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The following analytic detects the use of CertUtil.exe with the 'decode' argument, which may indicate an attempt to decode a previously encoded file, potentially containing malicious payloads. This detection leverages data from Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) agents, focusing on command-line executions involving CertUtil.exe. This activity is significant because attackers often use CertUtil to decode malicious files downloaded from the internet, which are then executed to compromise the system. If confirmed malicious, this activity could lead to unauthorized code execution, further system compromise, and potential data exfiltration.

  • Type: TTP
  • Product: Splunk Enterprise, Splunk Enterprise Security, Splunk Cloud
  • Datamodel: Endpoint
  • Last Updated: 2024-05-27
  • Author: Michael Haag, Splunk
  • ID: bfe94226-8c10-11eb-a4b3-acde48001122




ID Technique Tactic
T1140 Deobfuscate/Decode Files or Information Defense Evasion
Kill Chain Phase
  • Exploitation
  • DE.CM
  • CIS 10
| tstats `security_content_summariesonly` count min(_time) as firstTime max(_time) as lastTime from datamodel=Endpoint.Processes where `process_certutil` Processes.process=*decode* by Processes.dest Processes.user Processes.parent_process Processes.parent_process_name Processes.process_name Processes.process Processes.process_id Processes.parent_process_id 
| `drop_dm_object_name(Processes)` 
| `security_content_ctime(firstTime)` 
| `security_content_ctime(lastTime)` 
| `certutil_with_decode_argument_filter`


The SPL above uses the following Macros:

:information_source: certutil_with_decode_argument_filter is a empty macro by default. It allows the user to filter out any results (false positives) without editing the SPL.

Required fields

List of fields required to use this analytic.

  • _time
  • Processes.dest
  • Processes.user
  • Processes.parent_process_name
  • Processes.parent_process
  • Processes.original_file_name
  • Processes.process_name
  • Processes.process
  • Processes.process_id
  • Processes.parent_process_path
  • Processes.process_path
  • Processes.parent_process_id

How To Implement

The detection is based on data that originates from Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) agents. These agents are designed to provide security-related telemetry from the endpoints where the agent is installed. To implement this search, you must ingest logs that contain the process GUID, process name, and parent process. Additionally, you must ingest complete command-line executions. These logs must be processed using the appropriate Splunk Technology Add-ons that are specific to the EDR product. The logs must also be mapped to the Processes node of the Endpoint data model. Use the Splunk Common Information Model (CIM) to normalize the field names and speed up the data modeling process.

Known False Positives

Typically seen used to encode files, but it is possible to see legitimate use of decode. Filter based on parent-child relationship, file paths, endpoint or user.

Associated Analytic Story


Risk Score Impact Confidence Message
40.0 50 80 An instance of $parent_process_name$ spawning $process_name$ was identified on endpoint $dest$ by user $user$ attempting to decode a file.

:information_source: The Risk Score is calculated by the following formula: Risk Score = (Impact * Confidence/100). Initial Confidence and Impact is set by the analytic author.


Test Dataset

Replay any dataset to Splunk Enterprise by using our tool or the UI. Alternatively you can replay a dataset into a Splunk Attack Range

source | version: 3