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T1574.009 Path Interception by Unquoted Path

Adversaries may execute their own malicious payloads by hijacking vulnerable file path references. Adversaries can take advantage of paths that lack surrounding quotations by placing an executable in a higher level directory within the path, so that Windows will choose the adversary’s executable to launch.

Service paths 4 and shortcut paths may also be vulnerable to path interception if the path has one or more spaces and is not surrounded by quotation marks (e.g., C:\unsafe path with space\program.exe vs. “C:\safe path with space\program.exe”). 3 (stored in Windows Registry keys) An adversary can place an executable in a higher level directory of the path, and Windows will resolve that executable instead of the intended executable. For example, if the path in a shortcut is C:\program files\myapp.exe, an adversary may create a program at C:\program.exe that will be run instead of the intended program. 2 1

This technique can be used for persistence if executables are called on a regular basis, as well as privilege escalation if intercepted executables are started by a higher privileged process.

Item Value
ID T1574.009
Sub-techniques T1574.001, T1574.002, T1574.004, T1574.005, T1574.006, T1574.007, T1574.008, T1574.009, T1574.010, T1574.011, T1574.012, T1574.013
Tactics TA0003, TA0004, TA0005
Platforms Windows
Version 1.1
Created 13 March 2020
Last Modified 30 March 2023

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S0363 Empire Empire contains modules that can discover and exploit unquoted path vulnerabilities.16
S0194 PowerSploit PowerSploit contains a collection of Privesc-PowerUp modules that can discover and exploit unquoted path vulnerabilities.1415


ID Mitigation Description
M1047 Audit Find and eliminate path interception weaknesses in program configuration files, scripts, the PATH environment variable, services, and in shortcuts by surrounding PATH variables with quotation marks when functions allow for them. Be aware of the search order Windows uses for executing or loading binaries and use fully qualified paths wherever appropriate.
M1038 Execution Prevention Adversaries will likely need to place new binaries in locations to be executed through this weakness. Identify and block potentially malicious software executed path interception by using application control tools, like Windows Defender Application Control, AppLocker, or Software Restriction Policies where appropriate.8910111213
M1022 Restrict File and Directory Permissions Ensure that proper permissions and directory access control are set to deny users the ability to write files to the top-level directory C: and system directories, such as C:\Windows\, to reduce places where malicious files could be placed for execution. Require that all executables be placed in write-protected directories.


ID Data Source Data Component
DS0022 File File Creation
DS0009 Process Process Creation


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  2. HackHappy. (2018, April 23). Windows Privilege Escalation – Unquoted Services. Retrieved August 10, 2018. 

  3. Mark Baggett. (2012, November 8). Help eliminate unquoted path vulnerabilities. Retrieved November 8, 2012. 

  4. Microsoft. (2017, April 20). HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services Registry Tree. Retrieved March 16, 2020. 

  5. Microsoft. (n.d.). CreateProcess function. Retrieved December 5, 2014. 

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  7. Beechey, J.. (2014, November 18). Application Whitelisting: Panacea or Propaganda?. Retrieved November 18, 2014. 

  8. Gorzelany, A., Hall, J., Poggemeyer, L.. (2019, January 7). Windows Defender Application Control. Retrieved July 16, 2019. 

  9. Tomonaga, S. (2016, January 26). Windows Commands Abused by Attackers. Retrieved February 2, 2016. 

  10. NSA Information Assurance Directorate. (2014, August). Application Whitelisting Using Microsoft AppLocker. Retrieved March 31, 2016. 

  11. Corio, C., & Sayana, D. P.. (2008, June). Application Lockdown with Software Restriction Policies. Retrieved November 18, 2014. 

  12. Microsoft. (2012, June 27). Using Software Restriction Policies and AppLocker Policies. Retrieved April 7, 2016. 

  13. PowerShellMafia. (2012, May 26). PowerSploit - A PowerShell Post-Exploitation Framework. Retrieved February 6, 2018. 

  14. PowerSploit. (n.d.). PowerSploit. Retrieved February 6, 2018. 

  15. Schroeder, W., Warner, J., Nelson, M. (n.d.). Github PowerShellEmpire. Retrieved April 28, 2016.