Create or Modify System Process: Windows Service

Adversaries may create or modify Windows services to repeatedly execute malicious payloads as part of persistence. When Windows boots up, it starts programs or applications called services that perform background system functions.[1] Windows service configuration information, including the file path to the service's executable or recovery programs/commands, is stored in the Windows Registry.

Adversaries may install a new service or modify an existing service to execute at startup in order to persist on a system. Service configurations can be set or modified using system utilities (such as sc.exe), by directly modifying the Registry, or by interacting directly with the Windows API.

Adversaries may also use services to install and execute malicious drivers. For example, after dropping a driver file (ex: .sys) to disk, the payload can be loaded and registered via Native API functions such as CreateServiceW() (or manually via functions such as ZwLoadDriver() and ZwSetValueKey()), by creating the required service Registry values (i.e. Modify Registry), or by using command-line utilities such as PnPUtil.exe.[2][3][4] Adversaries may leverage these drivers as Rootkits to hide the presence of malicious activity on a system. Adversaries may also load a signed yet vulnerable driver onto a compromised machine (known as "Bring Your Own Vulnerable Driver" (BYOVD)) as part of Exploitation for Privilege Escalation.[5][4]

Services may be created with administrator privileges but are executed under SYSTEM privileges, so an adversary may also use a service to escalate privileges. Adversaries may also directly start services through Service Execution. To make detection analysis more challenging, malicious services may also incorporate Masquerade Task or Service (ex: using a service and/or payload name related to a legitimate OS or benign software component).

ID: T1543.003
Sub-technique of:  T1543
Platforms: Windows
Effective Permissions: Administrator, SYSTEM
Contributors: Akshat Pradhan, Qualys; Matthew Demaske, Adaptforward; Mayuresh Dani, Qualys; Pedro Harrison; Wietze Beukema, @wietze
Version: 1.2
Created: 17 January 2020
Last Modified: 30 June 2022

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S0504 Anchor

Anchor can establish persistence by creating a service.[6]

S0584 AppleJeus

AppleJeus can install itself as a service.[7]

G0073 APT19

An APT19 Port 22 malware variant registers itself as a service.[8]

G0022 APT3

APT3 has a tool that creates a new service for persistence.[9]

G0050 APT32

APT32 modified Windows Services to ensure PowerShell scripts were loaded on the system. APT32 also creates a Windows service to establish persistence.[10][11][12]

G0082 APT38

APT38 has installed a new Windows service to establish persistence.[13]

G0096 APT41

APT41 modified legitimate Windows services to install malware backdoors.[14][15] APT41 created the StorSyncSvc service to provide persistence for Cobalt Strike.[16]

S0438 Attor

Attor's dispatcher can establish persistence by registering a new service.[17]

S0347 AuditCred

AuditCred is installed as a new service on the system.[18]

S0239 Bankshot

Bankshot can terminate a specific process by its process id.[19][20]

S0127 BBSRAT

BBSRAT can modify service configurations.[21]

S0268 Bisonal

Bisonal has been modified to be used as a Windows service.[22]

S0570 BitPaymer

BitPaymer has attempted to install itself as a service to maintain persistence.[23]

S0089 BlackEnergy

One variant of BlackEnergy creates a new service using either a hard-coded or randomly generated name.[24]

G0108 Blue Mockingbird

Blue Mockingbird has made their XMRIG payloads persistent as a Windows Service.[25]

S0204 Briba

Briba installs a service pointing to a malicious DLL dropped to disk.[26]

G0008 Carbanak

Carbanak malware installs itself as a service to provide persistence and SYSTEM privileges.[27]

S0335 Carbon

Carbon establishes persistence by creating a service and naming it based off the operating system version running on the current machine.[28]

S0261 Catchamas

Catchamas adds a new service named NetAdapter to establish persistence.[29]

S0660 Clambling

Clambling can register itself as a system service to gain persistence.[30]

G0080 Cobalt Group

Cobalt Group has created new services to establish persistence.[31]

S0154 Cobalt Strike

Cobalt Strike can install a new service.[32]

S0608 Conficker

Conficker copies itself into the %systemroot%\system32 directory and registers as a service.[33]

S0050 CosmicDuke

CosmicDuke uses Windows services typically named "javamtsup" for persistence.[34]

S0046 CozyCar

One persistence mechanism used by CozyCar is to register itself as a Windows service.[35]

S0625 Cuba

Cuba can modify services by using the OpenService and ChangeServiceConfig functions.[36]

G0105 DarkVishnya

DarkVishnya created new services for shellcode loaders distribution.[37]

S1033 DCSrv

DCSrv has created new services for persistence by modifying the Registry.[38]

S0567 Dtrack

Dtrack can add a service called WBService to establish persistence.[39]

S0038 Duqu

Duqu creates a new service that loads a malicious driver when the system starts. When Duqu is active, the operating system believes that the driver is legitimate, as it has been signed with a valid private key.[40]

S0024 Dyre

Dyre registers itself as a service by adding several Registry keys.[41]

G1006 Earth Lusca

Earth Lusca created a service using the command sc create "SysUpdate" binpath= "cmd /c start "[file path]""&&sc config "SysUpdate" start= auto&&netstart SysUpdate for persistence.[42]

S0081 Elise

Elise configures itself as a service.[43]

S0082 Emissary

Emissary is capable of configuring itself as a service.[44]

S0367 Emotet

Emotet has been observed creating new services to maintain persistence. [45][46]

S0363 Empire

Empire can utilize built-in modules to modify service binaries and restore them to their original state.[47]

S0343 Exaramel for Windows

The Exaramel for Windows dropper creates and starts a Windows service named wsmprovav with the description "Windows Check AV."[48]

S0181 FALLCHILL

FALLCHILL has been installed as a Windows service.[7]

G0046 FIN7

FIN7 created new Windows services and added them to the startup directories for persistence.[49]

S0182 FinFisher

FinFisher creates a new Windows service with the malicious executable for persistence.[50][51]

S1044 FunnyDream

FunnyDream has established persistence by running sc.exe and by setting the WSearch service to run automatically.[52]

S0666 Gelsemium

Gelsemium can drop itself in C:\Windows\System32\spool\prtprocs\x64\winprint.dll as an alternative Print Processor to be loaded automatically when the spoolsv Windows service starts.[53]

S0032 gh0st RAT

gh0st RAT can create a new service to establish persistence.[54][55]

S0493 GoldenSpy

GoldenSpy has established persistence by running in the background as an autostart service.[56]

S0342 GreyEnergy

GreyEnergy chooses a service, drops a DLL file, and writes it to that serviceDLL Registry key.[57]

S0071 hcdLoader

hcdLoader installs itself as a service for persistence.[58][59]

S0697 HermeticWiper

HermeticWiper can load drivers by creating a new service using the CreateServiceW API.[3]

S0203 Hydraq

Hydraq creates new services to establish persistence.[60][61][62]

S0604 Industroyer

Industroyer can use an arbitrary system service to load at system boot for persistence and replaces the ImagePath registry value of a Windows service with a new backdoor binary.[63]

S0259 InnaputRAT

Some InnaputRAT variants create a new Windows service to establish persistence.[64]

S0260 InvisiMole

InvisiMole can register a Windows service named CsPower as part of its execution chain, and a Windows service named clr_optimization_v2.0.51527_X86 to achieve persistence.[5]

S0044 JHUHUGIT

JHUHUGIT has registered itself as a service to establish persistence.[65]

S0265 Kazuar

Kazuar can install itself as a new service.[66]

G0004 Ke3chang

Ke3chang backdoor RoyalDNS established persistence through adding a service called Nwsapagent.[67]

S0387 KeyBoy

KeyBoy installs a service pointing to a malicious DLL dropped to disk.[68]

G0094 Kimsuky

Kimsuky has created new services for persistence.[69][70]

S0356 KONNI

KONNI has registered itself as a service using its export function.[71]

S0236 Kwampirs

Kwampirs creates a new service named WmiApSrvEx to establish persistence.[72]

G0032 Lazarus Group

Several Lazarus Group malware families install themselves as new services.[73][74]

S0451 LoudMiner

LoudMiner can automatically launch a Linux virtual machine as a service at startup if the AutoStart option is enabled in the VBoxVmService configuration file.[75]

S0149 MoonWind

MoonWind installs itself as a new service with automatic startup to establish persistence. The service checks every 60 seconds to determine if the malware is running; if not, it will spawn a new instance.[76]

S0205 Naid

Naid creates a new service to establish.[77]

S0630 Nebulae

Nebulae can create a service to establish persistence.[78]

S0210 Nerex

Nerex creates a Registry subkey that registers a new service.[79]

S0118 Nidiran

Nidiran can create a new service named msamger (Microsoft Security Accounts Manager).[80]

S0439 Okrum

To establish persistence, Okrum can install itself as a new service named NtmSsvc.[81]

C0012 Operation CuckooBees

During Operation CuckooBees, the threat actors modified the IKEEXT and PrintNotify Windows services for persistence.[82]

C0006 Operation Honeybee

During Operation Honeybee, threat actors installed DLLs and backdoors as Windows services.[83]

S0664 Pandora

Pandora has the ability to gain system privileges through Windows services.[84]

S1031 PingPull

PingPull has the ability to install itself as a service.[85]

S0501 PipeMon

PipeMon can establish persistence by registering a malicious DLL as an alternative Print Processor which is loaded when the print spooler service starts.[86]

S0013 PlugX

PlugX can be added as a service to establish persistence. PlugX also has a module to change service configurations as well as start, control, and delete services.[87][88][89][90][91]

S0012 PoisonIvy

PoisonIvy creates a Registry subkey that registers a new service. PoisonIvy also creates a Registry entry modifying the Logical Disk Manager service to point to a malicious DLL dropped to disk.[92]

S0194 PowerSploit

PowerSploit contains a collection of Privesc-PowerUp modules that can discover and replace/modify service binaries, paths, and configs.[93][94]

G0056 PROMETHIUM

PROMETHIUM has created new services and modified existing services for persistence.[95]

S0029 PsExec

PsExec can leverage Windows services to escalate privileges from administrator to SYSTEM with the -s argument.[96]

S0481 Ragnar Locker

Ragnar Locker has used sc.exe to create a new service for the VirtualBox driver.[97]

S0629 RainyDay

RainyDay can use services to establish persistence.[78]

S0169 RawPOS

RawPOS installs itself as a service to maintain persistence.[98][99][100]

S0495 RDAT

RDAT has created a service when it is installed on the victim machine.[101]

S0172 Reaver

Reaver installs itself as a new service.[102]

S0074 Sakula

Some Sakula samples install themselves as services for persistence by calling WinExec with the net start argument.[103]

S0345 Seasalt

Seasalt is capable of installing itself as a service.[104]

S0140 Shamoon

Shamoon creates a new service named "ntssrv" to execute the payload. Newer versions create the "MaintenaceSrv" and "hdv_725x" services.[105][106]

S0444 ShimRat

ShimRat has installed a Windows service to maintain persistence on victim machines.[107]

S0692 SILENTTRINITY

SILENTTRINITY can establish persistence by creating a new service.[108]

S0533 SLOTHFULMEDIA

SLOTHFULMEDIA has created a service on victim machines named "TaskFrame" to establish persistence.[109]

S1037 STARWHALE

STARWHALE has the ability to create the following Windows service to establish persistence on an infected host: sc create Windowscarpstss binpath= "cmd.exe /c cscript.exe c:\\windows\\system32\\w7_1.wsf humpback_whale" start= "auto" obj= "LocalSystem".[110]

S0142 StreamEx

StreamEx establishes persistence by installing a new service pointing to its DLL and setting the service to auto-start.[111]

S0491 StrongPity

StrongPity has created new services and modified existing services for persistence.[112]

S0603 Stuxnet

Stuxnet uses a driver registered as a boot start service as the main load-point.[2]

S1049 SUGARUSH

SUGARUSH has created a service named Service1 for persistence.[113]

S0663 SysUpdate

SysUpdate can create a service to establish persistence.[84]

S0164 TDTESS

If running as administrator, TDTESS installs itself as a new service named bmwappushservice to establish persistence.[114]

G0139 TeamTNT

TeamTNT has used malware that adds cryptocurrency miners as a service.[115]

S0560 TEARDROP

TEARDROP ran as a Windows service from the c:\windows\syswow64 folder.[116][117]

G0027 Threat Group-3390

A Threat Group-3390 tool can create a new service, naming it after the config information, to gain persistence.[118]

S0665 ThreatNeedle

ThreatNeedle can run in memory and register its payload as a Windows service.[119]

S0004 TinyZBot

TinyZBot can install as a Windows service for persistence.[120]

S0266 TrickBot

TrickBot establishes persistence by creating an autostart service that allows it to run whenever the machine boots.[121]

G0081 Tropic Trooper

Tropic Trooper has installed a service pointing to a malicious DLL dropped to disk.[122]

S0263 TYPEFRAME

TYPEFRAME variants can add malicious DLL modules as new services.TYPEFRAME can also delete services from the victim’s machine.[123]

S0386 Ursnif

Ursnif has registered itself as a system service in the Registry for automatic execution at system startup.[124]

S0180 Volgmer

Volgmer installs a copy of itself in a randomly selected service, then overwrites the ServiceDLL entry in the service's Registry entry. Some Volgmer variants also install .dll files as services with names generated by a list of hard-coded strings.[125][126][127]

S0366 WannaCry

WannaCry creates the service "mssecsvc2.0" with the display name "Microsoft Security Center (2.0) Service."[128][129]

S0612 WastedLocker

WastedLocker created and established a service that runs until the encryption process is complete.[130]

S0206 Wiarp

Wiarp creates a backdoor through which remote attackers can create a service.[131]

S0176 Wingbird

Wingbird uses services.exe to register a new autostart service named "Audit Service" using a copy of the local lsass.exe file.[132][133]

S0141 Winnti for Windows

Winnti for Windows sets its DLL file as a new service in the Registry to establish persistence.[134]

G0102 Wizard Spider

Wizard Spider has installed TrickBot as a service named ControlServiceA in order to establish persistence.[135]

S0230 ZeroT

ZeroT can add a new service to ensure PlugX persists on the system when delivered as another payload onto the system.[91]

S0086 ZLib

ZLib creates Registry keys to allow itself to run as various services.[136]

S0350 zwShell

zwShell has established persistence by adding itself as a new service.[137]

S0412 ZxShell

ZxShell can create a new service using the service parser function ProcessScCommand.[138]

Mitigations

ID Mitigation Description
M1047 Audit

Use auditing tools capable of detecting privilege and service abuse opportunities on systems within an enterprise and correct them.

M1040 Behavior Prevention on Endpoint

On Windows 10, enable Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) rules to prevent an application from writing a signed vulnerable driver to the system.[139] On Windows 10 and 11, enable Microsoft Vulnerable Driver Blocklist to assist in hardening against third party-developed service drivers.[140]

M1045 Code Signing

Enforce registration and execution of only legitimately signed service drivers where possible.

M1028 Operating System Configuration

Ensure that Driver Signature Enforcement is enabled to restrict unsigned drivers from being installed.

M1018 User Account Management

Limit privileges of user accounts and groups so that only authorized administrators can interact with service changes and service configurations.

Detection

ID Data Source Data Component Detects
DS0017 Command Command Execution

Monitor processes and command-line arguments for actions that could create or modify services. Command-line invocation of tools capable of adding or modifying services may be unusual, depending on how systems are typically used in a particular environment. Services may also be modified through Windows system management tools such as Windows Management Instrumentation and PowerShell, so additional logging may need to be configured to gather the appropriate data. Also collect service utility execution and service binary path arguments used for analysis. Service binary paths may even be changed to execute commands or scripts.

DS0027 Driver Driver Load

Monitor for new service driver installations and loads (ex: Sysmon Event ID 6) that are not part of known software update/patch cycles.

DS0009 Process OS API Execution

Monitor for API calls that may create or modify Windows services (ex: CreateServiceW()) to repeatedly execute malicious payloads as part of persistence.

Process Creation

Suspicious program execution through services may show up as outlier processes that have not been seen before when compared against historical data. Look for abnormal process call trees from known services and for execution of other commands that could relate to Discovery or other adversary techniques. Data and events should not be viewed in isolation, but as part of a chain of behavior that could lead to other activities, such as network connections made for Command and Control, learning details about the environment through Discovery, and Lateral Movement.

DS0019 Service Service Creation

Creation of new services may generate an alterable event (ex: Event ID 4697 and/or 7045 [141][142]), especially those associated with unknown/abnormal drivers. New, benign services may be created during installation of new software.

Service Modification

Monitor for changes made to Windows services to repeatedly execute malicious payloads as part of persistence.

DS0024 Windows Registry Windows Registry Key Creation

Monitor for new constructed windows registry keys that may create or modify Windows services to repeatedly execute malicious payloads as part of persistence.

Windows Registry Key Modification

Look for changes to service Registry entries that do not correlate with known software, patch cycles, etc. Service information is stored in the Registry at HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services. Changes to the binary path and the service startup type changed from manual or disabled to automatic, if it does not typically do so, may be suspicious. Tools such as Sysinternals Autoruns may also be used to detect system service changes that could be attempts at persistence.[143]

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