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Author Topic: Steam Zero-Day Vulnerability Affects Over 100 Million Users  (Read 174 times)
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« on: August 09, 2019, 05:44:51 PM »

The popular Steam game client for Windows has a zero-day privilege escalation vulnerability that can allow an attacker with limited permissions to run a program as an administrator

Privilege escalation vulnerabilities are bugs that enable a user with limited rights to launch an executable with elevated, or administrative privileges. As Steam has over 100 million registered users and millions of them playing at a time, this is a serious risk that could be abused by malware to perform a variety of unwanted activities.

The privilege escalation vulnerability

Two researchers publicly disclosed a zero-day vulnerability for the Steam client after Valve determined that the flaw was "Not Applicable." The company chose not to award a bug bounty or give an indication that they would fix it and told the researchers that they were not allowed to disclose it.

In a report published yesterday, security researcher Felix was analyzing a Windows service associated with the Steam called "Steam Client Service" that launched its executable with SYSTEM privileges on Windows. The researcher also noticed that the service could be started and stopped by the "User" group, which is pretty much anyone logged on the computer.

The registry key for this service, though, was not writable by the "User" group, so it could not be modified to launch a different executable and elevate its privileges to an administrator.

The researcher did find something strange, though. When the service was started and stopped, it gave full write access to the subkeys under the HKLM\Software\Wow6432Node\Valve\Steam\Apps Registry key.

"I created test key HKLM\Software\Wow6432Node\Valve\Steam\Apps\test and restarted the service (Procmon’s log is above) and checked registry key permissions. Here I found that HKLM\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Valve\Steam has explicit “Full control” for “Users” group, and these permissions inherit for all subkeys and their subkeys. I assumed that RegSetKeySecurity sets same rights, and something interesting would happen if there were a symlink. I created a link from HKLM\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Valve\Steam\Apps\test to HKLM\SOFTWARE\test2 and restarted the service."

The researcher then tried configuring a symlink from one of these subkeys to another key for which he did not have sufficient permissions and saw that it was possible to modify that key as well.

With this knowledge in hand, the researcher realized that any Registry key could be modified by creating a symlink to it from a subkey under HKLM\Software\Wow6432Node\Valve\Steam\Apps.

This could allow a service running with SYSTEM privileges to be modified so that it launched a different program with elevated rights.

PoC disclosed by another researcher

After Felix disclosed the vulnerability in a write-up, a second researcher named Matt Nelson, who is well known for discovering privilege escalation vulnerabilities under the alias enigma0x3, created proof-of-concept (PoC) code that abuses the flaw. He shared the PoC on GitHub.

Nelson's PoC creates a symlink back to the HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Steam Client Service so that it could change the executable that is launched when the service is restarted.

This is achieved by launching in the background a Windows command prompt with Administrative privileges, as shown below.

Command Prompt with Elevated Privileges

Nelson says that he too had disclosure issues with Valve.

BleepingComputer has contacted Valve for more questions on why the vulnerability was not fixed but had not heard back at the time of this publication.


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