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T1620 Reflective Code Loading

Adversaries may reflectively load code into a process in order to conceal the execution of malicious payloads. Reflective loading involves allocating then executing payloads directly within the memory of the process, vice creating a thread or process backed by a file path on disk. Reflectively loaded payloads may be compiled binaries, anonymous files (only present in RAM), or just snubs of fileless executable code (ex: position-independent shellcode).82713

Reflective code injection is very similar to Process Injection except that the “injection” loads code into the processes’ own memory instead of that of a separate process. Reflective loading may evade process-based detections since the execution of the arbitrary code may be masked within a legitimate or otherwise benign process. Reflectively loading payloads directly into memory may also avoid creating files or other artifacts on disk, while also enabling malware to keep these payloads encrypted (or otherwise obfuscated) until execution.7164

Item Value
ID T1620
Tactics TA0005
Platforms Linux, Windows, macOS
Version 1.0
Created 05 October 2021
Last Modified 21 April 2022

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S1063 Brute Ratel C4 Brute Ratel C4 has used reflective loading to execute malicious DLLs.12
S0154 Cobalt Strike Cobalt Strike‘s execute-assembly command can run a .NET executable within the memory of a sacrificial process by loading the CLR.20
S0625 Cuba Cuba loaded the payload into memory using PowerShell.17
S0695 Donut Donut can generate code modules that enable in-memory execution of VBScript, JScript, EXE, DLL, and dotNET payloads.9
S0661 FoggyWeb FoggyWeb‘s loader has reflectively loaded .NET-based assembly/payloads into memory.14
S0666 Gelsemium Gelsemium can use custom shellcode to map embedded DLLs into memory.18
S1022 IceApple IceApple can use reflective code loading to load .NET assemblies into MSExchangeOWAAppPool on targeted Exchange servers.13
G0032 Lazarus Group Lazarus Group has changed memory protection permissions then overwritten in memory DLL function code with shellcode, which was later executed via KernelCallbackTable hijacking. Lazarus Group has also used shellcode within macros to decrypt and manually map DLLs into memory at runtime.2223
S0447 Lokibot Lokibot has reflectively loaded the decoded DLL into memory.15
S1059 metaMain metaMain has reflectively loaded a DLL to read, decrypt, and load an orchestrator file.19
S0194 PowerSploit PowerSploit reflectively loads a Windows PE file into a process.1011
S0595 ThiefQuest ThiefQuest uses various API functions such as NSCreateObjectFileImageFromMemory to load and link in-memory payloads.21
S0689 WhisperGate WhisperGate‘s downloader can reverse its third stage file bytes and reflectively load the file as a .NET assembly.16


ID Data Source Data Component
DS0011 Module Module Load
DS0009 Process OS API Execution
DS0012 Script Script Execution


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  17. Roccio, T., et al. (2021, April). Technical Analysis of Cuba Ransomware. Retrieved June 18, 2021. 

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