CVE-2019-1257: Code Execution on Microsoft SharePoint Through BDC Deserialization

September 19, 2019 | The ZDI Research Team

Earlier this year, researcher Markus Wulftange (@mwulftange) reported a remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability in Microsoft SharePoint that ended up being patched as CVE-2019-0604. He wasn’t done. In September, three additional SharePoint RCEs reported by Markus were addressed by Microsoft: CVE-2019-1295, CVE-2019-1296, and CVE-2019-1257. This blog looks at that last CVE, also known as ZDI-19-812, in greater detail. This bug affects all supported versions of SharePoint and received Microsoft’s highest Exploit Index rating, which means they expect to see active attacks in the near future.

Vulnerability Details

The Business Data Connectivity (BDC) Service in Microsoft SharePoint 2016 is vulnerable to arbitrary deserialization of XmlSerializer streams due to arbitrary method parameter types in the definition of custom BDC models. As shown by Alvaro Muñoz & Oleksandr Mirosh in their Black Hat 2017 talk [PDF], arbitrary deserialization of XmlSerializer streams can result in arbitrary code execution.

SharePoint allows the specification of custom BDC models using the Business Data Connectivity Model File Format (MS-BDCMFFS) data format. Part of this specification is the definition of methods and parameters. Here is an example excerpt, as provided by Microsoft:

This defines a method named GetCustomer that wraps a stored procedure named sp_GetCustomer (see RdbCommandText property). Both the input parameters (Direction="In") and return parameters (Direction="Return") get defined with their respective type description.

In the example shown above, the input parameter has a primitive type of System.Int32, which is safe. The problem occurs if a BDC model is defined that has a parameter of type Microsoft.BusinessData.Runtime.DynamicType. This would be done to allow the caller flexibility to pass many different types of values for that parameter. The result is deserialization of an arbitrary XmlSerializer stream provided by the caller.

The Exploit

This vulnerability was tested on Microsoft SharePoint Server 2016 with KB4464594 installed. It was running on top of the 64-bit version of Windows Server 2016 update 14393.3025.

In order to demonstrate exploitation, these steps are required:

1: An administrator must define a custom BDC model that includes a method with a parameter with type Microsoft.BusinessData.Runtime.DynamicType. For the custom BDC model, the Database Model example was used as a template and heavily reduced:

2: The administrator must then upload the BDC model via the SharePoint Central Administration | Application Management | Manage service applications | Business Data Connectivity Service. Alternatively, this can also be accomplished via PowerShell:

3: The attacker can then invoke the method, passing a payload in the parameter.

On the SharePoint server, you will find that two instances of cmd.exe and one instance of win32calc.exe have been spawned, running as the identity of the SharePoint application pool.

To see the path through the code, attach a debugger to w3wp.exe for the SharePoint application. Setting a break point at System.Web.dll!System.Web.UI.ObjectStateFormatter.Deserialize reveals the following call stack:


Successful exploitation of this won’t get you admin on the server, but it will allow an attacker to execute their code in the context of the SharePoint application pool and the SharePoint server farm account. According to Microsoft, they addressed this vulnerability in their September patch by correcting how SharePoint checks the source markup of application packages. Thanks again to Markus for this submission, and we hope to see more reports from him in the future.

The September release also included a patch to fix a bug in the Azure DevOps (ADO) and Team Foundation Server (TFS) that could allow an attacker to execute code on the server in the context of the TFS or ADO service account. We’ll provide additional details of that bug in the near future. Until then, follow the team for the latest in exploit techniques and security patches.