by Nicolas Delhaye, Vulnerability Researcher on 2020-10-20

Why not catching exception hurts security products? A case study with Cybereason EDR (CVE-2020-26562 & CVE-2020-26871)

This vulnerability report is intended to study two vulnerabilities in Cybereason EDR (Endpoint Detection & Response) that allow a non-privileged user to cause a Denial of Service on two sensitive executables:

  • minionhost.exe: This service runs with Authority NT/System rights and is responsible for collecting and delivering logs from and to other Cybereason executables.
  • ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe: This service also runs with Authority NT/System rights and is intended to prevent the execution of malicious executables

A disruption of both minionhost.exe and ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe involves remote monitoring, that is a station which centralises all events that occur inside an enterprise network, of being not aware of the current threats on the endpoint station. Without these logs, an operator could not perform actions to solve ongoing issues.

Throughout this vulnerability research, the in-depth analysis does not focus on the software architecture, binaries/services roles and functionalities offered. Therefore, some considerations will certainly be approximate. Our main goal is to identify weaknesses from an attacker point of view to contribute in securing this relevant product and as a result, the end customers.

Cybereason Products [1] are designed to protect end-user workstations from complex cyber-attacks. One of them acts as an Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR) which provides visibility to critical information such as: process actions, file access information, network events, configuration changes on the endpoints, and so on. The version tested is designed to be non-invasive, and so is only based in the user-space of the operating system. However, a configuration using an additional kernel component is also available to bring in more self-defence mechanisms.

Finally, we would like to thank Cybereason for our mutual exchanges and their willingness to fix these vulnerabilities in the best possible manner.


Vulnerability Analysis


Brief description

This analysis is based on an older version of a Cybereason product but all recent versions are also affected. More precisely, this study has been achieved on the version:

Please see Figure 1 below, a screenshot that provides a version of the Cybereason product:

Figure 1: Version of the Cybereason product

The first vulnerability is located in the minionhost.exe whereas the second is located in a DLL named SAScanner.dll which is loaded by the ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe service.

We will see why both the minionhost.exe and the ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe are sensitive processes. We already know they run with NT AUTHORIY\SYSTEM rights. However, being aware of their rules allows us to understand what is impacted if these processes are unavailable.

Before going further, this product relies mainly on the use of an open source library for inter-process communication. That is named ZeroMQ (ØMQ) [2].

This library extends the standard socket interfaces with features traditionally provided by specialised messaging products. In particular, ZeroMQ sockets provide an abstraction of:

  • Asynchronous message queues;
  • Multiple messaging patterns;
  • Message filtering through subscriptions;
  • Seamless access to multiple transport protocols;
  • And more.

The way these sockets work depends on the type of socket chosen. In addition, the flow of messages being sent depends on the chosen patterns, of which there are four:

  • Request/Reply Pattern: Used for sending a request and receiving subsequent replies for each one sent;
  • Publish/Subscribe Pattern: Used for distributing data from a single process (e.g. publisher) to multiple recipients (e.g. subscribers);
  • Pipeline Pattern: Used for distributing data to connected nodes;
  • Exclusive Pair Pattern: Used for connecting two peers together, forming a pair.


CVE-2020-26562 targeting “minionhost.exe”

CVE ID CVE-2020-26562
CVSS v3.0 Base Score 6.3 | Medium | CVSS:3.1/AV:L/AC:L/PR:N/UI:R/S:C/C:N/I:N/A:H
CWE-248 Uncaught Exception: An exception is thrown from a function, but it is not caught. When an exception is not caught, it may cause the program to crash or expose sensitive information.


First, minionhost.exe is launched by the ActiveConsole.exe process, which is itself started by the PylumLoader.exe service. The latter is the Active Probe parent process. The minionhost.exe seems responsible to collect and deliver messages such as logs from and to other Cybereason executables. In fact, it acts as a publish-subscribe proxy by using the ZeroMQ Publish/Subscribe patternThis one allows you to have multiple ZeroMQ consumers connecting to multiple ZeroMQ producers.

Please see Figure 2 below, a scheme which illustrates the publish-subscribe proxy:

Figure 2: publish-subscribe proxy

At this point, crashing the minionhost.exe process means that the endpoint station will not be able to:

  • collect log messages from publishers;
  • deliver log messages to subscribers.

One of the Cybereason’ processes acts as a consumer process and is responsible of delivering logs to the monitoring station over the network. If it can no longer receive input messages, it will not throw events of current threats occurring on the endpoint station. Therefore, an operator could not remotely perform actions to solve suspicious or malicious behaviour. As you can understand, this makes the minionhost.exe binary a good candidate to turn off.

In order to act as a Publish/Subscribe proxy, the minionhost.exe listens on three TCP ports:

  • 10556: The ZeroMQ backend port for subscribers (consumers);
  • 10557: The ZeroMQ control flow port;
  • 10558: The zeroMQ frontend port for publishers (producers).

The zmq_proxy_steerable() [3] function allows you to start the built-in ØMQ proxy in the current application thread. Its prototype is defined as follows:

int zmq_proxy_steerable (void *frontend_, void *backend_, void *capture_, void *control_)

If the third argument, named control, is not NULL, the proxy supports control flow. That is how it is implemented in the minionhost.exe code.

Later, in the Proof of Concept chapter, we will discuss a way of leading to a crash of minionhost.exe due to an improper exception handling over the control flow socket.


Vulnerability Location

The vulnerability occurs by sending a ZeroMQ data message of 256 bytes to the control flow socket (10557). This message is filled with a 0x41 hexadecimal value and will be then managed by the libzmq.dll module. One field of the data message is seen as a control flow command such as:

  • PAUSE, which suspends the proxy activities;
  • RESUME, which resumes the proxy activities;
  • TERMINATE, which smoothly terminates the proxy activities.

In this context, the “A” (0x41) string is an unknown control flow command and could not be handled. So, an exception is thrown, but unfortunately not caught by the upper layer, that is part of the minionhost.exe code. This programming mistake leads to a crash of minionhost.exe.

Please see Figure 3 below, a screenshot of disassembling code which raises this exception:

Figure 3: ZeroMQ Disassembly code – Invalid command sent to proxy

As ZeroMQ is an open source library, we can retrieve the above code in C language.

Please see Figure 4 below, an extract of zmq::proxy [4] function which holds on the code involved:

Figure 4: ZeroMQ code – Control flow command

From the disassembly code in Figure 4 and the C code source in Figure 5, we retrieve the string “E: invalid command sent to proxy”. In fact, an exception is thrown from the zmq_assert() function. Therefore, a call of the zmq::proxy function should be enclosed with a “try…catch” code.

Please see Figure 5 below, the call stack which provides more details on the execution flow:

0:004> k
 # Child-SP          RetAddr           Call Site
00 000000df`6bdfec50 00007ffd`e3000111 KERNELBASE!RaiseException+0x69
01 000000df`6bdfed30 00007ffd`e30109f8 libzmq+0x10111
02 000000df`6bdfed60 00007ff7`e0b07c80 libzmq!zmq_atomic_counter_inc+0xba48
03 000000df`6bdfef00 00007ff7`e0a56637 minionhost+0xe7c80
04 000000df`6bdffb30 00007ff7`e0a568c9 minionhost+0x36637
05 000000df`6bdffb70 00007ffd`f5111ffa minionhost+0x368c9
06 000000df`6bdffba0 00007ffd`f6a881f4 ucrtbase!o_exp+0x5a
07 000000df`6bdffbd0 00007ffd`f802a251 KERNEL32!BaseThreadInitThunk+0x14
08 000000df`6bdffc00 00000000`00000000 ntdll!RtlUserThreadStart+0x21

Figure 5: minionhost crashed – Call stack


CVE-2020-26871 targeting “ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe

CVE ID CVE-2020-26871
CVSS v3.0 Base Score 6.3 | Medium | CVSS:3.1/AV:L/AC:L/PR:N/UI:R/S:C/C:N/I:N/A:H
CWE-248 Uncaught Exception: An exception is thrown from a function, but it is not caught. When an exception is not caught, it may cause the program to crash or expose sensitive information.


This vulnerability is located into a DLL named SAScanner.dll which is loaded by the ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe service.

A brief description of these two components is the following:

  • The ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe is a service running with NT AUTHORIY\SYSTEM rights. As its name suggests, its main goal is to prevent execution of doubtful binaries. For some type of suspicious detections, logs will be sent to an external server. An alarm is triggered to warn an operator to perform the suitable action;
  • The SAScanner.dll seems to be a module which is responsible for scanning binaries as soon as it is executed in the host machine.

With this knowledge, stopping the ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe process makes the endpoint station not protected against cyber-threats. Malicious or suspicious executables will no longer be detected and no more logs are thrown to a monitoring or supervision station. That is why this binary is also a good candidate to turn off.

Moreover, the ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe offers a file scanning service to other Cybereason binaries. In this context, the ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe holds on a communication channel based on TCP sockets. Such a service is delivered through the TCP port 40270 which obviously relies on the ZeroMQ library (ØMQ).

Based on this, the easiest way to communicate with the ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe service is to deal with this library to establish a TCP communication from our executable. Then, we can attempt to send malformed packets to get unexpected behaviours.

Later, in the Proof of Concept chapter, we will discuss a way leading to a crash of ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe due to an improper exception handling.

Bug Location

The vulnerability occurs by sending a ZeroMQ data message of 256 bytes to the TCP port 40270. This message is filled with a 0x41 hexadecimal value and will then be managed by the SAScanner.dll module. One field of the data message is seen as a “command” type. Here the “0x41” value is an unknown command and could not be handled. So, an exception is thrown, but unfortunately not caught by the upper layer. This programming mistake results in a crash of ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe, that is a Denial of Service.

Please see Figure 6 below, a screenshot of disassembling code which raises this exception:

Figure 6: Disassembly code – unknown command

From the above Figure, you can see the _CxxThrowException() which raises an exception as soon as a command is unknown. Even if this call seems coming from the SAScanner.dll, one assumption is we are faced with an inline function being part of the ZeroMQ library. This is why the crash of ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe occurs just after this call.

Please see Figure 7 below, the call stack which provides more details on the execution flow:

0:003> k
 # Child-SP          RetAddr           Call Site
00 000000da`59aff6a0 00007fff`2b0d485d KERNELBASE!RaiseException+0x69
01 000000da`59aff780 00007fff`245900f0 VCRUNTIME140!CxxThrowException+0xad
02 000000da`59aff7f0 00007fff`2458ef49 SAScanner!destroy_scanner+0x1b600
03 000000da`59aff900 00007fff`2458fdc1 SAScanner!destroy_scanner+0x1a459
04 000000da`59affc60 00007fff`2457f949 SAScanner!destroy_scanner+0x1b2d1
05 000000da`59affca0 00007fff`31e11ffa SAScanner!destroy_scanner+0xae59
06 000000da`59affcd0 00007fff`33b081f4 ucrtbase!o_exp+0x5a
07 000000da`59affd00 00007fff`3588a251 KERNEL32!BaseThreadInitThunk+0x14
08 000000da`59affd30 00000000`00000000 ntdll!RtlUserThreadStart+0x21

Figure 7: Service crashed – Call stack


Proof of Concept

First of all, developing a proof of concept for these two vulnerabilities is quite similar. Only the TCP port differs from 10557 for CVE-2020-26562 to 40270 for CVE-2020-26871. In that sense, we will only supply the one targeting minionhost.exe.

This proof of concept is compiled as a Windows executable which relies on the ZeroMQ library to exchange data on the TCP port 10557. The following function calls are needed:

  • zmq_ctx_new;
  • zmq_socket;
  • zmq_msg_init;
  • zmq_msg_init_size;
  • zmq_msg_send;
  • zmq_msg_close.

These functions will be loaded dynamically through a LoadLibrary() call and several GetProcAddress() calls.

Note that as soon as these services are not responding for a short time, they are started again. A watchdog mechanism is set up. However, some experimentations unveil that the service will be launched up to 5 times. So, you just need to execute several times this PoC to definitively kill both the minionhost.exe and the ExecutionPreventionSvc.exe.

Please see Figure 8 below, the main function in C language which triggers the vulnerability in minionhost.exe:

int Crash_Cybereason_minionhost()
         void *ctx = NULL;
         void *socket = NULL;
         zmq_msg_t tZmqMsg;
         int rc = 0;

         ctx = pfn_zmq_ctx_new();
         if (ctx == NULL)
                goto end_clean_up;

         socket = pfn_zmq_socket(ctx, ZMQ_REQ);
         if (socket == NULL)
                goto end_clean_up;

         printf("[*] Connecting to tcp://\n");
         rc = pfn_zmq_connect(socket, "tcp://");
         if (rc != 0)
                goto end_clean_up;

         printf("[*] Sending data\n");
         rc = pfn_zmq_msg_init_size(&tZmqMsg, DATA_SIZE);
         memset(pfn_zmq_msg_data(&tZmqMsg), 'A', DATA_SIZE);
         rc = pfn_zmq_msg_send(&tZmqMsg, socket, 0);
         if (rc < 0)
                goto end_clean_up;

         printf("[*] minionhost.exe has crashed!!!\n");
         rc = 0;

         if (socket)
                return rc;

Figure 8: Source code – Crash_Cybereason_minionhost()


Demonstration for CVE-2020-26562

This PoC targets the vulnerability on the following environment:

  • Cybereason with 1.20.0 version which is deployed on Windows 10 Pro 1809

Please see Figure 9 below, a screenshot which highlights the minionhost.exe PID before launching the PoC.

Figure 9: minionhost PID before launching the PoC 

The PID is currently 5500. After executing our PoC, the service will be crashed. As it would be started again up to 5 times, the PID will not be the same.

Please see Figure 10 below, a screenshot when executing the PoC:

Figure 10: Launching the PoC

Please see Figure 11 below, a screenshot which illustrates that the service is restarted:

Figure 11: minionhost PID after launching the PoC

The PID is now 5992 but the PID of the parent process is unchanged.



These two vulnerabilities CVE-2020-26562 and CVE-2020-26871 target respectively two critical components of the Cybereason Product, that is the minionhost executable as part of ActiveProbe Service and the Execution Prevention ServiceIf one of these services is unavailable, the endpoint station can no longer send event logs to the monitoring station. Consequently, an operator will not be aware of current threats occurring on the endpoint and no actions could be remotely performed to solve suspicious or malicious behaviours.

One plain recommendation to avoid such Denial of Services will be to always catch exceptions thrown from the ZeroMQ library.

Disclosure Timeline

Airbus CyberSecurity follows the widely accepted 90-day vulnerability disclosure policy; meaning Airbus CyberSecurity won’t engage any public communication about the reported vulnerability during that time frame without any prior public communication or fix. Please note that Airbus CyberSecurity’s general position is that as soon a working and active relationship is established, there is no need to blindly push for the 90-day vulnerability disclosure if it’s not necessary.

Cybereason reacted quickly both to confirm both vulnerabilities and fixed these issues in order to protect as much as possible the end customer.

April 1st, 2020 Vulnerabilities are reported to Cybereason

April 22nd, 2020 Cybereason confirms vulnerabilities and starts working on fixing these

May 24th, 2020 Vulnerabilities are fixed 

October 06th, 2020 CVE-2020-26562 and CVE-2020-26871 are created

October 22nd, 2020 Airbus publishes the report associated with the CVE-2020-26562 and CVE-2020-26871


[1] CyberReason – Endpoint Detection & Response

[2] ZeroMQ – An open-source universal messaging library

[3] ZeroMQ API – zmq_proxy_steerable

[4] ZeroMQ API – zmq_proxy

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