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  Microsoft Windows files and folders management problems

  Pre-open files attack agains locked file

From:3APA3A <3APA3A_(at)>
Subject:Microsoft Windows Vista/2003/XP/2000 file management security issues

Title: Microsoft Windows Vista/2003/XP/2000 file management security issues
Author: 3APA3A,
Vendor: Microsoft (and potentially another vendors)
Products:  Microsoft  Windows Vista/2003/XP/2000, Microsoft resource kit
          for Windows 2000 and different utilities.
Access Vector: Local
Type: multiple/complex (weak design, insecure file operations, etc)

0. Intro

This   is   an   article   I   promised   to   publish   after  Windows
ReadDirectoryChangesW  (CVE-2007-0843)  [1] issue. It should explain why
you must never place secure data inside insecure directory.

It  contains  a set of attack scenarios to demonstrate security weakness
in  few very common Windows management practices. Neither of the problem
explained  is  critical,  yet combined together they should force you to
review  your  security  practices.  I  can't  even say "vulnerabilities"
because  there  is  no something you can call "vulnerability". It's just
something you believe is secure and it's not.

1.1 Problem: inability to create secured file / folder in public one.
   Attack: folder hijack attack

First,  it's simply impossible with standard Windows interface to create
something secured in insecure folder.

Scenario  1.1:

Bob  wishes  to  create "Bob private data" folder in "Public" folder to
place  few private files. "Public" has at least "Write" permissions for
"User" group. Bob:

    I   Creates "Bob private data" folder
    II  Sets permission for folder to only allow access to folder himself
    III Copies private files into folder

 Alice wants to get access to folder Bob created. She

    Ia  Immediately  after  folder  is  created,  deletes "Bob private
        data"  folder  and creates "Bob private data" folder again (or
        simply  takes  ownership  under  "Bob  private data" folder if
        permissions allow). It makes Alice folder owner.
    IIa Immediately  after  Bob  sets permissions, she grants herself
        full control under folder. She can do it as a folder owner.
    IIIa  Reads  Bob's  private  files,  because  files permissions are
        inherited from folder

 Alice   can  use  "Spydir"  (  tool  to
 monitor  files  access  and automate this process. As you can see, [1]
 elevates this problem significantly.
 This   is  not  new  attack.  Unix  has  "umask"  command  to  protect
 administrators and users. Currently, Windows has nothing similar.

 CreateFile() API supports setting file ACL on file creation (just like
 open()  allows  to set mode on POSIX systems). ACL can be securely set
 only  on  newly  created  files.  This raises a problem of secure file

1.2  Problem: Inability to lock / securely change permissions of already
    created file
    Attack: pre-open file/directory attack.

 There  are  few  classes  of insecure file creation attack (attempt to
 open   existing  file),  exploitable  under  Unix  with  hardlinks  or
 symlinks.  It's  believed  Windows  is  not vulnerable to this attacks

   I.  There  is  no  symlinks  under Windows. Symlink attacks are not
   II. Security  information  in  NTFS  is  not  stored  as  a part of
       directory entry, it's a part of file data. Hard link attacks are
       not possible.
   III. File  locks  in  Windows  are  mandatory.  It  means,  if  one
        application  locks  the file, another application can not open
        this  file, if user doesn't have backup privileges. It mitigate
        different file-based attacks.

 There  is at least one scenario, attacker can succeed without symbolic
 link:  to  steal  data  written to file created without check for file
 existence regardless of file locks and permissions.

 Attack description: if attacker can predict filename to be written, he
 can  create file, open it and share this file for all types of access.
 Because  locking  and  permissions  are  only  checked  on  file open,
 attacker  retain  access  to  the  file  even  if it's locked and it's
 permissions are changed to deny file access to attacker.

 Exploit (or useful tool):

 Opens  file, shares it for different types of access and logs changes,
 keeping the file open.

 Compiled version is available from

 Scenario 1.2.1:

  Bob is now aware about folder hijack attack. He use xcopy /O /U /S to
  synchronize  his  files  to  newly  created  folder.  xcopy /O copies
  security  information (ownership and permissions) before writing data
  to file.

  Alice  use  "Spydir"  to  monitor  newly created folders and files in
  Bob's  directory.  She  use Spyfile to create spoofed files in target
  directory  and  waits for Bob to run xcopy. Now, she has full control
  under  content of Bob's files despite the fact she has no permissions
  to access these files.

  In  a  same  way  directory  content  may be monitored by pre-opening

 Scenario 1.2.2:

  Enterprise  directory  structure  is  replicated every day to another
  user-writable  location  in  order  to alow users to recover suddenly
  deleted  or  modified files. xcopy or robocopy (from resource kit) is
  used  for  replication.  Attacker can hijack content of newly created
  files in newly created folders.

 Same problem may happen on archive extraction or backup restoration.

 Vulnerable  applications:
   xcopy (from all Windows versions),
   robocopy (Windows  2000  Resource Kit),
   different archivers
   backup restoration utilities

 By  default,  xcopy warns user the file exists, unless /Y or /U key is
 specified.  But
   I.  /Y  is  always  specified  for replication
   II. /Y  can  be specified via COPYCMD environment variable. COPYCMD
   environment  variable  can be created in autoexec.bat file. At least
   under   upgraded  Windows  2000  installation  autoexec.bat  may  be
   controlled by unprivileged user.
   III.  Neither  xcopy  nor  another  utilities  warn user on existing
   directory. Pre-open directory attack will always succeed.

 As you can see, [1] again dramatically elevates this problem.

1.3 Problem: user can completely block access to the files
   Attack: open file deletion
   (including Windows file replication service DoS)

   If files is deleted while it's open, it still present in file system
   under  it's  old  name  until  close.  Any  operation  on  this file
   (including  attributes  requests)  fails,  regardless of application
   rights and permissions (including backup ones).

   Exploit:  use  spyfile,  delete  file while it's spied. Now, without
   closing  spyfile,  attempt  any  operation on this file (e.g. try to
   find it's ownership).

   Scenario 1.3.1

   Now Bob found an copy application to securely copy files. It deletes
   old file before creating new one. But it fails if Alice tries to spy
   on  Bob  files,  because  attempt  to delete file succeeds, but file
   still present and is unmanageable.

   Scenario 1.3.2

   Windows  file  replication  service  (FRS) is used to replicate data
   between  2  public  DFS  folders  to  distribute  load.  Folder  has
    Everyone: Add & read
    Creator Owner: Full Control
   Thouse, Alice has no permissions to delete files created by Bob.

   Replicated  folder  is  available as a share on 2 different servers:
   \\SERVER1\Share    and    \\SERVER2\Share.    Bob    is    connected
   to \\SERVER1\Share.

   Alice uses "Spydir" to monitor files creation by Bob. Every time Bob
   creates  new  file  on  \\SERVER1\Share, Alice use spyfile to create
   file  with same name on \\SERVER2\Share. It effectively leads to FRS
   collision.  While  trying  to resolve collision, FRS fails to delete
   file  created  by  Alice  and  Bob file is deleted (original file is
   moved to special hidden folder only accessible by administrator).

   Workaround:  never  try  to  use  creator-owner based permissions in
   replicated folders.

   Again, [1] seriously escalates this problem.
2. Conclusion:

 It's  simply impossible to securely create something in public folder.
 At least DoS conditions are always possible.
 Developers should  not  consider mandatory file locking as a security
 Developers  should  care about secure file creation to store sensitive
 information.  CREATE_NEW  should  always be used and ACL should be set
 with  lpSecurityAttributes  of CreateFile. No attempt to open existing
 file should be made.
 Never  try  to  create secure folder in public one. If you are forced,
 disconnect     all   users   before   this   operation.
 Never  use  replication,  archive  extraction  or  backup  restore  to
 user-accessible folder.
 Bob and Alice should finally marry.
3. Vendor:

 All timelines are same with [1].

[1]. Microsoft Windows ReadDirectoryChangesW information leak (CVE-2007-0843)

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