Malware-Free Intrusions: Exploitation of Built-in Pre-Authentication Services for APT Attack Vectors

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Aaron Zimba 1,* Zhaoshun Wang 2

1. University of Science and Technology Beijing/Department of Computer Science and Technology, Beijing, 100083, China

2. University of Science and Technology Beijing/Computer Science and Technology, Beijing, 100083, China

* Corresponding author.


Received: 25 Jan. 2017 / Revised: 5 Apr. 2017 / Accepted: 11 May 2017 / Published: 8 Jul. 2017

Index Terms

Remote Access, Authentication, Backdoor, APT, Accessibility Tools, RDP


Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) actors seek to maintain an undetected presence over a considerable duration and therefore use a myriad of techniques to achieve this requirement. This stealthy presence might be sought on the targeted victim or one of the victims used as pawns for further attacks. However, most of the techniques involve some malicious software leveraging the vulnerability induced by an exploit or leveraging the ignorance of the benign user. But then, malware generates a substantial amount of noise in form of suspicious network traffic or unusual system calls which usually do not go undetected by intrusion detection systems. Therefore, an attack vector that generates as little noise as possible or none at all is especially attractive to ATP threat actors as this perfectly suits the objective thereof. Malware-free intrusions present such attack vectors and indeed are difficult to detect because they mimic the behavior of normal applications and add no extra code for signature detection or anomaly behavior. This paper explores malware-free intrusions via backdoors created by leveraging the available at pre-authentication system tools availed to the common user. We explore two attack vectors used to implant the backdoor and demonstrate how such is accessible over the network via remote access while providing the highest level of system access. We further look at prevention, detection and mitigation measures which can be implemented in the case of compromise.

Cite This Paper

Aaron Zimba, Zhaoshun Wang, "Malware-Free Intrusions: Exploitation of Built-in Pre-Authentication Services for APT Attack Vectors", International Journal of Computer Network and Information Security(IJCNIS), Vol.9, No.7, pp.1-10, 2017. DOI:10.5815/ijcnis.2017.07.01


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