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I've been looking at SSPI recently, as it is used for authentication in a variety of Microsoft products. From the looks of it, it's based on GSSAPI and provides an abstraction for wrapping various authentication mechanisms (e.g. NTLM, Kerberos, etc.) for use in application protocols.

What attacks, if any, are possible against SSPI? Can authentication be downgraded to an easily-breakable (or null) mechanism by an active attacker? Is it possible to pull NTLM or other hashes out of the packets and crack them?

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Do you mean attacks on the API? Or attacks on protocols that are provided by that API? Or both? –  sta Sep 4 '14 at 15:04
This question is unclear because attacks would usually be against a particular SSP (e.g. NTLM, Kerberos) rather than the SSPI. If you're asking about all SSPs then it's too broad - each SSP should have an individual question. –  paj28 Oct 23 '14 at 14:13
@paj28 Sorry, yes, I should've been more clear. I guess I'm mainly referring to Negotiate and Digest SSP (SASL) as they're the two most common. But, as well as that, I'm interested in the security of how SSPI as an interface safely decides which protocol to use when there are mismatches in support between two endpoints. –  Polynomial Oct 25 '14 at 13:51

2 Answers 2

actually these days there is no any attacks or vulnerabilities or explots but in 2010 and 2007 there was some exploits related to sspi

CVE-2010-0161:The nsAuthSSPI::Unwrap function in extensions/auth/nsAuthSSPI.cpp in Mozilla Thunderbird before and SeaMonkey before 1.1.19 on Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows 7 allows remote SMTP, IMAP, and POP servers to cause a denial of service (heap memory corruption and application crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via crafted data in a session that uses SSPI.

CVE-2007-2108:Unspecified vulnerability in the Core RDBMS component in Oracle Database,,, and on Windows allows remote attackers to have an unknown impact, aka DB01. NOTE: as of 20070424, Oracle has not disputed reliable claims that this issue occurs because the NTLM SSPI AcceptSecurityContext function grants privileges based on the username provided even though all users are authenticated as Guest, which allows remote attackers to gain privileges.

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I haven't seen anything exploitable in the wild with regards to SSPI but had I to guess, I would say an impersonation attack to escalate privileges would be a likelihood. There was an instance some time ago where WinSSPI had an issue: See here and here.

I'm going on a whim here and thinking that the way MS is using SpGetContextToken can be abused locally (system): "A handle to the context to impersonate." .. "Do this, using the credentials of N user." From the network side, if someone pulls out an NTLM hash, there is no need to crack it anymore. One can just "pass the hash"

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I think you misunderstood impersonation. On Windows, the term is used to mean a handle or object created under the context of another user whose credentials (or evidence, to use the official term) you have. For example, an administrative user can create a process that impersonates the limited user Bob, using evidence that he is an administrator. The admin doesn't need to know Bob's password in this case. Bob can't do the opposite (i.e. impersonate admin) because Bob can't provide any evidence that he's allowed to do so, but he may be able to impersonate Alice if he knows her credentials. –  Polynomial May 29 '13 at 14:04
I didn't downvote, but I suspect whoever did did so because you didn't provide any evidence for your claims. –  Polynomial May 29 '13 at 14:06
;) Downvoting, upvoting, makes no difference to me most times. I enjoy being able to collaborate. Everyone is entitled to an opinion ;) –  munkeyoto May 29 '13 at 15:47
Classic misunderstanding/confusion between social engineering and impersonation. –  injector Jul 4 '14 at 23:20

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