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Injecting .NET Assembly to an Unmanaged Process

This is a quick lab to see what API sequence makes it possible to inject C# .NET assemblies / PE files (.exe and .dll) into an unmanaged process and invoke their methods.
This is the technique that makes execute-assembly command possible in Cobalt Strike.


At a high level, it works as follows:
  1. 1.
    CLRCreateInstance is used to retrieve an interface ICLRMetaHost
  2. 2.
    ICLRMetaHost->GetRuntime is used to retrieve ICLRRuntimeInfo interface for a specified CLR version
  3. 3.
    ICLRRuntimeInfo->GetInterface is used to load the CLR into the current process and retrieve an interface ICLRRuntimeHost
  4. 4.
    ICLRRuntimeHost->Start is used to initialize the CLR into the current process
  5. 5.
    ICLRRuntimeHost->ExecuteInDefaultAppDomain is used to load the C# .NET assembly and call a particular method with an optionally provided argument


  • unmanaged.cpp (in my lab compiled to LoadCLR.exe) - a C++ program that loads a C# assembly
    CLRHello1.exe and invokes its method spotlessMethod
  • managed.cs (in my lab compiled to CLRHello1.exe) - a C# program that is loaded by the unmanaged process (LoadCLR.exe). It has a method spotlessMethod that is invoked via ExecuteInDefaultAppDomain.O
Once invoked, the spotlessMethod prints out Hi from CLR to the console window.
// code mostly stolen from pabloko's comment in
#include <iostream>
#include <metahost.h>
#include <corerror.h>
#pragma comment(lib, "mscoree.lib")
int main()
ICLRMetaHost* metaHost = NULL;
ICLRRuntimeInfo* runtimeInfo = NULL;
ICLRRuntimeHost* runtimeHost = NULL;
DWORD pReturnValue;
CLRCreateInstance(CLSID_CLRMetaHost, IID_ICLRMetaHost, (LPVOID*)&metaHost);
metaHost->GetRuntime(L"v4.0.30319", IID_ICLRRuntimeInfo, (LPVOID*)&runtimeInfo);
runtimeInfo->GetInterface(CLSID_CLRRuntimeHost, IID_ICLRRuntimeHost, (LPVOID*)&runtimeHost);
HRESULT res = runtimeHost->ExecuteInDefaultAppDomain(L"C:\\labs\\CLRHello1\\CLRHello1\\CLRHello1\\bin\\Debug\\CLRHello1.exe", L"CLRHello1.Program", L"spotlessMethod", L"test", &pReturnValue);
if (res == S_OK)
std::cout << "CLR executed successfully\n";
return 0;
using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.Linq;
using System.Text;
using System.Threading.Tasks;
namespace CLRHello1
class Program
static void Main(string[] args)
// important: methods called by ExecuteInDefaultAppDomain need to stick to this signature
static int spotlessMethod(String pwzArgument)
Console.WriteLine("Hi from CLR");
return 1;


Below shows how LoadCLR.exe loaded our C# assembly CLRHello.exe (seen in LoadCLR.exe loaded modules tab) and invoked the spotlessMethod, that printed Hi from CLR to the console: