Event Triggered Execution

Adversaries may establish persistence and/or elevate privileges using system mechanisms that trigger execution based on specific events. Various operating systems have means to monitor and subscribe to events such as logons or other user activity such as running specific applications/binaries.

Adversaries may abuse these mechanisms as a means of maintaining persistent access to a victim via repeatedly executing malicious code. After gaining access to a victim system, adversaries may create/modify event triggers to point to malicious content that will be executed whenever the event trigger is invoked.[1][2][3]

Since the execution can be proxied by an account with higher permissions, such as SYSTEM or service accounts, an adversary may be able to abuse these triggered execution mechanisms to escalate their privileges.

ID: T1546
Tactics: Privilege Escalation, Persistence
Platforms: Linux, Windows, macOS
Data Sources: API monitoring, Binary file metadata, DLL monitoring, File monitoring, Loaded DLLs, Process command-line parameters, Process monitoring, Process use of network, System calls, WMI Objects, Windows Registry, Windows event logs
Version: 1.1
Created: 22 January 2020
Last Modified: 21 October 2020


This type of attack technique cannot be easily mitigated with preventive controls since it is based on the abuse of system features.


Monitoring for additions or modifications of mechanisms that could be used to trigger event-based execution, especially the addition of abnormal commands such as execution of unknown programs, opening network sockets, or reaching out across the network. Also look for changes that do not line up with updates, patches, or other planned administrative activity.

These mechanisms may vary by OS, but are typically stored in central repositories that store configuration information such as the Windows Registry, Common Information Model (CIM), and/or specific named files, the last of which can be hashed and compared to known good values.

Monitor for processes, API/System calls, and other common ways of manipulating these event repositories.

Tools such as Sysinternals Autoruns can be used to detect changes to execution triggers that could be attempts at persistence. Also look for abnormal process call trees for execution of other commands that could relate to Discovery actions or other techniques.

Monitor DLL loads by processes, specifically looking for DLLs that are not recognized or not normally loaded into a process. Look for abnormal process behavior that may be due to a process loading a malicious DLL. 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 making network connections for Command and Control, learning details about the environment through Discovery, and conducting Lateral Movement.