Saturday, March 7, 2015

Section Based Code Injection and Its Detection


I wrote a small tool to detect a possible code injection even if it is done by only section APIs.


A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to analyze ransomware referred as Urausy. At a very initial stage of analysis, its behaviour seemed to be nothing surprising to me; it injected code into explorer.exe, and the injected code spawned svchost.exe hosting malicious code and initiated main ransom activities (More detaied analysis can be found on avast! blog).

Image 1: Process Tree 
I expected that the sample was injecting code using VirtualAllocEx() and CreateRemoteThread(), or relevant APIs such as NtWriteVirtualMemory() NtCreateThread/Ex(). But through analysis, I noticed that it was using none of them for the injection but using section APIs instead. Malware replaced the existing ntdll image on explorer.exe with a newly created section containing an inline hook on NtClose() and code responsible for starting svchost.exe. Output of VMmap indicates that an image of ntdll no longer exists and replaced with a shared Executable/Readable/Writable section after this injection.

Image 2: Memory Map of Explorer.exe (Before Infection)
Image 3: Memory Map of Explorer.exe (After Infection) 
Then, I started to wonder what if explorer.exe did not do any obvious activities I could easily spot and the sample did many other bad things besides that in meaningful ways (i.e., non junk operations)? I could miss the injected code.

It is also true of the case of the traditional code injection with VirtualAllocEx() and CreateRemoteThread(), but we are less likely to overlook it as we always expect to see that these APIs are used for injection and have tools or systems that tell us occurrence of typical thread injection.

So I wrote a driver, RemoteWriteMonitor, monitors inter-process memory modification by hooking NtWriteVirtualMemory() and ZwMapViewOfSection() to assist analysts to find this section based injection. This tool should report all possible code injections because if you want to execute your own code on another process from the user-mode, you need to either (1) write something onto the other process using those APIs (as far as I can think of), or (2) use a DLL file in conjunction with SetWindowsHookEx() or other type of injection mechanisms which is very easy to find due to preceding a disk write operation.

Let us see what it does in case of another Urausy sample I found on Malwr. If you installed the driver and run the sample, you see that the sample is mapping sections onto explorer.exe using ZwMapViewOfSection().

Image 4: Output on DebugView

This tool also saves the contents of memory being written as <SHA1>.bin so that you can examine what it is later. In this example, written data was code and a PE image respectively.

Image 5: File Contents (Code upside and PE downside)
This tool is more like PoC and does not have rich functionality, but I hope it helps you understand this uncommon injection method and its detection.


  1. Hi, Could you please to share the sample which you have analyzed ? Thank you so much !

    Best Regards,

  2. Hi, does one I linked on the entry work for you?