Event Triggered Execution: AppInit DLLs
Other sub-techniques of Event Triggered Execution (15)
Adversaries may establish persistence and/or elevate privileges by executing malicious content triggered by AppInit DLLs loaded into processes. Dynamic-link libraries (DLLs) that are specified in the
AppInit_DLLs value in the Registry keys
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows or
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Windows are loaded by user32.dll into every process that loads user32.dll. In practice this is nearly every program, since user32.dll is a very common library. 
Similar to Process Injection, these values can be abused to obtain elevated privileges by causing a malicious DLL to be loaded and run in the context of separate processes on the computer.  Malicious AppInit DLLs may also provide persistence by continuously being triggered by API activity.
The AppInit DLL functionality is disabled in Windows 8 and later versions when secure boot is enabled. 
Some variants of Cherry Picker use AppInit_DLLs to achieve persistence by creating the following Registry key:
If a victim meets certain criteria, T9000 uses the AppInit_DLL functionality to achieve persistence by ensuring that every user mode process that is spawned will load its malicious DLL, ResN32.dll. It does this by creating the following Registry keys:
Adversaries can install new AppInit DLLs binaries to execute this technique. Identify and block potentially malicious software executed through AppInit DLLs functionality by using application whitelisting  tools, like Windows Defender Application Control, AppLocker,   or Software Restriction Policies  where appropriate. 
Upgrade to Windows 8 or later and enable secure boot.
Monitor DLL loads by processes that load user32.dll and look for DLLs that are not recognized or not normally loaded into a process. Monitor the AppInit_DLLs Registry values for modifications that do not correlate with known software, patch cycles, etc. Monitor and analyze application programming interface (API) calls that are indicative of Registry edits such as
Tools such as Sysinternals Autoruns may also be used to detect system changes that could be attempts at persistence, including listing current AppInit DLLs. 
Look for abnormal process behavior that may be due to a process loading a malicious DLL. Data and events should not be viewed in isolation, but as part of a chain of behavior that could lead to other activities, such as making network connections for Command and Control, learning details about the environment through Discovery, and conducting Lateral Movement.
- Hosseini, A. (2017, July 18). Ten Process Injection Techniques: A Technical Survey Of Common And Trending Process Injection Techniques. Retrieved December 7, 2017.
- Microsoft. (2006, October). Working with the AppInit_DLLs registry value. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
- Microsoft. (n.d.). AppInit DLLs and Secure Boot. Retrieved July 15, 2015.
- Beechey, J. (2010, December). Application Whitelisting: Panacea or Propaganda?. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
- Gorzelany, A., Hall, J., Poggemeyer, L.. (2019, January 7). Windows Defender Application Control. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
- Tomonaga, S. (2016, January 26). Windows Commands Abused by Attackers. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
- NSA Information Assurance Directorate. (2014, August). Application Whitelisting Using Microsoft AppLocker. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
- Corio, C., & Sayana, D. P. (2008, June). Application Lockdown with Software Restriction Policies. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
- Microsoft. (2012, June 27). Using Software Restriction Policies and AppLocker Policies. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
- Grunzweig, J. and Miller-Osborn, J.. (2016, February 4). T9000: Advanced Modular Backdoor Uses Complex Anti-Analysis Techniques. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
- Merritt, E.. (2015, November 16). Shining the Spotlight on Cherry Picker PoS Malware. Retrieved April 20, 2016.
- Russinovich, M. (2016, January 4). Autoruns for Windows v13.51. Retrieved June 6, 2016.