Researchers have released technical details on a high-severity privilege-escalation flaw in HP printer drivers (also used by Samsung and Xerox), which impacts hundreds of millions of Windows machines.
If exploited, cyberattackers could bypass security products; install programs; view, change, encrypt or delete data; or create new accounts with more extensive user rights.
The bug (CVE-2021-3438) has lurked in systems for 16 years, researchers at SentinelOne said, but was only uncovered this year. It carries an 8.8 out of 10 rating on the CVSS scale, making it high-severity.
According to researchers, the vulnerability exists in a function inside the driver that accepts data sent from User Mode via Input/Output Control (IOCTL); it does so without validating the size parameter. As the name suggests, IOCTL is a system call for device-specific input/output operations.
“This function copies a string from the user input using ‘strncpy’ with a size parameter that is controlled by the user,” according to SentinelOne’s analysis, released on Tuesday. “Essentially, this allows attackers to overrun the buffer used by the driver.”
Thus, unprivileged users can elevate themselves into a SYSTEM account, allowing them to run code in kernel mode, since the vulnerable driver is locally available to anyone, according to the firm.
The printer-based attack vector is perfect for cybercriminals, according to SentinelOne, since printer drivers are essentially ubiquitous on Windows machines and are automatically loaded on every startup.
“Thus, in effect, this driver gets installed and loaded without even asking or notifying the user,” explained the researchers. “Whether you are configuring the printer to work wirelessly or via a USB cable, this driver gets loaded. In addition, it will be loaded by Windows on every boot. This makes the driver a perfect candidate to target since it will always be loaded on the machine even if there is no printer connected.”