Skip to content

T1134.004 Parent PID Spoofing

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.6 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.3

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.2 This spoofing could be executed via Visual Basic within a malicious Office document or any code that can perform Native API.72

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.1

Item Value
ID T1134.004
Sub-techniques T1134.001, T1134.002, T1134.003, T1134.004, T1134.005
Tactics TA0005, TA0004
Platforms Windows
Permissions required Administrator, User
Version 1.0
Created 18 February 2020
Last Modified 03 May 2022

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S0154 Cobalt Strike Cobalt Strike can spawn processes with alternate PPIDs.910
S0356 KONNI KONNI has used parent PID spoofing to spawn a new cmd process using CreateProcessW and a handle to Taskmgr.exe.8
S0501 PipeMon PipeMon can use parent PID spoofing to elevate privileges.11


ID Data Source Data Component
DS0009 Process OS API Execution