What is Application Shimming? A Powerful Tool in Cybersecurity.


I’ve seen my fair share of complex tech jargon that readers easily tune out. However, in the world of cybersecurity, there are tools that are so powerful in protecting your systems that they deserve our attention and understanding. Today, I want to talk about one of these tools – Application Shimming.

Now, you may not have heard of Application Shimming, but trust me when I say that it’s become a vital part of any cybersecurity strategy. Its powers come from its ability to trick malicious software into thinking it’s interacting with the system and applications as expected, when in reality, it’s not. This not only stops attacks dead in their tracks but can also help identify new types of threats that could undermine your security.

In this article, I’ll be diving into what Application Shimming is, how it works, and how it can protect you against some of the most sophisticated and dangerous cyber threats out there. So, if you’re ready to up your cybersecurity game, keep reading!

What is application shimming in cyber security?

Application shimming in cyber security refers to a technique that threat actors use to target Microsoft Windows operating systems. Specifically, application shimming involves using Application Shim’s within the Microsoft Windows Application Compatibility Framework to create persistence injection, inject DLLs, and raise privileges. This technique can be particularly dangerous as it can allow attackers to execute malicious code on a system undetected and with high privileges.

To help understand the concept of application shimming, it may be useful to consider some of the specific ways that attackers use this technique. Some examples of application shimming include:

  • Creating persistence injection: Attackers may use application shimming to ensure that malicious code continues to execute even after a system has been rebooted.
  • Injecting DLLs: An attacker may use application shimming to inject dynamic link libraries (DLLs) into legitimate applications in order to execute malicious code.
  • Raising privileges: Application shimming may be used to elevate the privileges of a malicious process in order to enable it to perform actions that would otherwise be restricted.
  • While application shimming can be a powerful tool for attackers, there are steps that organizations can take to protect themselves. This includes implementing endpoint protection measures that can detect and prevent malicious code injection and ensuring that all software and operating systems are up to date with the latest patches and security updates. By staying vigilant and taking proactive measures, organizations can help protect themselves against the threats posed by application shimming and other cyber attacks.

    ???? Pro Tips:

    1. Stay Updated: Keep an eye on the latest news and updates related to application shimming trends, vulnerabilities, and patches.

    2. Invest in Security Solutions: Employ anti-malware, firewalls, and antivirus software for your organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure to avoid the possibility of application shimming.

    3. Monitor Application Behaviors: Keep a watchful eye on application performance and behavior for any changes following application shimming attacks or attempts.

    4. Educate Employees: Train employees to be cautious and attentive to suspicious emails, downloads, or applications that could compromise their systems and company data.

    5. Engage Expert Support: Hire or work with cybersecurity experts to monitor and assess the security of your system and improve your organization’s cybersecurity strategy.

    Understanding Application Shimming in Cyber Security

    Application shimming is a technique that is used on Microsoft Windows operating systems to create compatibility between older applications and newer operating systems. It involves applying a layer of code, known as a shim, into the system in order to force an application to run more smoothly. This technique is widely used in the IT industry to enable legacy software to run on newer platforms.

    However, application shimming can also be used maliciously by attackers to gain access to a system, escalate their privileges, or inject malicious code. In this article, we will take a closer look at application shimming and the threat it poses to cybersecurity.

    The Threat Posed by Application Shimming on Windows OS

    Application shimming can be used by attackers to bypass security controls and gain access to a system. By hijacking the compatibility layer between an application and the operating system, an attacker can trick the operating system into executing malicious code. This technique enables attackers to gain persistent access to the system and remain undetected.

    The threat of application shimming is further compounded by the fact that many security tools, particularly anti-virus software, may be unable to detect it. This is because application shimming uses legitimate system functions, making it difficult to distinguish from legitimate operation.

    How Application Shimming Enables Persistence Injection

    Application shimming can be used to enable persistence injection, a technique in which code is injected into a system in order to maintain access to a system after a reboot. This is achieved by using a shim that creates a registry entry or modifies an existing one. This allows the attacker to execute their code on startup, giving them persistent access to the system.

    The Role of DLL Injection in Application Shimming

    DLL injection is a technique in which code is injected into a running process. This technique is often used in conjunction with application shimming to inject malicious code into a running process. By modifying a DLL file that is used by a legitimate process, attackers can execute code within that process, giving them access to the system at the same level of privilege as that process.

    Examples of DLLs that are commonly targeted by attackers include:

    • Kernel32.dll
    • User32.dll
    • Advapi32.dll
    • Ntdll.dll

    How Application Shimming Raises Privileges

    Application shimming can also be used to raise privileges, enabling attackers to gain access to resources they would not normally have access to. This is achieved by using a shim that alters the way in which an application interacts with the system, allowing it to be executed with elevated privileges.

    The threat of this technique is further increased by the fact that any application can be shimmed to raise privileges, even those that would not normally require elevated privileges to operate.

    Analyzing the Use of the Microsoft Windows Application Compatibility Framework

    Application shimming is made possible by the Microsoft Windows Application Compatibility Framework. This framework is used to ensure compatibility between older applications and newer operating systems by implementing shims into the system. The framework is designed to be flexible and allows for the creation of custom shims to enable compatibility with specific applications.

    This same flexibility, however, has also made it possible for attackers to craft their own shims that can be used maliciously.

    Building Shim Database: A Closer Look

    The Shim Database is a collection of shims that are used by the Microsoft Windows Application Compatibility Framework to ensure compatibility between applications and the operating system. The database is continuously updated by Microsoft to ensure that new applications can run smoothly on the latest version of Windows.

    However, the Shim Database can also be customized by system administrators to create custom shims for specific applications. This customization process opens up the possibility of creating malicious shims, thus enabling an attacker to use them for their own purposes.

    Preventing Application Shimming Attacks on Windows Systems

    Preventing application shimming attacks on Windows systems can be challenging, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of an attack.

    Some of these steps include:

    • Keeping the operating system and all software up-to-date with the latest security patches.
    • Limiting administrative privileges to only those individuals who need them.
    • Restricting access to sensitive parts of the system using access controls and firewalls.
    • Using anti-virus software that is capable of detecting application shimming attacks.
    • Blocking known malicious DLLs using tools such as AppLocker or Software Restriction Policies.

    In conclusion, application shimming is a powerful technique that can be used maliciously by attackers to gain access to a system, escalate privileges, and inject malicious code. While it is difficult to detect and prevent application shimming attacks, it is possible to reduce the risk by applying best practices and using appropriate security tools.