mimikatz with PowerShell to perform Pass the Ticket. [32]
Silence Silence has used JS, VBS, and PowerShell scripts. [117]
Smoke Loader Smoke Loader adds a Visual Basic script in the Startup folder to deploy the payload. [38]
SpeakUp SpeakUp uses Perl and Python scripts. [50]
SQLRat SQLRat has used SQL to execute JavaScript and VB scripts on the host system. [62]
Stealth Falcon Stealth Falcon malware uses PowerShell and WMI to script data collection and command execution on the victim. [74]
StoneDrill StoneDrill has several VBS scripts used throughout the malware's lifecycle. [57]
TA459 TA459 has a VBScript for execution. [93]
TA505 TA505 has used PowerShell, VBS, and JavaScript for code execution. [118] [119]
TrickBot TrickBot has used macros in Excel documents to download and deploy the malware on the user’s machine. [47]
Turla Turla has used PowerShell and VBS scripts throughout its operations. [120]
TYPEFRAME TYPEFRAME can uninstall malware components using a batch script. Additionally, a malicious Word document used for delivery uses VBA macros for execution. [19]
Ursnif Ursnif droppers have used VBA macros and PowerShell to download and execute the malware's full executable payload. [58]
WIRTE WIRTE has used VBS and PowerShell scripts throughout its operation. [116]
Xbash Xbash can execute malicious JavaScript and VBScript payloads on the victim’s machine. [30]
Zeus Panda Zeus Panda can launch remote scripts on the victim’s machine. [15]

Mitigations

Mitigation Description
Application Isolation and Sandboxing Configure Office security settings enable Protected View, to execute within a sandbox environment, and to block macros through Group Policy. Other types of virtualization and application microsegmentation may also mitigate the impact of compromise.
Disable or Remove Feature or Program Turn off unused features or restrict access to scripting engines such as VBScript or scriptable administration frameworks such as PowerShell.

Detection

Scripting may be common on admin, developer, or power user systems, depending on job function. If scripting is restricted for normal users, then any attempts to enable scripts running on a system would be considered suspicious. If scripts are not commonly used on a system, but enabled, scripts running out of cycle from patching or other administrator functions are suspicious. Scripts should be captured from the file system when possible to determine their actions and intent.

Scripts are likely to perform actions with various effects on a system that may generate events, depending on the types of monitoring used. Monitor processes and command-line arguments for script execution and subsequent behavior. Actions may be related to network and system information Discovery, Collection, or other scriptable post-compromise behaviors and could be used as indicators of detection leading back to the source script.

Analyze Office file attachments for potentially malicious macros. Execution of macros may create suspicious process trees depending on what the macro is designed to do. Office processes, such as winword.exe, spawning instances of cmd.exe, script application like wscript.exe or powershell.exe, or other suspicious processes may indicate malicious activity. [121]

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