Trusted developer utilities such as MSBuild may be leveraged to run malicious code with elevated privileges. This analytic looks for any instances of msbuild.exe, which will execute any C# code placed within a given XML document; and msxsl.exe, which processes xsl transformation specifications for XML files and will execute a variaty of scripting languages contained within the XSL file. Both of these executables are rarely used outside of Visual Studio.

ATT&CK Detection

Technique Subtechnique(s) Tactic(s) Level of Coverage
Trusted Developer Utilities Proxy Execution MSBuild Defense Evasion High

Data Model References

Object Action Field
process create exe
process create image_path


Pseudocode - msbuild (Pseudocode, CAR native)

This is a pseudocode representation of the below splunk search.

processes = search Process:Create
target_processes = filter processes where (
  (exe="C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\*\bin\MSBuild.exe" OR exe="C:\Windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework*\msbuild.exe" OR exe="C:\users\*\appdata\roaming\microsoft\msxsl.exe") AND
  image_path!="*Microsoft Visual Studio*")
output target_processes

Splunk Search - msbuild (Splunk, Sysmon native)

Looks for all instances of msbuild.exe or msxsl.exe

(index=__your_sysmon_index__ EventCode=1) (Image="C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Microsoft Visual Studio\\*\\bin\\MSBuild.exe" OR Image="C:\\Windows\\Microsoft.NET\\Framework*\\msbuild.exe" OR Image="C:\\users\\*\\appdata\\roaming\\microsoft\\msxsl.exe") ParentImage!="*\\Microsoft Visual Studio*")