Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Standard Activating Yourself to Greatness

This week @decoder_it and @splinter_code disclosed a new way of abusing DCOM/RPC NTLM relay attacks to access remote servers. This relied on the fact that if you're in logged in as a user on session 0 (such as through PowerShell remoting) and you call CoGetInstanceFromIStorage the DCOM activator would create the object on the lowest interactive session rather than the session 0. Once an object is created the initial unmarshal of the IStorage object would happen in the context of the user authenticated to that session. If that happens to be a privileged user such as a Domain Administrator then the NTLM authentication could be relayed to a remote server and fun ensues.

The obvious problem with this attack is the requirement of being in session 0. Certainly it's possible a non-admin user might be allowed to authenticate to a system via PowerShell remoting but it'd be rarer than just being authenticated on a Terminal Server with multiple other users you could attack. It'd be nice if somehow you could pick the session that the object was created on.

Of course this already exists, you can use the session moniker to activate an object cross-session (other than to session 0 which is special). I've abused this feature multiple times for cross-session attacks, such as this, this or this. I've repeated told Microsoft they need to fix this activation route as it makes no sense than a non-administrator can do it. But my warnings have not been heeded. 

If you read the description of the session moniker you might notice a problem for us, it can't be combined with IStorage activation. The COM APIs only give us one or the other. However, if you poke around at the DCOM protocol documentation you'll notice that they are technically independent. The session activation is specified by setting the dwSessionId field in the SpecialPropertiesData activation property. And the marshalled IStorage object can be passed in the ifdStg field of the InstanceInfoData activation property. You package those activation properties up and send them to the IRemoteSCMActivator RemoteGetClassObject or RemoteCreateInstance methods. Of course it's possible this won't really work, but at least they are independent properties and could be mixed.

The problem with testing this out is implementing DCOM activation is ugly. The activation properties first need to be NDR marshalled in a blob. They then need to be packaged up correctly before it can be sent to the activator. Also the documentation is only for remote activation which is not we want, and there are some weird quirks of local activation I'm not going to go into. Is there any documented way to access the activator without doing all this?

No, sorry. There is an undocumented way though if you're interested? Sure? Okay good, let's carry on. The key with these sorts of challenges is to just look at how the system already does it. Specifically we can look at how session moniker is activating the object and maybe from that we'll be lucky and we can reuse that for our own purposes.

Where to start? If you read this MSDN article you can see you need to call MkParseDisplayNameEx to create parse the string into a moniker. But that's really a wrapper over MkParseDisplayName to provide URL moniker functionality which we don't care about. We'll just start at the MkParseDisplayName which is in OLE32.

HRESULT MkParseDisplayName(LPBC pbc, LPCOLESTR szUserName, 
      ULONG *pchEaten, LPMONIKER *ppmk) {
  HRESULT hr = FindLUAMoniker(pbc, szUserName, &pcchEaten, &ppmk);
  if (hr == MK_E_UNAVAILABLE) {
    hr = FindSessionMoniker(pbc, szUserName, &pcchEaten, &ppmk);
  // Parse rest of moniker.

Almost immediately we see a call to FindSessionMoniker, seems promising. Looking into that function we find what we need.

HRESULT FindSessionMoniker(LPBC pbc, LPCWSTR pszDisplayName, 
                           ULONG *pchEaten, LPMONIKER *ppmk) {
  DWORD dwSessionId = 0;
  BOOL bConsole = FALSE;
  if (wcsnicmp(pszDisplayName, L"Session:", 8))
    return MK_E_UNAVAILABLE;
if (!wcsnicmp(pszDisplayName + 8, L"Console", 7)) {
    dwConsole = TRUE;
    *pcbEaten = 15;
  } else {
    LPWSTR EndPtr;
    dwSessionId = wcstoul(pszDisplayName + 8, &End, 0);
    *pcbEaten = EndPtr - pszDisplayName;

  *ppmk = new CSessionMoniker(dwSessionId, bConsole);
  return S_OK;

This code parses out the session moniker data and then creates a new instance of the CSessionMoniker class. Of course this is not doing any activation yet. You don't use the session moniker in isolation, instead you're supposed to build a composite moniker with a new or class moniker. The MkParseDisplayName API will keep parsing the string (which is why pchEaten is updated) and combine each moniker it finds. Therefore, if you have the moniker display name:


The API will return a composite moniker consisting of the session moniker for session 3 and the class moniker for CLSID 0002DF02-0000-0000-C000-000000000046 which is the Browser Broker. The example code then calls BindToObject on the composite moniker, which first calls the right most moniker, which is the class moniker.

HRESULT CClassMoniker::BindToObject(LPBC pbc, 
  LPMONIKER pmkToLeft, REFIID riid, void **ppv) {
  if (pmkToLeft) {
      IClassActivator pClassActivator;
      pmkToLeft->BindToObject(pcb, nullptr, 
        IID_IClassActivator, &pClassActivator);
      return pClassActivator->GetClassObject(m_clsid, 
            CLSCTX_SERVER, 0, riid, ppv);

  // ...

The pmkToLeft parameter is set by the composite moniker to the left moniker, which is the session moniker. We can see that the class moniker calls the session moniker's BindToObject method requesting an IClassActivator interface. It then calls the GetClassObject method, passing it the CLSID to activate. We're almost there.

HRESULT CSessionMoniker::GetClassObject(
   REFCLSID pClassID, CLSCTX dwClsContext, 
   LCID locale, REFIID riid, void **ppv) {
  IStandardActivator* pActivator;
  CoCreateInstance(&CLSID_ComActivator, NULL, CLSCTX_INPROC_SERVER, 
    IID_IStandardActivator, &pActivator);

  ISpecialSystemProperties pSpecialProperties;
  pSpecialProperties->SetSessionId(m_sessionid, m_console, TRUE);
  return pActivator->StandardGetClassObject(pClassId, dwClsContext, 
                                            NULL, riid, ppv);


Finally the session moniker creates a new COM activator object with the IStandardActivator interface. It then queries for the ISpecialSystemProperties interface and sets the moniker's session ID and console state. It then calls the StandardGetClassObject method on the IStandardActivator and you should now have a COM server cross-session. None of these interface or the class are officially documented of course (AFAIK).

The $1000 question is, can you also do IStorage activation through the IStandardActivator interface? Poking around in COMBASE for the implementation of the interface you find one of its functions is:

HRESULT StandardGetInstanceFromIStorage(COSERVERINFO* pServerInfo, 
  REFCLSID pclsidOverride, IUnknown* punkOuter, CLSCTX dwClsCtx, 
  IStorage* pstg, int dwCount, MULTI_QI pResults[]);

It seems that the answer is yes. Of course it's possible that you still can't mix the two things up. That's why I wrote a quick and dirty example in C#, which is available here. Seems to work fine. Of course I've not tested it out with the actual vulnerability to see it works in that scenario. That's something for others to do.