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T1543.004 Launch Daemon

Adversaries may create or modify Launch Daemons to execute malicious payloads as part of persistence. Launch Daemons are plist files used to interact with Launchd, the service management framework used by macOS. Launch Daemons require elevated privileges to install, are executed for every user on a system prior to login, and run in the background without the need for user interaction. During the macOS initialization startup, the launchd process loads the parameters for launch-on-demand system-level daemons from plist files found in /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ and /Library/LaunchDaemons/. Required Launch Daemons parameters include a Label to identify the task, Program to provide a path to the executable, and RunAtLoad to specify when the task is run. Launch Daemons are often used to provide access to shared resources, updates to software, or conduct automation tasks.123

Adversaries may install a Launch Daemon configured to execute at startup by using the RunAtLoad parameter set to true and the Program parameter set to the malicious executable path. The daemon name may be disguised by using a name from a related operating system or benign software (i.e. Masquerading). When the Launch Daemon is executed, the program inherits administrative permissions.45

Additionally, system configuration changes (such as the installation of third party package managing software) may cause folders such as usr/local/bin to become globally writeable. So, it is possible for poor configurations to allow an adversary to modify executables referenced by current Launch Daemon’s plist files.67

Item Value
ID T1543.004
Sub-techniques T1543.001, T1543.002, T1543.003, T1543.004
Tactics TA0003, TA0004
Platforms macOS
Permissions required Administrator
Version 1.2
Created 17 January 2020
Last Modified 30 March 2023

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S0584 AppleJeus AppleJeus has placed a plist file within the LaunchDaemons folder and launched it manually.1819
S0482 Bundlore Bundlore can persist via a LaunchDaemon.14
S0497 Dacls Dacls can establish persistence via a Launch Daemon.1213
S0690 Green Lambert Green Lambert can add a plist file in the Library/LaunchDaemons to establish persistence.1011
S0451 LoudMiner LoudMiner adds plist files with the naming format com.[random_name].plist in the /Library/LaunchDaemons folder with the RunAtLoad and KeepAlive keys set to true.17
S0352 OSX_OCEANLOTUS.D If running with root permissions, OSX_OCEANLOTUS.D can create a persistence file in the folder /Library/LaunchDaemons.89
S0595 ThiefQuest When running with root privileges after a Launch Agent is installed, ThiefQuest installs a plist file to the /Library/LaunchDaemons/ folder with the RunAtLoad key set to true establishing persistence as a Launch Daemon. 16
S0658 XCSSET XCSSET uses the ssh launchdaemon to elevate privileges, bypass system controls, and enable remote access to the victim.15


ID Mitigation Description
M1047 Audit Use auditing tools capable of detecting folder permissions abuse opportunities on systems, especially reviewing changes made to folders by third-party software.
M1018 User Account Management Limit privileges of user accounts and remediate Privilege Escalation vectors so only authorized administrators can create new Launch Daemons.


ID Data Source Data Component
DS0017 Command Command Execution
DS0022 File File Creation
DS0009 Process Process Creation
DS0019 Service Service Creation


  1. Apple. (n.d.). Creating Launch Daemons and Agents. Retrieved July 10, 2017. 

  2. Patrick Wardle. (2014, September). Methods of Malware Persistence on Mac OS X. Retrieved July 5, 2017. 

  3. Dennis German. (2020, November 20). launchd Keywords for plists. Retrieved October 7, 2021. 

  4. Claud Xiao. (n.d.). WireLurker: A New Era in iOS and OS X Malware. Retrieved July 10, 2017. 

  5. Patrick Wardle. (2016, February 29). Let’s Play Doctor: Practical OS X Malware Detection & Analysis. Retrieved July 10, 2017. 

  6. Bradley Kemp. (2021, May 10). LaunchDaemon Hijacking: privilege escalation and persistence via insecure folder permissions. Retrieved July 26, 2021. 

  7. Stokes, Phil. (2019, June 17). HOW MALWARE PERSISTS ON MACOS. Retrieved September 10, 2019. 

  8. Horejsi, J. (2018, April 04). New MacOS Backdoor Linked to OceanLotus Found. Retrieved November 13, 2018. 

  9. Phil Stokes. (2020, December 2). APT32 Multi-stage macOS Trojan Innovates on Crimeware Scripting Technique. Retrieved September 13, 2021. 

  10. Sandvik, Runa. (2021, October 1). Made In America: Green Lambert for OS X. Retrieved March 21, 2022. 

  11. Sandvik, Runa. (2021, October 18). Green Lambert and ATT&CK. Retrieved March 21, 2022. 

  12. Stokes, P. (2020, July 27). Four Distinct Families of Lazarus Malware Target Apple’s macOS Platform. Retrieved August 7, 2020. 

  13. Mabutas, G. (2020, May 11). New MacOS Dacls RAT Backdoor Shows Lazarus’ Multi-Platform Attack Capability. Retrieved August 10, 2020. 

  14. Sushko, O. (2019, April 17). macOS Bundlore: Mac Virus Bypassing macOS Security Features. Retrieved June 30, 2020. 

  15. Mac Threat Response, Mobile Research Team. (2020, August 13). The XCSSET Malware: Inserts Malicious Code Into Xcode Projects, Performs UXSS Backdoor Planting in Safari, and Leverages Two Zero-day Exploits. Retrieved October 5, 2021. 

  16. Patrick Wardle. (2020, June 29). OSX.EvilQuest Uncovered part i: infection, persistence, and more!. Retrieved March 18, 2021. 

  17. Malik, M. (2019, June 20). LoudMiner: Cross-platform mining in cracked VST software. Retrieved May 18, 2020. 

  18. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. (2021, February 21). AppleJeus: Analysis of North Korea’s Cryptocurrency Malware. Retrieved March 1, 2021. 

  19. Patrick Wardle. (2019, October 12). Pass the AppleJeus. Retrieved September 28, 2022.