Skip to content

T1091 Replication Through Removable Media

Adversaries may move onto systems, possibly those on disconnected or air-gapped networks, by copying malware to removable media and taking advantage of Autorun features when the media is inserted into a system and executes. In the case of Lateral Movement, this may occur through modification of executable files stored on removable media or by copying malware and renaming it to look like a legitimate file to trick users into executing it on a separate system. In the case of Initial Access, this may occur through manual manipulation of the media, modification of systems used to initially format the media, or modification to the media’s firmware itself.

Mobile devices may also be used to infect PCs with malware if connected via USB.3 This infection may be achieved using devices (Android, iOS, etc.) and, in some instances, USB charging cables.12 For example, when a smartphone is connected to a system, it may appear to be mounted similar to a USB-connected disk drive. If malware that is compatible with the connected system is on the mobile device, the malware could infect the machine (especially if Autorun features are enabled).

Item Value
ID T1091
Tactics TA0008, TA0001
Platforms Windows
Version 1.2
Created 31 May 2017
Last Modified 21 October 2022

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S0092 Agent.btz Agent.btz drops itself onto removable media devices and creates an autorun.inf file with an instruction to run that file. When the device is inserted into another system, it opens autorun.inf and loads the malware.27
G1007 Aoqin Dragon Aoqin Dragon has used a dropper that employs a worm infection strategy using a removable device to breach a secure network environment.31
G0007 APT28 APT28 uses a tool to infect connected USB devices and transmit itself to air-gapped computers when the infected USB device is inserted.11
S0023 CHOPSTICK Part of APT28‘s operation involved using CHOPSTICK modules to copy itself to air-gapped machines and using files written to USB sticks to transfer data and command traffic.121113
S0608 Conficker Conficker variants used the Windows AUTORUN feature to spread through USB propagation.1415
S0115 Crimson Crimson can spread across systems by infecting removable media.26
G0012 Darkhotel Darkhotel‘s selective infector modifies executables stored on removable media as a method of spreading across computers.30
S0062 DustySky DustySky searches for removable media and duplicates itself onto it.23
G0046 FIN7 FIN7 actors have mailed USB drives to potential victims containing malware that downloads and installs various backdoors, including in some cases for ransomware operations.32
S0143 Flame Flame contains modules to infect USB sticks and spread laterally to other Windows systems the stick is plugged into using Autorun functionality.18
S0132 H1N1 H1N1 has functionality to copy itself to removable media.17
G1014 LuminousMoth LuminousMoth has used malicious DLLs to spread malware to connected removable USB drives on infected machines.2928
G0129 Mustang Panda Mustang Panda has used a customized PlugX variant which could spread through USB connections.33
S0385 njRAT njRAT can be configured to spread via removable drives.1920
S0650 QakBot QakBot has the ability to use removable drives to spread through compromised networks.25
S0458 Ramsay Ramsay can spread itself by infecting other portable executable files on removable drives.9
S0028 SHIPSHAPE APT30 may have used the SHIPSHAPE malware to move onto air-gapped networks. SHIPSHAPE targets removable drives to spread to other systems by modifying the drive to use Autorun to execute or by hiding legitimate document files and copying an executable to the folder with the same name as the legitimate document.8
S0603 Stuxnet Stuxnet can propagate via removable media using an autorun.inf file or the CVE-2010-2568 LNK vulnerability.10
G0081 Tropic Trooper Tropic Trooper has attempted to transfer USBferry from an infected USB device by copying an Autorun function to the target machine.24
S0130 Unknown Logger Unknown Logger is capable of spreading to USB devices.7
S0386 Ursnif Ursnif has copied itself to and infected removable drives for propagation.2122
S0452 USBferry USBferry can copy its installer to attached USB storage devices.24
S0136 USBStealer USBStealer drops itself onto removable media and relies on Autorun to execute the malicious file when a user opens the removable media on another system.16


ID Mitigation Description
M1040 Behavior Prevention on Endpoint On Windows 10, enable Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) rules to block unsigned/untrusted executable files (such as .exe, .dll, or .scr) from running from USB removable drives. 6
M1042 Disable or Remove Feature or Program Disable Autorun if it is unnecessary. 4 Disallow or restrict removable media at an organizational policy level if it is not required for business operations. 5
M1034 Limit Hardware Installation Limit the use of USB devices and removable media within a network.


ID Data Source Data Component
DS0016 Drive Drive Creation
DS0022 File File Access
DS0009 Process Process Creation


  1. Lucian Constantin. (2014, January 23). Windows malware tries to infect Android devices connected to PCs. Retrieved May 25, 2022. 

  2. Zack Whittaker. (2019, August 12). This hacker’s iPhone charging cable can hijack your computer. Retrieved May 25, 2022. 

  3. Zhaohui Wang & Angelos Stavrou. (n.d.). Exploiting Smart-Phone USB Connectivity For Fun And Profit. Retrieved May 25, 2022. 

  4. Microsoft. (n.d.). How to disable the Autorun functionality in Windows. Retrieved April 20, 2016. 

  5. Microsoft. (2007, August 31). Retrieved April 20, 2016. 

  6. Microsoft. (2021, July 2). Use attack surface reduction rules to prevent malware infection. Retrieved June 24, 2021. 

  7. Settle, A., et al. (2016, August 8). MONSOON - Analysis Of An APT Campaign. Retrieved September 22, 2016. 

  8. FireEye Labs. (2015, April). APT30 AND THE MECHANICS OF A LONG-RUNNING CYBER ESPIONAGE OPERATION. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 

  9. Sanmillan, I.. (2020, May 13). Ramsay: A cyber‑espionage toolkit tailored for air‑gapped networks. Retrieved May 27, 2020. 

  10. Nicolas Falliere, Liam O Murchu, Eric Chien 2011, February W32.Stuxnet Dossier (Version 1.4) Retrieved. 2017/09/22  

  11. Anthe, C. et al. (2015, October 19). Microsoft Security Intelligence Report Volume 19. Retrieved December 23, 2015. 

  12. FireEye. (2015). APT28: A WINDOW INTO RUSSIA’S CYBER ESPIONAGE OPERATIONS?. Retrieved August 19, 2015. 

  13. Secureworks CTU. (2017, March 30). IRON TWILIGHT Supports Active Measures. Retrieved February 28, 2022. 

  14. Burton, K. (n.d.). The Conficker Worm. Retrieved February 18, 2021. 

  15. Trend Micro. (2014, March 18). Conficker. Retrieved February 18, 2021. 

  16. Calvet, J. (2014, November 11). Sednit Espionage Group Attacking Air-Gapped Networks. Retrieved January 4, 2017. 

  17. Reynolds, J.. (2016, September 14). H1N1: Technical analysis reveals new capabilities – part 2. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 

  18. Gostev, A. (2012, May 28). The Flame: Questions and Answers. Retrieved March 1, 2017. 

  19. Fidelis Cybersecurity. (2013, June 28). Fidelis Threat Advisory #1009: “njRAT” Uncovered. Retrieved June 4, 2019. 

  20. Pascual, C. (2018, November 27). AutoIt-Compiled Worm Affecting Removable Media Delivers Fileless Version of BLADABINDI/njRAT Backdoor. Retrieved June 4, 2019. 

  21. Caragay, R. (2015, March 26). URSNIF: The Multifaceted Malware. Retrieved June 5, 2019. 

  22. Caragay, R. (2014, December 11). Info-Stealing File Infector Hits US, UK. Retrieved June 5, 2019. 

  23. ClearSky. (2016, January 7). Operation DustySky. Retrieved January 8, 2016. 

  24. Chen, J.. (2020, May 12). Tropic Trooper’s Back: USBferry Attack Targets Air gapped Environments. Retrieved May 20, 2020. 

  25. Mendoza, E. et al. (2020, May 25). Qakbot Resurges, Spreads through VBS Files. Retrieved September 27, 2021. 

  26. Dedola, G. (2020, August 20). Transparent Tribe: Evolution analysis, part 1. Retrieved September 2, 2021. 

  27. Shevchenko, S.. (2008, November 30). Agent.btz - A Threat That Hit Pentagon. Retrieved April 8, 2016. 

  28. Botezatu, B and etl. (2021, July 21). LuminousMoth - PlugX, File Exfiltration and Persistence Revisited. Retrieved October 20, 2022. 

  29. Lechtik, M, and etl. (2021, July 14). LuminousMoth APT: Sweeping attacks for the chosen few. Retrieved October 20, 2022. 

  30. Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team. (2014, November). The Darkhotel APT A Story of Unusual Hospitality. Retrieved November 12, 2014. 

  31. Chen, Joey. (2022, June 9). Aoqin Dragon | Newly-Discovered Chinese-linked APT Has Been Quietly Spying On Organizations For 10 Years. Retrieved July 14, 2022. 

  32. The Record. (2022, January 7). FBI: FIN7 hackers target US companies with BadUSB devices to install ransomware. Retrieved January 14, 2022. 

  33. Hamzeloofard, S. (2020, January 31). New wave of PlugX targets Hong Kong | Avira Blog. Retrieved April 13, 2021.