Adversaries may use an existing, legitimate external Web service as a means for sending commands to and receiving output from a compromised system over the Web service channel. Compromised systems may leverage popular websites and social media to host command and control (C2) instructions. Those infected systems can then send the output from those commands back over that Web service channel. The return traffic may occur in a variety of ways, depending on the Web service being utilized. For example, the return traffic may take the form of the compromised system posting a comment on a forum, issuing a pull request to development project, updating a document hosted on a Web service, or by sending a Tweet.
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.
Sandworm Team has used the Telegram Bot API from Telegram Messenger to send and receive commands to its Python backdoor. Sandworm Team also used legitimate M.E.Doc software update check requests for sending and receiving commands and hosted malicious payloads on putdrive.com.
|M1031||Network Intrusion Prevention||
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.
|M1021||Restrict Web-Based Content||
Web proxies can be used to enforce external network communication policy that prevents use of unauthorized external services.
|ID||Data Source||Data Component|
|DS0029||Network Traffic||Network Connection Creation|
|Network Traffic Content|
|Network Traffic Flow|
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.