Adversaries may use an existing, legitimate external Web service as a means for relaying commands to a compromised system.
These commands may also include pointers to command and control (C2) infrastructure. Adversaries may post content, known as a dead drop resolver, on Web services with embedded (and often obfuscated/encoded) domains or IP addresses. Once infected, victims will reach out to and be redirected by these resolvers.
Popular websites and social media acting as a mechanism for C2 may give a significant amount of cover due to the likelihood that hosts within a network are already communicating with them prior to a compromise. Using common services, such as those offered by Google or Twitter, makes it easier for adversaries to hide in expected noise. Web service providers commonly use SSL/TLS encryption, giving adversaries an added level of protection.
Use of Web services may also protect back-end C2 infrastructure from discovery through malware binary analysis while also enabling operational resiliency (since this infrastructure may be dynamically changed).
BLACKCOFFEE uses Microsoft’s TechNet Web portal to obtain a dead drop resolver containing an encoded tag with the IP address of a command and control server. It has also obfuscated its C2 traffic as normal traffic to sites such as Github.
The "tDiscoverer" variant of HAMMERTOSS establishes a C2 channel by downloading resources from Web services like Twitter and GitHub. HAMMERTOSS binaries contain an algorithm that generates a different Twitter handle for the malware to check for instructions every day.
Firewalls and Web proxies can be used to enforce external network communication policy. It may be difficult for an organization to block particular services because so many of them are commonly used during the course of business.
Network intrusion detection and prevention systems that use network signatures to identify traffic for specific adversary malware can be used to mitigate activity at the network level. Signatures are often for unique indicators within protocols and may be based on the specific protocol or encoded commands used by a particular adversary or tool, and will likely be different across various malware families and versions. Adversaries will likely change tool C2 signatures over time or construct protocols in such a way as to avoid detection by common defensive tools. 
Host data that can relate unknown or suspicious process activity using a network connection is important to supplement any existing indicators of compromise based on malware command and control signatures and infrastructure or the presence of strong encryption. Packet capture analysis will require SSL/TLS inspection if data is encrypted. Analyze network data for uncommon data flows (e.g., a client sending significantly more data than it receives from a server). User behavior monitoring may help to detect abnormal patterns of activity. Analyze packet contents to detect communications that do not follow the expected protocol behavior for the port that is being used. 
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