Escaping Restricted Virtual Environments: Tactics and Scenarios
Virtualization technologies like VMware and Hyper-V have become increasingly popular for delivering virtualized servers, apps, and desktops to businesses. These systems help IT administrators to build and manage numerous virtual environments on a single physical host. This allows better resource usage and faster maintenance and deployment. If these platforms are not properly configured or shut down it could lead to high risks. Users may be able to exit the secure environment and even compromise the entire domain.
The key to preventing such risks is the Proper Configuration and Shutdown of these platforms.
Practical Tactics to escape restrictive environments
Dialog boxes: Standard Windows applications can often provide access to dialog boxes. This can serve as a starting point for exploring the system or escalating privileges. Methods include: creating new files, exploring context menus, and using input boxes to bypass file restrictions.
Help menus: are accessible in many formats and can enable access to additional functionality, like: links to command prompts or the ability to read source code in a text editor. It is vital to thoroughly analyze all options in these menus to see whether any can be exploited.
Environmental variables and path restrictions: By modifying these variables, it may be possible to gain access to restricted areas of the system. Similarly, gaining a command shell, either through the use of batch files or scripts, can provide the ability to execute commands and potentially bypass restrictions.
Internet browsers and office applications: often can be used to access restricted areas or download malicious files. Modifying connection files (RDP files or ICA files) can also be a potential attack vector.
Default or weak credentials: can potentially be exploited to gain unauthorized access to the system. To prevent these types of attacks, it is critical to use strong, unique passwords and enable two-factor authentication.
File transfers: Transferring files to and from the target environment can be a way to bypass restrictions. Engineers can use a variety of tools and methods to achieve this purpose, examples include: USB drives, network file shares, or email attachments.
Shortcuts, batch files, and scripts: can be used to execute commands and potentially bypass restrictions. Engineers are advised to carefully review all available tools and files, as well as any “juicy” data that may be present, as these could potentially be used to compromise the system.
Binary planting: This entails installing malicious binaries on a machine. To prevent this type of attack, suitable measures, such as antivirus software and file integrity monitoring, must be in place.
Based on these tactics, below are some practical scenarios that can help you escape from restricted environments:
Dialog boxes: In a virtualized environment, dialog boxes can be accessed through various applications and are frequently used to create new files in folders that are not ordinarily accessible. An attacker, for example, might theoretically create a new file in a restricted directory or access a restricted file by altering the file path entered into the input box while using the “Save As” or “Open” dialog boxes in a text editor. This might potentially grant the attacker access to restricted portions of the system or allow them to execute commands.
Exploring context menus: Right-clicking on an object in a dialog box can often bring up a context menu with additional options, such as opening a command prompt or running a script. By exploring these options, an attacker may be able to find a way to access restricted areas of the system or execute commands.
Using input boxes to bypass file restrictions. Some dialog boxes may have input boxes for entering commands or manipulating file paths. An attacker may be able to access restricted directories or execute instructions. Usually restricted by inputting certain commands or changing the file path. An attacker could input a command to launch a command prompt. He could execute a script, or it could enter a changed file path to gain access to a restricted file.
Most applications have a “Command Prompt” or “Run” option in their help menus, which can be used to open a command prompt and execute commands. An attacker might potentially utilize this option to obtain access to a command prompt and execute commands that would ordinarily be prohibited.
Viewing source code: To examine or change the source code of a file, numerous applications may include a “View Source” or “Edit Source” option in their help menus. By viewing or changing the source code, an attacker may be able to alter the file or perform commands that would typically be restricted.
Binary planting: An attacker can install a malicious executable on the system. For example a Trojan or ransomware place in a position where it can be executed. Different techniques include: email attachments, network shares, or USB devices. Once the malicious program has been planted on the system, it might be used to breach the environment. Other malicious uses could result in stealing sensitive data.
Modifying legitimate executables: By altering the file, an attacker can also insert a malicious payload into a legitimate executable. Techniques that can be used are DLL injection or file patching. By altering a valid executable, an attacker may be able to overcome security measures. Also, they might be able to execute their malicious payload when the legitimate executable is launched.
It is crucial to note that these are only a few examples of techniques for escaping a controlled environment. To prevent unauthorized access and protect against potential risks best practices must be followed. As well as checking regular reviews and monitoring access restrictions.
The best practices for secure virtual environments and preventing unwanted access. Enabling secure authentication methods, implementing security patches and updates, and constantly assessing and monitoring access controls must be followed. IT administrators can effectively secure their virtual environments and protect against potential threats by keeping an eye out for potential attack vectors.
Contact CT Defense for more information on cybersecurity, best practices, and security audits.
Cyber Security Engineer @CT Defense