Remote File Download via Script Interpreteredit

Identifies built-in Windows script interpreters (cscript.exe or wscript.exe) being used to download an executable file from a remote destination.

Rule type: eql

Rule indices:

  • winlogbeat-*
  • logs-windows.*

Severity: medium

Risk score: 47

Runs every: 5m

Searches indices from: now-9m (Date Math format, see also Additional look-back time)

Maximum alerts per execution: 100

References: None


  • Elastic
  • Host
  • Windows
  • Threat Detection
  • Command and Control

Version: 5

Rule authors:

  • Elastic

Rule license: Elastic License v2

Investigation guideedit

## Triage and analysis

### Investigating Remote File Download via Script Interpreter

The Windows Script Host (WSH) is a Windows automation technology, which is ideal for non-interactive scripting needs,
such as logon scripting, administrative scripting, and machine automation.

Attackers commonly use WSH scripts as their initial access method, acting like droppers for second stage payloads, but
can also use them to download tools and utilities needed to accomplish their goals.

This rule looks for DLLs and executables downloaded using `cscript.exe` or `wscript.exe`.

#### Possible investigation steps

- Investigate the process execution chain (parent process tree) for unknown processes. Examine their executable files
for prevalence, whether they are located in expected locations, and if they are signed with valid digital signatures.
- Retrieve the script file and the executable involved and determine if they are malicious:
  - Use a private sandboxed malware analysis system to perform analysis.
    - Observe and collect information about the following activities:
      - Attempts to contact external domains and addresses.
      - File and registry access, modification, and creation activities.
      - Service creation and launch activities.
      - Scheduled tasks creation.
  - Use the PowerShell Get-FileHash cmdlet to get the files' SHA-256 hash values.
    - Search for the existence and reputation of the hashes in resources like VirusTotal, Hybrid-Analysis, CISCO Talos,, etc.
  - Manually analyze the script to determine if malicious capabilities are present.
- Investigate whether the potential malware ran successfully, is active on the host, or was stopped by defenses.
- Investigate other alerts associated with the user/host during the past 48 hours.
- Assess whether this behavior is prevalent in the environment by looking for similar occurrences across hosts.

### False positive analysis

- The usage of these script engines by regular users is unlikely. In the case of authorized benign true positives
(B-TPs), exceptions can be added.

### Response and remediation

- Initiate the incident response process based on the outcome of the triage.
- Isolate the involved host to prevent further post-compromise behavior.
- If the triage identified malware, search the environment for additional compromised hosts.
  - Implement temporary network rules, procedures, and segmentation to contain the malware.
  - Stop suspicious processes.
  - Immediately block the identified indicators of compromise (IoCs).
  - Inspect the affected systems for additional malware backdoors like reverse shells, reverse proxies, or droppers that
  attackers could use to reinfect the system.
- Remove and block malicious artifacts identified during triage.
- Run a full antimalware scan. This may reveal additional artifacts left in the system, persistence mechanisms, and
malware components.
- Investigate credential exposure on systems compromised or used by the attacker to ensure all compromised accounts are
identified. Reset passwords for these accounts and other potentially compromised credentials, such as email, business
systems, and web services.
- Determine the initial vector abused by the attacker and take action to prevent reinfection through the same vector.
- Using the incident response data, update logging and audit policies to improve the mean time to detect (MTTD) and the
mean time to respond (MTTR).

Rule queryedit

sequence by, process.entity_id
  [network where : ("wscript.exe", "cscript.exe") and network.protocol != "dns" and
   network.direction : ("outgoing", "egress") and network.type == "ipv4" and destination.ip != ""
  [file where event.type == "creation" and file.extension : ("exe", "dll")]