Command-Line Interface

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Command-Line Interface
ID T1059
Tactic Execution
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, SYSTEM
Data Sources Process command-line parameters, Process monitoring
Supports Remote No

Command-line interfaces provide a way of interacting with computer systems and is a common feature across many types of operating system platforms.1 One example command-line interface on Windows systems is cmd, which can be used to perform a number of tasks including execution of other software. Command-line interfaces can be interacted with locally or remotely via a remote desktop application, reverse shell session, etc. Commands that are executed run with the current permission level of the command-line interface process unless the command includes process invocation that changes permissions context for that execution (e.g. Scheduled Task).

Adversaries may use command-line interfaces to interact with systems and execute other software during the course of an operation.


  • Malware used by Ke3chang can run commands on the command-line interface.2
  • APT1 has used the Windows command shell to execute commands.3
  • Following exploitation with LOWBALL malware, admin@338 actors created a file containing a list of commands to be executed on the compromised computer.4
  • An APT3 downloader uses the Windows command "cmd.exe" /C whoami.5 The group also uses a tool to execute commands on remote computers.6
  • Threat Group-1314 actors spawned shells on remote systems on a victim network to execute commands.7
  • Lazarus Group malware uses cmd.exe to execute commands on victims.8
  • Several tools used by Suckfly have been command-line driven.9
  • Patchwork ran a reverse shell with Meterpreter.10
  • TinyZBot supports execution from the command-line.11
  • PlugX allows actors to spawn a reverse shell on a victim.12
  • Derusbi is capable of creating a remote Bash shell and executing commands.13
  • CHOPSTICK is capable of performing remote command execution.1415
  • Adversaries can direct BACKSPACE to execute from the command-line on infected hosts, or have BACKSPACE create a reverse shell.16
  • gh0st RAT is able to open a command shell.17
  • NETEAGLE allows adversaries to execute shell commands on the infected host.16
  • ADVSTORESHELL can create a remote shell and run a given command.1518
  • A module in CozyCar allows arbitrary commands to be executed by invoking C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe.19
  • SeaDuke is capable of executing commands.20
  • 4H RAT has the capability to create a remote shell.21
  • httpclient opens cmd.exe on the victim.21
  • BLACKCOFFEE has the capability to create a reverse shell.22
  • HTTPBrowser is capable of spawning a reverse shell on a victim.12
  • hcdLoader provides command-line access to the compromised system.23
  • Sakula calls cmd.exe to run various DLL files via rundll32 and also to perform file cleanup. Sakula also has the capability to invoke a reverse shell.24
  • CallMe has the capability to create a reverse shell on victims.25
  • Mivast has the capability to open a remote shell and run basic commands.26
  • Emissary has the capability to create a remote shell and execute specified commands.27
  • Misdat is capable of providing shell functionality to the attacker to execute commands.28
  • Mis-Type uses cmd.exe to run commands for enumerating the host.28
  • ZLib has the ability to execute shell commands.28
  • Hi-Zor has the ability to create a reverse shell.29
  • Kasidet can execute commands using cmd.exe.30
  • cmd is used to execute programs and other actions at the command-line interface.31
  • XTunnel has been used to execute remote commands.14
  • Pisloader uses cmd.exe to set the Registry Run key value. It also has a command to spawn a command shell.32
  • BADNEWS is capable of executing commands via cmd.exe.33
  • H1N1 kills and disables services by using cmd.exe.34
  • PowerDuke runs cmd.exe /c and sends the output to its C2.35
  • StreamEx has the ability to remotely execute commands.36
  • TEXTMATE executes cmd.exe to provide a reverse shell to attackers.3738
  • Pteranodon can execute commands on the victim.39
  • RTM uses the command line and rundll32.exe to execute.40
  • MoonWind can execute commands via an interactive command shell.41


Audit and/or block command-line interpreters by using whitelisting42 tools, like AppLocker,4344 or Software Restriction Policies45 where appropriate.46


Command-line interface activities can be captured through proper logging of process execution with command-line arguments. This information can be useful in gaining additional insight to adversaries' actions through how they use native processes or custom tools.


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  14. a b  Alperovitch, D.. (2016, June 15). Bears in the Midst: Intrusion into the Democratic National Committee. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
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  16. a b  FireEye Labs. (2015, April). APT30 AND THE MECHANICS OF A LONG-RUNNING CYBER ESPIONAGE OPERATION. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
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