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Windows Explorer thumbcache CThumbnail­Cache::_Get­Thumbnail­Internal misaligned free

(This issue is currently not fixed)


When handling long path names on network shares mapped to a drive, thumbcache.dll loaded in explorer.exe can be made to free a memory block with a pointer that does not actually point to the start of the memory block, but rather to the start plus a static offset. The offset is such that the pointer is no longer aligned correctly, which is detected by the heap manager. The heap manager then causes explorer.exe to terminate.

Known affected versions, attack vectors and mitigations


To prevent explorer.exe crashing prematurely, please set the default view to details:

(The above steps are not required to trigger the issue AFAIK, but they make debugging easier.)

From a cmd.exe shell, execute the following commands to reproduce the issue:

    > %System­Drive%
    > mkdir \test
    > cd \test
    > mkdir ___237_bytes_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    > cd ___237_bytes_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    > ECHO. >x.URL
    > net share test=%System­Drive%\test
    > pushd \\localhost\test
    > explorer.exe ___237_bytes_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

At this point you may want to attach your debugger to the newly spawned explorer.exe process. When you are ready to proceed, try to drag and drop the x Internet Shortcut file: this should cause explorer.exe to create a thumbnail for the file, which triggers the issue and causes an exception in explorer.exe


When explorer.exe needs to look up the thumbnail for a file with a long path name on a mapped network share, it will replace the drive letter in the path of the file with the network share. For example: when the network share \\server\share is mapped to drive Z: and explorer.exe needs to render the thumbnail for the file Z:\__long_­path__...__\z.URL, it will lookup the thumbnail for \\server\share\__long_­path__...__\x.URL. When doing so, the code at some point attempts to free this string. However, the string is part of a struct and a pointer is located before this string, like so:

struct _Thumb­Nail­Struct {
  PVOID p­Unknown;
  WCHAR[] sz­File­Path;

This will cause the code to try to free a memory block using a pointer that is 4 (x86) or 8 (x64) bytes after the start of that block.

The size of the block can be controlled through the name of the server and share: chaning the length of the name for the server or share results in a similar change to the length of the path and thus the memory block.


The attacker does not appear to have control over the value in the pointer and the pointer is not aligned correctly, which is immediately detected by the heap manager. To my knowledge, this issue is not exploitable.


This is the first time I ran into this type of bug and therefore there was no code in Bug­Id that handled it, which resulting in limited information being available for analysis. I have since added code to Bug­Id that detects this issue and reports it correctly, as can be seen in the report near the end of this page.


Notice that Microsoft was not informed prior to releasing this information to the public, as I do not believe this is a security issue that warrants a private report. In the contrary: I believe that if people are experiencing seemingly random crashes of explorer.exe, they may want to know about this issue, so they can determine if they are impacted by it and work around it.

Bug­Id report: Misaligned­Free[0x212]+8 6c5.639 @ explorer.exe!thumbcache.dll!CThumbnail­Cache::_Get­Thumbnail­Internal This report was generated using Bug­Id, a Python script created to detect, analyze and id application bugs. Don't waste time manually analyzing issues and writing reports, but try Bug­Id out yourself today!
Bug­Id: Misaligned­Free[0x212]+8 6c5.639
Location: explorer.exe!thumbcache.dll!CThumbnail­Cache::_Get­Thumbnail­Internal
Description: The application attempted to free memory using a pointer that was 8/0x8 bytes after a 530/0x212 byte heap block at address 0x­B4EBDE0
Version: explorer.exe: 10.0.14393.0
thumbcache.dll: 10.0.14393.0
Security impact: Unknown: this type of bug has not been analyzed before
© Copyright 2016 by Sky­Lined.
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non‑Commercial 4.0 International License.

Last updated on 2016-11-21.
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