Office Application Startup: Outlook Rules
Adversaries may abuse Microsoft Outlook rules to obtain persistence on a compromised system. Outlook rules allow a user to define automated behavior to manage email messages. A benign rule might, for example, automatically move an email to a particular folder in Outlook if it contains specific words from a specific sender. Malicious Outlook rules can be created that can trigger code execution when an adversary sends a specifically crafted email to that user.
Once malicious rules have been added to the user’s mailbox, they will be loaded when Outlook is started. Malicious rules will execute when an adversary sends a specifically crafted email to the user.
For the Outlook methods, blocking macros may be ineffective as the Visual Basic engine used for these features is separate from the macro scripting engine. Microsoft has released patches to try to address each issue. Ensure KB3191938 which blocks Outlook Visual Basic and displays a malicious code warning, KB4011091 which disables custom forms by default, and KB4011162 which removes the legacy Home Page feature, are applied to systems.
Microsoft has released a PowerShell script to safely gather mail forwarding rules and custom forms in your mail environment as well as steps to interpret the output. SensePost, whose tool Ruler can be used to carry out malicious rules, forms, and Home Page attacks, has released a tool to detect Ruler usage.
Collect process execution information including process IDs (PID) and parent process IDs (PPID) and look for abnormal chains of activity resulting from Office processes. Non-standard process execution trees may also indicate suspicious or malicious behavior.
- SensePost. (2016, August 18). Ruler: A tool to abuse Exchange services. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
- Fox, C., Vangel, D. (2018, April 22). Detect and Remediate Outlook Rules and Custom Forms Injections Attacks in Office 365. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
- SensePost. (2017, September 21). NotRuler - The opposite of Ruler, provides blue teams with the ability to detect Ruler usage against Exchange. Retrieved February 4, 2019.