Hijack Execution Flow: COR_PROFILER
Other sub-techniques of Hijack Execution Flow (11)
Adversaries may leverage the COR_PROFILER environment variable to hijack the execution flow of programs that load the .NET CLR. The COR_PROFILER is a .NET Framework feature which allows developers to specify an unmanaged (or external of .NET) profiling DLL to be loaded into each .NET process that loads the Common Language Runtime (CLR). These profiliers are designed to monitor, troubleshoot, and debug managed code executed by the .NET CLR.
The COR_PROFILER environment variable can be set at various scopes (system, user, or process) resulting in different levels of influence. System and user-wide environment variable scopes are specified in the Registry, where a Component Object Model (COM) object can be registered as a profiler DLL. A process scope COR_PROFILER can also be created in-memory without modifying the Registry. Starting with .NET Framework 4, the profiling DLL does not need to be registered as long as the location of the DLL is specified in the COR_PROFILER_PATH environment variable.
Adversaries may abuse COR_PROFILER to establish persistence that executes a malicious DLL in the context of all .NET processes every time the CLR is invoked. The COR_PROFILER can also be used to elevate privileges (ex: Bypass User Account Control) if the victim .NET process executes at a higher permission level, as well as to hook and Impair Defenses provided by .NET processes.
Identify and block potentially malicious unmanaged COR_PROFILER profiling DLLs by using application control solutions like AppLocker that are capable of auditing and/or blocking unapproved DLLs.
|Restrict Registry Permissions||
Ensure proper permissions are set for Registry hives to prevent users from modifying keys associated with COR_PROFILER.
|User Account Management||
Limit the privileges of user accounts so that only authorized administrators can edit system environment variables.
For detecting system and user scope abuse of the COR_PROFILER, monitor the Registry for changes to COR_ENABLE_PROFILING, COR_PROFILER, and COR_PROFILER_PATH that correspond to system and user environment variables that do not correlate to known developer tools. Extra scrutiny should be placed on suspicious modification of these Registry keys by command line tools like wmic.exe, setx.exe, and Reg, monitoring for command-line arguments indicating a change to COR_PROFILER variables may aid in detection. For system, user, and process scope abuse of the COR_PROFILER, monitor for new suspicious unmanaged profiling DLLs loading into .NET processes shortly after the CLR causing abnormal process behavior. Consider monitoring for DLL files that are associated with COR_PROFILER environment variables.
- Microsoft. (2017, March 30). Profiling Overview. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
- Microsoft. (2013, February 4). Registry-Free Profiler Startup and Attach. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
- Lambert, T. (2020, May 7). Introducing Blue Mockingbird. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
- Brown, J. (2020, May 7). Detecting COR_PROFILER manipulation for persistence. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
- Almond. (2019, April 30). UAC bypass via elevated .NET applications. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
- Yair, O. (2019, August 19). Invisi-Shell. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
- Smith, C. (2017, May 18). Subvert CLR Process Listing With .NET Profilers. Retrieved June 24, 2020.
- Beechey, J. (2010, December). Application Whitelisting: Panacea or Propaganda?. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
- 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.