This is a friendly warning that your web-browser does not currently protecting your privacy and/or security as well as you might want. Click on this message to see more information about the issue(s) that were detected. November 10th, 2016 Windows Explorer thumbcache CThumbnail­Cache::_Get­Thumbnail­Internal misaligned free

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

  • explorer.exe & thumbcache.dll 10.0.14393.0 on Windows 10

    An attacker would need to get a target user to open a specially crafted folder in explorer.exe in thumb-nail view, or get a target user to attempt to drag & drop a file in such a folder. This specially crafted folder must reside on a drive on the victim's machine that is mapped to a network share. The vulnerability does not appear to be exploitable. Limiting the size of the path for files mitigates the issue, as a very long path is required in order to trigger it. Browsing a network share directly, rather than through a mapped drive also prevents triggering the vulnerable code path.


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

  • Select the view tab at the top of the explorer.exe window
  • Select Details from the list of ways to view the current folder.
  • Click on Options on the right hand side of the view banner.
  • Select the view tab at the top.
  • Click on Apply to Folders
  • From the list of options, enable Launch folder windows in a separate process

(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.


  • August/September 2016: I notice explorer.exe on my desktop machine inexplicably terminating while I'm working on issues I found through fuzzing.
  • October 2016: This is happening often enough to get really annoying, so I investigate and find the root cause.
  • October 2016: This issue was submitted to ZDI and i­Defense, just in case I missed something and they find a way to exploit it.
  • October 2016: ZDI rejects the submission as they do not consider it exploitable.
  • November 2016: Details of this issue are released.

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
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
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!
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