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
CAPEC ID: CAPEC-163
Contributors: Philip Winther
Version: 2.2
Created: 02 March 2020
Last Modified: 18 October 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]

G0138 Andariel

Andariel has conducted spearphishing campaigns that included malicious Word or Excel attachments.[4][5]

S0622 AppleSeed

AppleSeed has been distributed to victims through malicious e-mail attachments.[6]

G0099 APT-C-36

APT-C-36 has used spearphishing emails with password protected RAR attachment to avoid being detected by the email gateway.[7]

G0006 APT1

APT1 has sent spearphishing emails containing malicious attachments.[8]

G0005 APT12

APT12 has sent emails with malicious Microsoft Office documents and PDFs attached.[9][10]

G0073 APT19

APT19 sent spearphishing emails with malicious attachments in RTF and XLSM formats to deliver initial exploits.[11]

G0007 APT28

APT28 sent spearphishing emails containing malicious Microsoft Office and RAR attachments.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19]

G0016 APT29

APT29 has used spearphishing emails with an attachment to deliver files with exploits to initial victims.[20][21][22][23][24][25]

G0013 APT30

APT30 has used spearphishing emails with malicious DOC attachments.[26]

G0050 APT32

APT32 has sent spearphishing emails with a malicious executable disguised as a document or spreadsheet.[27][28][29][30][31][32]

G0064 APT33

APT33 has sent spearphishing e-mails with archive attachments.[33]

G0067 APT37

APT37 delivers malware using spearphishing emails with malicious HWP attachments.[34][35][36]

G0082 APT38

APT38 has conducted spearphishing campaigns using malicious email attachments.[37]

G0087 APT39

APT39 leveraged spearphishing emails with malicious attachments to initially compromise victims.[38][39][40]

G0096 APT41

APT41 sent spearphishing emails with attachments such as compiled HTML (.chm) files to initially compromise their victims.[41]

S0642 BADFLICK

BADFLICK has been distributed via spearphishing campaigns containing malicious Microsoft Word documents.[42]

S0234 Bandook

Bandook is delivered via a malicious Word document inside a zip file.[43]

S0268 Bisonal

Bisonal has been delivered as malicious email attachments.[44]

G1002 BITTER

BITTER has sent spearphishing emails with a malicious RTF document or Excel spreadsheet.[45][46]

G0098 BlackTech

BlackTech has used spearphishing e-mails with malicious password-protected archived files (ZIP or RAR) to deliver malware.[47][48]

S0520 BLINDINGCAN

BLINDINGCAN has been delivered by phishing emails containing malicious Microsoft Office documents.[49]

G0060 BRONZE BUTLER

BRONZE BUTLER used spearphishing emails with malicious Microsoft Word attachments to infect victims.[50][51]

S1039 Bumblebee

Bumblebee has gained execution through luring users into opening malicious attachments.[52][53][54][55]

C0011 C0011

During C0011, Transparent Tribe sent malicious attachments via email to student targets in India.[56]

C0015 C0015

For C0015, security researchers assessed the threat actors likely used a phishing campaign to distribute a weaponized attachment to victims.[57]

S0631 Chaes

Chaes has been delivered by sending victims a phishing email containing a malicious .docx file.[58]

S0660 Clambling

Clambling has been delivered to victim's machines through malicious e-mail attachments.[59]

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.[60][61][62][63][64][65][66][67]

G0142 Confucius

Confucius has crafted and sent victims malicious attachments to gain initial access.[68]

S1014 DanBot

DanBot has been distributed within a malicious Excel attachment via spearphishing emails.[69]

G0012 Darkhotel

Darkhotel has sent spearphishing emails with malicious RAR and .LNK attachments.[70][71]

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.[72][73][74]

S0673 DarkWatchman

DarkWatchman has been delivered via spearphishing emails that contain a malicious zip file.[75]

G0035 Dragonfly

Dragonfly has sent emails with malicious attachments to gain initial access.[76]

G0066 Elderwood

Elderwood has delivered zero-day exploits and malware to victims via targeted emails containing malicious attachments.[77][78]

G1003 Ember Bear

Ember Bear has sent spearphishing emails containing malicious attachments in the form of PDFs, Word documents, JavaScript files, and Control Panel File (CPL) executables.[79]

S0367 Emotet

Emotet has been delivered by phishing emails containing attachments. [80][81][82][83][84][85][86][87][88]

S0634 EnvyScout

EnvyScout has been distributed via spearphishing as an email attachment.[89]

G1011 EXOTIC LILY

EXOTIC LILY conducted an e-mail thread-hijacking campaign with malicious ISO attachments.[90][52]

G0137 Ferocious Kitten

Ferocious Kitten has conducted spearphishing campaigns containing malicious documents to lure victims to open the attachments.[91]

G0085 FIN4

FIN4 has used spearphishing emails containing attachments (which are often stolen, legitimate documents sent from compromised accounts) with embedded malicious macros.[92][93]

G0037 FIN6

FIN6 has targeted victims with e-mails containing malicious attachments.[94]

G0046 FIN7

FIN7 sent spearphishing emails with either malicious Microsoft Documents or RTF files attached.[95][96][97][98][99]

G0061 FIN8

FIN8 has distributed targeted emails containing Word documents with embedded malicious macros.[100][101][102]

S0696 Flagpro

Flagpro has been distributed via spearphishing as an email attachment.[48]

C0001 Frankenstein

During Frankenstein, the threat actors likely used spearphishing emails to send malicious Microsoft Word documents.[103]

G0084 Gallmaker

Gallmaker sent emails with malicious Microsoft Office documents attached.[104]

G0047 Gamaredon Group

Gamaredon Group has delivered spearphishing emails with malicious attachments to targets.[105][106][107][108][109][110]

G0078 Gorgon Group

Gorgon Group sent emails to victims with malicious Microsoft Office documents attached.[111]

S0499 Hancitor

Hancitor has been delivered via phishing emails with malicious attachments.[112]

G0126 Higaisa

Higaisa has sent spearphishing emails containing malicious attachments.[113][114]

S0483 IcedID

IcedID has been delivered via phishing e-mails with malicious attachments.[115]

G0100 Inception

Inception has used weaponized documents attached to spearphishing emails for reconnaissance and initial compromise.[116][117][118][119]

G0136 IndigoZebra

IndigoZebra sent spearphishing emails containing malicious password-protected RAR attachments.[120][121]

S0528 Javali

Javali has been delivered as malicious e-mail attachments.[122]

S0648 JSS Loader

JSS Loader has been delivered by phishing emails containing malicious Microsoft Excel attachments.[98]

S0585 Kerrdown

Kerrdown has been distributed through malicious e-mail attachments.[32]

G0094 Kimsuky

Kimsuky has used emails containing Word, Excel and/or HWP (Hangul Word Processor) documents in their spearphishing campaigns.[123][124][125][126][127][6][128][129]

S0669 KOCTOPUS

KOCTOPUS has been distributed via spearphishing emails with malicious attachments.[130]

S0356 KONNI

KONNI has been delivered via spearphishing campaigns through a malicious Word document.[131]

G0032 Lazarus Group

Lazarus Group has targeted victims with spearphishing emails containing malicious Microsoft Word documents.[132][133][134][135][136]

G0140 LazyScripter

LazyScripter has used spam emails weaponized with archive or document files as its initial infection vector.[130]

G0065 Leviathan

Leviathan has sent spearphishing emails with malicious attachments, including .rtf, .doc, and .xls files.[137][138]

S0447 Lokibot

Lokibot is delivered via a malicious XLS attachment contained within a spearhpishing email.[139]

G0095 Machete

Machete has delivered spearphishing emails that contain a zipped file with malicious contents.[140][141][142]

G0045 menuPass

menuPass has sent malicious Office documents via email as part of spearphishing campaigns as well as executables disguised as documents.[143][144][145][146]

S0455 Metamorfo

Metamorfo has been delivered to victims via emails with malicious HTML attachments.[147][148]

G0103 Mofang

Mofang delivered spearphishing emails with malicious documents, PDFs, or Excel files attached.[149]

G0021 Molerats

Molerats has sent phishing emails with malicious Microsoft Word and PDF attachments.[150][151][152]

G0069 MuddyWater

MuddyWater has compromised third parties and used compromised accounts to send spearphishing emails with targeted attachments to recipients.[153][154][155][156][157][158] [159]

G0129 Mustang Panda

Mustang Panda has used spearphishing attachments to deliver initial access payloads.[160][161][162]

G0019 Naikon

Naikon has used malicious e-mail attachments to deliver malware.[163]

S0198 NETWIRE

NETWIRE has been spread via e-mail campaigns utilizing malicious attachments.[164][165]

G0133 Nomadic Octopus

Nomadic Octopus has targeted victims with spearphishing emails containing malicious attachments.[166][167]

S0346 OceanSalt

OceanSalt has been delivered via spearphishing emails with Microsoft Office attachments.[168]

S0340 Octopus

Octopus has been delivered via spearsphishing emails.[167]

G0049 OilRig

OilRig has sent spearphising emails with malicious attachments to potential victims using compromised and/or spoofed email accounts.[169][170][171]

C0016 Operation Dust Storm

During Operation Dust Storm, the threat actors sent spearphishing emails that contained a malicious Microsoft Word document.[172]

C0005 Operation Spalax

During Operation Spalax, the threat actors sent phishing emails that included a PDF document that in some cases led to the download and execution of malware.[173]

S1017 OutSteel

OutSteel has been distributed as a malicious attachment within a spearphishing email.[79]

G0040 Patchwork

Patchwork has used spearphishing with an attachment to deliver files with exploits to initial victims.[174][175][176][177]

G0068 PLATINUM

PLATINUM has sent spearphishing emails with attachments to victims as its primary initial access vector.[178]

S0428 PoetRAT

PoetRAT was distributed via malicious Word documents.[179]

S0453 Pony

Pony has been delivered via spearphishing attachments.[180]

S0650 QakBot

QakBot has spread through emails with malicious attachments.[181][182][183][184][185][186][187]

S0458 Ramsay

Ramsay has been distributed through spearphishing emails with malicious attachments.[188]

G0075 Rancor

Rancor has attached a malicious document to an email to gain initial access.[189]

S0496 REvil

REvil has been distributed via malicious e-mail attachments including MS Word Documents.[190][191][192][193][194]

S0433 Rifdoor

Rifdoor has been distributed in e-mails with malicious Excel or Word documents.[195]

S0240 ROKRAT

ROKRAT has been delivered via spearphishing emails that contain a malicious Hangul Office or Microsoft Word document.[196]

S0148 RTM

RTM has been delivered via spearphishing attachments disguised as PDF documents.[197]

G0048 RTM

RTM has used spearphishing attachments to distribute its malware.[198]

S1018 Saint Bot

Saint Bot has been distributed as malicious attachments within spearphishing emails.[199][79]

G0034 Sandworm Team

Sandworm Team has delivered malicious Microsoft Office attachments via spearphishing emails.[200][201][202][203]

G1008 SideCopy

SideCopy has sent spearphishing emails with malicious hta file attachments.[204]

G0121 Sidewinder

Sidewinder has sent e-mails with malicious attachments often crafted for specific targets.[205]

G0091 Silence

Silence has sent emails with malicious DOCX, CHM, LNK and ZIP attachments. [206][207][208]

S1030 Squirrelwaffle

Squirrelwaffle has been distributed via malicious Microsoft Office documents within spam emails.[209]

G0062 TA459

TA459 has targeted victims using spearphishing emails with malicious Microsoft Word attachments.[210]

G0092 TA505

TA505 has used spearphishing emails with malicious attachments to initially compromise victims.[211][212][213][214][215][216][217][218][219]

G0127 TA551

TA551 has sent spearphishing attachments with password protected ZIP files.[220][221][222]

S0011 Taidoor

Taidoor has been delivered through spearphishing emails.[223]

G0089 The White Company

The White Company has sent phishing emails with malicious Microsoft Word attachments to victims.[224]

G0027 Threat Group-3390

Threat Group-3390 has used e-mail to deliver malicious attachments to victims.[59]

S0665 ThreatNeedle

ThreatNeedle has been distributed via a malicious Word document within a spearphishing email.[133]

G0131 Tonto Team

Tonto Team has delivered payloads via spearphishing attachments.[225]

G0134 Transparent Tribe

Transparent Tribe has sent spearphishing e-mails with attachments to deliver malicious payloads.[226][227][228][229][230]

S0266 TrickBot

TrickBot has used an email with an Excel sheet containing a malicious macro to deploy the malware[231]

G0081 Tropic Trooper

Tropic Trooper sent spearphishing emails that contained malicious Microsoft Office and fake installer file attachments.[232][233][234][235][236]

S0476 Valak

Valak has been delivered via spearphishing e-mails with password protected ZIP files.[220]

S0670 WarzoneRAT

WarzoneRAT has been distributed as a malicious attachment within an email.[237][68]

G0112 Windshift

Windshift has sent spearphishing emails with attachment to harvest credentials and deliver malware.[238]

G0090 WIRTE

WIRTE has sent emails to intended victims with malicious MS Word and Excel attachments.[239]

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.[240][241]

S1013 ZxxZ

ZxxZ has been distributed via spearphishing emails, usually containing a malicious RTF or Excel attachment.[45]

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.[242][243]

M1017 User Training

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

Detection

ID Data Source Data Component Detects
DS0015 Application Log Application Log Content

Monitor for third-party application logging, messaging, and/or other artifacts that may send spearphishing emails with a malicious attachment in an attempt to gain access to victim systems. Filtering based on DKIM+SPF or header analysis can help detect when the email sender is spoofed.[242][243] 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. Monitor for suspicious descendant process spawning from Microsoft Office and other productivity software.[244]

DS0022 File File Creation

Monitor for newly constructed files from a spearphishing emails with a malicious attachment in an attempt to gain access to victim systems.

DS0029 Network Traffic Network Traffic Content

Monitor and analyze SSL/TLS traffic patterns and packet inspection associated to protocol(s) that do not follow the expected protocol standards and traffic flows (e.g extraneous packets that do not belong to established flows, gratuitous or anomalous traffic patterns, anomalous syntax, or structure). Consider correlation with process monitoring and command line to detect anomalous processes execution and command line arguments associated to traffic patterns (e.g. monitor anomalies in use of files that do not normally initiate connections for respective protocol(s)). Filtering based on DKIM+SPF or header analysis can help detect when the email sender is spoofed.[242][243]

Network Traffic Flow

Monitor network data for uncommon data flows. Processes utilizing the network that do not normally have network communication or have never been seen before are suspicious.

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