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CAPEC-69: Target Programs with Elevated Privileges

Attack Pattern ID: 69
Abstraction: Standard
Status: Draft
Presentation Filter:
+ Description
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.
+ Likelihood Of Attack

High

+ Typical Severity

Very High

+ Relationships

The table(s) below shows the other attack patterns and high level categories that are related to this attack pattern. These relationships are defined as ChildOf, ParentOf, MemberOf and give insight to similar items that may exist at higher and lower levels of abstraction. In addition, relationships such as CanFollow, PeerOf, and CanAlsoBe are defined to show similar attack patterns that the user may want to explore.

+ Relevant to the view "Mechanisms of Attack" (CAPEC-1000)
NatureTypeIDName
ChildOfMeta Attack PatternMeta Attack Pattern - A meta level attack pattern in CAPEC is a decidedly abstract characterization of a specific methodology or technique used in an attack. A meta attack pattern is often void of a specific technology or implementation and is meant to provide an understanding of a high level approach. A meta level attack pattern is a generalization of related group of standard level attack patterns. Meta level attack patterns are particularly useful for architecture and design level threat modeling exercises.233Privilege Escalation
CanPrecedeDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.8Buffer Overflow in an API Call
CanPrecedeDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.9Buffer Overflow in Local Command-Line Utilities
CanPrecedeDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.10Buffer Overflow via Environment Variables
CanPrecedeDetailed Attack PatternDetailed Attack Pattern - A detailed level attack pattern in CAPEC provides a low level of detail, typically leveraging a specific technique and targeting a specific technology, and expresses a complete execution flow. Detailed attack patterns are more specific than meta attack patterns and standard attack patterns and often require a specific protection mechanism to mitigate actual attacks. A detailed level attack pattern often will leverage a number of different standard level attack patterns chained together to accomplish a goal.67String Format Overflow in syslog()
+ Execution Flow
Explore
  1. The attacker probes for programs running with elevated privileges.

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

Exploit
  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.

+ 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.
+ Skills Required
[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.
[Level: Medium]
More advanced attack may require knowledge of the protocol spoken by the host service.
+ Indicators
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.
+ Consequences

The table below specifies different individual consequences associated with the attack pattern. The Scope identifies the security property that is violated, while the Impact describes the negative technical impact that arises if an adversary succeeds in their attack. The Likelihood provides information about how likely the specific consequence is expected to be seen relative to the other consequences in the list. For example, there may be high likelihood that a pattern will be used to achieve a certain impact, but a low likelihood that it will be exploited to achieve a different impact.

ScopeImpactLikelihood
Confidentiality
Integrity
Availability
Execute Unauthorized Commands
Confidentiality
Access Control
Authorization
Gain Privileges
Availability
Resource Consumption
+ 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.
+ References
[REF-1] G. Hoglund and G. McGraw. "Exploiting Software: How to Break Code". Addison-Wesley. 2004-02.
+ Content History
Submissions
Submission DateSubmitterOrganization
2014-06-23CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Modifications
Modification DateModifierOrganization
2015-11-09CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated References
2017-01-09CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Related_Attack_Patterns
2018-07-31CAPEC Content TeamThe MITRE Corporation
Updated Attacker_Skills_or_Knowledge_Required, References

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Page Last Updated or Reviewed: July 31, 2018