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Microsoft Security Bulletin MS03-039 - Critical

Buffer Overrun In RPCSS Service Could Allow Code Execution (824146)

Published: September 10, 2003

Version: 1.0

Originally posted: September 10, 2003

Summary

Who should read this bulletin: 
Users running Microsoft ® Windows ®

Impact of vulnerability: 
Three new vulnerabilities, the most serious of which could enable an attacker to run arbitrary code on a user's system.

Maximum Severity Rating: 
Critical

Recommendation: 
System administrators should apply the security patch immediately

End User Bulletin:
An end user version of this bulletin is available at:

http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/update/bulletins/default.mspx.

Protect your PC:
Additional information on how you can help protect your PC is available at the following locations:

Affected Software:

  • Microsoft Windows NT Workstation 4.0
  • Microsoft Windows NT Server® 4.0
  • Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition
  • Microsoft Windows 2000
  • Microsoft Windows XP
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003

Not Affected Software:

  • Microsoft Windows Millennium Edition

General Information

Technical description:

The fix provided by this patch supersedes the one included in Microsoft Security Bulletin MS03-026 and includes the fix for the security vulnerability discussed in MS03-026, as well as 3 newly discovered vulnerabilities.

Remote Procedure Call (RPC) is a protocol used by the Windows operating system. RPC provides an inter-process communication mechanism that allows a program running on one computer to seamlessly access services on another computer. The protocol itself is derived from the Open Software Foundation (OSF) RPC protocol, but with the addition of some Microsoft specific extensions.

There are three newly identified vulnerabilities in the part of RPCSS Service that deals with RPC messages for DCOM activation- two that could allow arbitrary code execution and one that could result in a denial of service. The flaws result from incorrect handling of malformed messages. These particular vulnerabilities affect the Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) interface within the RPCSS Service. This interface handles DCOM object activation requests that are sent from one machine to another.

An attacker who successfully exploited these vulnerabilities could be able to run code with Local System privileges on an affected system, or could cause the RPCSS Service to fail. The attacker could then be able to take any action on the system, including installing programs, viewing, changing or deleting data, or creating new accounts with full privileges.

To exploit these vulnerabilities, an attacker could create a program to send a malformed RPC message to a vulnerable system targeting the RPCSS Service.

Microsoft has released a tool that can be used to scan a network for the presence of systems which have not had the MS03-039 patch installed. More details on this tool are available in Microsoft Knowledge Base article 827363. This tool supersedes the one provided in Microsoft Knowledge Base article 826369. If the tool provided in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 826369 is used against a system which has installed the security patch provided with this bulletin, the superseded tool will incorrectly report that the system is missing the patch provided in MS03-026. Microsoft encourages customers to run the latest version of the tool available in Microsoft Knowledge Base article 827363 to determine if their systems are patched.

Mitigating factors:

  • Firewall best practices and standard default firewall configurations can help protect networks from remote attacks originating outside of the enterprise perimeter. Best practices recommend blocking all ports that are not actually being used. For this reason, most systems attached to the Internet should have a minimal number of the affected ports exposed.

Severity Rating:

Windows NT Workstation 4.0Windows NT Server 4.0Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server EditionWindows 2000Windows XPWindows Server 2003
Buffer Overrun Vulnerabilities CriticalCriticalCriticalCriticalCriticalCritical
Denial of Service Vulnerability NoneNoneNoneImportantNoneNone
Aggregate Severity of all Vulnerabilities CriticalCriticalCriticalCriticalCriticalCritical

The above assessment is based on the types of systems affected by the vulnerability, their typical deployment patterns, and the effect that exploiting the vulnerability would have on them.

Vulnerability identifier:

Buffer Overrun: CAN-2003-0715

Buffer Overrun: CAN-2003-0528

Denial of Service: CAN-2003-0605

Tested Versions:

Microsoft tested Windows Millennium Edition, Windows NT Workstation 4.0, Windows NT Server 4.0, Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 to assess whether they are affected by this vulnerability. Previous versions are no longer supported, and may or may not be affected by these vulnerabilities.

Security Bulletin MS03-026 also involved RPC. Does this patch supersede the one provided with that bulletin?
Yes. The security patch provided with this bulletin fully supersedes the patch provided in MS03-026, as well as the one provided in MS01-048.

What's the scope of the vulnerability?
There are three different vulnerabilities discussed in this bulletin. The first two are buffer overrun vulnerabilities, while the third is a denial of service vulnerability. An attacker who successfully exploited either of the buffer overrun vulnerabilities could gain complete control over a remote computer. This would give the attacker the ability to take any action that they wanted on the system, including changing Web pages, reformatting the hard disk or adding new users to the local administrators group.
An attacker who successfully exploited the denial of service vulnerability could cause the RPC Service to hang and become unresponsive.
To carry out such an attack, an attacker would need to be able to send a malformed message to the RPCSS service and thereby cause the target system to fail in such a way that arbitrary code could be executed.

What causes these vulnerabilities?
The vulnerabilities result because the Windows RPCSS service does not properly check message inputs under certain circumstances. After establishing a connection, an attacker could send a specially crafted malformed RPC message to cause the underlying Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) activation infrastructure in the RPCSS Service on the remote system to fail in such a way that arbitrary code could be executed.

What is DCOM?
The Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) is a protocol that enables software components to communicate directly over a network. Previously called "Network OLE," DCOM is designed for use across multiple network transports, including Internet protocols such as HTTP. For more information about DCOM visit the following Web site: http://www.microsoft.com/com/default.mspx

What is Remote Procedure Call (RPC)?
Remote Procedure Call (RPC) is a protocol that a program can use to request a service from a program located on another computer in a network. RPC helps with interoperability because the program using RPC does not have to understand the network protocols that are supporting communication. In RPC, the requesting program is the client and the service-providing program is the server.

What is COM Internet Services (CIS) and RPC over HTTP?
RPC over HTTP - v1 (Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000) and v2 (Windows XP, Windows Server 2003) introduce support for a new RPC transport protocol that allows RPC to operate over TCP ports 80 and 443 (v2 only). This allows a client and a server to communicate in the presence of most proxy servers and firewalls. COM Internet Services (CIS) allows DCOM to use RPC over HTTP to communicate between DCOM clients and DCOM servers.
More information on "RPC over HTTP " for Windows Server 2003 can be found at the following URL:
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa375384.aspx
More information on COM Internet Services (sometimes referred to as CIS) can be found at the following URL:
http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms809302

How do I know if I have COM Internet Services (CIS) or RPC over HTTP installed?
To determine whether a server has COM Internet Services or RPC over HTTP installed follow the steps below:

  • On Windows NT 4.0 systems with the Windows NT Option Pack installed: Search on all partitions for "rpcproxy.dll". If "rpcproxy.dll" is found on the server, COM Internet Services is installed.
  • On Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003 servers:

    In Control Panel, double-click Add/Remove Programs, and then double-click Add/Remove Windows Components.

    The Windows Components Wizard starts.

    Click Networking Services, and then click Details.

    If the COM Internet Services Proxy (for Windows 2000 Server) or the RPC over HTTP Proxy (for Windows Server 2003) check box is selected, CIS or RPC over HTTP support is enabled on the server.

    Note: You can also search for "rpcproxy.dll" on Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003 installations if you want to remotely or programmatically determine if CIS or RPC over HTTP is installed.

To search for a specific file on your computer: click Start, click Search, click For Files or Folders, and then type the name of the file that you want to search for.
The search may take several minutes, depending on the size of your hard disk.

What's wrong with the RPCSS Service?
There is a flaw in the RPCSS Service that deals with DCOM activation. A failure results because of incorrect handling of malformed messages. This particular failure affects the underlying RPCSS Service used for DCOM activation, which listens on UDP ports 135, 137, 138, 445 and TCP ports 135, 139, 445, 593. Additionally, it can listen on ports 80 and 443 if CIS or RPC over HTTP is enabled.
By sending a malformed RPC message, an attacker could cause the RPCSS Service on a system to fail in such a way that arbitrary code could be executed.

Is this a flaw in the RPC Endpoint Mapper?
No - Although the RPC endpoint mapper shares the RPCSS service with the DCOM infrastructure, the flaw actually occurs in the DCOM Activation infrastructure. The RPC endpoint mapper allows RPC clients to determine the port number currently assigned to a particular RPC service. An endpoint is a protocol-specific identifier of a service on a host machine. For protocols like TCP or UDP, this is a port. For named pipes, it is a named pipe name. Other protocols use other protocol specific endpoints.

What could these vulnerabilities enable an attacker to do?
An attacker who successfully exploited the buffer overrun vulnerabilities could be able to run code with Local System privileges on an affected system. The attacker could be able to take any action on the system, including installing programs, viewing changing or deleting data, or creating new accounts with full privileges.
An attacker who successfully exploited the denial of service vulnerability could cause the RPCSS Service to hang and become unresponsive.

How could an attacker exploit these vulnerabilities?
An attacker could seek to exploit these vulnerabilities by creating a program that could communicate with a vulnerable server over an affected TCP/UDP port to send a specific kind of malformed RPC message. Receipt of such a message could cause the RPCSS service on the vulnerable system to fail in such a way that it could execute arbitrary code.
It could also be possible to access the affected component through another vector, such as one that would involve logging onto the system interactively or by using another application that passed parameters to the vulnerable component-- locally or remotely.

Who could exploit these vulnerabilities?
Any user who could deliver a malformed RPC message to the RPCSS Service on an affected system could attempt to exploit these vulnerabilities. Because the RPCSS Service is on by default in all versions of Windows, this in essence means that any user who could establish a connection with an affected system could attempt to exploit these vulnerabilities.

I'm still using Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 Workstation, but it is no longer in support. However, this bulletin has a patch. Why is that?
Windows NT 4.0 Workstation has reached its end of life as previously documented and Microsoft is not normally providing generally available patches. However, due to the nature of this vulnerability, the fact that the end-of-life occurred very recently, and the number of Windows NT 4.0 Workstations currently in active use, Microsoft has decided to make an exception for this vulnerability.
We do not anticipate doing this for future vulnerabilities, but reserve the right to produce and make available patches when necessary. It should be a priority for customers with existing Windows NT 4.0 Workstations to migrate those to supported platforms to prevent exposure to future vulnerabilities.
Additional information about the Windows Desktop Product Life Cycle Support is available at: http://www.microsoft.com/lifecycle/

I'm still using Microsoft Windows 2000 Service Pack 2, but it is no longer in support. However, this bulletin has a patch that will install on Service Pack 2. Why is that?
Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 has reached its end of life as previously documented and Microsoft is not normally providing generally available patches. However, due to the nature of this vulnerability, the fact that the end-of-life occurred very recently, and the number of customers currently running Windows 2000 Service Pack 2, Microsoft has decided to make an exception for this vulnerability.
We do not anticipate doing this for future vulnerabilities, but reserve the right to produce and make available patches when necessary. It should be a priority for customers with existing Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 systems to migrate those to supported platforms to prevent exposure to future vulnerabilities.
Additional information about the Windows Desktop Product Life Cycle Support is available at: http://www.microsoft.com/lifecycle/

Are there any tools I can use to detect systems on my network that do not have the MS03-039 patch installed? 
Yes - Microsoft has released a tool that can be used to scan a network for the presence of systems which have not had the MS03-039 patch installed. More details on this tool are available in Microsoft Knowledge Base article 827363.

What does the patch do?
The patch corrects the vulnerability by altering the DCOM implementation to properly check the information passed to it.



Workarounds:

Are there any workarounds that can be used to help block exploitation of this vulnerability while I am testing or evaluating the patch?
Yes. Although Microsoft urges all customers to apply the patch at the earliest possible opportunity, there are a number of workarounds that can be applied to help prevent the vector used to exploit this vulnerability in the interim. There is no guarantee that the workarounds will block all possible attack vectors.
It should be noted that these workarounds should be considered temporary measures as they just help block paths of attack rather than correcting the underlying vulnerability.

  • Block UDP ports 135, 137, 138, 445 and TCP ports 135, 139, 445, 593 at your firewall and disable COM Internet Services (CIS) and RPC over HTTP, which listen on ports 80 and 443, on the affected systems.

    These ports are used to initiate an RPC connection with a remote computer. Blocking them at the firewall ,will help prevent systems behind that firewall from being attacked by attempts to exploit these vulnerabilities. You should also be sure and block any other specifically configured RPC port on the remote machine.

    If enabled, CIS and RPC over HTTP allow DCOM calls to operate over TCP ports 80 (and 443 on XP and Windows Server 2003). Make sure that CIS and RPC over HTTP are disabled on all the affected systems.

    More information on how to disable CIS can be found in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 825819.

    For information regarding RPC over HTTP, see http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/Aa378642.

  • Use a personal firewall such as Internet Connection Firewall (only available on XP and Windows Server 2003) and disable COM Internet Services (CIS)and RPC over HTTP, which listen on ports 80 and 443, on the affected machines, especially any machines that connect to a corporate network remotely using a VPN or similar.

    If you are using the Internet Connection Firewall in Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 to protect your Internet connection, it will by default block inbound RPC traffic from the Internet. Make sure that CIS and RPC over HTTP are disabled on all affected machines.

    More information on how to disable CIS can be found in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 825819.

    For information regarding RPC over HTTP, see http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/Aa378642.

  • Block the affected ports using an IPSEC filter and disable COM Internet Services (CIS) and RPC over HTTP, which listen on ports 80 and 443, on the affected machines.

    You can secure network communications on Windows 2000-based computers if you use Internet Protocol Security (IPSec). Detailed information on IPSec and how to apply filters can be found in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 313190 and 813878. Make sure that CIS and RPC over HTTP are disabled on all affected machines.

    More information on how to disable CIS can be found in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 825819.

    For information regarding RPC over HTTP, see http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/Aa378642.

  • Disable DCOM on all affected machines

    When a computer is part of a network, the DCOM wire protocol enables COM objects on that computer to communicate with COM objects on other computers. You can disable DCOM for a particular computer to help protect against this vulnerability, but doing so will disable all communication between objects on that computer and objects on other computers.

    If you disable DCOM on a remote computer, you will not be able to remotely access that computer afterwards to re-enable DCOM. To re-enable DCOM, you will need physical access to that computer.

    Information on how to disable DCOM is available in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 825750.

    Note: For Windows 2000, the methods described above will only work on systems running Service Pack 3 or later. Customers using Service Pack 2 or below should upgrade to a later Service Pack or use one of the other workarounds.

Download locations for this patch

Additional information about this patch

Installation platforms:

  • The Windows NT Workstation 4.0 patch can be installed on systems running Service Pack 6a.
  • The Windows NT Server 4.0 patch can be installed on systems running Service Pack 6a.
  • The Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition patch can be installed on systems running Windows NT Server 4.0, Terminal Server Edition Service Pack 6.
  • The Windows 2000 patch can be installed on systems running Windows 2000 Service Pack 2, Service Pack 3, or Service Pack 4.
  • The patch for Windows XP can be installed on systems running Windows XP Gold or Service Pack 1.
  • The patch for Windows Server 2003 can be installed on systems running Windows Server 2003 Gold.

Inclusion in future service packs:

The fix for this issue will be included in Windows 2000 Service Pack 5, Windows XP Service Pack 2, and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1.

Reboot needed: Yes

Patch can be uninstalled: Yes

Superseded patches:

The fix provided by this patch supersedes the one included in Microsoft Security Bulletin MS03-026 as well as MS01-048

Verifying patch installation:

  • Windows NT 4.0:

    To verify that the patch has been installed on the machine, confirm that all files listed in the file manifest in Knowledge Base article 824146 are present on the system.

  • Windows NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition:

    To verify that the patch has been installed on the machine, confirm that all files listed in the file manifest in Knowledge Base article 824146 are present on the system.

  • Windows 2000:

    To verify that the patch has been installed on the machine, confirm that the following registry key has been created on the machine: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Updates\Windows 2000\SP5\KB824146.

    To verify the individual files, use the date/time and version information provided in the file manifest in Knowledge Base article 824146 are present on the system.

  • Windows XP:
    • If installed on Windows XP Gold: To verify that the patch has been installed on the machine, confirm that the following registry key has been created on the machine: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Updates\Windows XP\SP1\KB824146

      To verify the individual files, use the date/time and version information provided in the file manifest in Knowledge Base article 824146 are present on the system.

    • If installed on Windows XP Service Pack 1:

      To verify that the patch has been installed on the machine, confirm that the following registry key has been created on the machine: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Updates\Windows XP\SP2\KB824146.

      To verify the individual files, use the date/time and version information provided in the file manifest in Knowledge Base article 824146 are present on the system.

  • Windows Server 2003:

    To verify that the patch has been installed on the machine, confirm that the following registry key has been created on the machine: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Updates\Window Server 2003\SP1\KB824146.

    To verify the individual files, use the date/time and version information provided in the file manifest in Knowledge Base article 824146 are present on the system.

Caveats:

None

Localization:

Localized versions of this patch are available at the locations discussed in "Patch Availability".

Obtaining other security patches:

Patches for other security issues are available from the following locations:

  • Security patches are available from the Microsoft Download Center, and can be most easily found by doing a keyword search for "security_patch".
  • Patches for consumer platforms are available from the Windows Update web site

Other information:

Acknowledgments

Microsoft thanks  eEye Digital Security, NSFOCUS Security Team, and Xue Yong Zhi and Renaud Deraison from Tenable Network Security for reporting the buffer overrun vulnerabilities and working with us to protect customers.

Support:

  • Microsoft Knowledge Base article 824146 discusses this issue and will be available approximately 24 hours after the release of this bulletin. Knowledge Base articles can be found on the Microsoft Online Support web site.
  • Technical support is available from Microsoft Product Support Services. There is no charge for support calls associated with security patches.

Security Resources: The Microsoft TechNet Security Center Web site provides additional information about security in Microsoft products.

Disclaimer:

The information provided in the Microsoft Knowledge Base is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Microsoft disclaims all warranties, either express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. In no event shall Microsoft Corporation or its suppliers be liable for any damages whatsoever including direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, loss of business profits or special damages, even if Microsoft Corporation or its suppliers have been advised of the possibility of such damages. Some states do not allow the exclusion or limitation of liability for consequential or incidental damages so the foregoing limitation may not apply.

Revisions:

  • V1.0 September 10, 2003: Bulletin Created.

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