Phishing: Spearphishing Attachment

Adversaries may send spearphishing emails with a malicious attachment in an attempt to gain access to victim systems. Spearphishing attachment is a specific variant of spearphishing. Spearphishing attachment is different from other forms of spearphishing in that it employs the use of malware attached to an email. All forms of spearphishing are electronically delivered social engineering targeted at a specific individual, company, or industry. In this scenario, adversaries attach a file to the spearphishing email and usually rely upon User Execution to gain execution. Spearphishing may also involve social engineering techniques, such as posing as a trusted source.

There are many options for the attachment such as Microsoft Office documents, executables, PDFs, or archived files. Upon opening the attachment (and potentially clicking past protections), the adversary's payload exploits a vulnerability or directly executes on the user's system. The text of the spearphishing email usually tries to give a plausible reason why the file should be opened, and may explain how to bypass system protections in order to do so. The email may also contain instructions on how to decrypt an attachment, such as a zip file password, in order to evade email boundary defenses. Adversaries frequently manipulate file extensions and icons in order to make attached executables appear to be document files, or files exploiting one application appear to be a file for a different one.

ID: T1566.001
Sub-technique of:  T1566
Tactic: Initial Access
Platforms: Linux, Windows, macOS
Data Sources: Application Log: Application Log Content, Network Traffic: Network Traffic Content, Network Traffic: Network Traffic Flow
CAPEC ID: CAPEC-163
Contributors: Philip Winther
Version: 2.1
Created: 02 March 2020
Last Modified: 01 April 2021

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
G0018 admin@338

admin@338 has sent emails with malicious Microsoft Office documents attached.[1]

S0331 Agent Tesla

The primary delivered mechaism for Agent Tesla is through email phishing messages.[2]

G0130 Ajax Security Team

Ajax Security Team has used personalized spearphishing attachments.[3]

G0099 APT-C-36

APT-C-36 has used spearphishing emails with password protected RAR attachment to avoid being detected by the email gateway.[4]

G0006 APT1

APT1 has sent spearphishing emails containing malicious attachments.[5]

G0005 APT12

APT12 has sent emails with malicious Microsoft Office documents and PDFs attached.[6][7]

G0073 APT19

APT19 sent spearphishing emails with malicious attachments in RTF and XLSM formats to deliver initial exploits.[8]

G0007 APT28

APT28 sent spearphishing emails containing malicious Microsoft Office and RAR attachments.[9][10][11][12][13][14][15]

G0016 APT29

APT29 has used spearphishing emails with an attachment to deliver files with exploits to initial victims.[16][17][18]

G0013 APT30

APT30 has used spearphishing emails with malicious DOC attachments.[19]

G0050 APT32

APT32 has sent spearphishing emails with a malicious executable disguised as a document or spreadsheet.[20][21][22][23][24][25]

G0064 APT33

APT33 has sent spearphishing e-mails with archive attachments.[26]

G0067 APT37

APT37 delivers malware using spearphishing emails with malicious HWP attachments.[27][28][29]

G0087 APT39

APT39 leveraged spearphishing emails with malicious attachments to initially compromise victims. [30][31][32]

G0096 APT41

APT41 sent spearphishing emails with attachments such as compiled HTML (.chm) files to initially compromise their victims.[33]

G0098 BlackTech

BlackTech has used spearphishing e-mails with malicious documents to deliver malware.[34]

S0520 BLINDINGCAN

BLINDINGCAN has been delivered by phishing emails containing malicious Microsoft Office documents.[35]

G0060 BRONZE BUTLER

BRONZE BUTLER used spearphishing emails with malicious Microsoft Word attachments to infect victims.[36][37]

G0080 Cobalt Group

Cobalt Group has sent spearphishing emails with various attachment types to corporate and personal email accounts of victim organizations. Attachment types have included .rtf, .doc, .xls, archives containing LNK files, and password protected archives containing .exe and .scr executables.[38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45]

G0012 Darkhotel

Darkhotel has sent spearphishing emails with malicious RAR and .LNK attachments.[46][47]

G0079 DarkHydrus

DarkHydrus has sent spearphishing emails with password-protected RAR archives containing malicious Excel Web Query files (.iqy). The group has also sent spearphishing emails that contained malicious Microsoft Office documents that use the "attachedTemplate" technique to load a template from a remote server.[48][49][50]

G0074 Dragonfly 2.0

Dragonfly 2.0 used spearphishing with Microsoft Office attachments to target victims.[51][52]

G0066 Elderwood

Elderwood has delivered zero-day exploits and malware to victims via targeted emails containing malicious attachments.[53][54]

S0367 Emotet

Emotet has been delivered by phishing emails containing attachments. [55][56][57][58][59][60][61][62][63]

G0085 FIN4

FIN4 has used spearphishing emails containing attachments (which are often stolen, legitimate documents sent from compromised accounts) with embedded malicious macros.[64][65]

G0037 FIN6

FIN6 has targeted victims with e-mails containing malicious attachments.[66]

G0046 FIN7

FIN7 sent spearphishing emails with either malicious Microsoft Documents or RTF files attached.[67][68][69]

G0061 FIN8

FIN8 has distributed targeted emails containing Word documents with embedded malicious macros.[70][71][72]

G0101 Frankenstein

Frankenstein has used spearphishing emails to send trojanized Microsoft Word documents.[73]

G0084 Gallmaker

Gallmaker sent emails with malicious Microsoft Office documents attached.[74]

G0047 Gamaredon Group

Gamaredon Group has delivered spearphishing emails with malicious attachments to targets.[75][76]

G0078 Gorgon Group

Gorgon Group sent emails to victims with malicious Microsoft Office documents attached.[77]

S0499 Hancitor

Hancitor has been delivered via phishing emails with malicious attachments.[78]

G0126 Higaisa

Higaisa has sent spearphishing emails containing malicious attachments.[79][80]

S0483 IcedID

IcedID has been delivered via phishing e-mails with malicious attachments.[81]

G0100 Inception

Inception has used weaponized documents attached to spearphishing emails for reconnaissance and initial compromise.[82][83][84][85]

S0528 Javali

Javali has been delivered as malicious e-mail attachments.[86]

S0585 Kerrdown

Kerrdown has been distributed through malicious e-mail attachments.[25]

G0094 Kimsuky

Kimsuky has used emails containing Word, Excel and/or HWP (Hangul Word Processor) documents in their spearphishing campaigns.[87][88][89][90][91]

G0032 Lazarus Group

Lazarus Group has targeted victims with spearphishing emails containing malicious Microsoft Word documents.[92]

G0065 Leviathan

Leviathan has sent spearphishing emails with malicious attachments, including .rtf, .doc, and .xls files.[93]

G0095 Machete

Machete has delivered spearphishing emails that contain a zipped file with malicious contents.[94][95][96]

G0045 menuPass

menuPass has sent malicious Office documents via email as part of spearphishing campaigns as well as executables disguised as documents.[97][98][99][100]

S0455 Metamorfo

Metamorfo has been delivered to victims via emails containing malicious HTML attachments.[101]

G0103 Mofang

Mofang delivered spearphishing emails with malicious documents, PDFs, or Excel files attached.[102]

G0021 Molerats

Molerats has sent phishing emails with malicious Microsoft Word and PDF attachments.[103][104][105]

G0069 MuddyWater

MuddyWater has compromised third parties and used compromised accounts to send spearphishing emails with targeted attachments to recipients.[106][107][108][109][110][111]

G0129 Mustang Panda

Mustang Panda has used spearphishing attachments to deliver initial access payloads.[112][113]

G0019 Naikon

Naikon has used malicious e-mail attachments to deliver malware.[114]

S0198 NETWIRE

NETWIRE has been spread via e-mail campaigns utilizing malicious attachments.[115][116]

S0346 OceanSalt

OceanSalt has been delivered via spearphishing emails with Microsoft Office attachments.[117]

G0049 OilRig

OilRig has sent spearphising emails with malicious attachments to potential victims using compromised and/or spoofed email accounts.[118][119][120]

G0040 Patchwork

Patchwork has used spearphishing with an attachment to deliver files with exploits to initial victims.[121][122][123][124]

G0068 PLATINUM

PLATINUM has sent spearphishing emails with attachments to victims as its primary initial access vector.[125]

S0428 PoetRAT

PoetRAT was distributed via malicious Word documents.[126]

S0453 Pony

Pony has been delivered via spearphishing attachments.[127]

S0458 Ramsay

Ramsay has been distributed through spearphishing emails with malicious attachments.[128]

G0075 Rancor

Rancor has attached a malicious document to an email to gain initial access.[129]

S0496 REvil

REvil has been distributed via malicious e-mail attachments including MS Word Documents.[130][131][132][133][134]

S0433 Rifdoor

Rifdoor has been distributed in e-mails with malicious Excel or Word documents.[135]

S0148 RTM

RTM has been delivered via spearphishing attachments disguised as PDF documents.[136]

G0048 RTM

RTM has used spearphishing attachments to distribute its malware.[137]

G0034 Sandworm Team

Sandworm Team has delivered malicious Microsoft Office attachments via spearphishing emails.[138][139][140][141]

G0104 Sharpshooter

Sharpshooter has sent malicious attachments via emails to targets.[142]

G0121 Sidewinder

Sidewinder has sent e-mails with malicious attachments often crafted for specific targets.[143]

G0091 Silence

Silence has sent emails with malicious DOCX, CHM, LNK and ZIP attachments. [144][145][146]

G0062 TA459

TA459 has targeted victims using spearphishing emails with malicious Microsoft Word attachments.[147]

G0092 TA505

TA505 has used spearphishing emails with malicious attachments to initially compromise victims.[148][149][150][151][152][153][154][155][156]

G0127 TA551

TA551 has sent spearphishing attachments with password protected ZIP files.[157][158][159]

G0089 The White Company

The White Company has sent phishing emails with malicious Microsoft Word attachments to victims.[160]

S0266 TrickBot

TrickBot has used an email with an Excel sheet containing a malicious macro to deploy the malware[161]

G0081 Tropic Trooper

Tropic Trooper sent spearphishing emails that contained malicious Microsoft Office and fake installer file attachments.[162][163][164][165][166]

S0476 Valak

Valak has been delivered via spearphishing e-mails with password protected ZIP files.[157]

G0112 Windshift

Windshift has sent spearphishing emails with attachment to harvest credentials and deliver malware.[167]

G0102 Wizard Spider

Wizard Spider has used spearphishing attachments to deliver Microsoft documents containing macros or PDFs containing malicious links to download either Emotet, Bokbot, TrickBot, or Bazar.[168][169]

Mitigations

ID Mitigation Description
M1049 Antivirus/Antimalware

Anti-virus can also automatically quarantine suspicious files.

M1031 Network Intrusion Prevention

Network intrusion prevention systems and systems designed to scan and remove malicious email attachments can be used to block activity.

M1021 Restrict Web-Based Content

Block unknown or unused attachments by default that should not be transmitted over email as a best practice to prevent some vectors, such as .scr, .exe, .pif, .cpl, etc. Some email scanning devices can open and analyze compressed and encrypted formats, such as zip and rar that may be used to conceal malicious attachments.

M1054 Software Configuration

Use anti-spoofing and email authentication mechanisms to filter messages based on validity checks of the sender domain (using SPF) and integrity of messages (using DKIM). Enabling these mechanisms within an organization (through policies such as DMARC) may enable recipients (intra-org and cross domain) to perform similar message filtering and validation.[170][171]

M1017 User Training

Users can be trained to identify social engineering techniques and spearphishing emails.

Detection

Network intrusion detection systems and email gateways can be used to detect spearphishing with malicious attachments in transit. Detonation chambers may also be used to identify malicious attachments. Solutions can be signature and behavior based, but adversaries may construct attachments in a way to avoid these systems.

Filtering based on DKIM+SPF or header analysis can help detect when the email sender is spoofed.[170][171]

Anti-virus can potentially detect malicious documents and attachments as they're scanned to be stored on the email server or on the user's computer. Endpoint sensing or network sensing can potentially detect malicious events once the attachment is opened (such as a Microsoft Word document or PDF reaching out to the internet or spawning Powershell.exe) for techniques such as Exploitation for Client Execution or usage of malicious scripts.

Monitor for suspicious descendant process spawning from Microsoft Office and other productivity software.[172]

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