Introducing the USB Stick of Death

(Bug found by Gynvael Coldwind, exploit developed by Mateusz “j00ru” Jurczyk)

Several months back we have been playing with different file systems on various system platforms, examining the security posture and robustness of numerous device drivers’ implementations. One of the configurations we spent some time on was the commonly used NTFS on Microsoft Windows – as the file system is rather complex and still largely unexplored, we could expect its device driver to have some bugs to that would be easily uncovered. In addition, it was certainly tempting to be able to simply insert a USB stick, have it automatically mounted by the operating system and immediately compromise it by triggering a vulnerability in ntfs.sys. We had some promising results during the process, one being an interesting bug (though not quite dangerous) that we managed to analyze and exploit into a local elevation of privileges. In today’s post, we are providing some specifics regarding the nature of the vulnerability, and how it can be taken advantage of to acquire system privileges on the Microsoft Windows 7 64-bit platform.

Please note that the presented issue requires the attacker to obtain physical access to the machine and have a local user in the system. Consequently, the only scenario in which it might be a problem security-wise is a local computer shared between multiple users with restricted privileges (e.g. schools, universities, hostels) and thus has been rated as low-severity by both us and MSRC, which has been informed about the matter and claimed to have passed the information to the Windows team for potential fixing as a stability issue somewhere in the future. We are releasing some of its technical details as an interesting case study of Windows kernel exploitation using somewhat novel techniques to achieve reliable execution of code with escalated privileges. Enjoy!

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