User Execution: Malicious File

ID Name
T1204.001 Malicious Link
T1204.002 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 on the file to increase the likelihood that a user will open it.

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
Permissions Required: User
Data Sources: Anti-virus, Process command-line parameters, Process monitoring
Version: 1.0
Created: 11 March 2020
Last Modified: 11 March 2020

Procedure Examples

Name Description
admin@338

admin@338 has attempted to get victims to launch malicious Microsoft Word attachments delivered via spearphishing emails.[90]

Agent Tesla

Agent Tesla has been executed through malicious e-mail attachments [15]

APT-C-36

APT-C-36 has prompted victims to accept macros in order to execute the subsequent payload.[94]

APT12

APT12 has attempted to get victims to open malicious Microsoft Word and PDF attachment sent via spearphishing.[88][89]

APT19

APT19 attempted to get users to launch malicious attachments delivered via spearphishing emails.[23]

APT28

APT28 attempted to get users to click on Microsoft Office attachments containing malicious macro scripts.[28][29]

APT29

APT29 has used various forms of spearphishing attempting to get a user to open links or attachments, including, but not limited to, malicious Microsoft Word documents, .pdf, and .lnk files. [32] [33]

APT32

APT32 has attempted to lure users to execute a malicious dropper delivered via a spearphishing attachment.[66][67][68][69]

APT33

APT33 has used malicious e-mail attachments to lure victims into executing malware.[111]

APT37

APT37 has sent spearphishing attachments attempting to get a user to open them.[26]

APT39

APT39 has sent spearphishing emails in an attempt to lure users to click on a malicious attachment. [72][73][74]

BlackTech

BlackTech has used e-mails with malicious documents to lure victims into installing malware.[13]

BRONZE BUTLER

BRONZE BUTLER has attempted to get users to launch malicious Microsoft Word attachments delivered via spearphishing emails.[24][25]

Bundlore

Bundlore has attempted to get users to execute a malicious .app file that looks like a Flash Player update.[20]

Cardinal RAT

Cardinal RAT lures victims into executing malicious macros embedded within Microsoft Excel documents.[3]

CARROTBALL

CARROTBALL has been executed through users being lured into opening malicious e-mail attachments.[1]

Cobalt Group

Cobalt Group has sent emails containing malicious attachments that require users to execute a file or macro to infect the victim machine.[30][31]

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.[27]

Darkhotel

Darkhotel sent spearphishing emails with malicious attachments that required users to click on an image in the document to drop the malware to disk.[47]

DarkHydrus

DarkHydrus has sent malware that required users to hit the enable button in Microsoft Excel to allow an .iqy file to be downloaded.[45][46]

Dragonfly 2.0

Dragonfly 2.0 has used various forms of spearphishing in attempts to get users to open attachments.[21][22]

Elderwood

Elderwood has leveraged multiple types of spearphishing in order to attempt to get a user to open attachments.[48][49]

Emotet

Emotet has relied upon users clicking on a malicious attachment delivered through spearphishing.[9][10]

FIN4

FIN4 has lured victims to launch malicious attachments delivered via spearphishing emails (often sent from compromised accounts).[43][44]

FIN7

FIN7 lured victims to double-click on images in the attachments they sent which would then execute the hidden LNK file.[42]

FIN8

FIN8 has leveraged Spearphishing Attachments attempting to gain User Execution.[34][35][36]

Frankenstein

Frankenstein has used trojanized Microsoft Word documents sent via email, which prompted the victim to enable macros.[100]

Gallmaker

Gallmaker sent victims a lure document with a warning that asked victims to "enable content" for execution.[64]

Gamaredon Group

Gamaredon Group has attempted to get users to click on Office attachments with malicious macros embedded.[105][106]

Gorgon Group

Gorgon Group attempted to get users to launch malicious Microsoft Office attachments delivered via spearphishing emails.[50]

Inception

Inception lured victims into clicking malicious files for machine reconnaissance and to execute malware.[95][96][97][98]

JCry

JCry has achieved execution by luring users to click on a file that appeared to be an Adobe Flash Player update installer. [5]

Lazarus Group

Lazarus Group has attempted to get users to launch a malicious Microsoft Word attachment delivered via a spearphishing email.[65]

Leviathan

Leviathan has sent spearphishing attachments attempting to get a user to click.[57]

Lokibot

Lokibot has been executed through malicious documents contained in spearphishing e-mails.[14]

Machete

Machete has has relied on users opening malicious attachments delivered through spearphishing to execute malware.[91][92][93]

Magic Hound

Magic Hound has lured victims into executing malicious files.[113]

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.[37][38][39][40][41]

Mofang

Mofang's malicious spearphishing attachments required a user to open the file after receiving.[101]

Molerats

Molerats has sent malicious files via email.[103]

MuddyWater

MuddyWater has attempted to get users to enable macros and launch malicious Microsoft Word documents delivered via spearphishing emails.[58][59][60][61][62][63]

Naikon

Naikon has convinced victims to open malicious attachments to execute malware.[109]

OilRig

OilRig has delivered macro-enabled documents that required targets to click the "enable content" button to execute the payload on the system.[52][53][54]

OSX/Shlayer

OSX/Shlayer relies on users mounting and executing a malicious DMG file.[7][8]

Patchwork

Patchwork embedded a malicious macro in a Word document and lured the victim to click on an icon to execute the malware.[55][56]

PLATINUM

PLATINUM has attempted to get users to open malicious files by sending spearphishing emails with attachments to victims.[71]

PLEAD

PLEAD has been executed via malicious e-mail attachments.[13]

PoetRAT

PoetRAT has used spearphishing attachments to infect victims.[11]

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).[16]

Rancor

Rancor attempted to get users to click on an embedded macro within a Microsoft Office Excel document to launch their malware.[70]

Rifdoor

Rifdoor has been executed from malicious Excel or Word documents containing macros.[12]

RTM

RTM has relied on users opening malicious email attachments, decompressing the attached archive, and double-clicking the executable within.[18]

RTM

RTM has attempted to lure victims into opening e-mail attachments to execute malicious code.[99]

Sandworm Team

Sandworm Team has delivered spearphishing attachments with malicious macros embedded within files.[110]

Sharpshooter

Sharpshooter has sent malicious DOC and PDF files to targets so that they can be opened by a user.[104]

Silence

Silence attempts to get users to launch malicious attachments delivered via spearphishing emails.[76][77][78]

SQLRat

SQLRat relies on users clicking on an embedded image to execute the scripts.[6]

SYSCON

SYSCON has been executed by luring victims to open malicious e-mail attachments.[17]

TA459

TA459 has attempted to get victims to open malicious Microsoft Word attachment sent via spearphishing.[51]

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. [79][80][81][82][83][84][85][86][87]

The White Company

The White Company has used phishing lure documents that trick users into opening them and infecting their computers.[75]

TrickBot

TrickBot has attempted to get users to launch a malicious Excel attachment to deliver its payload. [4]

Tropic Trooper

Tropic Trooper has lured victims into executing malware via malicious e-mail attachments.[107]

TYPEFRAME

A Word document delivering TYPEFRAME prompts the user to enable macro execution.[2]

Valak

Valak has been executed via Microsoft Word documents containing malicious macros.[19]

Whitefly

Whitefly has used malicious .exe or .dll files disguised as documents or images.[108]

Windshift

Windshift has used e-mail attachments to lure victims into executing malicious code.[112]

Wizard Spider

Wizard Spider has lured victims to execute malware with spearphishing attachments containing macros to download either Emotet, Bokbot, or TrickBot.[102]

Mitigations

Mitigation Description
Execution Prevention

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

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

Monitor the execution of and command-line arguments 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.

Anti-virus can potentially detect malicious documents and 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).

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