Microsoft Windows - NPFS Symlink Security Feature Bypass/Elevation of Privilege/Dangerous Behavior

EDB-ID: 44148
Author: Google Security Research
Published: 2018-02-20
CVE: CVE-2018-0823
Type: Local
Platform: Windows
Aliases: N/A
Advisory/Source: Link
Tags: Local
Vulnerable App: N/A

 Platform: Windows 10 1709 (functionality not present prior to this version) 
Class: Security Feature Bypass/Elevation of Privilege/Dangerous Behavior

Summary: It’s possible to create NPFS symlinks as a low IL or normal user and the implementation doesn’t behave in a similar manner to other types of Windows symlinks leading to dangerous behavior or EoP.


Windows 10 1709 introduced a new symlink feature to NPFS which is accessible from a FSCTL. From what I can see the implementation has a number of security issues which concern me:

1) Creation of symbolic links is only limited to a user which can open the root named pipe device. I.e. \Device\NamedPipe. This users which can open the device includes restricted tokens with the RESTRICTED SID and Low IL tokens.
2) Accessing a symlink results in the NPFS driver synthesizing a NTFS symlink reparse point which is passed back to the object manager. This allows the symlink to reparse to different devices. This is presumably by design but it’s dangerous behavior.
3) Opening a symlink doesn’t respect the FILE_OPEN_REPARSE_POINT which could lead to some unusual behavior.

The fact that you can create the symlink as a lower privileged user is bad enough, although I don’t believe it can be done from an AC so maybe you don’t care about it. But the other two issues are examples of dangerous behavior which _will_ come back to bite you at some point in the future.

Let’s take point 2 as an example, up to this point NPFS hasn’t had the concept of symbolic links. Sure you could drop an appropriate object manager symlink somewhere and get a caller to follow it but you’d need to be able to influence the callers path or their DOS device directory. With this if a privileged caller is expecting to open a named pipe, say \\.\pipe\ABC then ABC could actually be a symbolic link to a normal file. If the caller then just writes data to the pipe expecting it to be a stream they could actually be writing data into a file which might result in EoP. Basically I see it’s a case of when not if that a EoP bug is found which abuses this behavior.

Also, there’s no way I know of for detecting you’re opening a symbolic link. For example if you open the target with the FILE_OPEN_REPARSE_POINT flag it continues to do the reparse operation. Due to creating a normal NTFS symbolic link this might also have weird behavior when a remote system accessed a named pipe, although I’ve not tested that.

Overall I think the behavior of the implementation has the potential for malicious use and should be limited to privileged users. I don’t know it’s original purpose, perhaps it’s related to Silos (there is a flag to make a global symlink) or it’s to make it easier to implement named pipes in WSL, I don’t know. If the purpose is just to symlink between named pipes then perhaps only allow a caller to specify the name relative to the NPFS device rather than allowing a full object path.

Proof of Concept:

I’ve provided a PoC as a C# project. The PoC will create a symlink called ABC which points to notepad.exe. It will check the file file it opens via the symlink matches the file opened directly.

1) Compile the C# project. It will need to grab the NtApiDotNet from NuGet to work.
2) Run the poc as Low IL (using say psexec).

Expected Result:
The creation of the symlink should fail with an error.

Observed Result:
The symlink is created, is valid and the poc printed ‘Success’ as it’s opened the copy of notepad.exe via the symlink.

Proof of Concept:

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