Hide Artifacts: Run Virtual Instance

Adversaries may carry out malicious operations using a virtual instance to avoid detection. A wide variety of virtualization technologies exist that allow for the emulation of a computer or computing environment. By running malicious code inside of a virtual instance, adversaries can hide artifacts associated with their behavior from security tools that are unable to monitor activity inside the virtual instance. Additionally, depending on the virtual networking implementation (ex: bridged adapter), network traffic generated by the virtual instance can be difficult to trace back to the compromised host as the IP address and hostname might not match known values.[1]

Adversaries may utilize native support for virtualization (ex: Hyper-V) or drop the necessary files to run a virtual instance (ex: VirtualBox binaries). After running a virtual instance, adversaries may create a shared folder between the guest and host with permissions that enable the virtual instance to interact with the host file system.[2]

ID: T1564.006
Sub-technique of:  T1564
Tactic: Defense Evasion
Platforms: Linux, Windows, macOS
Permissions Required: User
Data Sources: File monitoring, Host network interface, Packet capture, Process command-line parameters, Process monitoring, Windows Registry
Contributors: Janantha Marasinghe; Menachem Shafran, XM Cyber
Version: 1.0
Created: 29 June 2020
Last Modified: 06 July 2020

Procedure Examples

Name Description
LoudMiner

LoudMiner has used QEMU and VirtualBox to run a Tiny Core Linux virtual machine, which runs XMRig and makes connections to the C2 server for updates.[3]

Ragnar Locker

Ragnar Locker has used VirtualBox and a stripped Windows XP virtual machine to run itself. The use of a shared folder specified in the configuration enables Ragnar Locker to encrypt files on the host operating system, including files on any mapped drives.[2]

Mitigations

Mitigation Description
Disable or Remove Feature or Program

Disable Hyper-V if not necessary within a given environment.

Execution Prevention

Use application control to mitigate installation and use of unapproved virtualization software.

Detection

Consider monitoring for files and processes associated with running a virtual instance, such as binary files associated with common virtualization technologies (ex: VirtualBox, VMware, QEMU, Hyper-V). Consider monitoring for process command-line arguments that may be atypical for benign use of virtualization software. Usage of virtualization binaries or command-line arguments associated with running a headless (in the background with no UI) virtual instance may be especially suspect. Network adapter information may also be helpful in detecting the use of virtual instances.

If virtualization software is installed by the adversary, the Registry may provide detection opportunities. Consider monitoring for Windows Service, with respect to virtualization software.

Benign usage of virtualization technology is common in enterprise environments, data and events should not be viewed in isolation, but as part of a chain of behavior.

References