Common Weakness Enumeration

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CWE-64: Windows Shortcut Following (.LNK)

Weakness ID: 64
Abstraction: Variant
Status: Incomplete
Presentation Filter:
+ Description

Description Summary

The software, when opening a file or directory, does not sufficiently handle when the file is a Windows shortcut (.LNK) whose target is outside of the intended control sphere. This could allow an attacker to cause the software to operate on unauthorized files.

Extended Description

The shortcut (file with the .lnk extension) can permit an attacker to read/write a file that they originally did not have permissions to access.

+ Alternate Terms
Windows symbolic link following
+ Time of Introduction
  • Operation
+ Applicable Platforms



Operating Systems


+ Common Consequences

Technical Impact: Read files or directories; Modify files or directories

+ Likelihood of Exploit

Medium to High

+ Observed Examples
Mail client allows remote attackers to bypass the user warning for executable attachments such as .exe, .com, and .bat by using a .lnk file that refers to the attachment, aka "Stealth Attachment."
FTP server allows remote attackers to read arbitrary files and directories by uploading a .lnk (link) file that points to the target file.
FTP server allows remote attackers to read arbitrary files and directories by uploading a .lnk (link) file that points to the target file.
Browser allows remote malicious web sites to overwrite arbitrary files by tricking the user into downloading a .LNK (link) file twice, which overwrites the file that was referenced in the first .LNK file.
".LNK." - .LNK with trailing dot
Rootkits can bypass file access restrictions to Windows kernel directories using NtCreateSymbolicLinkObject function to create symbolic link
+ Potential Mitigations

Phase: Architecture and Design

Strategy: Separation of Privilege

Follow the principle of least privilege when assigning access rights to entities in a software system.

Denying access to a file can prevent an attacker from replacing that file with a link to a sensitive file. Ensure good compartmentalization in the system to provide protected areas that can be trusted.

+ Weakness Ordinalities
(where the weakness is typically related to the presence of some other weaknesses)
+ Relationships
NatureTypeIDNameView(s) this relationship pertains toView(s)
ChildOfWeakness BaseWeakness Base59Improper Link Resolution Before File Access ('Link Following')
Research Concepts (primary)1000
ChildOfCategoryCategory63Windows Path Link Problems
Resource-specific Weaknesses (primary)631
Development Concepts (primary)699
ChildOfCategoryCategory743CERT C Secure Coding Section 09 - Input Output (FIO)
Weaknesses Addressed by the CERT C Secure Coding Standard (primary)734
ChildOfCategoryCategory877CERT C++ Secure Coding Section 09 - Input Output (FIO)
Weaknesses Addressed by the CERT C++ Secure Coding Standard (primary)868
ChildOfCategoryCategory980SFP Secondary Cluster: Link in Resource Name Resolution
Software Fault Pattern (SFP) Clusters (primary)888
+ Research Gaps

Under-studied. Windows .LNK files are more "portable" than Unix symlinks and have been used in remote exploits. Some Windows API's will access LNK's as if they are regular files, so one would expect that they would be reported more frequently.

+ Causal Nature


+ Taxonomy Mappings
Mapped Taxonomy NameNode IDFitMapped Node Name
PLOVERWindows Shortcut Following (.LNK)
CERT C Secure CodingFIO05-CIdentify files using multiple file attributes
CERT C++ Secure CodingFIO05-CPPIdentify files using multiple file attributes
Software Fault PatternsSFP18Link in resource name resolution
+ Content History
Submission DateSubmitterOrganizationSource
PLOVERExternally Mined
Modification DateModifierOrganizationSource
2008-07-01Eric DalciCigitalExternal
updated Time_of_Introduction
2008-09-08CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Applicable_Platforms, Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings, Weakness_Ordinalities
2008-10-14CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Description
2008-11-24CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2011-06-01CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Common_Consequences
2011-09-13CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings
2012-05-11CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Observed_Examples, Relationships
2012-10-30CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Potential_Mitigations
2014-07-30CWE Content TeamMITREInternal
updated Relationships, Taxonomy_Mappings

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Page Last Updated: May 05, 2017