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Initial Access

Initial Access Files in the context of a Red Team exercise refer to the set of files, scripts, executables, or documents used by the Red Team to initially infiltrate the target system or network. These files often contain malicious payloads or are designed to exploit specific vulnerabilities in order to establish a foothold in the target environment.


Complex Chains


  • DELIVERY: means to deliver a pack full of files
    • HTML Smuggling, SVG Smuggling, Attachments
  • CONTAINER: archive bundling all infection dependencies
  • TRIGGER: some way to run the payload
    • LNK, CHM, ClickOnce applications
  • PAYLOAD: the malware
    • Binary Files
    • Code Execution Files
    • Embedded Files
  • DECOY: used to continue pretext narration after detonating malware
    • Typically open PDF files

Examples: * HTML SMUGGLING(PASSWORD PROTECTED ZIP + ISO(LNK + IcedID + PNG)) used by TA551/Storm-0303


  • ISO/IMG - can contain hidden files, gets automounted giving easy access to contained files (powershell –c .\malware.exe)
  • ZIP - can contain hidden files (locate ZIP + unpack it + change dir + run Malware)
  • WIM - Windows Image, builtin format used to deploy system features
    # Mount/Unmount .WIM
    PS> Mount-WindowsImage -ImagePath myarchive.wim -Path "C:\output\path\to\extract" -Index 1
    PS> Dismount-WindowsImage -Path "C:\output\path\to\extract" -Discard
  • 7-zip, RAR, GZ - should get a native support on Windows 11


  • LNK
  • CHM
  • ClickOnce


Binary Files

These files can be executed directly on the system without any third party.

  • .exe file, executable file can be run with a click
  • .dll file, execute with rundll32 main.dll,DllMain
    #define WIN32_LEAN_AND_MEAN
    #include <windows.h>
    extern "C" __declspec(dllexport)
    DWORD WINAPI MessageBoxThread(LPVOID lpParam) {
    MessageBox(NULL, "Hello world!", "Hello World!", NULL);
    return 0;
    extern "C" __declspec(dllexport)
                        DWORD ul_reason_for_call,
                        LPVOID lpReserved) {
    switch (ul_reason_for_call) {
        case DLL_PROCESS_ATTACH:
        CreateThread(NULL, NULL, MessageBoxThread, NULL, NULL, NULL);
        case DLL_THREAD_ATTACH:
        case DLL_THREAD_DETACH:
        case DLL_PROCESS_DETACH:
    return TRUE;
  • .cpl file, same as a .dll file with Cplapplet export
    #include "stdafx.h"
    #include <Windows.h>
    extern "C" __declspec(dllexport) LONG Cplapplet(
        HWND hwndCpl,
        UINT msg,
        LPARAM lParam1,
        LPARAM lParam2
        MessageBoxA(NULL, "Hey there, I am now your control panel item you know.", "Control Panel", 0);
        return 1;
                        DWORD  ul_reason_for_call,
                        LPVOID lpReserved
        switch (ul_reason_for_call)
        case DLL_PROCESS_ATTACH:
            Cplapplet(NULL, NULL, NULL, NULL);
        case DLL_THREAD_ATTACH:
        case DLL_THREAD_DETACH:
        case DLL_PROCESS_DETACH:
        return TRUE;

Code Execution Files

  • Word with Macro (.doc, .docm)
  • Excel library (.xll)
  • Excel macro-enabled add-in file (.xlam)
    xcopy /Q/R/S/Y/H/G/I evil.ini %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Excel\XLSTART
  • WSF files (.wsf)
  • MSI installers (.msi)
    powershell Unblock-File evil.msi; msiexec /q /i .\evil.msi 
  • MSIX/APPX app package (.msix, .appx)
  • ClickOnce (.application, .vsto, .appref-ms)
  • Powershell scripts (.ps1)
  • Windows Script Host scripts (.wsh, .vbs)
    cscript.exe payload.vbs
    wscript payload.vbs
    wscript /e:VBScript payload.txt

Embedded Files

  • ICS Calendar Invites with Embedded Files

Code Signing

Certificate can be Expired, Revoked, Valid.

Many certificates leaked on the Internet and got re-used by Threat Actor. Some of them can be found on VirusTotal, with the query : content:{02 01 03 30}@4 AND NOT tag:peexe

In 2022, LAPSUS$ claimed responsibility for a cyberattack on NVIDIA, a major graphics card and AI technology manufacturer. As part of this attack, LAPSUS$ allegedly stole proprietary data from NVIDIA and threatened to leak it. The leak contained

  • Certificates can be password protected. Use
    john --wordlist=/opt/wordlists/rockyou.txt --format=pfx pfx.hashes
  • Sign a binary with a certificate.
    osslsigncode sign -pkcs12 certs/nvidia-2014.pfx -in mimikatz.exe -out generated/signed-mimikatz.exe -pass nv1d1aRules
  • The following files can be signed with a certificate
    • executables: .exe, .dll, .ocx, .xll, .wll
    • scripts: .vbs, .js, .ps1
    • installers: .msi, .msix, .appx, .msixbundle, .appxbundle
    • drivers: .sys
    • cabinets: .cab
    • ClickOnce: .application, .manifest, .vsto