back to article Bypass the Windows AppLocker bouncer with a tweet-size command

If you're relying on Microsoft's AppLocker to lock down your office or school Windows PCs, then you should check this out. A security researcher says he's found a way to potentially bypass the operating system's software whitelist and launch arbitrary scripts. AppLocker lets IT admins managing large networks of machines define …

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  2. AustinTX

    Like good ole Windows Media Player

    Reminds me of when we used Media Player to get into Internet Settings and turn off restrictions so we could browse the open web at work.

    1. sroughley

      Re: Like good ole Windows Media Player

      Yeah, or back in Win 95 when you could use the help menu at the login screen to access the desktop and Windows Explorer without logging in. I suppose these are much the same as most of the iOS lock screen bypass exploits you see today. You would have thought that automated testing should be able to catch the bypass-via-navigation issues these days. No idea how you'd have caught this regsvr bug without knowing about it though

  3. psyvenrix

    dats beautiful

    At this rate, el regs URL shortener is going to wind up on some muppets 'malware hosting' URL black list.

    1. Old Handle

      Re: dats beautiful

      That wouldn't be an entirely bad thing, think of the fun that could be had by changing what it points to.

      1. Fatman

        Re: dats beautiful

        <quote>... fun that could be had by changing what it points to.</quote>

        You evil, wicked BOFH!!!

        You have my permission to change any link you can get access to, and forward the booby-trapped link to the most deserving PHB of your choice.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge


    This hack is the result of an impressive amount of knowledge of how the inner blocks of Windows fit together, wrapped up in that moment of genius of "hey, what if I tried this ?" and bingo! a new hack is born.

    It doesn't feel all that important - until some scum finds a way to use it to download some OS-hijacking malware. The real question is : how on Earth did including the means to parse a URL be considered a good idea when making the functionality list of regsvr32 ?

    A part from the obvious "it's Microsoft".

    1. Oengus

      Re: Impressive

      "hey, what if I tried this ?"

      I'll bet that is how a lot of expliots are discovered - people trying things that the original designer never dreamed of.

      It might not take a huge amount of knowledge of the inner workings to discvover but to actually build, test and confirm a successful exploit is interesting. I have stumbled across a couple of things by accident (typing or selecting the wrong file name) that have turned out to be useful (no real exploits though).

      1. Joe Werner Silver badge

        Re: Impressive

        "hey, what if I tried this ?"

        "I'll bet that is how a lot of expliots are discovered - people trying things that the original designer never dreamed of."

        My father in law was leading the software QA lab of a large company. He had testers that looked at the design documents and immediately found holes, like accepting 8 [:space:] as an allowed password. This made the whole lab very happy - and the programmers less so.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Impressive

      I wonder how long this been used in the wild by the black hats.

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge

    So... put regsvr32 on the blacklist

    Or would that mean that the computer would grind to a halt?

    1. elDog

      Re: So... put regsvr32 on the blacklist

      Why not just put winload.exe on the blacklist? Then you don't need to worry about the sneaks that those gray-haired tech boys put into MS utilities decades ago.

    2. alanjmcf

      Re: So... put regsvr32 on the blacklist

      I can't see why regsvr32 is being given the blame. It just passes on a given string to the DLL. It's up to the DLL to check it and do something sensible with it. This behaviour needs scrobj.dll for it to happen.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can we close that loophole?

    So are we allowed to close that security loophole, or will the FBI and the Dutch police conspire to prevent it, because they want to use it as a backdoor?

    1. Richard Jones 1

      Re: Can we close that loophole?

      If you need to ask you possibly don't have the skill or possibly the rights to do so. If that is not the case go ahead, if you are a drug dealer or some other assorted low life no doubt someone will give you away anyway. Money talks in criminal circles so watch any friends you thought you had.

      Of course be aware that someone, (perhaps a dodgy friend?) might already have done this to you, better go and check your bank account via some other none PC route.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Can we close that loophole?

        @"If you need to ask you possibly don't have the skill or possibly the rights to do so."

        Is that a yes or no? Are we allowed to close this security loophole? You didn't answer my question, and yes I have the right to ask it.

        Is Apple allowed to fix the security hole that the FBI used? Is Microsoft allowed to secure its OS or do the Dutch police want to use the holes?

        @"if you are a drug dealer ...assorted low life ...criminal circles...dodgy friend..."

        I didn't understand your rant. Can we get Windows PC's secure enough they can be used to count an election results? Can we get smartphone secure enough that even the President of the United States can carry one without fear the NSA has a backdoor in it? Can we get cloud apps that can be used to write political speeches without every FBI man having a read? Can we get phones that can be used by Dutch Internal Affairs when investigating why the Dutch police are misusing the money laundering law for political campaigns?

  7. akeane

    thanks to the fact...

    ...that Microsoft built a HTTP fetcher into one of its core utilities------>

    1. captain veg Silver badge

      Re: thanks to the fact...

      Not really. The kicker here is that it executes code in the fetched file. Javascript code, so it ought to be sandboxed, at least, but no. This is Microsoft's take on Javascript, and it is allowed to execute random ActiveX objects. Which are native code. Boom.


  8. Comport-Colin

    Does it work? Not for me.

    Look, the applocker default rules allow everything below c:\windows. No wonder cmd.exe works. Modify the xml so that a different exe outside of c:\windows is started - does not work here.

    Or modify the default rules so that only admins may start cmd.exe - stops working here.

    What's the "exploit" worth, then?

    1. Bluto Nash

      Re: Does it work? Not for me.

      Well, a large number of users run as admin by default (thinking home users at this point), and cscript, wscript and powershell are all found under C:\Windows. Could you do anything with those? Might that possibly raise the worth of the exploit?

      1. Comport-Colin

        Re: Does it work? Not for me.

        I was criticizing the article's title. regsrv32.exe does not bypass applocker, no matter who executes it.

        What it does is give us another means of executing script code, in fact, it was always there, so it is not even an exploit that was found. The only connection to applocker is, that with defaults on (which are: programs out of c:\windows and c:\progs are blocked, scripts are blocked (vbs/bat/com/ps1...) one would not expect to be able to execute script code on that system.

        Now let's think: why wouldn't we expect that system not to let us execute script code? There's tons of executables in c:\windows, all might offer ways to execute "some" script code, JUST NOT scripts ending with .vbs/bat/cmd/ps1... from untrusted locations. But any other script code? Sure. regsvr32 is an example, there might be others. So surely, even if this does not really bypassing applocker, it urgently asks for review of your settings (Applocker/NTFS-ACLs) regarding regsrv32. Defaults applied? You shouldn't..

  9. Munin

    I've validated that blocking regsvr32 on the windows firewall blocks network access - some folks may need to block both the 32 and 64 bit version for some reason - and can mitigate the issue.

  10. Comport-Colin

    "A little more": Surely, the researcher has "found" something. He found a relatively unknown way to execute script code by means of regsvr32.exe. So if we assume that applocker users don't care for locking down their systems (?) AND use default rules AND DO NOT revise the executables these default rules do whitelist, well, then yes, this IS dangerous.

    In secured environments, in addition to the default rules (if those are used at all), you would at least use NTFS ACLs to restrict usage of executables in c:\windows that are not needed to administrators. So tell me: what non-admin would ever need regsvr32? No answer expected.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      "what non-admin would ever need regsvr32"

      Make sure it's unavailable, then. Job done.


      1. P. Lee

        >>"what non-admin would ever need regsvr32"

        >Make sure it's unavailable, then. Job done.

        Security comes at various levels. Accidental user breaches, like flash exploits, which should be fairly easy to contain with jails and stub resource areas.

        Combating users who are trying to subvert the system is much harder. You can govern the executable flag (e.g. on unix) but we're at a whole new (but possibly required) level of system examination when we are passing data which may turn out to be executable as a script.

        I think one of my favoured solutions to this would be, "any system executable that takes a url as a parameter passes it through a system proxy." and its extension, "most applications use http/smb/nfs etc and therefore can use a system proxy rather than being given generic network access." Sadly, these days many a commercial OS itself can hardly be trusted, so that may not be acceptable.

        With the proxy (or probably audit facility) we have some enforced auditing and possible control and the system can do the encryption/decryption so you can't sneak dodgy data in - or at least if you do, there is a record of it.

  11. Fitz_ block regsvr32.exe with AppLocker.

  12. Comport-Colin

    There's more where this came from

    What is being abused here is some whitelisted executable. The default rules do whitelist several hundred executables below c:\windows. Now it might surprise many, that the default rules are not what Microsoft recommends to use. In fact, the applocker design guide even writes


    To avoid scenarios like this, AppLocker allows the administrator to create a set of permissive

    default rules that will allow the user to interact with the operating system without


    While allowing an inexperienced administrator to safely interact with AppLocker, it does not

    create a secure environment. The guidance provided in this document recommends that the

    default rules not be used. By following the process in this document, an administrator can

    safely create a highly tailored set of AppLocker policies without the need for the default




    And to finally visualize how rotten the default rules are: they allow execution of executables from folders that users may write to. There are several folders below c:\windows where users might copy some virus and execute it. For example c:\windows\temp. To find all folders, use accesschk

    and the command (elevated): accesschk.exe BUILTIN\Users c:\Windows\ -w -s

    So to be honest: although this topic is a remarkable find, it will only apply to those who did not restrict things after the principle of least privilege or even use the default rules. And as I just showed there are even worse things configured if we choose to create the default rules.

  13. pkaak

    Cannot reproduce and documented not blocking .sct

    So I tried to reproduce... and failed for a part. (reproduced on win2012r2)

    The problem with your examples is that you already may start calc.exe. You have the rights. Same goes for cmd.exe. You already have the right to start it, so executing your scripts results in applocker not blocking cmd.exe. If you block it, you get a script error on calc.exe

    When I deny all users in my testenvironment to start calc.exe, I get a script error in and in the last excel macro. I cannot start calc.exe. Even as administrator (I denied everyone rights to calc.exe) I cannot start it with applocker on.

    So, the only problem you have found is that you can run scripts by this backdoor. Applocker shouldn't allow that. But it partly documented. As documented Applocker will only block scripts with the extensions .ps1, .bat, .cmd, .js and .vbs. It does not block .sct.

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