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The following analytic identifies the use of svc-exe with Cobalt Strike. The behavior typically follows after an adversary has already gained initial access and is escalating privileges. Using svc-exe, a randomly named binary will be downloaded from the remote Teamserver and placed on disk within C:\Windows\400619a.exe. Following, the binary will be added to the registry under key HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\400619a\ with multiple keys and values added to look like a legitimate service. Upon loading, services.exe will spawn the randomly named binary from \\\ADMIN$\400619a.exe. The process lineage is completed with 400619a.exe spawning rundll32.exe, which is the default spawnto_ value for Cobalt Strike. The spawnto_ value is arbitrary and may be any process on disk (typically system32/syswow64 binary). The spawnto_ process will also contain a network connection. During triage, review parallel procesess and identify any additional file modifications.

  • Type: TTP
  • Product: Splunk Enterprise, Splunk Enterprise Security, Splunk Cloud
  • Datamodel: Endpoint
  • Last Updated: 2023-11-07
  • Author: Michael Haag, Splunk
  • ID: c448488c-b7ec-11eb-8253-acde48001122




ID Technique Tactic
T1548 Abuse Elevation Control Mechanism Privilege Escalation, 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 Processes.parent_process_name=services.exe Processes.process_path=*admin$* by Processes.process_path Processes.dest Processes.user Processes.parent_process_name Processes.parent_process 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)` 
| `services_escalate_exe_filter`


The SPL above uses the following Macros:

:information_source: services_escalate_exe_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
  • Processes.process_name
  • Processes.process
  • Processes.process_id
  • 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

False positives should be limited as services.exe should never spawn a process from ADMIN$. Filter as needed.

Associated Analytic Story


Risk Score Impact Confidence Message
76.0 80 95 A service process $parent_process_name$ with process path $process_path$ in host $dest$

: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

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