Adversaries may execute malicious payloads via loading shared modules. The Windows module loader can be instructed to load DLLs from arbitrary local paths and arbitrary Universal Naming Convention (UNC) network paths. This functionality resides in NTDLL.dll and is part of the Windows Native API which is called from functions like
LoadLibrary, etc. of the Win32 API.
The module loader can load DLLs:
via specification of the (fully-qualified or relative) DLL pathname in the IMPORT directory;
via EXPORT forwarded to another DLL, specified with (fully-qualified or relative) pathname (but without extension);
via an NTFS junction or symlink program.exe.local with the fully-qualified or relative pathname of a directory containing the DLLs specified in the IMPORT directory or forwarded EXPORTs;
<file name="filename.extension" loadFrom="fully-qualified or relative pathname"> in an embedded or external "application manifest". The file name refers to an entry in the IMPORT directory or a forwarded EXPORT.
Adversaries may use this functionality as a way to execute arbitrary payloads on a victim system. For example, malware may execute share modules to load additional components or features.
Astaroth uses the LoadLibraryExW() function to load additional modules. 
Attor's dispatcher can execute additional plugins by loading the respective DLLs.
BLINDINGCAN has loaded and executed DLLs in memory during runtime on a victim machine.
BOOSTWRITE has used the DWriteCreateFactory() function to load additional modules.
Bumblebee can use
DarkWatchman can load DLLs.
Dtrack contains a function that calls
FoggyWeb's loader can call the
Hydraq creates a backdoor through which remote attackers can load and call DLL functions.
Metamorfo had used AutoIt to load and execute the DLL payload.
PipeMon has used call to
PUNCHBUGGY can load a DLL using the LoadLibrary API.
Stuxnet calls LoadLibrary then executes exports from a DLL.
TajMahal has the ability to inject the
Identify and block potentially malicious software executed through this technique by using application control tools capable of preventing unknown DLLs from being loaded.
|ID||Data Source||Data Component||Detects|
Monitoring DLL module loads may generate a significant amount of data and may not be directly useful for defense unless collected under specific circumstances, since benign use of Windows modules load functions are common and may be difficult to distinguish from malicious behavior. Legitimate software will likely only need to load routine, bundled DLL modules or Windows system DLLs such that deviation from known module loads may be suspicious. Limiting DLL module loads to
|DS0009||Process||OS API Execution||
Monitor for API calls that may execute malicious payloads via loading shared modules.