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Process Masquerading and Detection Methods in Cybersecurity

Process masquerading is a critical concept in cybersecurity, where attackers disguise their activities by mimicking the identity of legitimate processes or applications to evade detection. In executing malware, attackers often adopt the names of well-known processes or application titles to conceal their malicious actions.


For example, an attacker might execute a malicious file under the name cscript.exe to avoid raising suspicion, leveraging the legitimacy of cscript.exe as a Windows script host. This tactic assists attackers in obscuring their actions and thwarting detection efforts.


Process masquerading is frequently employed to bolster the persistence of malicious software and minimize the risk of detection. Consequently, cybersecurity experts and systems strive to develop effective detection rules and techniques capable of identifying unexpected or abnormal process activities.



Crafting an effective process masquerading detection rule is pivotal in detecting attackers. Process masquerading occurs when a process operates under an unexpected name or in an unusual directory. This article provides essential insights into creating an effective process masquerading detection rule.


Process Masquerading Detection Methods


1. Principles of the Rule: When formulating an effective process masquerading detection rule, adherence to the following principles is crucial:

  • Expected Directory and File Names: For instance, the cscript.exe file typically resides in the c:\Windows\system32 or c:\Windows\SysWOW64 directories. The rule should encompass these expected directories and file names.

  • Valid Process Names: Knowing the valid process names running on your system is critical for detecting unexpected process names. For instance, an alert should be triggered if a process named cscrip.exe is detected instead of cscript.exe.

2. File Location Analysis: File location analysis is paramount in process masquerading detection. During the examination of security logs, the detection rule should focus on unexpected directories or user directories where a file is running. Detection of a file running in these locations may indicate malicious activity. The rule should prioritize detecting abnormal activities based on file location.


3. Name Similarity Analysis: Attackers may attempt to bypass detection efforts by using name similarity. Name similarity analysis should focus on detecting file names that are similar to expected names but with slight variations. For example, identifying a file named cscrip.exe instead of cscript.exe is a critical indicator for process masquerading detection.


4. Software Behavior Analysis: While creating a process masquerading detection rule, it is essential to focus not only on file location and name similarities but also on software behavior analysis. Detection of unexpected behaviors, especially those causing harm to system resources or providing access to sensitive information, should be prioritized by the rule.


An effective process masquerading detection rule should be prepared in accordance with these principles and continuously updated. This rule equips security teams to swiftly detect and respond to unexpected process activities, establishing a robust defense against potential threats. It is crucial to acknowledge that cybersecurity is an evolving process, and detection rules must adapt to these changes.

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