I was scrolling through one of the social media dumpster fires the other day and whizzed past a post that caught my attention. The post itself was not paricularly novel - it was a process injection technique implemented as a Cobalt Strike Beacon Object File (BOF). I had a look at the included Aggressor script and noticed that it was registering a new command with
beacon_command_register, reading a shellcode (
.bin) file from disk and executing the BOF via the beacon_inline_execute function. Curiosity piqued, I went in search of some other process injection BOFs across GitHub and the Cobalt Strike Community Kit. I only looked at a handful of them but found that they all worked in the same way.
I was left wondering why none of them were using the PROCESS_INJECT_SPAWN and PROCESS_INJECT_EXPLICIT hooks that have been around since CS 4.5 (circa 2021). Admittedly, some of the BOFs did pre-date this release but most of them didn’t. My only assumption is that perhaps these hooks are not that well known, so the aim of this post is to provide an overview and why you may want to implement your injection BOFs in this way.
Spawn vs Explicit
Fundamentally, these hooks allow you to define how both the fork & run and explicit injection techniques are handled when executing post-exploitation commands that perform injection. Where the BOFs mentioned above only expose shinject-style functionality, these hooks extend the customisation to commands such as
powerpick, and more. The main notable exception is
spawn (fork & run) variant creates a temporary sacrificial process and injects the post-ex capability into it. The
explicit variant injects the post-ex capability into a process that already exists. Some commands are spawn only (e.g.
powerpick); some are explicit only (e.g.
inject); and some can be both (e.g.
mimikatz). You can tell which variant a command will use by its arguments - a command that takes a
arch will use the explicit variant, and commands that do not will use spawn.
mimikatz [pid] [arch] [module::command] <args> <-- EXPLICIT
mimikatz [module::command] <args> <-- SPAWN
The Cobalt Strike Arsenal contains a process inject kit to assist with the development of these BOFs. The default code calls internal Beacon APIs such as
BeaconInjectProcess - the behavours for which are controlled with Malleable C2 and other options from the Beacon session.
It’s worth noting that you’re not limited to using these APIs, but there are some gotchas if you don’t use them at all. For instance,
BeaconSpawnTemporaryProcess will account for the PPID, spawnto, and blockdll options of the Beacon session. There is a
BeaconGetSpawnTo API that will return the current spawnto, but there is no equivilent to fetch the PPID and blockdll settings. There is also no Aggressor function that can fetch these (bppid and bblockdlls can only set new values, not return the current values), so they cannot be packed into the BOF arguments either.
It therefore does not seem possible to produce a 1:1 functional relica of the internal Beacon functionality.
Furthermore, you cannot pass any additional process creation flags to
BeaconSpawnTemporaryProcess, so processes cannot be spawned in a suspended state. You can call a WinAPI directly, such as CreateProcessA if your injection techniques relies on that, but you will lose the PPID and blockdll integration (you can still hardcode them of course).
In most cases, you will probably want to replace
BeaconInjectProcess with your own injection logic. For example:
The actual injection used here is not important - it’s just to show that I’m not using the default implementation. One thing to note is that you should not wait on handles, such as a thread handle.
Once you have custom injection in
process_inject_spawn.c, build the kit.
$ ./build.sh /mnt/c/Tools/cobaltstrike/inject
[Process Inject kit] [+] You have a x86_64 mingw--I will recompile the process inject beacon object files
[Process Inject kit] [*] Compile process_inject_spawn.x64.o
[Process Inject kit] [*] Compile process_inject_spawn.x86.o
[Process Inject kit] [*] Compile process_inject_explicit.x64.o
[Process Inject kit] [*] Compile process_inject_explicit.x86.o
[Process Inject kit] [+] The Process inject object files are saved in '/mnt/c/Tools/cobaltstrike/inject'
You then load
processinject.cna via the Script Manager and hey-presto. Each variant will now use your custom injection.
Even though there are some limitations, the process inject kit allows you to apply custom injection techniques to multiple Beacon commands, which is much more versatile than only exposing shinject functionality. If you’re an author of shellcode injection BOFs, I highly recommend building them as part of this kit, rather than standalone.