Access Token Manipulation: Create Process with Token

Adversaries may create a new process with a different token to escalate privileges and bypass access controls. Processes can be created with the token and resulting security context of another user using features such as CreateProcessWithTokenW and runas.[1]

Creating processes with a different token may require the credentials of the target user, specific privileges to impersonate that user, or access to the token to be used (ex: gathered via other means such as Token Impersonation/Theft or Make and Impersonate Token).

ID: T1134.002
Sub-technique of:  T1134
Platforms: Windows
Defense Bypassed: File system access controls, System access controls, Windows User Account Control
Contributors: Vadim Khrykov
Version: 1.1
Created: 18 February 2020
Last Modified: 17 October 2021

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S0456 Aria-body

Aria-body has the ability to execute a process using runas.[2]

S0344 Azorult

Azorult can call WTSQueryUserToken and CreateProcessAsUser to start a new process with local system privileges.[3]

S0239 Bankshot

Bankshot grabs a user token using WTSQueryUserToken and then creates a process by impersonating a logged-on user.[4]

S0363 Empire

Empire can use Invoke-RunAs to make tokens.[5]


KONNI has duplicated the token of a high integrity process to spawn an instance of cmd.exe under an impersonated user.[6][7]

G0032 Lazarus Group

Lazarus Group keylogger KiloAlfa obtains user tokens from interactive sessions to execute itself with API call CreateProcessAsUserA under that user's context.[8][9]

S0501 PipeMon

PipeMon can attempt to gain administrative privileges using token impersonation.[10]

S0378 PoshC2

PoshC2 can use Invoke-RunAs to make tokens.[11]

S0496 REvil

REvil can launch an instance of itself with administrative rights using runas.[12]

G0010 Turla

Turla RPC backdoors can impersonate or steal process tokens before executing commands.[13]

S0412 ZxShell

ZxShell has a command called RunAs, which creates a new process as another user or process context.[14]


ID Mitigation Description
M1026 Privileged Account Management

Limit permissions so that users and user groups cannot create tokens. This setting should be defined for the local system account only. GPO: Computer Configuration > [Policies] > Windows Settings > Security Settings > Local Policies > User Rights Assignment: Create a token object. [15] Also define who can create a process level token to only the local and network service through GPO: Computer Configuration > [Policies] > Windows Settings > Security Settings > Local Policies > User Rights Assignment: Replace a process level token.[16]

Administrators should log in as a standard user but run their tools with administrator privileges using the built-in access token manipulation command runas.[17]

M1018 User Account Management

An adversary must already have administrator level access on the local system to make full use of this technique; be sure to restrict users and accounts to the least privileges they require.


ID Data Source Data Component
DS0017 Command Command Execution
DS0009 Process OS API Execution

If an adversary is using a standard command-line shell (i.e. Windows Command Shell), analysts may detect token manipulation by auditing command-line activity. Specifically, analysts should look for use of the runas command or similar artifacts. Detailed command-line logging is not enabled by default in Windows.[18]

If an adversary is using a payload that calls the Windows token APIs directly, analysts may detect token manipulation only through careful analysis of user activity, examination of running processes, and correlation with other endpoint and network behavior.

Analysts can also monitor for use of Windows APIs such as CreateProcessWithTokenW and correlate activity with other suspicious behavior to reduce false positives that may be due to normal benign use by users and administrators.