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CAPEC-69: Target Programs with Elevated Privileges

Target Programs with Elevated Privileges
Definition in a New Window Definition in a New Window
Attack Pattern ID: 69
Abstraction: Standard
Status: Draft
Completeness: Complete
Presentation Filter:
+ Summary

This attack targets programs running with elevated privileges. The attacker would try to leverage a bug in the running program and get arbitrary code to execute with elevated privileges. For instance an attacker would look for programs that write to the system directories or registry keys (such as HKLM, which stores a number of critical Windows environment variables). These programs are typically running with elevated privileges and have usually not been designed with security in mind. Such programs are excellent exploit targets because they yield lots of power when they break. The malicious user try to execute its code at the same level as a privileged system call.

+ Attack Execution Flow
  1. The attacker probes for programs running with elevated privileges.

  2. The attacker finds a bug in a program running with elevated privileges.

  1. The attacker exploits the bug that she has found. For instance she can try to inject and execute arbitrary code or write to OS resources.

+ Attack Prerequisites
  • The targeted program runs with elevated OS privileges.

  • The targeted program accepts input data from the user or from another program.

  • The targeted program does not perform input validation properly.

  • The targeted program does not fail safely. For instance when a program fails it may authorize restricted access to anyone.

  • The targeted program has a vulnerability such as buffer overflow which may be exploited if a malicious user can inject unvalidated data. For instance a buffer overflow interrupts the program as it executes, and makes it run additional code supplied by the attacker. If the program under attack has elevated privileges to the OS, the attacker can elevate its privileges (such as having root level access).

  • The targeted program is giving away information about itself. Before performing such attack, an eventual attacker may need to gather information about the services running on the host target. The more the host target is verbose about the services that are running (version number of application, etc.) the more information can be gather by an attacker.

  • This attack often requires communicating with the host target services directly. For instance Telnet may be enough to communicate with the host target.

+ Typical Severity

Very High

+ Typical Likelihood of Exploit

Likelihood: Very High

+ Methods of Attack
  • Injection
  • API Abuse
  • Protocol Manipulation
  • Flooding
+ Attacker Skills or Knowledge Required

Skill or Knowledge Level: Low

An attacker can use a tool to scan and automatically launch an attack against known issues. A tool can also repeat a sequence of instructions and try to brute force the service on the host target, an example of that would be the flooding technique.

Skill or Knowledge Level: Medium

Skill or Knowledge Level: High

More advanced attack may require knowledge of the protocol spoken by the host service.

+ Probing Techniques

Probing technique include fuzzing (sending random data in order to fail the service on the host target), brute forcing (with automated tools), network scanning to determine which services are available and running on the target host.

There are freely available tools to probe and gather information from host target. For instance, the attacker can find out that a host target has not been patched by collecting such information.

+ Indicators-Warnings of Attack

The log can have a trace of abnormal activity. Also if abnormal activity is detected on the host target. For instance flooding should be seen as abnormal activity and the target host may decide to take appropriate action in order to mitigate the attack (data filtering or blocking). Resource exhaustion is also a sign of abnormal activity.

+ Obfuscation Techniques

The attacker may try to hide her attack by forging the host's logs. The attacker has interest in mimicking a legitimate call to the program or service under threat.

+ Solutions and Mitigations

Apply the principle of least privilege.

Validate all untrusted data.

Apply the latest patches.

Scan your services and disable the ones which are not needed and are exposed unnecessarily. Exposing programs increases the attack surface. Only expose the services which are needed and have security mechanisms such as authentication built around them.

Avoid revealing information about your system (e.g., version of the program) to anonymous users.

Make sure that your program or service fail safely. What happen if the communication protocol is interrupted suddenly? What happen if a parameter is missing? Does your system have resistance and resilience to attack? Fail safely when a resource exhaustion occurs.

If possible use a sandbox model which limits the actions that programs can take. A sandbox restricts a program to a set of privileges and commands that make it difficult or impossible for the program to cause any damage.

Check your program for buffer overflow and format String vulnerabilities which can lead to execution of malicious code.

Monitor traffic and resource usage and pay attention if resource exhaustion occurs.

Protect your log file from unauthorized modification and log forging.

+ Attack Motivation-Consequences
ScopeTechnical ImpactNote
Execute unauthorized code or commands
Run Arbitrary Code
Gain privileges / assume identity
DoS: resource consumption (memory)
Denial of Service
+ Relevant Security Requirements

A user must be authenticated if she invokes a privileged program.

+ Purposes
  • Exploitation
+ CIA Impact
Confidentiality Impact: HighIntegrity Impact: HighAvailability Impact: Low
+ Technical Context
Architectural Paradigms
+ References
[R.69.1] [REF-2] G. Hoglund and G. McGraw. "Exploiting Software: How to Break Code". Addison-Wesley. February 2004.
[R.69.2] [REF-3] "Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE)". CWE-214: Failure to protect stored data from modification. Draft. The MITRE Corporation. <http://cwe.mitre.org/data/definitions/214.html>.
[R.69.3] [REF-3] "Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE)". CWE-15: Setting manipulation. Draft. The MITRE Corporation. <http://cwe.mitre.org/data/definitions/15.html>.
[R.69.4] [REF-3] "Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE)". CWE-250: Often Misused: Privilege Management. Draft. The MITRE Corporation. <http://cwe.mitre.org/data/definitions/250.html>.
[R.69.5] [REF-3] "Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE)". CWE-264: Permissions, Privileges, and Access Controls. Draft. The MITRE Corporation. <http://cwe.mitre.org/data/definitions/264.html>.
[R.69.6] ATT&CK Project. "Exploitation of Vulnerability (1068)". MITRE. <https://attack.mitre.org/wiki/Exploitation_of_vulnerability>.
+ Content History
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2014-06-23Internal_CAPEC_Team
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2015-11-09Updated ReferencesInternal
CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation2017-01-09Updated Related_Attack_PatternsInternal

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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: December 07, 2015