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Security Advisory Gpg4win 2015-11-25

Affected: Gpg4win installers version 2.2.6 and before.

Criticality: medium

  1. The installer will load and execute other code if it is placed in the same directory as a DLL with the right name. This "current directory attack" or "dll preloading attack" can be part of a remote exploitation for example if the Gpg4win installer is downloaded to a common Downloads directory and the attacker can previously place files there by tricking a user or other software to download files with a specific name to the same place. If the Gpg4win installer is then executed, the other code may run, while the user believes to run only the Gpg4win installer.
  2. There is a "local privilege escalation" during an installer run. Installer runs can happen during a fresh, an update install or a deinstallation. With Windows Vista or later an administrator can log in as user and give higher privileges to a single process using the User Account Control mechanism (UAC). If the installer is started in this way, there is a time window where an attacker running with user privileges can insert code in a temporary directory of the installer that will be executed with the higher privileges bypassing the UAC.

Mitigation: Update to Gpg4win 2.3.0 (published at the same date as this advisory)

General precaution measure: Always copy an installer into a single new directory where it is the only file before executing it. The reason is that many other installers based on NSIS or other common installer technologies on Windows are vulnerable to this kind of 'current directory attack'.


  • 2015-11-17 problem reported to Gpg4win initiative by Stefan Kanthak
  • 2015-11-18 Start of analysis and development of mitigations by Werner Koch and Andre Heinecke.
  • 2015-11-24 Upstream report to NSIS with solution as patch to v2.46 http://sourceforge.net/p/nsis/bugs/1125/
  • 2015-11-24 Report to Debian as Gpg4win upstream provider of NSIS: https://bugs.debian.org/806036
  • 2015-11-25 Fix released with Gpg4win 2.3.0.

Additional information

On 2015-10-28: A public report of similar problems with a Mozilla installer component went to http://seclists.org/fulldisclosure/2015/Oct/109 .

Microsoft has published a number of reports about "DLL preloading" or path traversal problems.

More technical details are available via the provided links. As Gpg4win is Free Software which is developed in the open, the source code of the used installer is publicly available and may be inspected for details of the fix.

Advisory compiled by: Bernhard Reiter