Microsoft Released Security Updates that Block PetitPotam NTLM Relay Attacks


The PetitPotam NTLM relay exploit, which allows a threat actor to take over a Windows domain, has been blocked by Microsoft security patches. Gilles Lionel, nicknamed Topotam, a security researcher, revealed a new method called PetitPotam in July that forces a domain controller to authenticate against a threat actor's server utilizing the MS-EFSRPC API capabilities. 

Gilles Lionel published a proof-of-concept (PoC) exploit for a brand new PetitPotam security flaw on July 23, 2021. This problem affected Microsoft's Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS), which is needed to assure public key infrastructure (PKI) server functionality. 

According to the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center, PetitPotam uses the Encrypting File System Remote Protocol (MS-EFSRPC) to start the authentication process in remote Windows instances and force them to divulge the NTLM hashes to the adversary. The attacker specifically exploits LSARPC to force any targeted server, including domain controllers (DCs), to connect to the malicious random server and perform NTLM authentication. As a result, the adversary acquires an authentication certificate that is valid for all domain services, including the DC. 

Despite the fact that the PetitPotam attack had devastating results and was simple to launch, the adversaries faced some constraints. To transfer the stolen credentials back to the DC or other internal instances, threat actors needed to achieve SYSTEM/ADMIN rights or maintain covert malicious infrastructure within the LAN, according to the researchers' findings. 

The majority of supported Windows versions, according to the researchers, are vulnerable to the PetitPotam. The technique has been successfully applied to Windows 10, Windows Server 2016, and Windows Server 2019. 

Microsoft provided a security update in August 2021 Patch Tuesday, that prevents the PetitPotam vector (CVE-2021-36942) from forcing a domain controller to authenticate against another server. "This security update blocks the affected API calls OpenEncryptedFileRawA and OpenEncryptedFileRawW through LSARPC interface," explains Microsoft in the CVE-2021-36942 advisory. 

Installing this update may damage backup software that uses the EFS API OpenEncryptedFileRaw(A/W) function, according to Microsoft. "The EFS API OpenEncryptedFileRaw(A/W), often used in backup software, continues to work in all versions of Windows (local and remote), except when backing up to or from a system running Windows Server 2008 SP2. OpenEncryptedFileRaw will no longer work on Windows Server 2008 SP2," warns Microsoft.