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TUCoPS :: Windows :: bt589.txt

Microsoft Utility Manager Local Privilege Escalation

NGSSoftware Insight Security Research Advisory

Name: Microsoft Utility Manager Local Privilege Escalation
Systems Affected: Windows 2000 SP3
Severity: Medium Risk
Vendor URL:
Authors: Chris Paget [ ]
         Chris Anley [ ]
         Sherief Hammad [ ]

Date Vendor Notified:    30th April 2003
Date of Public Advisory: 9th July 2003
Advisory number: #NISR09072003
Advisory URL:


Microsoft Windows 2000 provides extensive "accessibility" features, that
allow disabled users to more easily make use of the operating system.
Tools such as the Windows Narrator (that translates on-screen text into
audible speech) and the On Screen Keyboard (that allows a user to
simulate a keyboard using only a pointing device) are an integral part
of the operating system and can be started at any time via the Windows
'Utility Manager'.

In Windows 2000, the utility manager runs in the context of the local
'system' account and can be started in the desktop of any user.

The Utility Manager is vulnerable to a 'Shatter' style privilege
escalation involving the "ListView" control in its main window.


By pressing the '<windows key>+U' key combination at any time, a user
can start the Windows Utility Manager. The utility manager process is
(indirectly) started by the Winlogon process, and runs in the context
of the 'system' account, in the desktop of the user that invoked it.

Interestingly, the utility manager can also be started directly at the
login prompt, by pressing <windows key>+U.

The main Utility Manager window contains a ListView control that details
the available accessibility tools. Windows messages sent directly to
this control are not validated and it is thus possible to perform a
number of dangerous interactions with the Utility Manager process.

A couple of interesting messages in this context are the LVM_SORTITEMS
and LVM_SORTITEMSEX messages, that instruct the list box control to
'sort' it's contents based using a callback function whose address is
specified in the message.

By modifying window text and then sending an LVM_SORTITEMS message to
the list control, it is possible to make the Utility Manager process
jump to code supplied by the (low-privileged) user. This code is then
executed in the context of the local 'system' account.

The exploit code needed is functionally equivalent to previous
'shatter' code, with the only substantial difference being the use of
the 'LVM_SORTITEMS' message rather than the 'WM_TIMER' message.

Fix Information

Microsoft have supplied a patch for this problem that can be downloaded

This patch is included in Windows 2000 Service Pack 4.

Further Information

Chris Paget will be speaking about this bug and other Shatter - related
matters at the Blackhat Briefings. For more information, see

About NGSSoftware
NGSSoftware design, research and develop intelligent, advanced application
security assessment scanners. Based in the United Kingdom, NGSSoftware
have offices in the South of London and the East Coast of Scotland.
NGSSoftware's sister company NGSConsulting, offers best of breed security
consulting services, specializing in application, host and network
security assessments.

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