Abuse Elevation Control Mechanism: Bypass User Access Control

Adversaries may bypass UAC mechanisms to elevate process privileges on system. Windows User Account Control (UAC) allows a program to elevate its privileges (tracked as integrity levels ranging from low to high) to perform a task under administrator-level permissions, possibly by prompting the user for confirmation. The impact to the user ranges from denying the operation under high enforcement to allowing the user to perform the action if they are in the local administrators group and click through the prompt or allowing them to enter an administrator password to complete the action. [1]

If the UAC protection level of a computer is set to anything but the highest level, certain Windows programs can elevate privileges or execute some elevated Component Object Model objects without prompting the user through the UAC notification box. [2] [3] An example of this is use of Rundll32 to load a specifically crafted DLL which loads an auto-elevated Component Object Model object and performs a file operation in a protected directory which would typically require elevated access. Malicious software may also be injected into a trusted process to gain elevated privileges without prompting a user.[4]

Many methods have been discovered to bypass UAC. The Github readme page for UACME contains an extensive list of methods[5] that have been discovered and implemented, but may not be a comprehensive list of bypasses. Additional bypass methods are regularly discovered and some used in the wild, such as:

  • eventvwr.exe can auto-elevate and execute a specified binary or script.[6][7]

Another bypass is possible through some lateral movement techniques if credentials for an account with administrator privileges are known, since UAC is a single system security mechanism, and the privilege or integrity of a process running on one system will be unknown on remote systems and default to high integrity.[8]

ID: T1548.002
Sub-technique of:  T1548
Tactics: Privilege Escalation, Defense Evasion
Platforms: Windows
Permissions Required: Administrator, User
Effective Permissions: Administrator
Data Sources: Process command-line parameters, Process monitoring, Windows Registry
Defense Bypassed: Windows User Account Control
Contributors: Casey Smith; Stefan Kanthak
Version: 1.0
Created: 30 January 2020
Last Modified: 25 June 2020

Procedure Examples

Name Description

APT29 has bypassed UAC.[33]


APT37 has a function in the initial dropper to bypass Windows UAC in order to execute the next payload with higher privileges.[38]

AutoIt backdoor

AutoIt backdoor attempts to escalate privileges by bypassing User Access Control.[17]


BlackEnergy attempts to bypass default User Access Control (UAC) settings by exploiting a backward-compatibility setting found in Windows 7 and later.[18]


BRONZE BUTLER has used a Windows 10 specific tool and xxmm to bypass UAC for privilege escalation.[31][32]

Cobalt Group

Cobalt Group has bypassed UAC.[34]

Cobalt Strike

Cobalt Strike can use a number of known techniques to bypass Windows UAC.[10]


Downdelph bypasses UAC to escalate privileges by using a custom "RedirectEXE" shim database.[16]


Empire includes various modules to attempt to bypass UAC for escalation of privileges.[13]


FinFisher performs UAC bypass.[22][23]


H1N1 bypasses user access control by using a DLL hijacking vulnerability in the Windows Update Standalone Installer (wusa.exe).[25]


Honeybee uses a combination of NTWDBLIB.dll and cliconfg.exe to bypass UAC protections using DLL hijacking.[30]


InvisiMole can bypass UAC and create an elevated COM object to escalate privileges.[20]


Koadic has 2 methods for elevating integrity. It can bypass UAC through eventvwr.exe and sdclt.exe.[12]


KONNI bypassed UAC with the "AlwaysNotify" settings.[27]


MuddyWater uses various techniques to bypass UAC.[35]


Patchwork bypassed User Access Control (UAC).[37]


An older variant of PLAINTEE performs UAC bypass.[19]


PoshC2 can utilize multiple methods to bypass UAC.[14]


Pupy can bypass Windows UAC through either DLL hijacking, eventvwr, or appPaths.[9]


Ramsay can use UACMe for privilege escalation.[29]


Remcos has a command for UAC bypassing.[11]


RTM can attempt to run the program as admin, then show a fake error message and a legitimate UAC bypass prompt to the user in an attempt to socially engineer the user into escalating privileges.[24]


Sakula contains UAC bypass code for both 32- and 64-bit systems.[26]


Shamoon attempts to disable UAC remote restrictions by modifying the Registry.[15]


ShimRat has hijacked the cryptbase.dll within migwiz.exe to escalate privileges. This prevented the User Access Control window from appearing.[28]

Threat Group-3390

A Threat Group-3390 tool can use a public UAC bypass method to elevate privileges.[36]


UACMe contains many methods for bypassing Windows User Account Control on multiple versions of the operating system.[5]


Many ZeroT samples can perform UAC bypass by using eventvwr.exe to execute a malicious file.[21]


Mitigation Description

Check for common UAC bypass weaknesses on Windows systems to be aware of the risk posture and address issues where appropriate.[5]

Privileged Account Management

Remove users from the local administrator group on systems.

Update Software

Consider updating Windows to the latest version and patch level to utilize the latest protective measures against UAC bypass.[5]

User Account Control

Although UAC bypass techniques exist, it is still prudent to use the highest enforcement level for UAC when possible and mitigate bypass opportunities that exist with techniques such as DLL Search Order Hijacking.


There are many ways to perform UAC bypasses when a user is in the local administrator group on a system, so it may be difficult to target detection on all variations. Efforts should likely be placed on mitigation and collecting enough information on process launches and actions that could be performed before and after a UAC bypass is performed. Monitor process API calls for behavior that may be indicative of Process Injection and unusual loaded DLLs through DLL Search Order Hijacking, which indicate attempts to gain access to higher privileged processes.

Some UAC bypass methods rely on modifying specific, user-accessible Registry settings. For example:

  • The eventvwr.exe bypass uses the [HKEY_CURRENT_USER]\Software\Classes\mscfile\shell\open\command Registry key.[6]

  • The sdclt.exe bypass uses the [HKEY_CURRENT_USER]\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\App Paths\control.exe and [HKEY_CURRENT_USER]\Software\Classes\exefile\shell\runas\command\isolatedCommand Registry keys.[39][40]

Analysts should monitor these Registry settings for unauthorized changes.


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