Browser Extensions

Adversaries may abuse Internet browser extensions to establish persistence access to victim systems. Browser extensions or plugins are small programs that can add functionality and customize aspects of Internet browsers. They can be installed directly or through a browser's app store and generally have access and permissions to everything that the browser can access. [1] [2]

Malicious extensions can be installed into a browser through malicious app store downloads masquerading as legitimate extensions, through social engineering, or by an adversary that has already compromised a system. Security can be limited on browser app stores so it may not be difficult for malicious extensions to defeat automated scanners. [3] Once the extension is installed, it can browse to websites in the background, [4] [5] steal all information that a user enters into a browser (including credentials) [6] [7] and be used as an installer for a RAT for persistence.

There have also been instances of botnets using a persistent backdoor through malicious Chrome extensions. [8] There have also been similar examples of extensions being used for command & control [9].

ID: T1176
Sub-techniques:  No sub-techniques
Tactic: Persistence
Platforms: Linux, Windows, macOS
Permissions Required: User
Data Sources: Browser extensions, File monitoring, Process monitoring, Process use of network, Windows Registry
Contributors: Justin Warner, ICEBRG
Version: 1.1
Created: 16 January 2018
Last Modified: 25 March 2020

Procedure Examples

Name Description
Bundlore

Bundlore can install malicious browser extensions that are used to hijack user searches.[13]

Kimsuky

Kimsuky has used a Google Chrome extension to infect victims and steal passwords and cookies from their browsers.[15]

OSX/Shlayer

OSX/Shlayer can install malicious Safari browser extensions to serve ads.[11][12]

Stolen Pencil

Stolen Pencil victims are prompted to install malicious Google Chrome extensions which gave the threat actor the ability to read data from any website accessed. [14]

Mitigations

Mitigation Description
Audit

Ensure extensions that are installed are the intended ones as many malicious extensions will masquerade as legitimate ones.

Execution Prevention

Set a browser extension allow or deny list as appropriate for your security policy. [10]

Limit Software Installation

Only install browser extensions from trusted sources that can be verified. Browser extensions for some browsers can be controlled through Group Policy. Change settings to prevent the browser from installing extensions without sufficient permissions.

User Training

Close out all browser sessions when finished using them to prevent any potentially malicious extensions from continuing to run.

Detection

Inventory and monitor browser extension installations that deviate from normal, expected, and benign extensions. Process and network monitoring can be used to detect browsers communicating with a C2 server. However, this may prove to be a difficult way of initially detecting a malicious extension depending on the nature and volume of the traffic it generates.

Monitor for any new items written to the Registry or PE files written to disk. That may correlate with browser extension installation.

References