User Execution: Malicious Link

An adversary may rely upon a user clicking a malicious link in order to gain execution. Users may be subjected to social engineering to get them to click on a link that will lead to code execution. This user action will typically be observed as follow-on behavior from Spearphishing Link. Clicking on a link may also lead to other execution techniques such as exploitation of a browser or application vulnerability via Exploitation for Client Execution. Links may also lead users to download files that require execution via Malicious File.

ID: T1204.001
Sub-technique of:  T1204
Tactic: Execution
Platforms: Linux, Windows, macOS
Permissions Required: User
Data Sources: File: File Creation, Network Traffic: Network Connection Creation, Network Traffic: Network Traffic Content
Version: 1.0
Created: 11 March 2020
Last Modified: 11 March 2020

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S0584 AppleJeus

AppleJeus's spearphishing links required user interaction to navigate to the malicious website.[1]

G0007 APT28

APT28 has tricked unwitting recipients into clicking on malicious hyperlinks within emails crafted to resemble trustworthy senders.[2]

G0016 APT29

APT29 has used various forms of spearphishing attempting to get a user to click on a malicous link.[3][4]

G0050 APT32

APT32 has lured targets to download a Cobalt Strike beacon by including a malicious link within spearphishing emails.[5][6][7]

G0064 APT33

APT33 has lured users to click links to malicious HTML applications delivered via spearphishing emails.[8][9]

G0087 APT39

APT39 has sent spearphishing emails in an attempt to lure users to click on a malicious link. [10][11]

S0475 BackConfig

BackConfig has compromised victims via links to URLs hosting malicious content.[12]

S0534 Bazar

Bazar can gain execution via malicious links to decoy landing pages hosted on Google Docs.[13][14]

G0098 BlackTech

BlackTech has used e-mails with malicious links to lure victims into installing malware.[15]

G0080 Cobalt Group

Cobalt Group has sent emails containing malicious links that require users to execute a file or macro to infect the victim machine.[16][17]

G0074 Dragonfly 2.0

Dragonfly 2.0 has used various forms of spearphishing in attempts to get users to open links.[18][19]

G0066 Elderwood

Elderwood has leveraged multiple types of spearphishing in order to attempt to get a user to open links.[20][21]

S0367 Emotet

Emotet has relied upon users clicking on a malicious link delivered through spearphishing.[22][23]

G0120 Evilnum

Evilnum has sent spearphishing emails designed to trick the recipient into opening malicious shortcut links which downloads a .LNK file.[24]

G0085 FIN4

FIN4 has lured victims to click malicious links delivered via spearphishing emails (often sent from compromised accounts).[25][26]

G0061 FIN8

FIN8 has leveraged Spearphishing Links attempting to gain User Execution.[27][28][29]

S0531 Grandoreiro

Grandoreiro has used malicious links to gain execution on victim machines.[30][31]

S0561 GuLoader

GuLoader has relied upon users clicking on links to malicious documents.[32]

S0499 Hancitor

Hancitor has relied upon users clicking on a malicious link delivered through phishing.[33]

S0528 Javali

Javali has achieved execution through victims clicking links to malicious websites.[34]

S0585 Kerrdown

Kerrdown has gained execution through victims opening malicious links.[7]

G0065 Leviathan

Leviathan has sent spearphishing email links attempting to get a user to click.[35]

G0095 Machete

Machete has has relied on users opening malicious links delivered through spearphishing to execute malware.[36][37][38]

S0530 Melcoz

Melcoz has gained execution through victims opening malicious links.[34]

G0103 Mofang

Mofang's spearphishing emails required a user to click the link to connect to a compromised website.[39]

G0021 Molerats

Molerats has sent malicious links via email trick users into opening a RAR archive and running an executable.[40][41]

G0069 MuddyWater

MuddyWater has distributed URLs in phishing e-mails that link to lure documents.[42][43]

G0129 Mustang Panda

Mustang Panda has sent malicious links directing victims to a Google Drive folder.[44][45]

S0198 NETWIRE

NETWIRE has been executed through convincing victims into clicking malicious links.[46][32]

G0014 Night Dragon

Night Dragon enticed users to click on links in spearphishing emails to download malware.[47]

G0049 OilRig

OilRig has delivered malicious links to achieve execution on the target system.[48][49][50]

G0040 Patchwork

Patchwork has used spearphishing with links to try to get users to click, download and open malicious files.[51][52][53][12]

S0435 PLEAD

PLEAD has been executed via malicious links in e-mails.[15]

S0453 Pony

Pony has attempted to lure targets into clicking links in spoofed emails from legitimate banks.[54]

G0034 Sandworm Team

Sandworm Team has tricked unwitting recipients into clicking on malicious hyperlinks within emails crafted to resemble trustworthy senders.[55]

G0121 Sidewinder

Sidewinder has lured targets to click on malicious links to gain execution in the target environment.[56][57][58][59]

G0092 TA505

TA505 has used lures to get users to click links in emails and attachments. For example, TA505 makes their malware look like legitimate Microsoft Word documents, .pdf and/or .lnk files. [60][61][62][63][64][65][66][67]

S0436 TSCookie

TSCookie has been executed via malicious links embedded in e-mails spoofing the Ministries of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan.[68]

G0010 Turla

Turla has used spearphishing via a link to get users to download and run their malware.[69]

G0112 Windshift

Windshift has used links embedded in e-mails to lure victims into executing malicious code.[70]

G0102 Wizard Spider

Wizard Spider has lured victims into clicking a malicious link delivered through spearphishing.[71]

G0128 ZIRCONIUM

ZIRCONIUM has used malicious links in e-mails to lure victims into downloading malware.[72][73]

Mitigations

ID Mitigation Description
M1031 Network Intrusion Prevention

If a link is being visited by a user, network intrusion prevention systems and systems designed to scan and remove malicious downloads can be used to block activity.

M1021 Restrict Web-Based Content

If a link is being visited by a user, block unknown or unused files in transit by default that should not be downloaded or by policy from suspicious sites as a best practice to prevent some vectors, such as .scr, .exe, .pif, .cpl, etc. Some download scanning devices can open and analyze compressed and encrypted formats, such as zip and rar that may be used to conceal malicious files.

M1017 User Training

Use user training as a way to bring awareness to common phishing and spearphishing techniques and how to raise suspicion for potentially malicious events.

Detection

Inspect network traffic for indications that a user visited a malicious site, such as links included in phishing campaigns directed at your organization.

Anti-virus can potentially detect malicious documents and files that are downloaded from a link and executed on the user's computer.

References

  1. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. (2021, February 21). AppleJeus: Analysis of North Korea’s Cryptocurrency Malware. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  2. Brady, S . (2018, October 3). Indictment - United States vs Aleksei Sergeyevich Morenets, et al.. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
  3. Dunwoody, M., et al. (2018, November 19). Not So Cozy: An Uncomfortable Examination of a Suspected APT29 Phishing Campaign. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
  4. Faou, M., Tartare, M., Dupuy, T. (2019, October). OPERATION GHOST. Retrieved September 23, 2020.
  5. Dahan, A. (2017). Operation Cobalt Kitty. Retrieved December 27, 2018.
  6. Adair, S. and Lancaster, T. (2020, November 6). OceanLotus: Extending Cyber Espionage Operations Through Fake Websites. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  7. Amnesty International. (2021, February 24). Vietnamese activists targeted by notorious hacking group. Retrieved March 1, 2021.
  8. O'Leary, J., et al. (2017, September 20). Insights into Iranian Cyber Espionage: APT33 Targets Aerospace and Energy Sectors and has Ties to Destructive Malware. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  9. Security Response attack Investigation Team. (2019, March 27). Elfin: Relentless Espionage Group Targets Multiple Organizations in Saudi Arabia and U.S.. Retrieved April 10, 2019.
  10. Hawley et al. (2019, January 29). APT39: An Iranian Cyber Espionage Group Focused on Personal Information. Retrieved February 19, 2019.
  11. FBI. (2020, September 17). Indicators of Compromise Associated with Rana Intelligence Computing, also known as Advanced Persistent Threat 39, Chafer, Cadelspy, Remexi, and ITG07. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  12. Hinchliffe, A. and Falcone, R. (2020, May 11). Updated BackConfig Malware Targeting Government and Military Organizations in South Asia. Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  13. Cybereason Nocturnus. (2020, July 16). A BAZAR OF TRICKS: FOLLOWING TEAM9’S DEVELOPMENT CYCLES. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  14. Sadique, M. and Singh, A. (2020, September 29). Spear Phishing Campaign Delivers Buer and Bazar Malware. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  15. Bermejo, L., et al. (2017, June 22). Following the Trail of BlackTech’s Cyber Espionage Campaigns. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  16. Svajcer, V. (2018, July 31). Multiple Cobalt Personality Disorder. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
  17. Unit 42. (2018, October 25). New Techniques to Uncover and Attribute Financial actors Commodity Builders and Infrastructure Revealed. Retrieved December 11, 2018.
  18. US-CERT. (2018, March 16). Alert (TA18-074A): Russian Government Cyber Activity Targeting Energy and Other Critical Infrastructure Sectors. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  19. US-CERT. (2017, October 20). Alert (TA17-293A): Advanced Persistent Threat Activity Targeting Energy and Other Critical Infrastructure Sectors. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  20. O'Gorman, G., and McDonald, G.. (2012, September 6). The Elderwood Project. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  21. Clayton, M.. (2012, September 14). Stealing US business secrets: Experts ID two huge cyber 'gangs' in China. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  22. Salvio, J.. (2014, June 27). New Banking Malware Uses Network Sniffing for Data Theft. Retrieved March 25, 2019.
  23. Lee, S.. (2019, April 24). Emotet Using WMI to Launch PowerShell Encoded Code. Retrieved May 24, 2019.
  24. Porolli, M. (2020, July 9). More evil: A deep look at Evilnum and its toolset. Retrieved January 22, 2021.
  25. Vengerik, B. et al.. (2014, December 5). Hacking the Street? FIN4 Likely Playing the Market. Retrieved December 17, 2018.
  26. Vengerik, B. & Dennesen, K.. (2014, December 5). Hacking the Street? FIN4 Likely Playing the Market. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  27. Bohannon, D. & Carr N. (2017, June 30). Obfuscation in the Wild: Targeted Attackers Lead the Way in Evasion Techniques. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  28. Kizhakkinan, D. et al.. (2016, May 11). Threat Actor Leverages Windows Zero-day Exploit in Payment Card Data Attacks. Retrieved February 12, 2018.
  29. Elovitz, S. & Ahl, I. (2016, August 18). Know Your Enemy: New Financially-Motivated & Spear-Phishing Group. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  30. Abramov, D. (2020, April 13). Grandoreiro Malware Now Targeting Banks in Spain. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  31. ESET. (2020, April 28). Grandoreiro: How engorged can an EXE get?. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
  32. Duncan, B. (2020, April 3). GuLoader: Malspam Campaign Installing NetWire RAT. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  33. Tom Spring. (2017, January 11). Spammers Revive Hancitor Downloader Campaigns. Retrieved August 13, 2020.
  34. GReAT. (2020, July 14). The Tetrade: Brazilian banking malware goes global. Retrieved November 9, 2020.
  35. Axel F, Pierre T. (2017, October 16). Leviathan: Espionage actor spearphishes maritime and defense targets. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
  36. The Cylance Threat Research Team. (2017, March 22). El Machete's Malware Attacks Cut Through LATAM. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
  37. Kaspersky Global Research and Analysis Team. (2014, August 20). El Machete. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
  1. ESET. (2019, July). MACHETE JUST GOT SHARPER Venezuelan government institutions under attack. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
  2. Yonathan Klijnsma. (2016, May 17). Mofang: A politically motivated information stealing adversary. Retrieved May 12, 2020.
  3. GReAT. (2019, April 10). Gaza Cybergang Group1, operation SneakyPastes. Retrieved May 13, 2020.
  4. Falcone, R., et al. (2020, March 3). Molerats Delivers Spark Backdoor to Government and Telecommunications Organizations. Retrieved December 14, 2020.
  5. Mele, G. et al. (2021, February 10). Probable Iranian Cyber Actors, Static Kitten, Conducting Cyberespionage Campaign Targeting UAE and Kuwait Government Agencies. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  6. Peretz, A. and Theck, E. (2021, March 5). Earth Vetala – MuddyWater Continues to Target Organizations in the Middle East. Retrieved March 18, 2021.
  7. Meyers, A. (2018, June 15). Meet CrowdStrike’s Adversary of the Month for June: MUSTANG PANDA. Retrieved April 12, 2021.
  8. Roccia, T., Seret, T., Fokker, J. (2021, March 16). Technical Analysis of Operation Dianxun. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  9. Maniath, S. and Kadam P. (2019, March 19). Dissecting a NETWIRE Phishing Campaign's Usage of Process Hollowing. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  10. McAfee® Foundstone® Professional Services and McAfee Labs™. (2011, February 10). Global Energy Cyberattacks: “Night Dragon”. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  11. Lee, B., Falcone, R. (2018, February 23). OopsIE! OilRig Uses ThreeDollars to Deliver New Trojan. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  12. Lee, B., Falcone, R. (2018, July 25). OilRig Targets Technology Service Provider and Government Agency with QUADAGENT. Retrieved August 9, 2018.
  13. Meyers, A. (2018, November 27). Meet CrowdStrike’s Adversary of the Month for November: HELIX KITTEN. Retrieved December 18, 2018.
  14. Hamada, J.. (2016, July 25). Patchwork cyberespionage group expands targets from governments to wide range of industries. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  15. Lunghi, D., et al. (2017, December). Untangling the Patchwork Cyberespionage Group. Retrieved July 10, 2018.
  16. Meltzer, M, et al. (2018, June 07). Patchwork APT Group Targets US Think Tanks. Retrieved July 16, 2018.
  17. hasherezade. (2016, April 11). No money, but Pony! From a mail to a trojan horse. Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  18. Scott W. Brady. (2020, October 15). United States vs. Yuriy Sergeyevich Andrienko et al.. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  19. Hegel, T. (2021, January 13). A Global Perspective of the SideWinder APT. Retrieved January 27, 2021.
  20. Rewertz. (2020, April 20). Sidewinder APT Group Campaign Analysis. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  21. Rewterz. (2020, June 22). Analysis on Sidewinder APT Group – COVID-19. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  22. Cyble. (2020, September 26). SideWinder APT Targets with futuristic Tactics and Techniques. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  23. Proofpoint Staff. (2017, September 27). Threat Actor Profile: TA505, From Dridex to GlobeImposter. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  24. Proofpoint Staff. (2018, June 8). TA505 shifts with the times. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  25. Schwarz, D. and Proofpoint Staff. (2019, January 9). ServHelper and FlawedGrace - New malware introduced by TA505. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  26. Salem, E. (2019, April 25). Threat Actor TA505 Targets Financial Enterprises Using LOLBins and a New Backdoor Malware. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  27. Proofpoint Staff. (2018, July 19). TA505 Abusing SettingContent-ms within PDF files to Distribute FlawedAmmyy RAT. Retrieved April 19, 2019.
  28. Proofpoint Staff. (2018, March 7). Leaked Ammyy Admin Source Code Turned into Malware. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  29. Hiroaki, H. and Lu, L. (2019, June 12). Shifting Tactics: Breaking Down TA505 Group’s Use of HTML, RATs and Other Techniques in Latest Campaigns. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  30. Schwarz, D. et al. (2019, October 16). TA505 Distributes New SDBbot Remote Access Trojan with Get2 Downloader. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  31. Tomonaga, S.. (2018, March 6). Malware “TSCookie”. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  32. ESET, et al. (2018, January). Diplomats in Eastern Europe bitten by a Turla mosquito. Retrieved July 3, 2018.
  33. Karim, T. (2018, August). TRAILS OF WINDSHIFT. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  34. DHS/CISA. (2020, October 28). Ransomware Activity Targeting the Healthcare and Public Health Sector. Retrieved October 28, 2020.
  35. Huntley, S. (2020, October 16). How We're Tackling Evolving Online Threats. Retrieved March 24, 2021.
  36. Singh, S. and Antil, S. (2020, October 27). APT-31 Leverages COVID-19 Vaccine Theme and Abuses Legitimate Online Services. Retrieved March 24, 2021.