Deobfuscate/Decode Files or Information

Adversaries may use Obfuscated Files or Information to hide artifacts of an intrusion from analysis. They may require separate mechanisms to decode or deobfuscate that information depending on how they intend to use it. Methods for doing that include built-in functionality of malware or by using utilities present on the system.

One such example is use of certutil to decode a remote access tool portable executable file that has been hidden inside a certificate file. [1] Another example is using the Windows copy /b command to reassemble binary fragments into a malicious payload. [2]

Sometimes a user's action may be required to open it for deobfuscation or decryption as part of User Execution. The user may also be required to input a password to open a password protected compressed/encrypted file that was provided by the adversary. [3]

ID: T1140
Sub-techniques:  No sub-techniques
Tactic: Defense Evasion
Platforms: Linux, Windows, macOS
Permissions Required: User
Defense Bypassed: Anti-virus, Host intrusion prevention systems, Network intrusion detection system, Signature-based detection
Contributors: Matthew Demaske, Adaptforward; Red Canary
Version: 1.1
Created: 14 December 2017
Last Modified: 09 July 2020

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S0469 ABK

ABK has the ability to decrypt AES encrypted payloads.[4]

S0331 Agent Tesla

Agent Tesla has the ability to decrypt strings encrypted with the Rijndael symmetric encryption algorithm.[5]

S0584 AppleJeus

AppleJeus has decoded files received from a C2.[6]

S0622 AppleSeed

AppleSeed can decode its payload prior to execution.[7]

G0073 APT19

An APT19 HTTP malware variant decrypts strings using single-byte XOR keys.[8]

G0007 APT28

An APT28 macro uses the command certutil -decode to decode contents of a .txt file storing the base64 encoded payload.[9][10]

G0016 APT29

APT29 used 7-Zip to decode its Raindrop malware.[11]

G0087 APT39

APT39 has used malware to decrypt encrypted CAB files.[12]

S0456 Aria-body

Aria-body has the ability to decrypt the loader configuration and payload DLL.[13]

S0373 Astaroth

Astaroth uses a fromCharCode() deobfuscation method to avoid explicitly writing execution commands and to hide its code. [14][15]

S0347 AuditCred

AuditCred uses XOR and RC4 to perform decryption on the code functions.[16]

S0640 Avaddon

Avaddon has decrypted encrypted strings.[17]

S0473 Avenger

Avenger has the ability to decrypt files downloaded from C2.[4]

S0344 Azorult

Azorult uses an XOR key to decrypt content and uses Base64 to decode the C2 address.[18][19]

S0638 Babuk

Babuk has the ability to unpack itself into memory using XOR.[20][21]

S0414 BabyShark

BabyShark has the ability to decode downloaded files prior to execution.[22]

S0475 BackConfig

BackConfig has used a custom routine to decrypt strings.[23]


BADFLICK can decode shellcode using a custom rotating XOR cipher.[24]

S0234 Bandook

Bandook has decoded its PowerShell script.[25]

S0239 Bankshot

Bankshot decodes embedded XOR strings.[26]

S0534 Bazar

Bazar can decrypt downloaded payloads. Bazar also resolves strings and API calls at runtime.[27][28]

S0470 BBK

BBK has the ability to decrypt AES encrypted payloads.[4]


BBSRAT uses Expand to decompress a CAB file into executable content.[29]

S0574 BendyBear

BendyBear has decrypted function blocks using a XOR key during runtime to evade detection.[30]

S0268 Bisonal

Bisonal decodes strings in the malware using XOR and RC4.[31]


BLINDINGCAN has used AES and XOR to decrypt its DLLs.[32]

S0635 BoomBox

BoomBox can decrypt AES-encrypted files downloaded from C2.[33]


BOOSTWRITE has used a a 32-byte long multi-XOR key to decode data inside its payload.[34]


BRONZE BUTLER downloads encoded payloads and decodes them on the victim.[35]

S0482 Bundlore

Bundlore has used openssl to decrypt AES encrypted payload data. Bundlore has also used base64 and RC4 with a hardcoded key to deobfuscate data.[36]

S0335 Carbon

Carbon decrypts task and configuration files for execution.[37][38]

S0348 Cardinal RAT

Cardinal RAT decodes many of its artifacts and is decrypted (AES-128) after being downloaded.[39]

S0160 certutil

certutil has been used to decode binaries hidden inside certificate files as Base64 information.[1]

S0631 Chaes

Chaes has decrypted an AES encrypted binary file to trigger the download of other files.[40]

S0611 Clop

Clop has used a simple XOR operation to decrypt strings.[41]

S0154 Cobalt Strike

Cobalt Strike can deobfuscate shellcode using a rolling XOR and decrypt metadata from Beacon sessions.[42][43]

S0369 CoinTicker

CoinTicker decodes the initially-downloaded hidden encoded file using OpenSSL.[44]

S0126 ComRAT

ComRAT has used unique per machine passwords to decrypt the orchestrator payload and a hardcoded XOR key to decrypt its communications module. ComRAT has also used a unique password to decrypt the file used for its hidden file system.[45][46]

S0575 Conti

Conti has decrypted its payload using a hardcoded AES-256 key.[47][48]

S0492 CookieMiner

CookieMiner has used Google Chrome's decryption and extraction operations.[49]

S0614 CostaBricks

CostaBricks has the ability to use bytecode to decrypt embedded payloads.[50]

S0115 Crimson

Crimson can decode its encoded PE file prior to execution.[51]

G0012 Darkhotel

Darkhotel has decrypted strings and imports using RC4 during execution.[52][53]


DDKONG decodes an embedded configuration using XOR.[54]

S0354 Denis

Denis will decrypt important strings used for C&C communication.[55]

S0547 DropBook

DropBook can unarchive data downloaded from the C2 to obtain the payload and persistence modules.[56]

S0502 Drovorub

Drovorub has de-obsfuscated XOR encrypted payloads in WebSocket messages.[57]

S0567 Dtrack

Dtrack has used a decryption routine that is part of an executable physical patch.[58]

S0024 Dyre

Dyre decrypts resources needed for targeting the victim.[59][60]

S0377 Ebury

Ebury has verified C2 domain ownership by decrypting the TXT record using an embedded RSA public key.[61]

S0624 Ecipekac

Ecipekac has the ability to decrypt fileless loader modules.[62]

S0554 Egregor

Egregor has been decrypted before execution.[63][64]

S0634 EnvyScout

EnvyScout can deobfuscate and write malicious ISO files to disk.[33]

S0401 Exaramel for Linux

Exaramel for Linux can decrypt its configuration file.[65]

S0361 Expand

Expand can be used to decompress a local or remote CAB file into an executable.[66]

S0512 FatDuke

FatDuke can decrypt AES encrypted C2 communications.[67]

S0355 Final1stspy

Final1stspy uses Python code to deobfuscate base64-encoded strings.[68]

S0182 FinFisher

FinFisher extracts and decrypts stage 3 malware, which is stored in encrypted resources.[69][70]


FIVEHANDS has the ability to decrypt its payload prior to execution.[71][72][73]

G0101 Frankenstein

Frankenstein has deobfuscated base64-encoded commands following the execution of a malicious script, which revealed a small script designed to obtain an additional payload.[74]

S0628 FYAnti

FYAnti has the ability to decrypt an embedded .NET module.[62]

G0047 Gamaredon Group

Gamaredon Group tools decrypted additional payloads from the C2. Gamaredon Group has also decoded base64-encoded source code of a downloader.[75][76]

S0032 gh0st RAT

gh0st RAT has decrypted and loaded the gh0st RAT DLL into memory, once the initial dropper executable is launched.[77]

S0588 GoldMax

GoldMax has decoded and decrypted the configuration file when executed.[78][79]

S0477 Goopy

Goopy has used a polymorphic decryptor to decrypt itself at runtime.[55]

G0078 Gorgon Group

Gorgon Group malware can decode contents from a payload that was Base64 encoded and write the contents to a file.[80]

S0531 Grandoreiro

Grandoreiro can decrypt its encrypted internal strings.[81]

S0632 GrimAgent

GrimAgent can use a decryption algorithm for strings based on Rotate on Right (RoR) and Rotate on Left (RoL) functionality.[82]

S0499 Hancitor

Hancitor has decoded Base64 encoded URLs to insert a recipient’s name into the filename of the Word document. Hancitor has also extracted executables from ZIP files.[83][84]

S0394 HiddenWasp

HiddenWasp uses a cipher to implement a decoding function.[85]

G0126 Higaisa

Higaisa used certutil to decode Base64 binaries at runtime and a 16-byte XOR key to decrypt data.[86][87]

S0601 Hildegard

Hildegard has decrypted ELF files with AES.[88]

G0072 Honeybee

Honeybee drops a Word file containing a Base64-encoded file in it that is read, decoded, and dropped to the disk by the macro.[89]

S0434 Imminent Monitor

Imminent Monitor has decoded malware components that are then dropped to the system.[90]

S0604 Industroyer

Industroyer decrypts code to connect to a remote C2 server.[91]

S0260 InvisiMole

InvisiMole can decrypt, unpack and load a DLL from its resources, or from blobs encrypted with Data Protection API, two-key triple DES, and variations of the XOR cipher.[92][93]

S0581 IronNetInjector

IronNetInjector has the ability to decrypt embedded .NET and PE payloads.[94]

S0189 ISMInjector

ISMInjector uses the certutil command to decode a payload file.[95]

S0585 Kerrdown

Kerrdown can decode, decrypt, and decompress multiple layers of shellcode.[96]

S0487 Kessel

Kessel has decrypted the binary's configuration once the main function was launched.[97]


KGH_SPY can decrypt encrypted strings and write them to a newly created folder.[98]

S0641 Kobalos

Kobalos decrypts strings right after the initial communication, but before the authentication process.[99]


KONNI has used certutil to download and decode base64 encoded strings.[100]

S0236 Kwampirs

Kwampirs decrypts and extracts a copy of its main DLL payload when executing.[101]

G0065 Leviathan

Leviathan has used a DLL known as SeDll to decrypt and execute other JavaScript backdoors.[102]

S0395 LightNeuron

LightNeuron has used AES and XOR to decrypt configuration files and commands.[103]

S0513 LiteDuke

LiteDuke has the ability to decrypt and decode multiple layers of obfuscation.[67]

S0447 Lokibot

Lokibot has decoded and decrypted its stages multiple times using hard-coded keys to deliver the final payload, and has decoded its server response hex string using XOR.[104]

S0582 LookBack

LookBack has a function that decrypts malicious data.[105]

S0532 Lucifer

Lucifer can decrypt its C2 address upon execution.[106]

S0409 Machete

Machete’s downloaded data is decrypted using AES.[107]

S0576 MegaCortex

MegaCortex has used a Base64 key to decode its components.[108]

G0045 menuPass

menuPass has used certutil in a macro to decode base64-encoded content contained in a dropper document attached to an email. The group has also used certutil -decode to decode files on the victim’s machine when dropping UPPERCUT.[109][110]


After checking for the existence of two files, keyword_parm.txt and parm.txt, MESSAGETAP XOR decodes and read the contents of the files. [111]

S0455 Metamorfo

Upon execution, Metamorfo has unzipped itself after being downloaded to the system and has performed string decryption.[112][113][114]

S0280 MirageFox

MirageFox has a function for decrypting data containing C2 configuration information.[115]

G0021 Molerats

Molerats decompresses ZIP files once on the victim machine.[116]

S0284 More_eggs

More_eggs will decode malware components that are then dropped to the system.[117]

G0069 MuddyWater

MuddyWater decoded base64-encoded PowerShell commands using a VBS file.[118][119][120]

S0637 NativeZone

NativeZone can decrypt and decode embedded Cobalt Strike beacon stage shellcode.[33]

S0457 Netwalker

Netwalker's PowerShell script can decode and decrypt multiple layers of obfuscation, leading to the Netwalker DLL being loaded into memory.[121]


NOKKI uses a unique, custom de-obfuscation technique.[122]

G0049 OilRig

A OilRig macro has run a PowerShell command to decode file contents. OilRig has also used certutil to decode base64-encoded files on victims.[123][95][124][125]

S0439 Okrum

Okrum's loader can decrypt the backdoor code, embedded within the loader or within a legitimate PNG file. A custom XOR cipher or RC4 is used for decryption.[126]

S0052 OnionDuke

OnionDuke can use a custom decryption algorithm to decrypt strings.[67]

S0264 OopsIE

OopsIE concatenates then decompresses multiple resources to load an embedded .Net Framework assembly.[124]

S0402 OSX/Shlayer

OSX/Shlayer can base64-decode and AES-decrypt downloaded payloads.[127] Versions of OSX/Shlayer pass encrypted and password-protected code to openssl and then write the payload to the /tmp folder.[128][129]

S0598 P.A.S. Webshell

P.A.S. Webshell can use a decryption mechanism to process a user supplied password and allow execution.[65]

S0517 Pillowmint

Pillowmint has been decompressed by included shellcode prior to being launched.[130]

S0501 PipeMon

PipeMon can decrypt password-protected executables.[131]

S0013 PlugX

PlugX decompresses and decrypts itself using the Microsoft API call RtlDecompressBuffer.[132]

S0428 PoetRAT

PoetRAT has used LZMA and base64 libraries to decode obfuscated scripts.[133]

S0518 PolyglotDuke

PolyglotDuke can use a custom algorithm to decrypt strings used by the malware.[67]


POWERSTATS can deobfuscate the main backdoor code.[120]

S0279 Proton

Proton uses an encrypted file to store commands and configuration values.[134]

S0613 PS1

PS1 can use an XOR key to decrypt a PowerShell loader and payload binary.[50]


PUNCHBUGGY has used PowerShell to decode base64-encoded assembly.[135]

S0650 QakBot

QakBot can deobfuscate and re-assemble code strings for execution.[136][137][138]


QUADAGENT uses AES and a preshared key to decrypt the custom Base64 routine used to encode strings and scripts.[139]

S0565 Raindrop

Raindrop decrypted its Cobalt Strike payload using an AES-256 encryption algorithm in CBC mode with a unique key per sample.[11][140]

S0629 RainyDay

RainyDay can decrypt its payload via a XOR key.[141]

S0458 Ramsay

Ramsay can extract its agent from the body of a malicious document.[142]

S0495 RDAT

RDAT can deobfuscate the base64-encoded and AES-encrypted files downloaded from the C2 server.[143]

S0511 RegDuke

RegDuke can decrypt strings with a key either stored in the Registry or hardcoded in the code.[67]

S0375 Remexi

Remexi decrypts the configuration data using XOR with 25-character keys.[144]

S0496 REvil

REvil can decode encrypted strings to enable execution of commands and payloads.[145][146][147][148][149][150]

S0258 RGDoor

RGDoor decodes Base64 strings and decrypts strings using a custom XOR algorithm.[151]

S0448 Rising Sun

Rising Sun decrypted itself using a single-byte XOR scheme. Additionally, Rising Sun can decrypt its configuration data at runtime.[152]

G0106 Rocke

Rocke has extracted tar.gz files after downloading them from a C2 server.[153]

S0270 RogueRobin

RogueRobin decodes an embedded executable using base64 and decompresses it.[154]

G0034 Sandworm Team

Sandworm Team's VBS backdoor can decode Base64-encoded data and save it to the %TEMP% folder. The group also decrypted received information using the Triple DES algorithm and decompresses it using GZip.[155][156]

S0461 SDBbot

SDBbot has the ability to decrypt and decompress its payload to enable code execution.[157][158]

S0596 ShadowPad

ShadowPad has decrypted a binary blob to start execution.[159]

S0140 Shamoon

Shamoon decrypts ciphertext using an XOR cipher and a base64-encoded string.[160]

S0546 SharpStage

SharpStage has decompressed data received from the C2 server.[161]

S0444 ShimRat

ShimRat has decompressed its core DLL using shellcode once an impersonated antivirus component was running on a system.[162]

S0589 Sibot

Sibot can decrypt data received from a C2 and save to a file.[78]

S0610 SideTwist

SideTwist can decode and decrypt messages received from C2.[163]

S0623 Siloscape

Siloscape has decrypted the password of the C2 server with a simple byte by byte XOR. Siloscape also writes both an archive of Tor and the unzip binary to disk from data embedded within the payload using Visual Studio’s Resource Manager.[164]

S0468 Skidmap

Skidmap has the ability to download, unpack, and decrypt tar.gz files .[165]

S0226 Smoke Loader

Smoke Loader deobfuscates its code.[166]

S0615 SombRAT

SombRAT can run upload to decrypt and upload files from storage.[50][72]

S0516 SoreFang

SoreFang can decode and decrypt exfiltrated data sent to C2.[167]

S0543 Spark

Spark has used a custom XOR algorithm to decrypt the payload.[168]

S0390 SQLRat

SQLRat has scripts that are responsible for deobfuscating additional scripts.[169]

S0188 Starloader

Starloader decrypts and executes shellcode from a file called Stars.jps.[170]

S0603 Stuxnet

Stuxnet decrypts resources that are loaded into memory and executed.[171]


SUNSPOT decrypts SUNBURST, which was stored in AES128-CBC encrypted blobs.[172]

S0011 Taidoor

Taidoor can use a stream cipher to decrypt stings used by the malware.[173]


TEARDROP was decoded using a custom rolling XOR algorithm to execute a customized Cobalt Strike payload.[174][175][140]

G0027 Threat Group-3390

During execution, Threat Group-3390 malware deobfuscates and decompresses code that was encoded with Metasploit’s shikata_ga_nai encoder as well as compressed with LZNT1 compression.[176]

S0266 TrickBot

TrickBot decodes the configuration data and modules.[177][178][179]

G0081 Tropic Trooper

Tropic Trooper used shellcode with an XOR algorithm to decrypt a payload. Tropic Trooper also decrypted image files which contained a payload.[180][181]

S0436 TSCookie

TSCookie has the ability to decrypt, load, and execute a DLL and its resources.[182]

S0647 Turian

Turian has the ability to use a XOR decryption key to extract C2 server domains and IP addresses.[183]

G0010 Turla

Turla has used a custom decryption routine, which pulls key and salt values from other artifacts such as a WMI filter or PowerShell Profile, to decode encrypted PowerShell payloads.[184]


One TYPEFRAME variant decrypts an archive using an RC4 key, then decompresses and installs the decrypted malicious DLL module. Another variant decodes the embedded file by XORing it with the value "0x35".[185]

S0386 Ursnif

Ursnif has used crypto key information stored in the Registry to decrypt Tor clients dropped to disk.[186]

S0476 Valak

Valak has the ability to decode and decrypt downloaded files.[187][188]

S0636 VaporRage

VaporRage can deobfuscate XOR-encoded shellcode prior to execution.[33]


VERMIN decrypts code, strings, and commands to use once it's on the victim's machine.[189]

S0180 Volgmer

Volgmer deobfuscates its strings and APIs once its executed.[190]

S0612 WastedLocker

WastedLocker's custom cryptor, CryptOne, used an XOR based algorithm to decrypt the payload.[191]

S0579 Waterbear

Waterbear has the ability to decrypt its RC4 encrypted payload for execution.[192]

S0515 WellMail

WellMail can decompress scripts received from C2.[193]

S0514 WellMess

WellMess can decode and decrypt data received from C2.[194][195][196]

S0466 WindTail

WindTail has the ability to decrypt strings using hard-coded AES keys.[197]

S0430 Winnti for Linux

Winnti for Linux has decoded XOR encoded strings holding its configuration upon execution.[198]


WIRTE has decoded a base64 encoded document which was embedded in a VBS script.[199]

S0653 xCaon

xCaon has decoded strings from the C2 server before executing commands.[200]


YAHOYAH decrypts downloaded files before execution.[201]

S0251 Zebrocy

Zebrocy decodes its secondary payload and writes it to the victim’s machine. Zebrocy also uses AES and XOR to decrypt strings and payloads.[202][203]

S0230 ZeroT

ZeroT shellcode decrypts and decompresses its RC4-encrypted payload.[204]

S0330 Zeus Panda

Zeus Panda decrypts strings in the code during the execution process.[205]


ZIRCONIUM has used the AES256 algorithm with a SHA1 derived key to decrypt exploit code.[206]


This type of attack technique cannot be easily mitigated with preventive controls since it is based on the abuse of system features.


ID Data Source Data Component
DS0022 File File Modification
DS0009 Process Process Creation
DS0012 Script Script Execution

Detecting the action of deobfuscating or decoding files or information may be difficult depending on the implementation. If the functionality is contained within malware and uses the Windows API, then attempting to detect malicious behavior before or after the action may yield better results than attempting to perform analysis on loaded libraries or API calls. If scripts are used, then collecting the scripts for analysis may be necessary. Perform process and command-line monitoring to detect potentially malicious behavior related to scripts and system utilities such as certutil.

Monitor the execution file paths and command-line arguments for common archive file applications and extensions, such as those for Zip and RAR archive tools, and correlate with other suspicious behavior to reduce false positives from normal user and administrator behavior.


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