By Ryan Naraine
Argeniss founder Cesar Cerrudo has found serious design weaknesses that
could allow a skilled hacker to take complete control of the operating
A hacker picking apart the security model of Microsoft's brand new
Windows Server 2008 has found serious design weaknesses that render some
of the product's new security protections "useless."
Cesar Cerrudo, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Argeniss
Information Security, in Parana, Argentina, says the weaknesses could
lead to privilege escalation attacks opens the door for a skilled hacker
to take complete control of the operating system.
"[We found] from design issues that were not identified by Microsoft
engineers during the Security Development Lifecycle, and allows accounts
commonly used by Windows services.NETWORK SERVICE and LOCAL SERVICE.to
bypass new Windows services protection mechanisms and elevate
privileges, Cerrudo said.
He said the discovery also affects Internet Information Services 7 in
the default configuration, allowing ASP.NET applications to "completely
compromise" operating system security.
Cerrudo, a security researcher who is highly regarded for his work on
database security, said the problem also afects Windows Vista, Windows
XP and Windows 2003.
"On Windows XP and Windows 2003 the problem is especially severe since
any Windows service, even when running under a low privileged account,
can potentially break through the security protections and fully
compromise the operating system. This includes all web applications
deployed on Internet Information Services 6," he added.
Cerrudo declined to provide technical details of the attack scenarios.
He plans to discuss the issue at the upcoming Hack in the Box Conference
in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
In that talk, entitled Token Kidnapping, Cerrudo said he will explain
how it is possible in Windows XP and 2003 to elevate privileges to LOCAL
SYSTEM from any process that has impersonation rights.
Vulnerable, but Still an Improvement
In Windows Vista and Windows 2008, he plans to show how to elevate
privileges to LOCAL SYSTEM from processes running under NETWORK SERVICE
and LOCAL SERVICE accounts.
At the Hack in the Box conference, Cerrudo said he will demonstrate
zero-day code for elevating privileges in SQL Server and Microsoft's
Internet Information Services.
Even as he set out to pour cold water on the design weaknesses, Cerrudo
said his audit found that Windows Server 2008 was "generally more secure
than previous versions."
Microsoft has touted Windows Server 2008 as its "most secure server" to
date, featuring architectural and defense-in-depth protections similar
to those fitted into Windows Vista.
The operating system has been hardened to help protect against failure
and several new technologies help prevent unauthorized connections to
networks, servers, data, and user accounts.
It comes with NAP (Network Access Protection) to handle health checks;
enhancements to make Active Directory services a unified and integrated
IDA (Identity and Access) solution; and (RODC) Read-Only Domain
Controller and BitLocker Drive Encryption to allow users to securely
deploy Active Directory databases.
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