Defense in depth -- the Microsoft way (part 11): privilege escalation for dummies

From: Stefan Kanthak <>
Subject: Defense in depth -- the Microsoft way (part 11): privilege escalation for dummies

Hi @ll,

in <> I showed a
elaborated way for privilege elevation using IExpress (and other
self-extracting) installers containing *.MSI or *.MSP which works
"in certain situations".

The same IExpress installer(s) but allow a TRIVIAL to exploit
privilege escalation which works in all situations too:

Proof of concept (run on a fully patched Windows 7 SP1):

Step 0:
   login as UAC-enabled user.

Step 1:
   download the IExpress package "CAPICOM-KB931906-v2102.exe" from
   resp. <>

Step 2:
   download <>
   (note: all downloads go per default into the same directory)
   as MSIEXEC.EXE (this executable is just used as a canary).

Step 3:
   execute the downloaded "CAPICOM-KB931906-v2102.exe" (UAC will
   ask for confirmation or prompt for administrative credentials).

   the downloaded MSIEXEC.EXE is executed with administrative

   the COMPLETELY SUPERFLUOUS elevation of IExpress packages through
   UAC (due to its braindead "installer detection").

Note 0:
   it is completely sufficient to run IExpress packages unprivileged/
   unelevated: the target directory for the extraction,
   "%TEMP%\IXP000.TMP", can be created/written with standard user

Note 1:
   if the downloaded MSIEXEC.EXE requests elevation by itself UAC
   displays the publisher name etc. read from the digital signature
   of the downloaded MSIEXEC.EXE giving the user a chance to detect
   the "fake" MSIEXEC.EXE.

Note 2:
   if an IExpress installer executes another command (setup.exe,
    ...) rename the downloaded file to the resp. name.

Note 3:
   of course other self-extractors which execute commands without
   fully qualified path (remember: the application directory is
   searched first) can be used too!

Note 4:
   in general, setup PROGRAMS are evil!

   there is no need to wrap a call of "MSIEXEC.EXE /package *.MSI"
   or "RUNDLL32.EXE SETUPAPI.DLL,InstallHinfSection ... *.INF"
   into an executable!

   at least Microsoft stopped to deliver updates/hotfixes/patches
   for NT6.x as executables, but uses CAB archives named *.MSU.


2013-09-22    sent report to vendor

2013-09-23    vendor replies and asks: is the vulnerability in IExpress?

2013-09-23    NO, the vulnerability results from the UAC!

2013-09-23    vendor replies: "this scenario has been publicly known,
              and was mentioned in a presentation a Black Hat in 2012.
              the resolution was to implement a policy that IExpress
              will no longer be used on Microsoft Update."

              Really & really?

              The Black Hat presentation used IExpress to wrap and
              disguise a MetaSploit/meterpreter payload, not for a
              privilege escalation.

              alias <> is an
              IExpress package AND is delivered via Microsoft Update!

2013-09-23    asked about the details of the Black Hat presentation and
              whether/when the SUPERFLUOUS detection and elevation of
              IExpress installers will be addressed.

2013-09-30    vendor replies: "I still do not see any security vulnerability
              here. I can see an escalation of UAC privileges, but as has
              been documented on numerous occasions*, UAC is not considered
              to be a security boundary, so such an escalation is not
              considered to be a security vulnerability."

2013-10-02    report published

stay tuned
Stefan Kanthak

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