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File Deletion

Malware, tools, or other non-native files dropped or created on a system by an adversary may leave traces behind as to what was done within a network and how. Adversaries may remove these files over the course of an intrusion to keep their footprint low or remove them at the end as part of the post-intrusion cleanup process.

There are tools available from the host operating system to perform cleanup, but adversaries may use other tools as well. Examples include native cmd functions such as DEL, secure deletion tools such as Windows Sysinternals SDelete, or other third-party file deletion tools. [1]

ID: T1107
Tactic: Defense Evasion
Platform: Linux, macOS, Windows
Permissions Required: User
Data Sources: File monitoring, Process command-line parameters, Binary file metadata
Defense Bypassed: Host forensic analysis
Contributors: Walker Johnson
Version: 1.0

Mitigations

This type of attack technique cannot be easily mitigated with preventive controls since it is based on the abuse of system features.

Examples

Name Description
ADVSTORESHELL ADVSTORESHELL can delete files and directories. [6]
APT18 APT18 actors deleted tools and batch files from victim systems. [120]
APT28 APT28 has intentionally deleted computer files to cover their tracks, including with use of the program CCleaner. [113]
APT29 APT29 used SDelete to remove artifacts from victims. [110]
APT3 APT3 has a tool that can delete files. [118]
APT32 APT32's macOS backdoor can receive a “delete” command. [121]
APT38 APT38 has used a utility called CLOSESHAVE that can securely delete a file from the system. [119]
AuditCred AuditCred can delete files from the system. [80]
Azorult Azorult can delete files from victim machines. [85]
Backdoor.Oldrea Backdoor.Oldrea contains a cleanup module that removes traces of itself from the victim. [63]
Bankshot Bankshot marks files to be deleted upon the next system reboot and uninstalls and removes itself from the system. [68]
BBSRAT BBSRAT can delete files and directories. [65]
Bisonal Bisonal deletes its dropper and VBS scripts from the victim’s machine. [23]
BLACKCOFFEE BLACKCOFFEE has the capability to delete files. [41]
BRONZE BUTLER The BRONZE BUTLER uploader or malware the uploader uses command to delete the RAR archives after they have been exfiltrated. [108]
Calisto Calisto has the capability to use rm -rf to remove folders and files from the victim's machine. [4]
Carbanak Carbanak has a command to delete files. [5]
Cardinal RAT Cardinal RAT can uninstall itself, including deleting its executable. [60]
Cherry Picker Recent versions of Cherry Picker delete files and registry keys created by the malware. [8]
cmd cmd can be used to delete files from the file system. [2]
Cobalt Group Cobalt Group deleted the DLL dropper from the victim’s machine to cover their tracks. [7]
Denis Denis has a command to delete files from the victim’s machine. [53] [54]
Derusbi Derusbi is capable of deleting files. It has been observed loading a Linux Kernel Module (LKM) and then deleting it from the hard disk as well as overwriting the data with null bytes. [81] [36]
Dragonfly 2.0 Dragonfly 2.0 deleted many of its files used during operations as part of cleanup, including removing applications and deleting screenshots. [111] [112]
Elise Elise is capable of launching a remote shell on the host to delete itself. [74]
Epic Epic has a command to delete a file from the machine. [32]
EvilBunny EvilBunny has deleted the initial dropper after running through the environment checks. [98]
FALLCHILL FALLCHILL can delete malware and associated artifacts from the victim. [51]
FELIXROOT FELIXROOT deletes the .LNK file from the startup directory as well as the dropper components. [43]
FIN10 FIN10 has used batch scripts and scheduled tasks to delete critical system files. [107]
FIN5 FIN5 uses SDelete to clean up the environment and attempt to prevent detection. [104]
FIN8 FIN8 has deleted tmp and prefetch files during post compromise cleanup activities. [58]
FruitFly FruitFly will delete files on the system. [34]
Gazer Gazer has commands to delete files and persistence mechanisms from the victim. [56] [57]
gh0st RAT gh0st RAT has the capability to to delete files. [77]
Gold Dragon Gold Dragon deletes one of its files, 2.hwp, from the endpoint after establishing persistence. [20]
GreyEnergy GreyEnergy can securely delete a file by hooking into the DeleteFileA and DeleteFileW functions in the Windows API. [72]
Group5 Malware used by Group5 is capable of remotely deleting files from victims. [103]
HALFBAKED HALFBAKED can delete a specified file. [52]
HAWKBALL HAWKBALL has the ability to delete files. [96]
Hi-Zor Hi-Zor deletes its RAT installer file as it executes its DLL payload file. [44]
Honeybee Honeybee removes batch files to reduce fingerprint on the system as well as deletes the CAB file that gets encoded upon infection. [102]
HTTPBrowser HTTPBrowser deletes its original installer file once installation is complete. [69]
Hydraq Hydraq creates a backdoor through which remote attackers can delete files. [37] [38]
HyperBro HyperBro has the ability to delete a specified file. [99]
InnaputRAT InnaputRAT has a command to delete files. [40]
InvisiMole InvisiMole has a command to delete a file and deletes files after they have been successfully uploaded to C2 servers. [33]
Ixeshe Ixeshe has a command to delete a file from the machine. [94]
JHUHUGIT The JHUHUGIT dropper can delete itself from the victim. Another JHUHUGIT variant has the capability to delete specified files. [14] [15]
JPIN JPIN's installer/uninstaller component deletes itself if it encounters a version of Windows earlier than Windows XP or identifies security-related processes running. [46]
jRAT jRAT has a function to delete files from the victim’s machine. [22]
Kazuar Kazuar can delete files. [18]
KEYMARBLE KEYMARBLE has the capability to delete files off the victim’s machine. [29]
Komplex The Komplex trojan supports file deletion. [21]
KONNI KONNI can delete files. [71]
Lazarus Group Lazarus Group malware deletes files in various ways, including "suicide scripts" to delete malware binaries from the victim. Lazarus Group also uses secure file deletion to delete files from the victim. [106] [62]
LightNeuron LightNeuron has a function to delete files. [97]
Linfo Linfo creates a backdoor through which remote attackers can delete files. [19]
LockerGoga LockerGoga has been observed deleting its original launcher after execution. [87]
MacSpy MacSpy deletes any temporary files it creates [50]
Magic Hound Magic Hound has deleted and overwrote files to cover tracks. [114] [115]
menuPass A menuPass macro deletes files after it has decoded and decompressed them. [116] [117]
Misdat Misdat is capable of deleting the backdoor file. [82]
MoonWind MoonWind can delete itself or specified files. [78]
More_eggs More_eggs can remove itself from a system. [7]
Mosquito Mosquito deletes files using DeleteFileW API call. [47]
MURKYTOP MURKYTOP has the capability to delete local files. [36]
NanHaiShu NanHaiShu launches a script to delete their original decoy file to cover tracks. [10]
njRAT njRAT is capable of deleting files on the victim. [92]
NOKKI NOKKI can delete files to cover tracks. [27]
OceanSalt OceanSalt can delete files from the system. [49]
OilRig OilRig has deleted files associated with their payload after execution. [100] [101]
OopsIE OopsIE has the capability to delete files and scripts from the victim's machine. [35]
OSX_OCEANLOTUS.D OSX_OCEANLOTUS.D has a command to delete a file from the system. [55]
Pasam Pasam creates a backdoor through which remote attackers can delete files. [45]
Patchwork Patchwork removed certain files and replaced them so they could not be retrieved. [105]
pngdowner pngdowner deletes content from C2 communications that was saved to the user's temporary directory. [67]
PowerDuke PowerDuke has a command to write random data across a file and delete it. [73]
POWERSTATS POWERSTATS can delete all files on the C:\, D:\, E:\ and, F:\ drives using PowerShell Remove-Item commands. [11]
Proton Proton removes all files in the /tmp directory. [34]
Proxysvc Proxysvc can delete files indicated by the attacker and remove itself from disk using a batch file. [62]
Pteranodon Pteranodon can delete files that may interfere with it executing. It also can delete temporary files and itself after the initial script executes. [39]
PUNCHBUGGY PUNCHBUGGY can delete files written to disk. [58] [59]
QUADAGENT QUADAGENT has a command to delete its Registry key and scheduled task. [13]
Reaver Reaver deletes the original dropped file from the victim. [17]
RedLeaves RedLeaves can delete specified files. [28]
Remsec Remsec is capable of deleting files on the victim. It also securely removes itself after collecting and exfiltrating data. [24] [25] [26]
RTM RTM can delete all files created during its execution. [64]
RunningRAT RunningRAT contains code to delete files from the victim’s machine. [20]
Sakula Some Sakula samples use cmd.exe to delete temporary files. [16]
SamSam SamSam has been seen deleting its own files and payloads to make analysis of the attack more difficult. [86]
SDelete SDelete deletes data in a way that makes it unrecoverable. [3]
SeaDuke SeaDuke can securely delete files, including deleting itself from the victim. [48]
Seasalt Seasalt has a command to delete a specified file. [79]
ServHelper ServHelper has a module to delete itself from the infected machine. [90] [91]
Silence Silence deleted scheduled task files after its execution. [124]
SpeakUp SpeakUp deletes files to remove evidence on the machine. [88]
SQLRat SQLRat has used been observed deleting scripts once used. [95]
StoneDrill StoneDrill has been observed deleting the temporary files once they fulfill their task. [89]
TDTESS TDTESS creates then deletes log files during installation of itself as a service. [31]
TEMP.Veles TEMP.Veles routinely deleted tools, logs, and other files after they were finished with them. [122]
The White Company The White Company has the ability to delete its malware entirely from the target system. [123]
Threat Group-3390 Threat Group-3390 has deleted existing logs and exfiltrated file archives from a victim. [109]
TYPEFRAME TYPEFRAME can delete files off the system. [12]
Ursnif Ursnif has deleted data staged in tmp files after exfiltration. [93]
USBStealer USBStealer has several commands to delete files associated with the malware from the victim. [9]
VERMIN VERMIN can delete files on the victim’s machine. [30]
Volgmer Volgmer can delete files and itself after infection to avoid analysis. [76]
WINDSHIELD WINDSHIELD is capable of file deletion along with other file system interaction. [42]
Wingbird Wingbird deletes its payload along with the payload's parent process after it finishes copying files. [66]
XAgentOSX XAgentOSX contains the deletFileFromPath function to delete a specified file using the NSFileManager:removeFileAtPath method. [70]
Zebrocy Zebrocy has a command to delete files and directories. [83] [84]
Zeus Panda Zeus Panda has a command to delete a file. [61]
zwShell zwShell has deleted itself after creating a service as well as deleted a temporary file when the system reboots. [75]

Detection

It may be uncommon for events related to benign command-line functions such as DEL or third-party utilities or tools to be found in an environment, depending on the user base and how systems are typically used. Monitoring for command-line deletion functions to correlate with binaries or other files that an adversary may drop and remove may lead to detection of malicious activity. Another good practice is monitoring for known deletion and secure deletion tools that are not already on systems within an enterprise network that an adversary could introduce. Some monitoring tools may collect command-line arguments, but may not capture DEL commands since DEL is a native function within cmd.exe.

References

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