Modify Cloud Compute Infrastructure: Create Cloud Instance

An adversary may create a new instance or virtual machine (VM) within the compute service of a cloud account to evade defenses. Creating a new instance may allow an adversary to bypass firewall rules and permissions that exist on instances currently residing within an account. An adversary may Create Snapshot of one or more volumes in an account, create a new instance, mount the snapshots, and then apply a less restrictive security policy to collect Data from Local System or for Remote Data Staging.[1]

Creating a new instance may also allow an adversary to carry out malicious activity within an environment without affecting the execution of current running instances.

ID: T1578.002
Sub-technique of:  T1578
Tactic: Defense Evasion
Platforms: AWS, Azure, GCP
Permissions Required: User
Data Sources: AWS CloudTrail logs, Azure activity logs, GCP audit logs, Stackdriver logs
Version: 1.0
Created: 14 May 2020
Last Modified: 18 June 2020

Mitigations

Mitigation Description
Audit

Routinely check user permissions to ensure only the expected users have the capability to create new instances.

User Account Management

Limit permissions for creating new instances in accordance with least privilege. Organizations should limit the number of users within the organization with an IAM role that has administrative privileges, strive to reduce all permanent privileged role assignments, and conduct periodic entitlement reviews on IAM users, roles and policies.[1]

Detection

The creation of a new instance or VM is a common part of operations within many cloud environments. Events should then not be viewed in isolation, but as part of a chain of behavior that could lead to other activities. For example, the creation of an instance by a new user account or the unexpected creation of one or more snapshots followed by the creation of an instance may indicate suspicious activity.

In AWS, CloudTrail logs capture the creation of an instance in the RunInstances event, and in Azure the creation of a VM may be captured in Azure activity logs.[2][3] Google's Admin Activity audit logs within their Cloud Audit logs can be used to detect the usage of gcloud compute instances create to create a VM.[4]

References