Hunting persistence

Persistence is used by attackers to maintain access to a machine once it is compromised. There is a multitude of ways for an attacker to gain persistence on a machine. We will be focusing on registry modification as well as startup scripts. We can hunt persistence with Sysmon by looking for File Creation events as well as Registry Modification events.

Startup persistence config

Use the SwiftOnSecurity detections for a file being placed in the \Startup\ or \Start Menu directories.

<RuleGroup name="" groupRelation="or">
    <FileCreate onmatch="include">
        <TargetFilename name="T1023" condition="contains">\Start Menu</TargetFilename>
        <TargetFilename name="T1165" condition="contains">\Startup\</TargetFilename>

Malicious EXE into the Startup folder

Open C:\Users\THM-Analyst\Desktop\Scenarios\Practice\T1023.evtx in Event Viewer to view a live attack on the machine that involves persistence by adding a malicious EXE into the Startup folder.

The event shows persist.exe placed in the Startup folder.

Threat Actors will almost never make it this obvious but any changes to the Start Menu should be investigated. Adjust the configuration file to be more granular and create alerts past just the File Created tag. Another option is to filter by the Rule Name T1023.

Once suspicious binary or application has been identified, begin an investigation on the directory.

Registry Key Persistence config

Another SwiftOnSecurity detection, now for a registry modification that adjusts for a script inside CurrentVersion\Windows\Run and other registry locations.

<RuleGroup name="" groupRelation="or">
    <RegistryEvent onmatch="include">
        <TargetObject name="T1060,RunKey" condition="contains">CurrentVersion\Run</TargetObject>
        <TargetObject name="T1484" condition="contains">Group Policy\Scripts</TargetObject>
        <TargetObject name="T1060" condition="contains">CurrentVersion\Windows\Run</TargetObject>

Modified registry

Open C:\Users\THM-Analyst\Desktop\Scenarios\Practice\T1060.evtx in Event Viewer to view an attack where the registry was modified to gain persistence.

The event shows the registry was modified and malicious.exe was added to
and that the exe can be found at %windir%\System32\malicious.exe.

Filtering by the RuleName T1060 makes finding the anomaly easier.

If we wanted to investigate this anomaly we would need to look at the registry as well as the file location itself.