Attacker Value


Disclosure Date: June 09, 2020


(1 user assessed) Moderate
Attack Vector
Privileges Required
User Interaction


An elevation of privilege vulnerability exists in Windows Defender that leads arbitrary file deletion on the system.To exploit the vulnerability, an attacker would first have to log on to the system, aka ‘Microsoft Windows Defender Elevation of Privilege Vulnerability’. This CVE ID is unique from CVE-2020-1163.

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Technical Analysis


This is a vulnerability within the MpCmdRun.exe component of Windows Defender which, in MpCmdRun.exe versions prior to 4.18.2005.1, did not appropriately validate that the file at C:\Windows\Temp\MpCmdRun.log.bak was not a directory prior to trying to delete it. As a result, attackers could exploit this vulnerability to delete arbitrary files as the SYSTEM user, which could allow for an elevation of privilege.

Rating as medium as it require authenticated access, but leaving exploitability as a medium as in theory this could work if the LPE vector does indeed work like the article states, but wasn’t able to confirm this. Also need to fill a log file with 16 MB of data which can take some time to do when your only writing about 2 KB per attempt.

Edit: Originally put this as easy to weaponize but tbh the file deletion trick stumped a lot of people as many people have stopped there before getting to LPE so even if we do get it working, its not exactly a “simple trick”.

Longer Explanation

Now that the summary of this vulnerability is out of the way, lets dive into the details a bit. The original discoverer of this bug is itm4n, who wrote a writeup at explaining his thought process and steps for discovering this vulnerability and the various different things that he found worked and didn’t work during his research. If you haven’t read it already I would highly recommend taking a look at it. Its not a challenging read compared to most technical blog posts, and it provides a great overview of how to actually query deeper to find interesting bugs.

With that being said I’m not going to repeat itm4n’s blog verbatum here, but rather explain some of the notes I made whilst reading his blog. The first interesting point, and perhaps the most important, is that Windows Defender has a log file that it creates when updating signatures, located at C:\Windows\Temp\MpCmdRun.log, which is then backed up to a file at C:\Windows\Temp\MpCmdRun.log.bak when its size exceeds 16 MB. The interesting thing to note though is that if one runs icacls on these files as an administrator, they will notice that these files can only be deleted or otherwise modified by SYSTEM or one of the computer’s administrators. This leads us to an interesting point: If the C:\Windows\Temp\MpCmdRun.log.bak file already exists, this vulnerability can only be exploited by a local administrator.

If alternatively, the file does not exist, an attacker can create a Directory Junction at C:\Windows\Temp\MpCmdRun.log.bak and link this to an arbitrary directory by using the command cmd.exe /C 'mklink /J C:\Windows\Temp\MpCmdRun.log.bak *target directory*. Following this they will then need to fill up the contents of the file at C:\Windows\Temp\MpCmdRun.log so that is 16 MB or larger, which can be done by repetitively running the command for ($i=0; $i -lt 2000; $i++) { Update-MpSignature -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue -UpdateSource InternalDefinitionUpdateServer }. Note that this command may need some pauses to prevent locking up MpCmdRun.exe as during tests there where times if we ran too many tests we either had to open another PowerShell command, or wait about 40 seconds or so before continuing. More testing may need to be performed to check how to solve this issue and make things more reliable.

Whilst executing this loop the attacker will most likely end up triggering the bug, which will cause all files and folders in the *target directory* specified earlier, no matter how deeply nested they are inside *target directory*, to be deleted. In the exploit itm4n briefly shows within his blog, he set *target directory* to C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\WER. The reason for this is that by deleting this directory and all files and folders located underneath it, we can then abuse a flaw in the WER service whereby if the C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\WER folder doesn’t exist, then when running the task \Microsoft\Windows\Windows Error Reporting\QueueReporting, the folder will be recreated albeit with read, write and delete permissions enabled for all authenticated users.

Supposively you can then create the C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\WER folder as a junction folder that links to \??\c:\windows\system32\wermgr.exe.local. This folder does not exist by default on Windows systems. By doing this C:\Windows\System32\wermgr.exe.local\ will be created as a directory with the same open permissions that grant all authenticated users to read, write and delete permissions. From there one can create the directory inside of C:\Windows\System32\wermgr.exe.local\ , and then place a malicious copy of comctl32.dll, which will then get loaded and run as the SYSTEM user when wermgr.exe is run, granting the attacker arbitrary code execution as the SYSTEM user.

Unfortunately whilst I was able to confirm the original arbitrary file deletion bug and that it was possible to delete the C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\WER on a June 2019 patched Windows 10 x64 v2004 machine, create an empty WER job using the code from, and have the C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\WER directory created with Read, Write, and Delete permissions granted to all authenticated users, I was unable to figure out how to create the junction folder as needed to exploit the Windows Error Reporting (WER) behavior, as if the directory C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\WER exists, one cannot create a junction directory on top of it using tools like mklink. Perhaps there is some other way I am not aware of?

Overall the bug definitely exists, but I remain a bit skeptical on the practicality of getting it to a LPE for the time being until I can confirm how to transform the arbitrary file deletion into a LPE vector, cause articles can be wrong at times and I like to run code to confirm whether things legitimately work or not, not rely on heresay.

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