Tag: custom password filter

Debugging An Active Directory Custom Password Filter

A few years ago, I implemented a custom password filter in Active Directory. At some point, it began accepting passwords that should be rejected. The updated code is available at https://github.com/ljr55555/OpenPasswordFilter and the following is the approach I used to isolate the cause of the failure.


Technique #1 — Netcap on the loopback There are utilities that allow you to capture network traffic across the loopback interface. This is helpful in isolating problems in the service binary or inter-process communication. I used RawCap because it’s free for commercial use. There are other approaches too – or consult the search engine of your choice.

The capture file can be opened in Wireshark. The communication is done in clear text (which is why I bound the service to localhost), so you’ll see the password:

And response

To ensure process integrity, the full communication is for the client to send “test\n” then “PasswordToTest\n”, after which the server sends back either true or false.

Technique #2 — Debuggers Attaching a debugger to lsass.exe is not fun. Use a remote debugger — until you tell the debugger to proceed, the OS is pretty much useless. And if the OS is waiting on you to click something running locally, you are quite out of luck. A remote debugger allows you to use a functional operating system to tell the debugger to proceed, at which time the system being debugged returns to service.

Install the SDK debugging utilities on your domain controller and another box. Which SDK debugging tool? That’s going to depend on your OS. For Windows 10 and Windows Server 2012 R2, the Windows 10 SDK (Debugging Tools For Windows 10) work. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-hardware/drivers/debugger/debugger-download-tools or Google it.

On the domain controller, find the PID of LSASS and write it down (472 in my example). Check the IP address of the domain controller ( in my example).

From the domain controller, run:

dbgsrv.exe -t tcp:port=11235,password=s0m3passw0rd

Where port=11235 can be any un-used port and password=s0m3passw0rd can be whatever string you want … you’ve just got to use the same values when you connect from the client. Hit enter and you’ve got a debugging server. It won’t look like it did anything, but you’ll see the port bound on netstat

And the binary running in taskman

From the other box, run the following command (substituting the correct server IP, port, password, and process ID):

windbg.exe -y “srv:c:\symbols_pub*http://msdl.microsoft.com/downloads/symbols” -premote tcp:server=,port=11235,password=s0m3passw0rd -p 472

This attaches your WinDBG to the debugging server & includes an internet-hosted symbol path. Don’t worry when it says “Debugee not connected” at the bottom – that just means the connection has not completed. If it didn’t connect at all (firewall, bad port number, bad password), you’d get a pop-up error indicating that the initial connection failed.

Wait for it … this may take a long time to load up, during which time your DC is vegged. But eventually, you’ll be connected. Don’t try to use the DC yet – it will just seem hung, and trying to get things working just make it worse. Once the debugger is connected, send ‘g’ to the debugger to commence – and now the DC is working again.

Down at the bottom of the command window, there’s a status (0:035> below) followed by a field where you enter commands. Type the letter g in there & hit enter.

The status will then say “Debuggee is running …” and you’re server is again responsive to user requests.

When you reach a failing test, pause the debugger with a break command (Debug=>Break, or Ctrl-Break) which will veg out the DC again. You can view the call stack, memory, etc.

To search the address space for an ASCII string use:

!for_each_module s -[1]a ${@#Base} L?${@#Size}  "bobbob"

Where “bobbob” is the password I had tested.

Alternately, run the “psychodebug” build where LARGEADDRESSAWARE is set to NO and you can search just the low 2-gig memory space (32-bit process memory space):

s -a 0 L?80000000 "bobbob"

* The true/false server response is an ASCII string, not a Boolean. *

Once you have found what you are looking for, “go” the debugger (F5, Debug=>Go, or  ‘g’) to restore the server to an operational state. Break again when you want to look at something.

To disconnect, break and send “qd” to the debugger (quit and detach). If you do not detach with qd, the process being debugged terminates. Having lsass.exe terminate really freaks out the server, and it will go into an auto-recovery “I’m going to reboot in one minute” mode. It’ll come back, but detaching without terminating the process is a lot nicer.

Technique #3 – Compile a verbose version. I added a number of event log writes within the DLL (obviously, it’s not a good idea in production to log out candidate passwords in clear text!). While using the debugger will get you there eventually, half an hour worth of searching for each event (the timing is tricky so the failed event is still in memory when you break the debugger) … having each iteration write what it was doing to the event log was FAAAAAR simpler.

And since I’m running this on a dev DC where the passwords coming across are all generated from a load sim script … not exactly super-secret stuff hitting the event log.

Right now, I’ve got an incredibly verbose DLL on APP556 under d:\tempcsg\ljr\2\debugbuild\psychodebug\ … all of the commented out event log writes from https://github.com/ljr55555/OpenPasswordFilter aren’t commented out.

Stop the OpenPasswordFilter service, put the verbose DLL and executables in place, and reboot. Change some passwords, then look in the event viewer.

ERROR events are actual problems that would show up either way. INFORMATION events are extras. I haven’t bothered to learn how to properly register event sources in Windows yet 🙂 You can find the error content at the bottom of the “this isn’t registered” complaint:

You will see events for the following steps:

DLL starting CreateSocket

About to test password 123paetec123-Dictionary-1-2

Finished sendall function to test password123paetec123-Dictionary-1-2

Got t on test of paetec123-Dictionary-1-2

The final line will either say “Got t” for true or “Got f” for false.

Technique #4 – Running the code through the debugger. Whilst there’s no good way to get the “Notification Package” hook to run the DLL through the debugger, you can install Visual Studio on a dev domain controller and execute the service binary through the debugger. This allows you to set breakpoints and watch variable values as the program executes – which makes it a whole lot easier than using WinDBG to debug the production code.

Grab a copy of the source code – we’re going to be making some changes that should not be promoted to production, so I work on a temporary copy of the project and delete the copy once testing has completed.

Open the project in Visual Studio. Right-click OPFService in the “Solution Explorer” and select “Properties”

Change the build configuration to “Debug”

Un-check “Optimize code” – code optimization is good for production run, but it will wipe out variable values when you want to see them.

Set a breakpoint on execution – on the OPFDictionary.cs file, the loop checking to see if the proposed word is contained in the banned word list is a good breakpoint. The return statements are another good breakpoint as it pauses program execution right before a password test iteration has completed.

Build the solution (Build=>Build Solution). Stop the Windows OpenPasswordFilter service.

Launch the service binary through the debugger (Debug=>Start Debugging).

Because the program is being run interactively instead of through a service, you’ll get a command window that says “Press any key to stop the program”. Minimize this.

From a new command prompt, telnet to localhost on port 5995 (the telnet client is not installed by default, so you may need to use “Turn Windows features on or off” and enable the telnet client first).

Once the connection is established, use CTRL and ] to get into the telnet command prompt. Type set localecho … now you’ll be able to see what you are typing.

Hit enter again and you’ll return to the blank window that is your telnet client. Type test and hit enter. Then type a candidate password and hit enter.

Program execution will pause at the breakpoint you’ve set. Return to Visual Studio. Select Debug =>Window=>Locals to open a view of the variable values

View the locals at the breakpoint, then hit F5 if you want to continue.

If you’re set breakpoints on either of the return statements, program execution will also pause before the return … which gives you an opportunity to see which return is being used & compare the variable values again.

In this case, I submitted a password that was in the banned word list, so the program rightly evaluated line 56 to true and returns true.

Custom Password Filter Update (unable to log on after changing password with custom filter in place)

I had written and tested a custom Active Directory password filter – my test included verifying the password actually worked. The automated testing was to select a UID from a pool, select a test category (good password, re-used password, password from dictionary, password that doesn’t meet character requirements, password containing surname, password containing givenName), set the password on the user id. Record the result from the password set, then attempt to use that password and record the result from the bind attempt. Each test category has an expected result, and any operation where the password set or bind didn’t match the expected results were highlighted. I also included a high precision timer to record the time to complete the password set operation (wanted to verify we weren’t adversely impacting the user experience). Published results, documented the installation and configuration of my password filter, and was done.

Until the chap who was installing it in production rang me to say he couldn’t actually log in using the password he set on the account. Which was odd – I set one and then did an LDAP bind and verified the password. But he couldn’t use the same password to log into a workstation in the test domain. Huh?? I actually knew people who wanted *some* users to be able to log in anywhere and others to be restricted to LDAP-only logons (i.e. web portal stuff) and ended up using the userWorkstations attribute to allow logon to DCs only.

We opened a case with Microsoft and it turns out that their Password Filter Programming Considerations didn’t actually mean “Erase all memory used to store passwords by calling the SecureZeroMemory function before freeing memory.” What they meant was “If you have created copies of the password anywhere within your code, make sure you erase memory used to store those copies by calling SecureZeroMemory …”

Which makes SO much more sense … as the comments in the code I used as our base says, why wouldn’t MS handle wiping the memory? Does it not get cleaned well if you don’t have a custom password filter?? Remarked out the call to SecureZeroMemory and you could use the password on NTLM authentications as well as kerberos!

// MS documentation suggests doing this. I honestly don’t know why LSA
// doesn’t just do this for you after we return. But, I’ll do what the
// docs say…
// LJR – 2016-12-15 Per MS, they actually mean to wipe any COPIES you make
// SecureZeroMemory(Password->Buffer, Password->Length);


I’ve updated my version of the filter and opened an issue on the source GitHub project … but if anyone else is working a custom password filter, following MS’s published programming considerations, and finds themselves unable to use the password they set … see if you are zapping your copies of the password or the PUNICODE_STRING that comes in.

Active Directory: Custom Password Filtering

At work, we’ve never used the “normal” way of changing Windows passwords. Historically, this is because computers were not members of the domain … so you couldn’t use Ctrl-Alt-Del to change your domain password. Now that computers are members of the domain, changing Active Directory passwords using an external method creates a lot of account lockouts. The Windows workstation is logged in using the old credentials, the password gets changed without it knowing (although you can use ctrl-alt-del, lock the workstation unlock with the new password and update the local workstation creds), and the workstation continues using the old credentials and locks the account.

This is incredibly disruptive to business, and quite a burden on the help desk … so we are going to hook the AD-initiated password changes and feed them into the Identity Management platform. Except … the password policies don’t match. But AD doesn’t know the policy on the other end … so the AD password gets changed and then the new password fails to be committed into the IDM system. And then the user gets locked out of something else because they keep trying to use their new password (and it isn’t like a user knows which directory is the back-end authentication source for a web app to use password n in AD and n-1 in DSEE).

long time ago, back when I knew some military IT folks who were migrating to Windows 2000 and needed to implement Rainbow series compliant passwords in AD – which was possible using a custom password filter. This meant a custom coded DLL that accepted or rejected the proposed password based on custom-coded rules. Never got into the code behind it – I just knew they would grab the DLL & how to register it on the domain controller.

This functionality was exactly what we needed — and Microsoft still has a provision to use a custom password filter. Now all we needed was, well, a custom password filter. The password rules prohibit the use of your user ID, your name, and a small set of words that are globally applied to all users. Microsoft’s passfilt.dll takes care of the first two — although with subtle differences from the IDM system’s rules. So my requirement became a custom password filter that prohibits passwords containing case insensitive substrings from a list of words.

I based my project on OpenPasswordFilter on GitHub — the source code prohibits exact string matches. Close, but not quite 🙂 I modified the program to check the proposed password for case insensitive substrings. I also changed the application binding to localhost from all IP address since there’s no need for the program to be accessed from outside the box. For troubleshooting purposes, I removed the requirement that the binary be run as a service and instead allowed it to be run from a command prompt or as a service.  I’m still adding some more robust error handling, but we’re ready to test! I’ve asked them to baseline changing passwords without the custom filter, using a custom filter that has the banned word list hard coded into the binary, and using a custom filter that sources its banned words list from a text file. Hopefully we’ll find there isn’t a significant increase in the time it takes a user to change their password.

My updated code is available at http://lisa.rushworth.us/OpenPasswordFilter-Edited.zip