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Yesterday — 26 November 20210patch Blog

Micropatching Unpatched Local Privilege Escalation in Mobile Device Management Service (CVE-2021-24084 / 0day)

26 November 2021 at 17:59


by Mitja Kolsek, the 0patch Team

In June 2021, security researcher Abdelhamid Naceri published a blog post about an "unpatched information disclosure" vulnerability in Windows. The post details the mechanics of the issue and its exploitation, allowing a non-admin Windows user to read arbitrary files even if they do not have permissions to do so. The exploit namely copies file(s) from a chosen location into a CAB archive that the user can then open and read.

Abdelhamid's blog post also provides the timeline of reporting the vulnerability to Microsoft through ZDI in October 2020, Microsoft assigning a CVE ID to the issue and allegedly planning to fix it in April 2021, and the latter not happening in April. Or June. Or July or August or September or October.

While we had noticed Abdelhamid's June disclosure, it didn't seem to be a critical enough issue for micropatching, as we generally don't patch information disclosure bugs.

In November, however, Abdelhamid pointed out that this - still unpatched - bug may not be just an information disclosure issue, but a local privilege escalation vulnerability. Namely, as HiveNightmare/SeriousSAM has taught us, an arbitrary file disclosure can* be upgraded to local privilege escalation if you know which files to take and what to do with them. We confirmed this by using the procedure described in this blog post by Raj Chandel in conjunction with Abdelhamid's bug - and being able to run code as local administrator.

(*) Two conditions need to be met in order for the local privilege escalation to work:

  1. System protection must be enabled on drive C, and at least one restore point created. Whether system protection is enabled or disabled by default depends on various parameters.  
  2. At least one local administrator account must be enabled on the computer, or at least one "Administrators" group member's credentials cached

The Vulnerability

The vulnerable functionality resides under the "Access work or school" settings and can be triggered by clicking on "Export your management log files" and confirming by pressing "Export". At that point, the Device Management Enrollment Service is triggered, running as Local System. This service first copies some log files to the C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\MDMDiagnostics folder, and then packages them into a CAB file whereby they're temporarily copied to C:\Windows\Temp folder. The resulting CAB file is then stored in the C:\Users\Public\Public Documents\MDMDiagnostics folder, where the user can freely access it.

It is the copying to C:\Windows\Temp folder that is vulnerable. Namely, a local attacker can create a soft link (junction) there with a predictable file name that will be used in the above-described process, pointing to some file or folder they want to have copied to the CAB file. Since the Device Management Enrollment Service runs as Local System, it can read any system file that the attacker can't.

Abdelhamid's POC targets the kernel dump files in folder C:\Windows\LiveKernelReports to demonstrate the issue, while we used SAM, SECURITY and SYSTEM files from a restore point folder to achieve local privilege escalation.

The vulnerability has CVE-2021-24084 assigned, but we still consider it a "0day" as no official vendor fix is available.

Our Micropatch

Abdelhamid's blog post suggested that user impersonation during CAB file creation would resolve the issue. While we agree with that, we were concerned that might break some use cases and rather decided to check for the presence of junctions during CAB file creation.

The function we patched is CollectFileEntry inside mdmdiagnostics.dll. This is the function that copies files from C:\Windows\Temp folder into the CAB file, and can be tricked into reading some other files instead.

Our patch is placed immediately before the call to CopyFileW that opens the source file for copying, and uses the GetFinalPathNameByHandleW function to determine whether any junctions or other types of links are used in the path. If they are, our patch makes it look as it the CopyFileW call has failed, thereby silently bypassing the copying of any file that doesn't actually reside in C:\Windows\Temp.

Here is the IDA graph showing our applied patch (green code blocks are patch code; blue code block is a trampoline with the original code).  



Microsoft's Fix

Microsoft's fix doesn't exist as of this writing, but when it becomes available, we'll describe it here. We find it likely that they'll either use caller impersonation during the CAB file creation, or check for junctions in the process like we did.

Micropatch Availability

This micropatch was written for: 

  1. Windows 10 v21H1 (32 & 64 bit) updated with November 2021 Updates
  2. Windows 10 v20H2 (32 & 64 bit) updated with November 2021 Updates
  3. Windows 10 v2004 (32 & 64 bit) updated with November 2021 Updates
  4. Windows 10 v1909 (32 & 64 bit) updated with November 2021 Updates
  5. Windows 10 v1903 (32 & 64 bit) updated with November 2021 Updates
  6. Windows 10 v1809 (32 & 64 bit) updated with May 2021 Updates
Windows Servers are not affected, as the vulnerable functionality does not exist there. While some similar diagnostics tools exist on servers, they are being executed under the launching user's identity, and therefore cannot be exploited.

Windows 10 v1803 and older Windows 10 versions don't seem to be affected either. While they do have the "Access work or school" functionality, it behaves differently and cannot be exploited this way. Windows 7 does not have the "Access work or school" functionality at all.

Note that Abdelhamid has also published a related POC for Windows 11 but that POC is actually exploiting a different vulnerability. 

Micropatches for this vulnerability will be free until Microsoft has issued an official fix. If you want to use them, create a free account in 0patch Central, then install and register 0patch Agent from 0patch.com. Everything else will happen automatically. No computer reboots will be needed.

We'd like to thank Abdelhamid Naceri for finding this issue and sharing details, which allowed us to create a micropatch and protect our users.

To learn more about 0patch, please visit our Help Center.




Before yesterday0patch Blog

Micropatch For Remote Code Execution by DNS Administrators (CVE-2021-40469)

19 November 2021 at 17:03

by Mitja Kolsek, the 0patch Team


This is a story of a publicly known remote code execution vulnerability that somehow got ignored and mostly overlooked for four and a half years, meanwhile rediscovered a number of times, weaponized, and finally fixed this October with an unexpected acknowledgment.

Back in May 2017, security researcher Shay Ber published details about a vulnerability affecting Windows DNS Service. They found that any member of the DNSAdmins domain group can use their privileges to get the computer running the DNS Service to run arbitrary code as Local System - which equals a complete takeover of said computer. Since many domain controllers are running the DNS Service, this could mean a complete Windows domain takeover.

Note that DNSAdmins is a powerful group: being able to change domain DNS configuration allows one to cause all sorts of problems - but it doesn't automatically allow them to take over the domain. Typically, a DNS administrator is not allowed to login to the computer running the DNS Service (often a domain controller), and configures DNS from their own workstation using a DNS management tool that utilizes remote procedure calls (RPC).

Shay noticed that legitimate functionality of these remote procedure calls, conveniently made available by the Windows dnscmd.exe tool, can be used to remotely configure a DNS Service to load an arbitrary DLL from a network share and execute its code. This is due to the DNS Service checking, upon startup, the presence of registry value ServerLevelPluginDll and, if it exists, loading the DLL from the path specified therein. This value could be set remotely using the dnscmd.exe tool by members of the DNSAdmins group.

After reporting this to Microsoft, Shay was told that "it [would] be fixed by basically only allowing DC administrators to change the ServerLevelPluginDll registry key, and that it [would] be possible to toggle this feature off in future releases."

Although in their write-up Shay generously described the issue as "a cute feature (certainly not a bug!)", it was undeniably a privilege escalation - from non domain admin to domain admin - as well as a remote code execution issue - from computer one can run code on to computer one can't normally run code on.

In any case, the issue got largely forgotten, likely because of its "not a bug" classification, until another security researcher Sean Metcalf brought it up in their article a year and a half later. Fourteen months after that, security researcher Dhiraj Sharma revisited the original article and published a new write-up. Further nine months of nothing happening later, an exploit module got added to Metasploit, making it easier for attackers of all hat colors to exploit this issue. We're not done yet. In April and May 2021, security researcher Phakt wrote a two-part analysis of this issue, further dissecting it and shedding light on the "why" and offering an alternative for using the overly-permissive DNSAdmins group

Finally, this October's Windows Updates brought a fix, assigned the issue CVE-2021-40469, and, surprisingly, acknowledged (only) Yuki Chen, a regular reporter of Windows vulnerabilities, for finding and reporting this to Microsoft.

What a ride.


Microsoft's Fix

Microsoft's fix delivered by October 2021 updates did what was promised back in 2017: it introduced a new registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\DNS\InternalParameters with permissions only allowing administrators to modify its content. The ServerLevelPluginDll value has been moved from the Parameters key to this new key, making it impossible to change it with permissions provided by the DNSAdmins group. A decent fix, as far as we can tell.

The only thing not fixed were affected Windows servers that aren't receiving official Windows updates anymore: Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008 without Extended Security Updates. This is where we come in.

Our Micropatch

Our micropatch, the whole 19 CPU instructions of it, takes a bit different approach compared to Microsoft's fix. When applied (enabled), our micropatch forces the DNS Service to ignore the ServerLevelPluginDll value even if it's present in the registry. Based on the absolute absence of hits when googling for ServerLevelPluginDll and filtering out articles about exploiting this value, we assess that very few organizations are using this feature, so simply removing it - which our patch effectively does - is the optimal approach. This decision was in line with our goal of using minimal amount of code to fix the vulnerability. However, should a customer report that they're using this feature, we'll replace the patch with one that is functionally closer to Microsoft's.

Source code of our micropatch:

MODULE_PATH "..\Affected_Modules\dns.exe_6.1.7601.24437_Srv2008R2_64bit_NoESU\dns.exe"
VULN_ID 7208

    PIT msvcrt.dll!_wcsicmp,dns.exe!0x41171
        push rdi          ; storing register on stack to keep their values
        push rcx
        push rdx
        push r8
        push r9
        call VAR          ; trick to get address of string on stack
        dw __utf16__('ServerLevelPluginDll'), 0
        pop rdx           ; rdx points to string
        mov rcx, rdx      ; rcx points to
string 'ServerLevelPluginDll'
        mov rdx, r12      ; rdx points to name of registry value that
                          ; is currently being read from registry
        sub rsp, 20h      ; create home space for the 64bit call
        call PIT__wcsicmp ; compare strings case insensitive
        add rsp, 20h      ; abandon home space
        pop r9            ; restoring register values from stack
        pop r8
        pop rdx
        pop rcx
        pop rdi
        cmp rax, 0        ; were strings equal?
        je PIT_0x41171    ; if so, bypass reading from registry



And the video of our patch in action.

This micropatch was written for: 

  1. Windows Server 2008 (updated with January 2020 Updates - latest before end of support) 
  2. Windows Server 2008 R2 (updated with January 2020 Updates - latest before end of support)


To obtain the micropatch and have it applied on your computer(s) along with other micropatches included in a 0patch license, create an account in 0patch Central, install 0patch Agent and register it to your account, then purchase an appropriate 0patch license. Note that no computer restart is needed for installing the agent or applying/un-applying any 0patch micropatch. For a 0patch trial, contact [email protected]

We'd like to thank Shay Ber for finding this issue and sharing details, which allowed us to create a micropatch and protect our users. Thank you also to Yuki Chen, who appears to have been the one finally pushing the official vendor fix out the door.

To learn more about 0patch, please visit our Help Center.




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