User Execution: Malicious File

An adversary may rely upon a user opening a malicious file in order to gain execution. Users may be subjected to social engineering to get them to open a file that will lead to code execution. This user action will typically be observed as follow-on behavior from Spearphishing Attachment. Adversaries may use several types of files that require a user to execute them, including .doc, .pdf, .xls, .rtf, .scr, .exe, .lnk, .pif, and .cpl.

Adversaries may employ various forms of Masquerading and Obfuscated Files or Information to increase the likelihood that a user will open and successfully execute a malicious file. These methods may include using a familiar naming convention and/or password protecting the file and supplying instructions to a user on how to open it.[1]

While Malicious File frequently occurs shortly after Initial Access it may occur at other phases of an intrusion, such as when an adversary places a file in a shared directory or on a user's desktop hoping that a user will click on it. This activity may also be seen shortly after Internal Spearphishing.

ID: T1204.002
Sub-technique of:  T1204
Tactic: Execution
Platforms: Linux, Windows, macOS
Contributors: TruKno
Version: 1.2
Created: 11 March 2020
Last Modified: 20 May 2022

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
G0018 admin@338

admin@338 has attempted to get victims to launch malicious Microsoft Word attachments delivered via spearphishing emails.[2]

S0331 Agent Tesla

Agent Tesla has been executed through malicious e-mail attachments [3]

G0130 Ajax Security Team

Ajax Security Team has lured victims into executing malicious files.[4]

G0138 Andariel

Andariel has attempted to lure victims into enabling malicious macros within email attachments.[5]

G1007 Aoqin Dragon

Aoqin Dragon has lured victims into opening weaponized documents, fake external drives, and fake antivirus to execute malicious payloads.[6]

S0584 AppleJeus

AppleJeus has required user execution of a malicious MSI installer.[7]

S0622 AppleSeed

AppleSeed can achieve execution through users running malicious file attachments distributed via email.[8]

G0099 APT-C-36

APT-C-36 has prompted victims to accept macros in order to execute the subsequent payload.[9]

G0005 APT12

APT12 has attempted to get victims to open malicious Microsoft Word and PDF attachment sent via spearphishing.[10][11]

G0073 APT19

APT19 attempted to get users to launch malicious attachments delivered via spearphishing emails.[12]

G0007 APT28

APT28 attempted to get users to click on Microsoft Office attachments containing malicious macro scripts.[13][14][15]

G0016 APT29

APT29 has used various forms of spearphishing attempting to get a user to open attachments, including, but not limited to, malicious Microsoft Word documents, .pdf, and .lnk files. [16] [17][18][19][20]

G0013 APT30

APT30 has relied on users to execute malicious file attachments delivered via spearphishing emails.[21]

G0050 APT32

APT32 has attempted to lure users to execute a malicious dropper delivered via a spearphishing attachment.[22][23][24][25][26]

G0064 APT33

APT33 has used malicious e-mail attachments to lure victims into executing malware.[27]

G0067 APT37

APT37 has sent spearphishing attachments attempting to get a user to open them.[28]

G0082 APT38

APT38 has attempted to lure victims into enabling malicious macros within email attachments.[29]

G0087 APT39

APT39 has sent spearphishing emails in an attempt to lure users to click on a malicious attachment.[30][31][32][33]

S0373 Astaroth

Astaroth has used malicious files including VBS, LNK, and HTML for execution.[34]

S0606 Bad Rabbit

Bad Rabbit has been executed through user installation of an executable disguised as a flash installer.[35][36]

S0642 BADFLICK

BADFLICK has relied upon users clicking on a malicious attachment delivered through spearphishing.[37]

S0234 Bandook

Bandook has used lure documents to convince the user to enable macros.[38]

S0268 Bisonal

Bisonal has relied on users to execute malicious file attachments delivered via spearphishing emails.[39]

G1002 BITTER

BITTER has attempted to lure victims into opening malicious attachments delivered via spearphishing.[40][41]

G0098 BlackTech

BlackTech has used e-mails with malicious documents to lure victims into installing malware.[42][43]

S0520 BLINDINGCAN

BLINDINGCAN has lured victims into executing malicious macros embedded within Microsoft Office documents.[44]

S0635 BoomBox

BoomBox has gained execution through user interaction with a malicious file.[45]

G0060 BRONZE BUTLER

BRONZE BUTLER has attempted to get users to launch malicious Microsoft Word attachments delivered via spearphishing emails.[46][47]

S1039 Bumblebee

Bumblebee has relied upon a user opening an ISO file to enable execution of malicious shortcut files and DLLs.[48][49][50][51]

S0482 Bundlore

Bundlore has attempted to get users to execute a malicious .app file that looks like a Flash Player update.[52]

C0011 C0011

During C0011, Transparent Tribe relied on a student target to open a malicious document delivered via email.[53]

C0015 C0015

During C0015, the threat actors relied on users to enable macros within a malicious Microsoft Word document.[54]

S0348 Cardinal RAT

Cardinal RAT lures victims into executing malicious macros embedded within Microsoft Excel documents.[55]

S0465 CARROTBALL

CARROTBALL has been executed through users being lured into opening malicious e-mail attachments.[56]

S0631 Chaes

Chaes requires the user to click on the malicious Word document to execute the next part of the attack.[57]

S0660 Clambling

Clambling has gained execution through luring victims into opening malicious files.[58]

G0080 Cobalt Group

Cobalt Group has sent emails containing malicious attachments that require users to execute a file or macro to infect the victim machine.[59][60]

G0142 Confucius

Confucius has lured victims to execute malicious attachments included in crafted spearphishing emails related to current topics.[61]

S0527 CSPY Downloader

CSPY Downloader has been delivered via malicious documents with embedded macros.[62]

S1014 DanBot

DanBot has relied on victims' opening a malicious file for initial execution.[63][64]

G0070 Dark Caracal

Dark Caracal makes their malware look like Flash Player, Office, or PDF documents in order to entice a user to click on it.[65]

G0012 Darkhotel

Darkhotel has sent spearphishing emails in an attempt to lure users into clicking on a malicious attachments.[66][67]

G0079 DarkHydrus

DarkHydrus has sent malware that required users to hit the enable button in Microsoft Excel to allow an .iqy file to be downloaded.[68][69]

S1021 DnsSystem

DnsSystem has lured victims into opening macro-enabled Word documents for execution.[70]

G0035 Dragonfly

Dragonfly has used various forms of spearphishing in attempts to get users to open malicious attachments.[71]

S0384 Dridex

Dridex has relied upon users clicking on a malicious attachment delivered through spearphishing.[72]

G1006 Earth Lusca

Earth Lusca required users to click on a malicious file for the loader to activate.[73]

G0066 Elderwood

Elderwood has leveraged multiple types of spearphishing in order to attempt to get a user to open attachments.[74][75]

G1003 Ember Bear

Ember Bear has attempted to lure victims into executing malicious files.[76]

S0367 Emotet

Emotet has relied upon users clicking on a malicious attachment delivered through spearphishing.[77][78][79]

S0634 EnvyScout

EnvyScout has been executed through malicious files attached to e-mails.[45]

G1011 EXOTIC LILY

EXOTIC LILY has gained execution through victims clicking on malicious LNK files contained within ISO files, which can execute hidden DLLs within the ISO.[80][48]

G0137 Ferocious Kitten

Ferocious Kitten has attempted to convince victims to enable malicious content within a spearphishing email by including an odd decoy message.[81]

G0085 FIN4

FIN4 has lured victims to launch malicious attachments delivered via spearphishing emails (often sent from compromised accounts).[82][83]

G0037 FIN6

FIN6 has used malicious documents to lure victims into allowing execution of PowerShell scripts.[84]

G0046 FIN7

FIN7 lured victims to double-click on images in the attachments they sent which would then execute the hidden LNK file.[85][86][87]

G0061 FIN8

FIN8 has used malicious e-mail attachments to lure victims into executing malware.[88][89][90]

S0696 Flagpro

Flagpro has relied on users clicking a malicious attachment delivered through spearphishing.[43]

C0001 Frankenstein

During Frankenstein, the threat actors relied on a victim to enable macros within a malicious Microsoft Word document likely sent via email.[91]

G0084 Gallmaker

Gallmaker sent victims a lure document with a warning that asked victims to "enable content" for execution.[92]

G0047 Gamaredon Group

Gamaredon Group has attempted to get users to click on Office attachments with malicious macros embedded.[93][94][95][96][97][98][99]

G0078 Gorgon Group

Gorgon Group attempted to get users to launch malicious Microsoft Office attachments delivered via spearphishing emails.[100]

S0531 Grandoreiro

Grandoreiro has infected victims via malicious attachments.[101]

S0561 GuLoader

The GuLoader executable has been retrieved via embedded macros in malicious Word documents.[102]

S0499 Hancitor

Hancitor has used malicious Microsoft Word documents, sent via email, which prompted the victim to enable macros.[103]

G1001 HEXANE

HEXANE has relied on victim's executing malicious file attachments delivered via email or embedded within actor-controlled websites to deliver malware.[63][104][64][70]

S1027 Heyoka Backdoor

Heyoka Backdoor has been spread through malicious document lures.[6]

G0126 Higaisa

Higaisa used malicious e-mail attachments to lure victims into executing LNK files.[105][106]

S0483 IcedID

IcedID has been executed through Word documents with malicious embedded macros.[107]

G0100 Inception

Inception lured victims into clicking malicious files for machine reconnaissance and to execute malware.[108][109][110][111]

G0136 IndigoZebra

IndigoZebra sent spearphishing emails containing malicious attachments that urged recipients to review modifications in the file which would trigger the attack.[112]

G0119 Indrik Spider

Indrik Spider has attempted to get users to click on a malicious zipped file.[113]

S0260 InvisiMole

InvisiMole can deliver trojanized versions of software and documents, relying on user execution.[114]

S0528 Javali

Javali has achieved execution through victims opening malicious attachments, including MSI files with embedded VBScript.[34]

S0389 JCry

JCry has achieved execution by luring users to click on a file that appeared to be an Adobe Flash Player update installer. [115]

S0648 JSS Loader

JSS Loader has been executed through malicious attachments contained in spearphishing emails.[86]

S0585 Kerrdown

Kerrdown has gained execution through victims opening malicious files.[26][116]

S0526 KGH_SPY

KGH_SPY has been spread through Word documents containing malicious macros.[62]

G0094 Kimsuky

Kimsuky has used attempted to lure victims into opening malicious e-mail attachments.[117][118][119][62][8][120]

S0669 KOCTOPUS

KOCTOPUS has relied on victims clicking a malicious document for execution.[121]

S0356 KONNI

KONNI has relied on a victim to enable malicious macros within an attachment delivered via email.[122]

G0032 Lazarus Group

Lazarus Group has attempted to get users to launch a malicious Microsoft Word attachment delivered via a spearphishing email.[123][124][125][126][127]

G0140 LazyScripter

LazyScripter has lured users to open malicious email attachments.[121]

G0065 Leviathan

Leviathan has sent spearphishing attachments attempting to get a user to click.[128][129]

S0447 Lokibot

Lokibot has tricked recipients into enabling malicious macros by getting victims to click "enable content" in email attachments.[130][131]

G0095 Machete

Machete has relied on users opening malicious attachments delivered through spearphishing to execute malware.[132][133][134][135]

G0059 Magic Hound

Magic Hound has attempted to lure victims into opening malicious email attachments.[136]

G0045 menuPass

menuPass has attempted to get victims to open malicious files such as Windows Shortcuts (.lnk) and/or Microsoft Office documents, sent via email as part of spearphishing campaigns.[137][138][139][140][141]

S0455 Metamorfo

Metamorfo requires the user to double-click the executable to run the malicious HTA file or to download a malicious installer.[142][143]

G0103 Mofang

Mofang's malicious spearphishing attachments required a user to open the file after receiving.[144]

G0021 Molerats

Molerats has sent malicious files via email that tricked users into clicking Enable Content to run an embedded macro and to download malicious archives.[145][146][147]

S1026 Mongall

Mongall has relied on a user opening a malicious document for execution.[6]

G0069 MuddyWater

MuddyWater has attempted to get users to enable macros and launch malicious Microsoft Word documents delivered via spearphishing emails.[148][149][150][151][152][153][154][155][156][157]

G0129 Mustang Panda

Mustang Panda has sent malicious files requiring direct victim interaction to execute.[158][159][160][161][162][163]

G0019 Naikon

Naikon has convinced victims to open malicious attachments to execute malware.[164]

S0637 NativeZone

NativeZone can display an RTF document to the user to enable execution of Cobalt Strike stage shellcode.[45]

S0198 NETWIRE

NETWIRE has been executed through luring victims into opening malicious documents.[165][102][166]

G0133 Nomadic Octopus

Nomadic Octopus as attempted to lure victims into clicking on malicious attachments within spearphishing emails.[167][168]

S0340 Octopus

Octopus has relied upon users clicking on a malicious attachment delivered through spearphishing.[168]

G0049 OilRig

OilRig has delivered macro-enabled documents that required targets to click the "enable content" button to execute the payload on the system.[169][170][171][172]

C0016 Operation Dust Storm

During Operation Dust Storm, the threat actors relied on potential victims to open a malicious Microsoft Word document sent via email.[173]

C0006 Operation Honeybee

During Operation Honeybee, threat actors relied on a victim to enable macros within a malicious Word document.[174]

C0013 Operation Sharpshooter

During Operation Sharpshooter, the threat actors relied on victims executing malicious Microsoft Word or PDF files.[175]

C0005 Operation Spalax

During Operation Spalax, the threat actors relied on a victim to open a PDF document and click on an embedded malicious link to download malware.[176]

S0402 OSX/Shlayer

OSX/Shlayer has relied on users mounting and executing a malicious DMG file.[177][178]

S1017 OutSteel

OutSteel has relied on a user to execute a malicious attachment delivered via spearphishing.[76]

G0040 Patchwork

Patchwork embedded a malicious macro in a Word document and lured the victim to click on an icon to execute the malware.[179][180]

G0068 PLATINUM

PLATINUM has attempted to get users to open malicious files by sending spearphishing emails with attachments to victims.[181]

S0435 PLEAD

PLEAD has been executed via malicious e-mail attachments.[42]

S0428 PoetRAT

PoetRAT has used spearphishing attachments to infect victims.[182]

S0453 Pony

Pony has attempted to lure targets into downloading an attached executable (ZIP, RAR, or CAB archives) or document (PDF or other MS Office format).[183]

G0056 PROMETHIUM

PROMETHIUM has attempted to get users to execute compromised installation files for legitimate software including compression applications, security software, browsers, file recovery applications, and other tools and utilities.[184][185]

S0650 QakBot

QakBot has gained execution through users opening malicious attachments.[186][187][188][189][190][191][192][193]

S0458 Ramsay

Ramsay has been executed through malicious e-mail attachments.[194]

G0075 Rancor

Rancor attempted to get users to click on an embedded macro within a Microsoft Office Excel document to launch their malware.[195]

S0496 REvil

REvil has been executed via malicious MS Word e-mail attachments.[196][197][198]

S0433 Rifdoor

Rifdoor has been executed from malicious Excel or Word documents containing macros.[199]

S0240 ROKRAT

ROKRAT has relied upon users clicking on a malicious attachment delivered through spearphishing.[200]

S0148 RTM

RTM has relied on users opening malicious email attachments, decompressing the attached archive, and double-clicking the executable within.[201]

G0048 RTM

RTM has attempted to lure victims into opening e-mail attachments to execute malicious code.[202]

S1018 Saint Bot

Saint Bot has relied upon users to execute a malicious attachment delivered via spearphishing.[203][76]

G0034 Sandworm Team

Sandworm Team has tricked unwitting recipients into clicking on spearphishing attachments and enabling malicious macros embedded within files.[204][205]

G1008 SideCopy

SideCopy has attempted to lure victims into clicking on malicious embedded archive files sent via spearphishing campaigns.[206]

G0121 Sidewinder

Sidewinder has lured targets to click on malicious files to gain execution in the target environment.[207][208][209][210]

G0091 Silence

Silence attempts to get users to launch malicious attachments delivered via spearphishing emails.[211][212][213]

S0390 SQLRat

SQLRat relies on users clicking on an embedded image to execute the scripts.[214]

S1030 Squirrelwaffle

Squirrelwaffle has relied on users enabling malicious macros within Microsoft Excel and Word attachments.[215][216]

S1037 STARWHALE

STARWHALE has relied on victims opening a malicious Excel file for execution.[156]

S0491 StrongPity

StrongPity has been executed via compromised installation files for legitimate software including compression applications, security software, browsers, file recovery applications, and other tools and utilities.[184][185]

S1042 SUGARDUMP

Some SUGARDUMP variants required a user to enable a macro within a malicious .xls file for execution.[217]

S0464 SYSCON

SYSCON has been executed by luring victims to open malicious e-mail attachments.[218]

G0062 TA459

TA459 has attempted to get victims to open malicious Microsoft Word attachment sent via spearphishing.[219]

G0092 TA505

TA505 has used lures to get users to enable content in malicious attachments and execute malicious files contained in archives. For example, TA505 makes their malware look like legitimate Microsoft Word documents, .pdf and/or .lnk files. [220][221][222][223][224][225][226][227][228]

G0127 TA551

TA551 has prompted users to enable macros within spearphishing attachments to install malware.[229]

S0011 Taidoor

Taidoor has relied upon a victim to click on a malicious email attachment.[230]

G0089 The White Company

The White Company has used phishing lure documents that trick users into opening them and infecting their computers.[231]

G0027 Threat Group-3390

Threat Group-3390 has lured victims into opening malicious files containing malware.[58]

S0665 ThreatNeedle

ThreatNeedle relies on a victim to click on a malicious document for initial execution.[125]

G0131 Tonto Team

Tonto Team has relied on user interaction to open their malicious RTF documents.[232][39]

G0134 Transparent Tribe

Transparent Tribe has used weaponized documents in e-mail to compromise targeted systems.[233][234][235][236][237]

S0266 TrickBot

TrickBot has attempted to get users to launch malicious documents to deliver its payload. [238][239]

G0081 Tropic Trooper

Tropic Trooper has lured victims into executing malware via malicious e-mail attachments.[240]

S0263 TYPEFRAME

A Word document delivering TYPEFRAME prompts the user to enable macro execution.[241]

S0476 Valak

Valak has been executed via Microsoft Word documents containing malicious macros.[242][243][244]

S0670 WarzoneRAT

WarzoneRAT has relied on a victim to open a malicious attachment within an email for execution.[245][61]

G0107 Whitefly

Whitefly has used malicious .exe or .dll files disguised as documents or images.[246]

G0112 Windshift

Windshift has used e-mail attachments to lure victims into executing malicious code.[247]

G0090 WIRTE

WIRTE has attempted to lure users into opening malicious MS Word and Excel files to execute malicious payloads.[248]

G0102 Wizard Spider

Wizard Spider has lured victims to execute malware with spearphishing attachments containing macros to download either Emotet, Bokbot, TrickBot, or Bazar.[249][250]

S1013 ZxxZ

ZxxZ has relied on victims to open a malicious attachment delivered via email.[40]

Mitigations

ID Mitigation Description
M1040 Behavior Prevention on Endpoint

On Windows 10, various Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) rules can be enabled to prevent the execution of potentially malicious executable files (such as those that have been downloaded and executed by Office applications/scripting interpreters/email clients or that do not meet specific prevalence, age, or trusted list criteria). Note: cloud-delivered protection must be enabled for certain rules. [251]

M1038 Execution Prevention

Application control may be able to prevent the running of executables masquerading as other 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

ID Data Source Data Component Detects
DS0022 File File Creation

Monitor for newly constructed files that are downloaded and executed on the user's computer. Endpoint sensing or network sensing can potentially detect malicious events once the file is opened (such as a Microsoft Word document or PDF reaching out to the internet or spawning powershell.exe).

DS0009 Process Process Creation

Monitor for newly constructed processes and/or command-lines for applications that may be used by an adversary to gain initial access that require user interaction. This includes compression applications, such as those for zip files, that can be used to Deobfuscate/Decode Files or Information in payloads.

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