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CAPEC-186: Malicious Software Update

Attack Pattern ID: 186
Abstraction: Standard
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
An attacker uses deceptive methods to cause a user or an automated process to download and install dangerous code believed to be a valid update that originates from an attacker controlled source. Although there are several variations to this strategy of attack, the attack methods are united in that all rely on the ability of an attacker to position and disguise malicious content such that it masquerades as a legitimate software update which is then processed by a program, undermining application integrity. As such the attack employs 'spoofing' techniques augmented by psychological or technological mechanisms to disguise the update and/or its source. Virtually all software requires frequent updates or patches, giving the attacker immense latitude when structuring the attack, as well as many targets of opportunity. Attacks involving malicious software updates can be targeted or untargeted in reference to a population of users, and can also involve manual and automatic means of payload installation. Untargeted attacks rely upon a mass delivery system such as spamming, phishing, or trojans/botnets to distribute emails or other messages to vast populations of users. Targeted attacks aim at a particular demographic or user population. Corporate Facebook or Myspace pages make it easy to target users of a specific company or affiliation without relying on email address harvesting or spamming. One phishing-assisted variation on this attack involves hosting what appears to be a software update, then harvesting actual email addresses for an organization, or generating commonly used email addresses, and then sending spam, phishing, or spear-phishing emails to the organization's users requesting that they manually download and install the malicious software update. This type of attack has also been conducted using an Instant Messaging virus payload, which harvests the names from a user's contact list and sends instant messages to those users to download and apply the update. While both methods involve a high degree of automated mechanisms to support the attack, the primary vector for achieving the installation of the update remains a manual user-directed process, although clicking a link within an IM client or web application may initiate the update. Other class of attacks focus on firmware, where malicious updates are made to the core system firmware or BIOS. Since this occurs outside the controls of the operating system, the OS detection and prevention mechanisms do not aid, thus allowing an adversary to evade defenses as well as gain persistence on the target's system. Automated attacks involving malicious software updates require little to no user-directed activity and are therefore advantageous because they avoid the complex preliminary setup stages of manual attacks, which must effectively 'hook' users while avoiding countermeasures such as spam filters or web security filters.
+ Typical Severity

High

+ Relationships

The table(s) below shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as CanFollow, PeerOf, and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar attack patterns that the user may want to explore.

+ Relevant to the view "Mechanisms of Attack" (CAPEC-1000)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfMeta Attack PatternMeta Attack Pattern - A meta level attack pattern in CAPEC is a decidedly abstract characterization of a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. A meta attack pattern is often void of a specific technology or implementation and is meant to provide an understanding of a high level approach. A meta level attack pattern is a generalization of related group of standard level attack patterns. Meta level attack patterns are particularly useful for architecture and design level threat modeling exercises.184Software Integrity Attack
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.187Malicious Automated Software Update
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.533Malicious Manual Software Update
ParentOfDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.614Rooting SIM Cards
+ Skills Required
[Level: High]
This attack requires advanced cyber capabilities
+ Resources Required
Manual or user-assisted attacks require deceptive mechanisms to trick the user into clicking a link or downloading and installing software. Automated update attacks require the attacker to host a payload and then trigger the installation of the payload code.
+ Consequences

The table below specifies different individual consequences associated with the attack pattern. The Scope identifies the security property that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in their attack. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a pattern will be used to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.

ScopeImpactLikelihood
Access Control
Availability
Confidentiality
Execute Unauthorized Commands
+ Mitigations
Validate software updates before installing.
+ Content History
Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2014-06-23CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2015-11-09CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Activation_Zone, Attack_Motivation-Consequences, Attacker_Skills_or_Knowledge_Required, Description Summary, Injection_Vector, Payload, Payload_Activation_Impact, Solutions_and_Mitigations, Typical_Severity
2018-07-31CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Attack_Motivation-Consequences, Description Summary

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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: July 31, 2018