Escalating Privileges with CylancePROTECT

If you regularly perform penetration tests, red team exercises, or endpoint assessments, chances are you've probably encountered CylancePROTECT at some point. Depending on the CylancePROTECT policy configuration, your standard tools and techniques may not have worked as expected. I've ran into situations where the administrators of CylancePROTECT set the policy to be too relaxed and establishing a presence on the target system was trivial. With that said, I've also encountered targets where the policy was very strict and gaining a stable, reliable shell was not an easy task.

After a few frustrating CylancePROTECT encounters, I decided to install it locally and learn more about how it works to try and make my next encounter less frustrating. The majority of CylancePROTECT is written in .NET, so I started by firing up dnSpy, loaded the assemblies, and started looking around. I spent several nights and weekends casually looking through the codebase (which is quite massive) and found myself spending most of my time analyzing how the CylanceUI process communicated with the CylanceSvc process. My hope was that I would find a secret command I could use to stop the service as a user, but no such command exists (for users). However, I did find a privilege escalation vulnerability that could be triggered as a user via the inter-process communication ("IPC") channels.

Several commands can be sent to the CylanceSvc from the CylanceUI process via the tray menu, some of which are enabled by starting the UI with the advanced flag: CylanceUI.exe /advanced

 CylanceUI Advanced Menu

CylanceUI Advanced Menu

Prior to starting a deeper investigation of the different menu options, I used Process Monitor to get high level view of how CylancePROTECT interacted with Windows when I clicked these menu options. My favorite option ended up being the logging verbosity, not only because it gave me an even deeper insight into what CylancePROTECT was doing, but also because it plays a major role in this privilege escalation vulnerability. The 'Check for Updates' option also caught my eye in procmon because it caused the CyUpdate process to spawn as SYSTEM.

 CyUpdate Spawning as SYSTEM

CyUpdate Spawning as SYSTEM

The procmon output I witnessed at this point told me quite a bit and was what made me begin my hunt for a possible privilege escalation vulnerability. The three main indicators were:

  1. As a user, I could communicate with the CylanceSvc service and influences its behavior
  2. As a user, I could trigger the CyUpdate process to spawn with SYSTEM privileges
  3. As a user, I could cause the CylanceUI process to write to the same file/folder as the SYSTEM process
 CylanceUI and CylanceSvc writing to log

CylanceUI and CylanceSvc writing to log

 CyUpdate writing to log

CyUpdate writing to log

The third indicator is the most important. It’s not uncommon for a user process and system process to share the same resource, but it is uncommon for the user process to have full read/write permissions to that resource. I confirmed the permissions on the log folder and files with icacls:

 Log folder and File Modify Permissions

Log folder and File Modify Permissions

Having modify permissions on a folder will allow for it to be setup as a mount point to redirect read/write operations to another location. I confirmed this by using James Forshaw's symboliclink-testing-tools to create a mount point, as well as try other symbolic link vectors. Before creating the mount point, I made sure to set CylancePROTECT’s log level to 'Error' to prevent additional logs from being created after I emptied the log folder.

 Log folder mount point created

Log folder mount point created

After creating the mount point, I increased the log verbosity and confirmed the log file was created in the mount point target folder, C:\Windows.

 CylanceSvc writing log to C:\Windows\

CylanceSvc writing log to C:\Windows\

 CyUpdate change log file permissions

CyUpdate change log file permissions

 Log file modify permissions

Log file modify permissions

Writing a log file to an arbitrary location is neat but doesn't demonstrate much impact or add value to an attack vector. To gain SYSTEM privileges with this vector, I needed to be able to control the filename that was written, as well as the contents of the file. Neither of these tasks can be accomplished by interacting with CylancePROTECT via the IPC channels. However, I was able to use one of Forshaw's clever symbolic link tricks to control the name of the file. This is done by using two symbolic links that are setup like this:

  1. C:\Program Files\Cylance\Desktop\log mount point folder points to the \RPC Control\ object directory.
  2. \RPC Control\2018-03-20.log symlink points to \??\C:\Windows\evil.dll

One of James' symbolic link testing tools will automatically create this symlink chain by simply specifying the original file and target destination, in this case the command looked like this, CreateSymlink.exe "C:\Program Files\Cylance\Desktop\log\2018-03-20.log" C:\Windows\evil.dll, and the result was:

 Creating symlink chain to control filename

Creating symlink chain to control filename

 File with arbitrary name created in C:\Windows

File with arbitrary name created in C:\Windows

At this point I've written a file to an arbitrary location with an arbitrary name and since the CyUpdate.exe process grants Users modify permissions on the "log file", I could overwrite the log contents with the contents of a DLL.

 Contents of C:\Windows\evil.dll

Contents of C:\Windows\evil.dll

 Verifying overwrite permissions

Verifying overwrite permissions

From here all I needed to get a SYSTEM shell was a DLL hijack in a SYSTEM service. I decided to target CylancePROTECT for this because I knew I could reliably spawn the CyUpdate process as a user. Leveraging Procmon again, I set my filters to:

  1. Path contains .dll
  2. Result contains NOT
  3. Process is CyUpdate.exe

The resulting output in procmon looked like this:

 libc.dll hijack identified in procmon

libc.dll hijack identified in procmon

Now all I had to do was setup the chain again, but this time point the symlink to C:\Program Files\Cylance\Desktop\libc.dll (any of the highlighted locations would have worked). This symlink gave me a modifiable DLL that I could force CylancePROTECT to load and execute, resulting in a SYSTEM shell:

 Gaining SYSTEM shell and stopping CylanceSvc

Gaining SYSTEM shell and stopping CylanceSvc

Elevating our privileges from a user to SYSTEM is great, but more importantly, we meet the conditions required to communicate with the CylancePROTECT kernel driver CYDETECT. This elevated privilege allows us to send the ENABLE_STOP IOCTL code to the kernel driver and gracefully stop the service. In the screenshot above, you’ll notice the CylanceSvc is stopped as a result of loading the DLL.

Privilege escalation vulnerabilities via symbolic links are quite common. James Forshaw has found many of them in Windows and other Microsoft products. The initial identification of these types of bugs can be performed without ever opening IDA or doing any sort of static analysis, as I’ve demonstrated above. With that said, it is still a good idea to find the offending code and determine if it’s within a library that affects multiple services or an isolated issue.

Preventing symbolic link attacks may not be as easy as you would think. From a developer’s perspective, these types of vulnerabilities don’t stand out like a SQLi, XSS, or RCE bug since they’re typically a hard to spot permissions issue. When privileged services need to share file system resources with low-privileged users, it is very important that the user permissions are minimal.

Upon finding this vulnerability, Cylance was contacted, and a collaborative effort was made through Bugcrowd to remediate the finding. Cylance responded to the submission quickly and validated the finding within a few days. The fix was deployed 40 days after the submission and was included in the 1470 release of CylancePROTECT.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter: @ryHanson

Atredis Partners has assigned this vulnerability the advisory ID: ATREDIS-2018-0003.

The CVE assigned to this vulnerability is: CVE-2018-10722