IAT Hooking

Created the Saturday 23 March 2019. Updated 3 years, 6 months ago.

IAT hooking is a way to run malicious code by modifying the Import Address Table of a specific executable. Consisting of replacing one legitimate function from imported DLL by a malicious one.

IAT hooking and inline hooking are generally known as userland rootkits. IAT hooking is a technique that malware uses to change the import address table. When a legitimate application calls an API located in a DLL, the replaced function is executed instead of the original one. In contrast, with inline hooking, malware modifies the API function itself.

Technique Identifier


Technique Tag


Code Snippets

#include <iostream>
#include <Windows.h>
#include <winternl.h>

// define MessageBoxA prototype
using PrototypeMessageBox = int (WINAPI *)(HWND hWnd, LPCSTR lpText, LPCSTR lpCaption, UINT uType);

// remember memory address of the original MessageBoxA routine
PrototypeMessageBox originalMsgBox = MessageBoxA;

// hooked function with malicious code that eventually calls the original MessageBoxA
int hookedMessageBox(HWND hWnd, LPCSTR lpText, LPCSTR lpCaption, UINT uType)
	MessageBoxW(NULL, L"Ola Hooked from a Rogue Senor .o.", L"Ola Senor o/", 0);
	// execute the original NessageBoxA
	return originalMsgBox(hWnd, lpText, lpCaption, uType);

int main()
	// message box before IAT unhooking
	MessageBoxA(NULL, "Hello Before Hooking", "Hello Before Hooking", 0);
	LPVOID imageBase = GetModuleHandleA(NULL);
	PIMAGE_NT_HEADERS ntHeaders = (PIMAGE_NT_HEADERS)((DWORD_PTR)imageBase + dosHeaders->e_lfanew);

	IMAGE_DATA_DIRECTORY importsDirectory = ntHeaders->OptionalHeader.DataDirectory[IMAGE_DIRECTORY_ENTRY_IMPORT];
	importDescriptor = (PIMAGE_IMPORT_DESCRIPTOR)(importsDirectory.VirtualAddress + (DWORD_PTR)imageBase);
	LPCSTR libraryName = NULL;
	HMODULE library = NULL;

	while (importDescriptor->Name != NULL)
		libraryName = (LPCSTR)importDescriptor->Name + (DWORD_PTR)imageBase;
		library = LoadLibraryA(libraryName);

		if (library)
			PIMAGE_THUNK_DATA originalFirstThunk = NULL, firstThunk = NULL;
			originalFirstThunk = (PIMAGE_THUNK_DATA)((DWORD_PTR)imageBase + importDescriptor->OriginalFirstThunk);
			firstThunk = (PIMAGE_THUNK_DATA)((DWORD_PTR)imageBase + importDescriptor->FirstThunk);

			while (originalFirstThunk->u1.AddressOfData != NULL)
				functionName = (PIMAGE_IMPORT_BY_NAME)((DWORD_PTR)imageBase + originalFirstThunk->u1.AddressOfData);
				// find MessageBoxA address
				if (std::string(functionName->Name).compare("MessageBoxA") == 0)
					SIZE_T bytesWritten = 0;
					DWORD oldProtect = 0;
					VirtualProtect((LPVOID)(&firstThunk->u1.Function), 8, PAGE_READWRITE, &oldProtect);
					// swap MessageBoxA address with address of hookedMessageBox
					firstThunk->u1.Function = (DWORD_PTR)hookedMessageBox;


	// message box after IAT hooking
	MessageBoxA(NULL, "Hello after Hooking", "Hello after Hooking", 0);
	return 0;

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