December 11, 2023

Microsoft Security Intelligence comes with a warning about an attack campaign targeting SQL servers and using a new approach to evade PowerShell monitoring.

Threat actors are using sqlps.exe, a utility that comes standard with every version of SQL and functions as a wrapper for running SQL-built CMDlets, to run commands and change the start mode of the SQL service to LocalSystem.

The new campaign starts with a brute-force attack and ultimately allows attackers to take over the targeted servers and deploy malware such as coin miners.

Defenders should take note of the co-opting of the sqlps.exe utility and start to monitor their SQL server environments for its use as closely as they do for PowerShell, according to the Microsoft Security Intelligence team’s advisory tweets.


The use of this uncommon living-off-the-land binary (LOLBin) highlights the importance of gaining full visibility into the runtime behavior of scripts in order to expose malicious code.

Defense in depth strategy with WAF placement can protect from these type of LOL attacks

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