Data Destruction

Adversaries may destroy data and files on specific systems or in large numbers on a network to interrupt availability to systems, services, and network resources. Data destruction is likely to render stored data irrecoverable by forensic techniques through overwriting files or data on local and remote drives.[1][2][3][4][5][6] Common operating system file deletion commands such as del and rm often only remove pointers to files without wiping the contents of the files themselves, making the files recoverable by proper forensic methodology. This behavior is distinct from Disk Content Wipe and Disk Structure Wipe because individual files are destroyed rather than sections of a storage disk or the disk's logical structure.

Adversaries may attempt to overwrite files and directories with randomly generated data to make it irrecoverable.[4][5] In some cases politically oriented image files have been used to overwrite data.[2][3][4]

To maximize impact on the target organization in operations where network-wide availability interruption is the goal, malware designed for destroying data may have worm-like features to propagate across a network by leveraging additional techniques like Valid Accounts, OS Credential Dumping, and SMB/Windows Admin Shares.[1][2][3][4][6]

ID: T1485
Sub-techniques:  No sub-techniques
Tactic: Impact
Platforms: Linux, Windows, macOS
Permissions Required: Administrator, SYSTEM, User, root
Data Sources: File monitoring, Process command-line parameters, Process monitoring
Impact Type: Availability
Version: 1.0
Created: 14 March 2019
Last Modified: 27 March 2020

Procedure Examples

Name Description

APT38 has used a custom secure delete function to make deleted files unrecoverable.[7]


BlackEnergy 2 contains a "Destroy" plug-in that destroys data stored on victim hard drives by overwriting file contents.[8][9]


Kazuar can overwrite files with random data before deleting them.[10]

Lazarus Group

Lazarus Group has used a custom secure delete function to overwrite file contents with data from heap memory.[11]

Olympic Destroyer

Olympic Destroyer overwrites files locally and on remote shares.[6]


PowerDuke has a command to write random data across a file and delete it.[12]


Proxysvc can overwrite files indicated by the attacker before deleting them.[13]


RawDisk was used in Shamoon to write to protected system locations such as the MBR and disk partitions in an effort to destroy data.[3][5]


REvil has the capability to destroy files and folders.[14][15][16][16][17][18][19]

Sandworm Team

Sandworm Team has used the BlackEnergy KillDisk component to overwrite files on Windows-based Human-Machine Interfaces. [20][21]


SDelete deletes data in a way that makes it unrecoverable.[22]


Shamoon attempts to overwrite operating system files and disk structures with image files.[1][2][3] In a later variant, randomly generated data was used for data overwrites.[5][23]


StoneDrill has a disk wiper module that targets files other than those in the Windows directory.[4]


Xbash has destroyed Linux-based databases as part of its ransomware capabilities.[24]


Mitigation Description
Data Backup

Consider implementing IT disaster recovery plans that contain procedures for taking regular data backups that can be used to restore organizational data.[25] Ensure backups are stored off system and is protected from common methods adversaries may use to gain access and destroy the backups to prevent recovery.


Use process monitoring to monitor the execution and command-line parameters of binaries that could be involved in data destruction activity, such as SDelete. Monitor for the creation of suspicious files as well as high unusual file modification activity. In particular, look for large quantities of file modifications in user directories and under C:\Windows\System32\.


  1. Symantec. (2012, August 16). The Shamoon Attacks. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  2. FireEye. (2016, November 30). FireEye Responds to Wave of Destructive Cyber Attacks in Gulf Region. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  3. Falcone, R.. (2016, November 30). Shamoon 2: Return of the Disttrack Wiper. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  4. Kaspersky Lab. (2017, March 7). From Shamoon to StoneDrill: Wipers attacking Saudi organizations and beyond. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  5. Falcone, R. (2018, December 13). Shamoon 3 Targets Oil and Gas Organization. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  6. Mercer, W. and Rascagneres, P. (2018, February 12). Olympic Destroyer Takes Aim At Winter Olympics. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  7. FireEye. (2018, October 03). APT38: Un-usual Suspects. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  8. Baumgartner, K. and Garnaeva, M.. (2015, February 17). BE2 extraordinary plugins, Siemens targeting, dev fails. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  9. Cherepanov, A.. (2016, January 3). BlackEnergy by the SSHBearDoor: attacks against Ukrainian news media and electric industry . Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  10. Levene, B, et al. (2017, May 03). Kazuar: Multiplatform Espionage Backdoor with API Access. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
  11. Novetta Threat Research Group. (2016, February 24). Operation Blockbuster: Unraveling the Long Thread of the Sony Attack. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  12. Adair, S.. (2016, November 9). PowerDuke: Widespread Post-Election Spear Phishing Campaigns Targeting Think Tanks and NGOs. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  13. Sherstobitoff, R., Malhotra, A. (2018, April 24). Analyzing Operation GhostSecret: Attack Seeks to Steal Data Worldwide. Retrieved May 16, 2018.