Unsanitized file validation leads to Malicious payload download via Office binaries.

Reegun J
3 min readJul 13, 2019

Update 23-Sep-2019 — Added to Lolbas|Lolbin contribution.


As a part of finding vulnerable endpoints to improve defence, I used to reckon legitimate binaries on any chance of masking for payload download/execute.

I focused my research towards Office binaries (winword/powerpnt/excel), My aim is to download a payload remotely via legitimate binaries by application whitelisting and execute via Office binaries.

I came to know that we can able to open a remote document as Read-Only, I focused on that feature.

1. Payload Download — No proper validation on remote files.

I tried to download a remote file and it opens as Read-Only ,but i wonder is there any cache stored locally?

winword.exe “”

I fired up Procmon this time and look for artefacts and found the cache was stored on below 2 locations temporarily.

%localappdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.MSO

%localappdata%\\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\[random folder]

%localappdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\

This time i tried to download an executable and Winword.exe opens with scrambled strings.

winword.exe “”

I noticed the file was downloaded here %localappdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.MSO and deletes itself once the document closed, This is enough for an attacker to get the payload.

I probed further and found the raw payload was stored in %localappdata%\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\[random folder]\ as .EXE even after the document closed, Amazing!.

Using this method , An attacker will mask the payload download to evade defence mechanism especially Application whitelisting.

2. Execute the payload in ‘Office’ way — used for defence evasion.

I focused my research on how to execute payload with the help of Office binaries.

This time i downloaded a DLL

winword.exe “”

Once the DLL was downloaded , I probed possible ways to execute the DLL via Office binaries, As researched There is a feature we can load Addins to Microsoft office.

I load the DLL payload via Microsoft Office, Awesome again I got the remote shell, When i see the chain of events, Winword.exe -> Rundll32 -> C2, There is no initial visibility on command line that which file rundll32 loaded (Ofcourse we can get those details by looking in to memory)


winword.exe ->file ->options ->Add-ins ->manage COM addins -> click GO -> add the dll.

The above 2 features indeed not a vulnerability, but the attackers can use windows legitimate binaries to download and execute the payload, This have been tracking as LOLBINS.


As you can see above all payload download and execute are carried on via Office binaries.

But we can recommend Microsoft on first method “Payload Download” to stop downloading/opening when the file was not in supported format.

Recommendation to Blue/Red Team:

Blue Team:

  • Always look for non-microsoft domain connections from Office binaries
  • Investigate the executables which are written by Office binaries
  • Respect your instinct on suspicious events.

Red Team:

  • Download the file with document extensions.
  • Base64 the executable and download with document extensions.
  • Do the same as XOR’d
  • Insert the base64 payload to original document.
  • Split the inserted payload to original document.
  • Password protect the Base64 embedded document.



Reegun J

#800080 Teamer | Threat Researcher | Malware analyst | Reverse Engineer