System Owner/User Discovery

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System Owner/User Discovery
ID T1033
Tactic Discovery
Platform Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Vista, Windows 8.1, Linux
Permissions Required User, Administrator
Data Sources File monitoring, Process monitoring, Process command-line parameters

Adversaries may attempt to identify the primary user, currently logged in user, set of users that commonly uses a system, or whether a user is actively using the system. They may do this, for example, by retrieving account usernames or by using Credential Dumping. The information may be collected in a number of different ways using other Discovery techniques, because user and username details are prevalent throughout a system and include running process ownership, file/directory ownership, session information, and system logs.


  • An APT3 downloader uses the Windows command "cmd.exe" /C whoami to verify that it is running with the elevated privileges of “System.”1
  • Lazarus Group malware SierraAlfa and WhiskeyAlfa-Three enumerate logged-on users. Lazarus Group malware IndiaIndia collects the victim's username and sends it to the C2 server.2 34
  • Stealth Falcon malware gathers the registered user and primary owner name via WMI.5
  • Patchwork collected the victim username and whether it was running as admin, then sent the information to its C2 server.6
  • A Gamaredon Group file stealer can gather the victim's username to send to a C2 server.7
  • A Linux version of Derusbi checks if the victim user ID is anything other than zero (normally used for root), and the malware will not execute if it does not have root privileges.8
  • SslMM sends the logged-on username to its hard-coded C2.9
  • WinMM uses NetUser-GetInfo to identify that it is running under an “Admin” account on the local system.9
  • Sys10 collects the account name of the logged-in user and sends it to the C2.9
  • Mis-Type runs tests to determine the privilege level of the compromised user.10
  • Agent.btz obtains the victim username and saves it to a file.11
  • Backdoor.Oldrea collects the current username from the victim.12
  • T9000 gathers and beacons the username of the logged in account during installation. It will also gather the username of running processes to determine if it is running as SYSTEM.13
  • A module in Prikormka collects information from the victim about the current user name.14
  • Remsec can obtain information about the current user.15
  • Unknown Logger can obtain information about the victim usernames.16
  • PowerDuke has commands to get the current user's name and SID.17
  • RTM can obtain the victim username and permissions.18
  • MoonWind obtains the victim username.19


Identify unnecessary system utilities or potentially malicious software that may be used to acquire information about system users, and audit and/or block them by using whitelisting20 tools, like AppLocker,2122 or Software Restriction Policies23 where appropriate.24


System and network discovery techniques normally occur throughout an operation as an adversary learns the environment. Data and events should not be viewed in isolation, but as part of a chain of behavior that could lead to other activities based on the information obtained.

Monitor processes and command-line arguments for actions that could be taken to gather system and network information. Remote access tools with built-in features may interact directly with the Windows API to gather information. Information may also be acquired through Windows system management tools such as Windows Management Instrumentation and PowerShell.


  1. ^  Moran, N., et al. (2014, November 21). Operation Double Tap. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  2. ^  Novetta Threat Research Group. (2016, February 24). Operation Blockbuster: Loaders, Installers and Uninstallers Report. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  3. ^  Novetta Threat Research Group. (2016, February 24). Operation Blockbuster: Remote Administration Tools & Content Staging Malware Report. Retrieved March 16, 2016.
  4. ^  Novetta Threat Research Group. (2016, February 24). Operation Blockbuster: Destructive Malware Report. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  5. ^  Marczak, B. and Scott-Railton, J.. (2016, May 29). Keep Calm and (Don’t) Enable Macros: A New Threat Actor Targets UAE Dissidents. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  6. ^  Cymmetria. (2016). Unveiling Patchwork - The Copy-Paste APT. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
  7. ^  Kasza, A. and Reichel, D.. (2017, February 27). The Gamaredon Group Toolset Evolution. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
  8. ^  Fidelis Cybersecurity. (2016, February 29). The Turbo Campaign, Featuring Derusbi for 64-bit Linux. Retrieved March 2, 2016.
  9. a b c  Baumgartner, K., Golovkin, M.. (2015, May). The MsnMM Campaigns: The Earliest Naikon APT Campaigns. Retrieved December 17, 2015.
  10. ^  Gross, J. (2016, February 23). Operation Dust Storm. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  11. ^  Shevchenko, S.. (2008, November 30). Agent.btz - A Threat That Hit Pentagon. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  12. ^  Symantec Security Response. (2014, July 7). Dragonfly: Cyberespionage Attacks Against Energy Suppliers. Retrieved April 8, 2016.
  1. ^  Grunzweig, J. and Miller-Osborn, J.. (2016, February 4). T9000: Advanced Modular Backdoor Uses Complex Anti-Analysis Techniques. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
  2. ^  Cherepanov, A.. (2016, May 17). Operation Groundbait: Analysis of a surveillance toolkit. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
  3. ^  Kaspersky Lab's Global Research & Analysis Team. (2016, August 9). The ProjectSauron APT. Technical Analysis. Retrieved August 17, 2016.
  4. ^  Settle, A., et al. (2016, August 8). MONSOON - Analysis Of An APT Campaign. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
  5. ^  Adair, S.. (2016, November 9). PowerDuke: Widespread Post-Election Spear Phishing Campaigns Targeting Think Tanks and NGOs. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
  6. ^  Faou, M. and Boutin, J.. (2017, February). Read The Manual: A Guide to the RTM Banking Trojan. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
  7. ^  Miller-Osborn, J. and Grunzweig, J.. (2017, March 30). Trochilus and New MoonWind RATs Used In Attack Against Thai Organizations. Retrieved March 30, 2017.
  8. ^  Beechey, J. (2010, December). Application Whitelisting: Panacea or Propaganda?. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
  9. ^  Tomonaga, S. (2016, January 26). Windows Commands Abused by Attackers. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  10. ^  NSA Information Assurance Directorate. (2014, August). Application Whitelisting Using Microsoft AppLocker. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
  11. ^  Corio, C., & Sayana, D. P. (2008, June). Application Lockdown with Software Restriction Policies. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
  12. ^  Microsoft. (2012, June 27). Using Software Restriction Policies and AppLocker Policies. Retrieved April 7, 2016.