by Mitja Kolsek, the 0patch Team
March 2022 Windows Updates brought a fix for a logical vulnerability in Remote Desktop Client for Windows that was found and reported by Abdelhamid Naceri. The vulnerability allowed a malicious RDP server to gain write access to any local drive on the computer running the connected RDP client, as long as at least one local drive was shared through the RDP session.
The trick Abdelhamid used in their POC was, as it so often happens, a symbolic link: Suppose you connected to a malicious RDP server and shared a locally plugged-in USB drive E:, the server could create a symbolic link from E:\temp to C:\ (which would mean your local C: drive, not server's) whereby the entire content of drive C:\ would become accessible to the server under E:\temp with permissions of the connecting user.
Microsoft assigned this issue CVE-2022-21990 and fixed it by preventing the server from creating symbolic links on drives that were shared with the server pointing to drives that were not shared with the server. This fix, however, was not delivered to Windows systems that no longer receive Windows Updates; such systems can now use our micropatches instead.
We decided to make our micropatches simpler than Microsoft's fix to avoid changing lots of code: our approach was to simply prevent creating symbolic links on drives that were shared with the server (regardless where these links would point to). We think it is very unlikely that our approach would break any reasonable use case - but just in case it does, the user can always temporarily disable our patch and then re-enable it - of course without restarting the computer, or even re-establishing the RDP connection.
Our micropatch was written for the following Windows versions that don't receive official patches from Microsoft:
- Windows 10 v1803 updated to May 2021
- Windows 10 v1809 updated to May 2021
- Windows 10 v2004 updated to December 2021
- Windows 7 updated with ESU year 2, ESU year 1 or updated to January 2020
- Windows Server 2008 R2 updated with ESU year 2, ESU year 1 or updated to January 2020
micropatch has already been distributed to all
online 0patch Agents with a PRO
or Enterprise license. To obtain the micropatch and have it
applied on your
computers along with our other micropatches,
create an account in 0patch Central, install 0patch Agent and register it to your account with a PRO or Enterprise subscription. Note that no computer restart is needed for installing the agent or applying/un-applying any 0patch micropatch.
We'd like to thank Abdelhamid Naceri for publishing their analysis and providing a proof-of-concept that allowed us to reproduce the vulnerability and create a micropatch. We also encourage security researchers to privately share their analyses with us for micropatching.