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Reply: Microsoft Windows Huge Text Processing Instability
From: "Kaveh Mofidi" <Admin () SecureTarget Net>
Date: Tue, 19 Oct 2004 09:27:43 +0330
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There are no reason for answering your "obvious stupidities" when you
are just in the middle of a nightmare!
Dear "James Tucker [jftucker () gmail com]", I suggest to improve your
imagination and just get out of your conventional thinking.
Before writing phrases like "how the * are you to exploit the
system?" your should consider revising your mind on social
communication and after that, you would probably be ready to exploit.
Have a nice dream,
Head of Secure Target Network
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From: James Tucker [mailto:jftucker () gmail com]
Sent: Monday, October 18, 2004 2:28 PM
To: Kaveh Mofidi
Cc: ntbugtraq () listserv ntbugtraq com; full-disclosure () lists netsys com
Subject: Re: [Full-disclosure] Microsoft Windows Huge Text Processing
I am sorry, maybe I just don't get it, but the two forms you are talking
about could not happen in the scenario described.
Besides this fact, user data space still has to be violated and this still
requires either privileges (which means you have access anyway) or requires
an exploit to elevate your privileges (again this makes the vector you
describe pointless, it would only cause the ATTACKER issues).
There are some other VERY obvious stupidities here:
1. The system is described as "unstable" and "unresponsive" due to the load
and virtual memory usage. Paging takes time and the system seems largely
unresponsive whilst waiting for disk I/O. In this scenario, how the * are
you to exploit the system? At the point of such high resource load that this
becomes a problem the user will be unable to log out. Furthermore the
attacker will be unable to log in / run programs unless they have taken
control of the PC (not meaning personal computer, look up operating system
principles (kernel design, in particular process and memory management) and
assembler / machine coding if you dont know what it means).
2. This 'attack' is entirely dependant upon RAM volume. If the system in
question has enough physical memory it will remain responsive, as it is
paging operations which block (block in the thread sense), not loading
3. taskkill /f /im "notepad.exe"
4. Notepad2 and Metapad have been extremely badly coded if it is easier to
perform process injection with these than with Notepad. I do not understand
why you could not simply take over some other user process or a system
process using the same vector. There are plenty of other processes you could
use for this purpose.
5. What exactly are you claiming to be "exploiting?"; system load is not an
exploit, it's wasteful resource useage. Memory useage quotas are the proper
management system for this.
6. Workarounds :-
Replace relevant executables with scripts to prevent loading of files
above a certain size.
Educate such stupid people who might try to open a >200mb file in a very
basic text editor. What are you planning on doing, reading it all?
Use Wordpad, despite its appearance.
Increase the amount of physical ram available.
Add end task on fail entries into the user control panel section of the
registry / via group policy.
this is one of the thins that Telnet is good for. =)
Very well, I agree that you can create a local DoS on low end systems using
this abusive process; at the same time you still require access to the
system and priviliges. Attacks may only be performed by utilising other
exploits or higher level priviliges which already provide the ability to do
what you describe (capture data). Using process injection to do this is
simply a HUGE waste of your own time.
As for possibilities for remote exploits via this:
- The file will need to be landed first / created upon arrival (slow over a
network). Whilst a simple CLI script can create this for you, you need
priviliges to do so; in this case you will not be disclosing any
information. As described above, the user would not open it themselves more
than once (even the most unexperienced people will fear repeating an action
which makes most of the system unresponsive (for most users they would
consider the load problems as a crash, and will not have the patience to
wait for completion).
- If the information in the file contains sensitive data, then why has the
user attempted to load it in Notepad? If they created it, it was not in
Notepad (as they would have to DoS their machine for several minutes before
editing, which would then be painful to use). Somewhat unlikely.
- Remote process injection does not just work because some program is
running without a desktop session.
What is the value of this information?
What 'exploit' can really be performed?
Are there not easier ways to achieve the same effect (remember ALL you are
doing here is causing mass paging of data, and paging unfortunately blocks
in this situation as there is no memory free for the working environment).
On Sun, 17 Oct 2004 11:41:23 +0330, Kaveh Mofidi <admin () securetarget net>
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Secure Target Network (Security Advisory October 17, 2004)
Topic: Microsoft Windows Huge Text Processing Instability Discovery
Date: October 14, 2004 Link to Original Advisory:
Affected applications and platforms:
Notepad, NotePad2 and MetaPad (Seems like all Text Processing Apps) /
Microsoft Windows (All Versions)
You did not test wordpad, but instead tried several thrid party apps
Your assumption that NT is at fault is incorrect. Nothing crashes and no new
vectors are created.
It is not important, the limitation of opening large text file with
"notepad" or similar products like NotePad2
(http://www.flos-freeware.ch) and MetaPad
(http://liquidninja.com/metapad/); the point is just the way these
tiny text processing apps open and handle large text files (talking
about over the 200MB).
The way they handle huge text files, it is near possible for a fast
modern PC to be completely unstable. This Instability may path to
process injection because you cannot even kill the processes of these
apps and they will remain "up and running" even when you logged off.
How did you log off? I thought the system was unresponsive? The apps will
close when sent a TERM signal, they just need time to deal with their memory
So, it's possible for a unprivileged user to simply hook to the
remaining process of a privilege user and this lead to information
disclosure (simply reading the content of the memory before swapping a
large file which happens time after time, based on the file size) but
may even lead to running privileged tasks based on the app they used
for processing text.
And how exactly are they going to do that? How much memory useage do you
need for this exploit? To get the system to respond in a timely fashion you
would need to access the PC and slow the paging quantum, this is by far a
trivial task, and contrary to the above this requires the highest priviliges
you can have in in NT, suffice to say not even Administrators have such
It is different to exploit based on the application you choose for
text processing; for windows default notepad.exe, it'll be some like a
huge DoS but for NotePad2.exe and MetaPad.exe it is possible to doing
process injection (information disclosure and/or running privileged
So what, they open up a shared memory space / revoke their protected user
space? No, I suspect they are no easier to exploit than any other; apart
from maybe their code is more understandable / better documented, making it
easier for the "n00b". Why would you use such a program?
The best way to work around this situation is just not to open large
text files in windows! or wait a long time for completion of task.
Microsoft Windows XP SP1/SP2RC2/SP2 on Intel P4 2.4 with 1GB of RAM
You really installed a copy of each version to test this? :( sux2bu
Full-Disclosure - We believe in it.