Signed Binary Proxy Execution: Msiexec

Adversaries may abuse msiexec.exe to proxy execution of malicious payloads. Msiexec.exe is the command-line utility for the Windows Installer and is thus commonly associated with executing installation packages (.msi).[1] Msiexec.exe is digitally signed by Microsoft.

Adversaries may abuse msiexec.exe to launch local or network accessible MSI files. Msiexec.exe can also execute DLLs.[2][3] Since it is signed and native on Windows systems, msiexec.exe can be used to bypass application control solutions that do not account for its potential abuse. Msiexec.exe execution may also be elevated to SYSTEM privileges if the AlwaysInstallElevated policy is enabled.[4]

ID: T1218.007
Sub-technique of:  T1218
Tactic: Defense Evasion
Platforms: Windows
Permissions Required: User
Data Sources: Command: Command Execution, Module: Module Load, Network Traffic: Network Connection Creation, Process: Process Creation
Defense Bypassed: Application control, Digital Certificate Validation
Contributors: Alexandros Pappas
Version: 1.1
Created: 24 January 2020
Last Modified: 14 December 2020

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S0584 AppleJeus

AppleJeus has been installed via MSI installer.[5]

S0038 Duqu

Duqu has used msiexec to execute malicious Windows Installer packages. Additionally, a PROPERTY=VALUE pair containing a 56-bit encryption key has been used to decrypt the main payload from the installer packages.[6]

S0531 Grandoreiro

Grandoreiro can use MSI files to execute DLLs.[7]

S0483 IcedID

IcedID can inject itself into a suspended msiexec.exe process to send beacons to C2 while appearing as a normal msi application. [8]

S0528 Javali

Javali has used the MSI installer to download and execute malicious payloads.[7]

S0451 LoudMiner

LoudMiner used an MSI installer to install the virtualization software.[9]

G0095 Machete

Machete has used msiexec to install the Machete malware.[10]

S0449 Maze

Maze has delivered components for its ransomware attacks using MSI files, some of which have been executed from the command-line using msiexec.[11]

S0530 Melcoz

Melcoz can use MSI files with embedded VBScript for execution.[7]

S0455 Metamorfo

Metamorfo has used MsiExec.exe to automatically execute files.[12]

G0021 Molerats

Molerats has used msiexec.exe to execute an MSI payload.[13]

S0481 Ragnar Locker

Ragnar Locker has been delivered as an unsigned MSI package that was executed with msiexec.exe.[14]

G0075 Rancor

Rancor has used msiexec to download and execute malicious installer files over HTTP.[15]

S0592 RemoteUtilities

RemoteUtilities can use Msiexec to install a service.[16]

G0092 TA505

TA505 has used msiexec to download and execute malicious Windows Installer files.[17][18][19]

G0128 ZIRCONIUM

ZIRCONIUM has used the msiexec.exe command-line utility to download and execute malicious MSI files.[20]

Mitigations

ID Mitigation Description
M1042 Disable or Remove Feature or Program

Consider disabling the AlwaysInstallElevated policy to prevent elevated execution of Windows Installer packages.[4]

M1026 Privileged Account Management

Restrict execution of Msiexec.exe to privileged accounts or groups that need to use it to lessen the opportunities for malicious usage.

Detection

Use process monitoring to monitor the execution and arguments of msiexec.exe. Compare recent invocations of msiexec.exe with prior history of known good arguments and executed MSI files or DLLs to determine anomalous and potentially adversarial activity. Command arguments used before and after the invocation of msiexec.exe may also be useful in determining the origin and purpose of the MSI files or DLLs being executed.

References