Hijack Execution Flow: Path Interception by Unquoted Path

Created the Tuesday 31 January 2023. Updated 1 week, 4 days ago.

Adversaries may execute their own malicious payloads by hijacking vulnerable file path references. Adversaries can take advantage of paths that lack surrounding quotations by placing an executable in a higher level directory within the path, so that Windows will choose the adversary's executable to launch.

Service paths and shortcut paths may also be vulnerable to path interception if the path has one or more spaces and is not surrounded by quotation marks (e.g., C:\unsafe path with space\program.exe vs. "C:\safe path with space\program.exe"). (stored in Windows Registry keys) An adversary can place an executable in a higher level directory of the path, and Windows will resolve that executable instead of the intended executable. For example, if the path in a shortcut is C:\program files\myapp.exe, an adversary may create a program at C:\program.exe that will be run instead of the intended program.

This technique can be used for persistence if executables are called on a regular basis, as well as privilege escalation if intercepted executables are started by a higher privileged process.

Additional Resources

External Links

The resources provided below are associated links that will give you even more detailed information and research on current evasion technique. It is important to note that, while these resources may be helpful, it is important to exercise caution when following external links. As always, be careful when clicking on links from unknown sources, as they may lead to malicious content.

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