Stage Capabilities: Link Target

Adversaries may put in place resources that are referenced by a link that can be used during targeting. An adversary may rely upon a user clicking a malicious link in order to divulge information (including credentials) or to gain execution, as in Malicious Link. Links can be used for spearphishing, such as sending an email accompanied by social engineering text to coax the user to actively click or copy and paste a URL into a browser. Prior to a phish for information (as in Spearphishing Link) or a phish to gain initial access to a system (as in Spearphishing Link), an adversary must set up the resources for a link target for the spearphishing link.

Typically, the resources for a link target will be an HTML page that may include some client-side script such as JavaScript to decide what content to serve to the user. Adversaries may clone legitimate sites to serve as the link target, this can include cloning of login pages of legitimate web services or organization login pages in an effort to harvest credentials during Spearphishing Link.[1][2] Adversaries may also Upload Malware and have the link target point to malware for download/execution by the user.

Adversaries may purchase domains similar to legitimate domains (ex: homoglyphs, typosquatting, different top-level domain, etc.) during acquisition of infrastructure (Domains) to help facilitate Malicious Link. Link shortening services can also be employed. Adversaries may also use free or paid accounts on Platform-as-a-Service providers to host link targets while taking advantage of the widely trusted domains of those providers to avoid being blocked.[3][4][5] Finally, adversaries may take advantage of the decentralized nature of the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) to host link targets that are difficult to remove.[6]

ID: T1608.005
Sub-technique of:  T1608
Platforms: PRE
Contributors: Goldstein Menachem
Version: 1.3
Created: 17 March 2021
Last Modified: 11 April 2023

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
G1014 LuminousMoth

LuminousMoth has created a link to a Dropbox file that has been used in their spear-phishing operations.[7]

G0122 Silent Librarian

Silent Librarian has cloned victim organization login pages and staged them for later use in credential harvesting campaigns. Silent Librarian has also made use of a variety of URL shorteners for these staged websites.[8][1][2]


ID Mitigation Description
M1056 Pre-compromise

This technique cannot be easily mitigated with preventive controls since it is based on behaviors performed outside of the scope of enterprise defenses and controls.


ID Data Source Data Component Detects
DS0035 Internet Scan Response Content

If infrastructure or patterns in malicious web content have been previously identified, internet scanning may uncover when an adversary has staged web content to make it accessible for targeting.Much of this activity will take place outside the visibility of the target organization, making detection of this behavior difficult. Detection efforts may be focused on other phases of the adversary lifecycle, such as during Spearphishing Link , Spearphishing Link , or Malicious Link .