EEYE: Windows VDM Zero Page Race Condition Privilege Escalation Apr 10 2007 05:57PM
eEye Advisories (Advisories eeye com)
Windows VDM Zero Page Race Condition Privilege Escalation

Release Date:
April 10, 2007

Date Reported:
December 12, 2006

Medium (Local Privilege Escalation to Kernel)

Systems Affected:
Windows NT 4.0 SP6
Windows 2000 SP4
Windows XP SP2 (x86)
Windows Server 2003 SP2 (x86)

eEye Digital Security has discovered a local privilege escalation
vulnerability in the Windows kernel that allows an unprivileged user
with the ability to execute a program to fully compromise an affected
system. All x86 versions of Windows up to and including Windows Server
2003 SP2 are vulnerable.

The Windows kernel's Virtual DOS Machine (VDM) implementation features a
race condition through which a malicious program can modify the first
4KB page of physical memory (also known as the "zero page"). The data
in this region of memory is trusted and may be subsequently used by
other Virtual DOS Machines, including a VDM instantiated by the Windows
kernel as part of hibernating or effecting a blue-screen crash.
Exploitation of this vulnerability therefore allows arbitrary code to
run within other users' VDM processes, and even within the kernel if
hibernation or a blue-screen can be provoked by any available means.

This vulnerability was silently fixed within Windows Vista in June 2006
or earlier.

Technical Details:
As part of VDM initialization, NT!VdmpInitialize (invoked by calling
NtVdmControl(3)) copies the contents of the zero page to virtual address
0, so that the VDM can have a duplicate of the system's original
Interrupt Vector Table (IVT) and BIOS data area. To accomplish this,
VdmpInitialize opens "\Device\PhysicalMemory" with SECTION_ALL_ACCESS,
then maps a view of the first 4KB of the section. What happens next is
a memmove from this view to virtual address 0, wrapped in an exception
handler which will unmap the view and abort the function in the event of
an exception; the view is also immediately unmapped if the memmove
completes successfully.

Regrettably, the physical memory view is mapped with PAGE_READWRITE
memory permissions into the user-mode portion of the address space, so a
malicious thread may be able to regain execution before the view is
unmapped, and then directly modify the zero page by writing into the
view. Although the window of opportunity presented by the race
condition is brief, the base address of the mapping is dynamic, and
VdmpInitialize can only successfully execute once per process, it is
nevertheless possible to quickly and reliably exploit this
vulnerability. Working out the details, however, is left as an exercise
for the reader.

Just kidding.

By creating a number of high-priority, CPU-bound threads within the
NTVDM process, the chances of preempting the VdmpInitialize thread while
the view is available (for instance, when virtual page 0 is first
touched, or during the call to ZwUnmapViewOfSection) increase greatly.
As for the address of the view, it can be corralled to the point of
predictability by filling the virtual address space of the process, with
the exclusion of one hole which the CPU-bound "writer" threads will
repeatedly target. And while it is true that VdmpInitialize can only
succeed once per process, it can fail endlessly, each time mapping and
attempting to duplicate the zero page. If there is no writable memory
at virtual address 0 when VdmpInitialize calls memmove, an access
violation occurs and the function fails. (Note that this trick does not
apply to NT 4.0, as the exception is unhandled and will result in a

Code executing in Virtual-8086 mode within a VDM may call software
interrupts from the IVT at will; the most interesting example is within
the VDM established by HAL.DLL!HalpBiosDisplayReset. Here, HalpBiosCall
is invoked to transfer execution to HalpRealModeStart, which is simply
the instructions "MOV EAX, 12h / INT 10h" followed by a VDM "BOP." The
physical page of HAL.DLL containing this code is mapped at virtual
address 20000h with write permissions, and therefore the INT 10h handler
may patch code within HAL.DLL (for instance, HalpRealModeEnd) in order
to transcend V86 mode and infiltrate the kernel directly. (It is also
worth noting that the V86-mode code necessarily executes with
EFlags.IOPL set to 3.)

Although the kernel is currently only known to use BIOS interrupts in
the event of hibernation or a blue-screen (via InbvResetDisplay), this
vulnerability does thereby enable what would otherwise be a local
denial-of-service to become a local elevation of privileges.

On Windows NT 4.0, which does not support the OBJ_KERNEL_HANDLE
ObjectAttributes flag, a second race condition exists wherein the
temporary "\Device\PhysicalMemory" section handle opened during
VdmpInitialize may be abused by an unprivileged program, allowing write
access to the entirety of physical memory.

Retina - Network Security Scanner has been updated to identify this

Vendor Status:
Microsoft has released a patch for this vulnerability. The patch is
available at:

Derek Soeder

Related Links:
eEye Research - http://research.eeye.com
Retina - Network Security Scanner - Free Trial:
Blink - Unified Client Security Personal - Free For Personal Use For One
Blink - Unified Client Security Professional - Free Trial:
Blink - Unified Client Security Neighborhood Watch - Free For Personal

Jim H. RB, SB, MB, SJ, Doc. GLin, CSam, and Tamara

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