A local privilege escalation (LPE) vulnerability in Windows was reported to Microsoft on September 9, 2022, by Andrea Pierini (@decoder_it) and Antonio Cocomazzi (@splinter_code). The vulnerability would allow an attacker with a low-privilege account on a host to read/write arbitrary files with SYSTEM privileges.

Microsoft released a fix for the vulnerability in the January 2023 patch Tuesday, and a working Proof-of-Concept (PoC) was later released on February 10, 2023. The vulnerability was assigned CVE-2023-21746.

While the vulnerability in itself wouldn’t directly allow executing commands as SYSTEM, we can combine it with several vectors to achieve this result. Conveniently, on February 13, another privilege escalation PoC was published by BlackArrowSec that abuses the StorSvc service, allowing an attacker to execute code as SYSTEM as long as they can write a DLL file to any directory in the PATH.

We covered the exploitation of LocalPotato (CVE-2023-21746) in addition to methods of detection and analysis as part of TryHackMe LocalPotato room.

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The LocalPotato PoC takes advantage of a flaw in a special case of NTLM authentication called NTLM local authentication to trick a privileged process into authenticating a session the attacker starts against the local SMB Server. As a result, the attacker ends up having a connection that grants him access to any shares with the privileges of the tricked process, including special shares like C$ or ADMIN$.

The process followed by the exploit is as follows:

  1. The attacker will trigger a privileged process to connect to a rogue server under his control. This works similarly to previous Potato exploits, where an unprivileged user can force the Operating System into creating connections that use a privileged user (usually SYSTEM).
  2. The rogue server will instantiate a Security Context A for the privileged connection but won’t send it back immediately. Instead, the attacker will launch a rogue client that simultaneously initiates a connection against the local SMB Server (Windows File Sharing) with its current unprivileged credentials. The client will send the Type1 message to initiate the connection, and the server will reply by sending a Type2 message with the ID for a new Security Context B.
  3. The attacker will swap the Context IDs from both connections so that the privileged process receives the context of the SMB server connection instead of its own. As a result, the Privileged client will associate its user (SYSTEM) with Security Context B of the SMB connection created by the attacker. As a result, the attacker’s client can now access any network share with SYSTEM privileges!

By having a privileged connection to SMB shares, the attacker can read or write files to the target machine in any location. While this won’t allow us to run commands directly against the vulnerable machine, we will combine this with a different attack vector to achieve that end.

Note that the vulnerability is in the NTLM protocol rather than the SMB Server, so this same attack vector could be theoretically used against any service that leverages authentication through NTLM. In practice, however, some caveats must be dealt with when selecting the protocol to attack. The PoC uses the SMB Server to avoid some extra protections in place for other protocols against similar attack vectors and even implements a quick bypass to get the exploit to work against the SMB Server.

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Elevate your privileges on the system to get an administrative console. What is the value of the flag in C:\users\administrator\desktop\flag.txt?

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