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Unmasking the Hunt for Sensitive Powershell Scripts

By Tom Seest

How Do Attackers Find Sensitive PowerShell Scripts?

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There are several ways to detect malicious PowerShell scripts. You can use the MITRE ATT&CK framework or similarity matching to identify malicious PowerShell scripts. You can also use the reverse-engineering technique, also known as reverse-compilation, to detect malicious PowerShell scripts.

How Do Attackers Find Sensitive PowerShell Scripts?

How Do Attackers Find Sensitive PowerShell Scripts?

Are Your PowerShell Scripts Vulnerable to Attackers?

PowerShell scripts are a popular and widely used system administration tool. As a result, it can be very difficult to identify malicious scripts using traditional antivirus programs. Luckily, there are ways to detect malicious scripts using the PowerShell console. First, you can look for tokens such as Command, CommandParameter, and CommandArgument. These represent the commands an attacker wants to execute and the values of the related arguments and variables. By looking for these types of tokens, you can analyze the script and determine if it’s malicious or not.
Secondly, you can look for hidden data. In this way, you can determine whether the content of the PowerShell script is cloaked and if it’s offensive. By comparing the cloaked content to the plaintext, you can determine the complexity and offensive capabilities of a malicious script.
After you have determined the different types of tokens, you can begin analyzing PowerShell scripts. Tokens are Microsoft-defined units that are parsed in PowerShell scripts. Microsoft classifies these tokens into 20 different categories. To begin, we created a dataset with all PowerShell scripts. We excluded tokens that correspond to operators, newlines, and parentheses. The resultant dataset contains 22 261 normal scripts and 4214 malicious scripts.
After identifying the malicious PowerShell script, incident responders can decode it and determine the type of malware responsible. They can also analyze the email’s content and attachments. Then, they can compare the content to known malware indicators. They can also categorize the email as spam and analyze suspicious file attachments with VirusTotal.
Malware continues to evolve, so the ability to detect malware using AI is essential. But this is a challenge. Malware is evolving all the time, and new malware may combine with existing malware. Moreover, it is easy to hide its operations from the system monitoring tools. Luckily, researchers have started applying artificial intelligence to identify malicious PowerShell. They are working on improving the model’s performance.
Invoke-PSImage is a Windows PowerShell command that embeds PowerShell scripts in digital images. It manipulates the colour values of the original PNG image to hide the malicious PowerShell script. The resulting PNG file is similar in size to the malicious original script.
As more people use PowerShell to manage their systems, malicious actors have started using the tool to perform attacks. These scripts vary in sophistication and have been found to use social engineering techniques to infect systems. They have also merged PowerShell with other exploits and routines.

Are Your PowerShell Scripts Vulnerable to Attackers?

Are Your PowerShell Scripts Vulnerable to Attackers?

Are Your PowerShell Scripts Vulnerable to Attackers?

Similarity matching is a powerful technique for detecting malicious PowerShell scripts. It extracts information about the entire script and data structure, as well as the type of AST nodes it uses. This improves the detection accuracy. In this paper, we present a proposed method and feature selection process for this method.
This study builds on previous work in the field and proposes a feature optimization method for malicious PowerShell script detection. The pre-processing system and the proposed feature extraction process are described in detail. The experimental results show that the proposed features are a good fit for detecting malicious PowerShell scripts.
The dataset used in this research is composed of PowerShell scripts and tokens defined by Microsoft. Microsoft classifies tokens into 20 categories. To detect malicious PowerShell scripts, we used the entire dataset. We filtered out the tokens corresponding to newlines and parentheses. We found that the dataset contained 22 261 normal scripts and 4214 malicious scripts. The tokens used for pre-processing the dataset were the following:
To understand the power of this method, we must first understand what a PowerShell script contains. A malicious PowerShell script contains a base64-encoded OLE file. This means that the code contains a malicious shellcode, which is used to establish a TCP connection to the attacker’s computer.
The OLE file format allows scripts to be embedded and linked to objects. PowerShell scripts are embedded in OLE files and extracted through the Base64 decoding process. These files contain malicious PowerShell scripts, which is why they can be difficult to detect with this method.

Are Your PowerShell Scripts Vulnerable to Attackers?

Are Your PowerShell Scripts Vulnerable to Attackers?

Can You Spot Malicious PowerShell Scripts Using Mitre Att&ck?

The MITRE ATT&CK framework has many methods for detecting malicious PowerShell scripts. In particular, the framework focuses on the context in which these scripts are run, including the number of processes involved, the context of the script’s actions, and any dependencies between them. The behavioral approach is the most effective way of detecting malicious PowerShell activities, and it also enables us to detect legitimate applications that are being used for malicious purposes.
PowerShell is one of the most popular tools for cybercriminals, and it has a plethora of capabilities that hackers can leverage to infect networks. The power of PowerShell scripts allows attackers to bypass protections based on executable files, so it is important to detect malicious PowerShell scripts before they infect your network.
The first step in detecting malicious PowerShell scripts is to identify hidden data. Then, the next step is to evaluate the cloaked content. In some cases, attackers employ obfuscation and antiforensics techniques to hide their content. A second step in detecting malicious PowerShell scripts is estimating their size. This will allow you to determine the size of the script and its offensive capabilities.
Malicious PowerShell scripts are often based on the use of spearphishing, a tactic that is often used by government entities to monitor dissidents and activists. Citizen Lab recently reported on a large campaign to target Tibetan activists. Similarly, the Leviathan group has targeted defense contractors, law firms, government agencies, and universities with military research ties. This tactic is also used by the Carbanak group, which leverages spearphishing attachments as its initial infection vector. Another technique used by MITRE ATT&CK is masquerading, a tactic that relies on manipulating an executable’s name and namespace to evade defensive technologies and deceive potential victims.
Detecting malicious PowerShell scripts is important for protecting networks from malware. The current state of ATT&CK framework can be used to detect these scripts by evaluating the size and type of the embedded payload. The framework provides a number of methods to extract the payload from a hidden image, including invoking the Invoke-PSImage command.
AttackIQ Security Optimization Platform recommends initial access via office documents. Office documents with macro-enabled functionality are common delivery mechanisms for initial-stage PowerShell downloaders. By detecting these files, the tool can emulate these methods. The next step for the malware is to embed a malicious PowerShell script in an innocent-looking digital image and transmit it to the infected host.
The MITRE ATT&CK framework has proved an invaluable resource for researchers and defenders. It allows for the systematic evaluation of the techniques used by adversaries and their development. Deep Security can help identify malware in the PowerShell environment by generating events that are classified according to the ATT&CK Techniques.

Can You Spot Malicious PowerShell Scripts Using Mitre Att&ck?

Can You Spot Malicious PowerShell Scripts Using Mitre Att&ck?

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