Access Token Manipulation: Parent PID Spoofing

Created the Tuesday 27 July 2021. Updated 8 months, 2 weeks ago.

Adversaries may spoof the parent process identifier (PPID) of a new process to evade process-monitoring defenses or to elevate privileges. New processes are typically spawned directly from their parent, or calling, process unless explicitly specified.

One way of explicitly assigning the PPID of a new process is via the CreateProcess API call, which supports a parameter that defines the PPID to use. This functionality is used by Windows features such as User Account Control (UAC) to correctly set the PPID after a requested elevated process is spawned by SYSTEM (typically via svchost.exe or consent.exe) rather than the current user context.

Adversaries may abuse these mechanisms to evade defenses, such as those blocking processes spawning directly from Office documents, and analysis targeting unusual/potentially malicious parent-child process relationships, such as spoofing the PPID of PowerShell/Rundll32 to be explorer.exe rather than an Office document delivered as part of Spearphishing Attachment. This spoofing could be executed via Visual Basic within a malicious Office document or any code that can perform Native API.

Explicitly assigning the PPID may also enable elevated privileges given appropriate access rights to the parent process. For example, an adversary in a privileged user context (i.e. administrator) may spawn a new process and assign the parent as a process running as SYSTEM (such as lsass.exe), causing the new process to be elevated via the inherited access token.



Featured Windows API's

Below, you will find a list of the most commonly used Windows API's that are currently utilized by malware authors for current evasion technique. This list is meant to provide an overview of the API's that are commonly used for this purpose. If there are any API's that you feel should be included on this list, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to update the list and provide any additional information or documentation that may be helpful.

Code Snippets

Detection Rules

Additional Resources

External Links

The resources provided below are associated links that will give you even more detailed information and research on current evasion technique. It is important to note that, while these resources may be helpful, it is important to exercise caution when following external links. As always, be careful when clicking on links from unknown sources, as they may lead to malicious content.


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