Saturday, 14 August 2021

How to secure a Windows RPC Server, and how not to.

The PetitPotam technique is still fresh in people's minds. While it's not directly an exploit it's a useful step to get unauthenticated NTLM from a privileged account to forward to something like the AD CS Web Enrollment service to compromise a Windows domain. Interestingly after Microsoft initially shrugged about fixing any of this they went and released a fix, although it seems to be insufficient at the time of writing.

While there's plenty of details about how to abuse the EFSRPC interface, there's little on why it's exploitable to begin with. I thought it'd be good to have a quick overview of how Windows RPC interfaces are secured and then by extension why it's possible to use the EFSRPC interface unauthenticated. 

Caveat: No doubt I might be missing other security checks in RPC, these are the main ones I know about :-)

RPC Server Security

The server security of RPC is one which has seemingly built up over time. Therefore there's various ways of doing it, and some ways are better than others. There are basically three approaches, which can be mixed and matched:
  1. Securing the endpoint
  2. Securing the interface
  3. Ad-hoc security
Let's take each one in turn to determine how each one secures the RPC server.

Securing the Endpoint

You register the endpoint that the RPC server will listen on using the RpcServerUseProtseqEp API. This API takes the type of endpoint, such as ncalrpc (ALPC), ncacn_np (named pipe) or ncacn_ip_tcp (TCP socket) and creates the listening endpoint. For example the following would create a named pipe endpoint called DEMO.


The final parameter is optional but represents a security descriptor (SD) you assign to the endpoint to limit who has access. This can only be enforced on ALPC and named pipes as something like a TCP socket doesn't (technically) have an access check when it's connected to. If you don't specify an SD then a default is assigned. For a named pipe the default DACL grants the following uses write access:
  • Everyone
  • SELF
Where SELF is the creating user's SID. This is a pretty permissive SD. One interesting thing about RPC endpoints is they are multiplexed. You don't explicit associate an endpoint with the RPC interface you want to access. Instead you can connect to any endpoint that the process has created. The end result is that if there's a less secure endpoint in the same process it might be possible to access an interface using the least secure one. In general this makes relying on endpoint security risky, especially in processes which run multiple services, such as LSASS. In any case if you want to use a TCP endpoint you can't rely on the endpoint security as it doesn't exist.

Securing the Interface

The next way of securing the RPC server is to secure the interface itself. You register the interface structure that was generated by MIDL using one of the following APIs:
Each has a varying number of parameters some of which determine the security of the interface. The latest APIs are RpcServerRegisterIf3 and RpcServerInterfaceGroupCreate which were introduced in Windows 8. The latter is just a way of registering multiple interfaces in one call so we'll just focus on the former. The RpcServerRegisterIf3 has three parameters which affect security, SecurityDescriptor, IfCallback and Flags. 

The SecurityDescriptor parameter is easiest to explain. It assigns an SD to the interface, when a call is made on that interface then the caller's token is checked against the SD and access is only granted if the check passes. If no SD is specified a default is used which grants the following SIDs access (assuming a non-AppContainer process)
  • Everyone
  • BUILTIN\Administrators
  • SELF
The token to use for the access check is based either on the client's authentication (we'll discuss this later) or the authentication for the endpoint. ALPC and named pipe are authenticated transports, where as TCP is not. When using an unauthenticated transport the access check will be against the anonymous token. This means if the SD does not contain an allow ACE for ANONYMOUS LOGON it will be blocked.

Note, due to a quirk of the access check process the RPC runtime grants access if the caller has any access granted, not a specific access right. What this means is that if the caller is considered the owner, which is normally set to the creating user SID they might only be granted READ_CONTROL but that's sufficient to bypass the check. This could also be useful if the caller has SeTakeOwnershipPrivilege or similar as it'd be possible to generically bypass the interface SD check (though of course that privilege is dangerous in its own right).

The second parameter, IfCallback, takes an RPC_IF_CALLBACK function pointer. This callback function will be invoked when a call is made to the interface, although it will be called after the SD is checked. If the callback function returns RPC_S_OK then the call will be allowed, anything else will deny the call. The callback gets a pointer to the interface and the binding handle and can do various checks to determine if the caller is allowed to access the interface.

A common check is for the client's authentication level. The client can specify the level to use when connecting to the server using the RpcBindingSetAuthInfo API however the server can't directly specify the minimum authentication level it accepts. Instead the callback can use the RpcBindingInqAuthClient API to determine what the client used and grant or deny access based on that. The authentication levels we typically care about are as follows:
  • RPC_C_AUTHN_LEVEL_NONE - No authentication
  • RPC_C_AUTHN_LEVEL_CONNECT - Authentication at connect time, but not per-call.
  • RPC_C_AUTHN_LEVEL_PKT_INTEGRITY - Authentication at connect time, each call has integrity protection.
  • RPC_C_AUTHN_LEVEL_PKT_PRIVACY - Authentication at connect time, each call is encrypted and has integrity protection.
The authentication is implemented using a defined authentication service, such as NTLM or Kerberos, though that doesn't really matter for our purposes. Also note that this is only used for RPC services available over remote protocols such as named pipes or TCP. If the RPC server listens on ALPC then it's assumed to always be RPC_C_AUTHN_LEVEL_PKT_PRIVACY. Other checks the server could do would be the protocol sequence the client used, this would allow rejecting access via TCP but permit named pipes.

The final parameter is the flags. The flag most obviously related to security is RPC_IF_ALLOW_SECURE_ONLY (0x8). This blocks access to the interface if the current authentication level is RPC_C_AUTHN_LEVEL_NONE. This means the caller must be able to authenticate to the server using one of the permitted authentication services. It's not sufficient to use a NULL session, at least on any modern version of Windows. Of course this doesn't say much about who has authenticated, a server might still want to check the caller's identity.

The other important flag is RPC_IF_ALLOW_CALLBACKS_WITH_NO_AUTH (0x10). If the server specifies a security callback and this flag is not set then any unauthenticated client will be automatically rejected. 

If this wasn't complex enough there's at least one other related setting which applies system wide which will determine what type of clients can access what RPC server. The Restrict Unauthenticated RPC Clients group policy. By default this is set to None if the RPC server is running on a server SKU of Windows and Authenticated on a client SKU. 

In general what this policy does is limit whether a client can use an unauthenticated transport such as TCP when they haven't also separately authenticated to an valid authentication level. When set to None RPC servers can be accessed via an unauthenticated transport subject to any other restrictions the interface is registered with. If set to Authenticated then calls over unauthenticated transports are rejected, unless the RPC_IF_ALLOW_CALLBACKS_WITH_NO_AUTH flag is set for the interface or the client has authenticated separately. There's a third option, Authenticated without exceptions, which will block the call in all circumstances if the caller isn't using an authenticated transport. 

Ad-hoc Security

The final types of checks are basically anything else the server does to verify the caller. A common approach would be to perform a check within a specific function on the interface. For example, a server could generally allow unauthenticated clients, except when calling a method to read a important secret value. At that point is could insert an authentication level check to ensure the client has authenticated at RPC_C_AUTHN_LEVEL_PKT_PRIVACY so that the secret will be encrypted when returned to the client. 

Ultimately you'll have to check each function you're interested in to determine what, if any, security checks are in place. As with all ad-hoc checks it's possible that there's a logic bug in there which can be exploited to bypass the security restrictions.

Digging into EFSRPC

Okay, that covers the basics of how an RPC server is secured. Let's look at the specific example of the EFSRPC server abused by PetitPotam. Oddly there's two implementation of the RPC server, one in efslsaext.dll which the interface UUID of c681d488-d850-11d0-8c52-00c04fd90f7e and one in efssvc.dll with the interface UUID of df1941c5-fe89-4e79-bf10-463657acf44d. The one in efslsaext.dll is the one which is accessible unauthenticated, so let's start there. We'll go through the three approaches to securing the server to determine what it's doing.

First, the server does not register any of its own protocol sequences, with SDs or not. What this means is who can call the RPC server is dependent on what other endpoints have been registered by the hosting process, which in this case is LSASS.

Second, checking the for calls to one of the RPC server interface registration functions there's a single call to RpcServerRegisterIfEx in InitializeLsaExtension. This allows the caller to specify the security callback but not an SD. However in this case it doesn't specify any security callback. The InitializeLsaExtension function also does not specify either of the two security flags (it sets RPC_IF_AUTOLISTEN which doesn't have any security impact). This means that in general any authenticated caller is permitted.

Finally, from an ad-hoc security perspective all the main functions such as EfsRpcOpenFileRaw call the function EfsRpcpValidateClientCall which looks something like the following (error check removed).

void EfsRpcpValidateClientCall(RPC_BINDING_HANDLE Binding, 
                               PBOOL ValidClient) {
  unsigned int ClientLocalFlag;
  I_RpcBindingIsClientLocal(NULL, &ClientLocalFlag);
  if (!ClientLocalFlag) {
    RPC_WSTR StringBinding;
    RpcBindingToStringBindingW(Binding, &StringBinding);
    RpcStringBindingParseW(StringBinding, NULL, &Protseq, 
                           NULL, NULL, NULL);
        Protseq, -1, L"ncacn_np", -1) == CSTR_EQUAL)
        *ValidClient = TRUE;

Basically the ValidClient parameter will only be set to TRUE if the caller used the named pipe transport and the pipe wasn't opened locally, i.e. the named pipe was opened over SMB. This is basically all the security that's being checked for. Therefore the only security that could be enforced is limited by who's allowed to connect to a suitable named pipe endpoint.

At a minimum LSASS registers the \pipe\lsass named pipe endpoint. When it's setup in lsasrv.dll a SD is defined for the named pipe that grants the following users access:
  • Everyone
  • BUILTIN\Administrators
Therefore in theory the anonymous user has access to the pipe, and as there are no other security checks in place in the interface definition. Now typically anonymous access isn't granted by default to named pipes via a NULL session, however domain controllers have an exception to this policy through the configured Network access: Named Pipes that can be accessed anonymously security option. For DCs this allows lsarpc, samr and netlogon pipes, which are all aliases for the lsass pipe, to be accessed anonymously.

You can now understand why the EFS RPC server is accessible anonymously on DCs. How does the other EFS RPC server block access? In that case it specifies an interface SD to limit access to only the Everyone group and BUILTIN\Administrators. By default the anonymous user isn't a member of Everyone (although it can be configured as such) therefore this blocks access even if you connected via the lsass pipe.

The Fix is In

What did Microsoft do to fix PetitPotam? One thing they definitely didn't do is change the interface registration or the named pipe endpoint security. Instead they added an additional ad-hoc check to EfsRpcOpenFileRaw. Specifically they added the following code:

DWORD AllowOpenRawDL = 0;
if (AllowOpenRawDL == 1 && 
    !EfsRpcpValidateClientCall(hBinding, &ValidClient) && ValidClient) {
  // Call allowed.

Basically unless the AllowOpenRawDL registry value is set to one then the call is blocked entirely regardless of the authenticating client. This seems to be a perfectly valid fix, except that EfsRpcOpenFileRaw isn't the only function usable to start an NTLM authentication session. As pointed out by Lee Christensen you can also do it via EfsRpcEncryptFileSrv or EfsRpcQueryUsersOnFile or others. Therefore as no other changes were put in place these other functions are accessible just as unauthenticated as the original.

It's really unclear how Microsoft didn't see this, but I guess they might have been blinded by them actually fixing something which they were adamant was a configuration issue that sysadmins had to deal with. 

UPDATE 2021/08/17: It's worth noting that while you can access the other functions unauthenticated it seems any network access is done using the "authenticated" caller, i.e. the ANONYMOUS user so it's probably not that useful. The point of this blog is not about abusing EFSRPC but why it's abusable :-)

Anyway I hope that explains why PetitPotam works unauthenticated (props to topotam77 for the find) and might give you some insight into how you can determine what RPC servers might be accessible going forward.