NTFS Permissions and the Oddities

NTFS Permissions

What is NTFS?

NTFS is a high-performance and self-healing file system proprietary to Windows NT, 2000, XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10 desktop systems as well as commonly used on Windows Servers 2016, 2012, 2008, 2003, 2000 & NT Server. NTFS file system supports file-level security, transactions, encryption, compression, auditing and much more. It also supports large volumes and powerful storage solution such as RAID/LDM. The most important features of NTFS are data integrity (transaction journal), the ability to encrypt files and folders to protect your sensitive data as well as the greatest flexibility in data handling.

Cool, now that we got that out of the way, file systems require access controls, believe it or not that’s controlled using lists called Access Control Lists (ACLs). Huh, who would of thunk it, ACLs either Allow or Deny permissions to the files and folders in the file system.

So far nothing odd or crazy here… There can come times when a user may have multiple permissions on a resource from alternative sources E.G. (Explicit vs Inherited), now depending which will determine whether the action is allowed or dined based on precedence.

A little more intricate, but still nothing odd here. However good reference material. Up Next, another tid bit required to understand the oddtites I will discuss.

File Explorer (explorer.exe)

If you’re an in-depth sysadmin you may know that by default (Windows7+) you can not run file explorer (explorer.exe) as an admin, or elevated. References one and two. Now in the second one there is a work around but I have not tested this, though I will actually probably for my next blog post. But for now the main thing to no is that you can’t run explorer elevated by default.


User Access Control (UAC)

So again talking WIndows 7 onward here Microsoft made NTFS more secure by having the OS utilize User Access Controls, for when elevated rights were required. For we all do best practices and use different admin and standard accounts, right? To keep it short the lil pop up asking “Are you sure you want to run this?” if you have the ability to run elevated or a Credential Pop-up dialog if you do not.

You can view the “Tasks that trigger a UAC prompt” section of the wiki to get an idea when. (Pretty much anytime you require an system level event)

However I’m going to bring attention this specific one:

Viewing or changing another user’s folders and files

Oddity #1

This brings up our first oddity. If I were to ask you the following question:

You are logged on as an admin on a workstation, you open file explorer, you navigate to a folder in which you do not have either explicit or inherited permissions. When you double click this folder you are presented with a UAC prompt, what does clicking “Continue” do?

A) Clicking Continue causes UAC to temperately runs explorer elevated and navigates into the folder.

B) Clicking Continue will take the current logged on user Security Identifier (SID) and append it to the folders ACL.

Now if you are following along closely we already discussed that A) isn’t even a viable option which means the answer is non other then B…


Yup, marvel at it… dirty ACLs everywhere. Now do note I had to break inheritance from the parent folder in order to restrict normal access, which makes sense when your navigating folders in file explorer as an admin already. But this information is still good to know if you do come across this when you are working in an elevated user session.

Also note IF the folder’s owner is SYSTEM or TrustedInstaller, clicking continue will not work and you’ll get an error, cause this action will not take ownership of a folder only grant access, and without the rights to grant those permissions it will still fail, even though there’s nothing stopping you from using takeown or the file explorer to actually grant your account ownership.

Oddity #2

This is the one I really wanted to cover in this blog post. You may have noticed that I stated I broke inheritance, this is generally not best practice and should be done as a last resort usually when it comes to permission management. However it does come around as a solution to access control when it really needs to be super granular.

I had created a TechNet post asking how to restore Volume ACLs, to which no good answers came about. So what I ended up doing was simply adding a new disk to a VM and checked out it’s permissions.

Now if you look closely you’ll notice 3 lines specifying specific access rights for the group “Users”. Now on a workstation, these permissions make perfect sense, a user has the right to read and execute files (needed just to use the system), create folders and they are the owners of them (what good is a workstation if you can’t organize your work), create files and write data (what goods a workstation if you can’t save your work).

However you might think, bah this will be a server (I’ll harden it that standard users can’t have interactive log on) so along with traversal bypass granted by default users should have access to only the specific folders in which they are explicitly granted, and by default will not have any access right inherited.

Removing Users still leaves the Administrators group with full Control rights, and you are a member of that group by domain inheritance, so all is good right? Sounds gravy until…. you realize as soon as you removed the “Users” accounts from the ACLs your admin account has inherited access rights revoked?

Inside the disk was a folder “Test” as you can see by its inherited ACLs

Now this is where it gets weird, it would be safe to assume that my domain admin account which I’m logged in as is part of the Built in administrators group… as demonstrated by this drawing here:

Which is also proven by the fact I can run CMD and other applications elevated via the UAC prompt and I simply click Yes instead of getting a credential box.

Now wouldn’t it be safe to assume that since Administrators have Full Control on the folder in question clearly shows that above, we should be able to traverse the folder, right? It’s basic operation of someone with “Full Control”… and…. awwwww would you look at that? Just look at it! Look at it!

It’s a big ol’ UAC prompt, now why would we get that if we have inherited permission… we already know what it’s going to do… that’s grant my account’s SID permissions, but why? I have inherited full control through administrators don’t I? and sure enough, clicking Continue…

well that’s super weird. I’m skip paste a lot of my trial and error tasks and make the claim, it literally comes down to one ACL that magically makes inheritance work like it’s suppose to…

believe it or not that’s it…. that’s the magical ACL on a folder that will make File Explorer actually adhere to inherited permissions. literally… granting S-1-5-32-545 Users “List folder \ Read Data” permission on the folder, and now as an admin I can traverse the folder without a UAC prompt, and without explicit permissions…

Oddity #3

So I’m like, alright, I’m liking this, I’m learning new things, things are getting weird…. and I can like weird, so I decided like YO! let’s create some folders and like see how things play out when I dickery do with those nasty little ACLs you know what I mean?


This stuffs too clean, you know what I mean, all nicely inherited, user owner, nah let’s change things up on this one, SYSTEM you got ownership, and you know what… all regular users.. yer gone you know what that means… inheritance who needs that. This is security, deeerrrrr…..

Awww yeah, and sure enough, trying to traverse the folder gives a UAC prompt, and grants my account explicit permissions, there goes those clean ACLs.

Answer to the Whole Thing

Turns out I was thinking about this all day at work, I couldn’t get it. It honest felt like somehow all access rights were being granted by the “Users” group only…. as if… they are.. using the lowest common denominator… like it can’t… run elevated! DOH!

The answer has been staring me in the face the whole freaking time!

I already stated “If you’re an in-depth sysadmin you may know that by default (Windows7+) you can not run file explorer (explorer.exe) as an admin, or elevated.”

I’m expecting to do task via explorer through an account I have inheritance from BUT the group I’m expecting to grant me the right is an elevated rights group “Administrators”… like DOH!

So the easy fix is create any random security group in the domain, add users accordingly into that group and grant that group full control over the folder, sub-folders and files (even make the group the owner of said folders and subfolders). Then sure enough everything works as expected.

For Example

added my admin account into this group. Then on the file server. Leave the D:\ disk permissions in place. Create a Folder in which other folders can be created and shared accordingly, in this case, teehee let’s call it DATA.

Sure enough, no surprise it looks like this…

everything as it should be, I created the Folder, my accounts the owner, I have inherited Full Control because I am the owner, and all other permissions have been granted by the base disk, besides the one permission which was configured at the disk level to be “this folder only” so all is good.

And now I did some quick searching on how to restrict access without breaking inheritance, and overall most responses was “even though it’s best practice to not break inheritance, alternative means for access control via deny’s is even more dirty”.

So, here we go lets break the inheritance from the disk and remove all users access, now as we discovered we will initially get UAC prompts if we try to navigate it with our admin account after this. Let’s not do that just yet after. So it’s now like this (we granted the group above ownership).

Now since I am a member of this group (I just added my account so I’m going to log off and back on to ensure my group mappings update properly for my kerberos tickets (TGT baby) to work.

whoami /groups

I’m so glad I did this, cause my MMC snap-in did not save the changes and I was not in this group after my first re-logon and sure enough after I fixed it.. 🙂

Now if I navigate the folder I should not get a UAC prompt cause my request to traverse the folder will be granted via File Share Admins, which is not an elevated SID request and I’ll be able to create files and folders without interruptions… lets try..

And there it is, no UAC prompt, all creation options available, and no users in the folders ACLs! Future Admins will need to be added to this group however, if an admin (domain admin or otherwise) attempts to login and navigate this folder they will get a UAC prompt and their SIDs will be auto appended to all folders, subfolders and files! Let me show you…

Welcome DeadUserAdmin! He’s been granted domain admin rights only, and decided to check out the file server…

as shown in the diagram the group permissions, and those inherited by simply being a domain admin, such as local admin. Below the permissions of a file before this domain admin attempts to navigate the folders..

Now as we learnt when this admin double clicks the DATA folder explorer can’t run elevated, and can’t grant traverse access via this accounts nested permissions under the administrators account, and when the UAC prompt appears is granting that SID direct access… lets follow:

There it is! and sure enough…

Yup every folder, and every file now has this SID in it, and when the user no longer works at the company…


deleting the Users Profile (to fix, naviagte in a couple folders, cut a folder, go to user profile root folder and paste to shorten the overall path name)

So anyway after the user leaves the company and his account gets deleted…

Yay, a whole entire folder/file structure with SIDs as Principals cause AD can’t resolve them anymore. They have been deleted. So how does an admin now fix DeadUserAdmins undesired effects?

Navigate to the root DATA folder properties, Security Tab, advanced settings. Remove the SID…

Be careful of the checkbox at the bottom (Replace all child permissions) use this with caution as it can do some damages if other folders down the line have broken inheritance and specific permissions. In this case all folders and files inherent from this base DATA drive and thus….

All get removed. If there are other folders with broken inheritance then an Audit is required of all folders, their resources, their purposes, and who’s suppose to have access.

Another option is to nest domain admins into file share admins, then it all works well too.

I hope this blog post has helped someone.

Email Scamming

The Story

Everyone loves a good story, ehhhhhhhhhhhh.

Anyway sitting around playing a new puzzle game I picked up The Talos Principle. Enjoying it very much, and I my phone goes off, just another email. Looking at the Subject did have me intrigued (while also instantly alerting me that its a scam). Now I plan to cover this blog post in 2 parts. 1 in which I cover the basics of catching “Red Flags” and how to spot these types of emails for the basic user, and 2 more technically in-depth for those that happen to be admins of some kind. Let’s begin.

The Email in Question

Now looking right at this it may not scream out at you, but I’ll point them all out.

First Red Flag

First off, the Subject, the first thing anyone sees when they get an email, and in this case it’s designated to grab attention. “Order of a Premium Account”? What I didn’t order any premium account. So the inclination is to open the email to find out more. Most of the time this is a safe move to make, but I’m sure hackers could make it in at this point if it was an APT (Advanced Persistent Threat) and they really wanted to target you. In this case, not likely. This in itself isn’t a red flag as many legit emails can be of high importance and the sender could use alerting terms to ensure action is taken when time is of the essence. However it still a tactic used by the perpetrator.

Second Red Flag

So what’s the body tell us? In this case it is a clear and definitive “Red Flag”; Vague, and requesting the user to open an attachment for more details. This is the hugest red flag, the body should contain enough information to satisfy the recipient to understand exactly what an attachment would justify being there for.

Third Red Flag

Now mixing the two together we get another “Red Flag” the subject was for a premium account for a “Diamond Shop App.” whatever that is, I suppose many apps have separate account creations and thus this isn’t exactly alarming, however, if it was from the Apple store the email I’m assuming would either follow Apples template (which this doesn’t), considering the attachment is labeled “Apple Invoice.doc”. I also don’t use the Apple Store so for me was an easy red flag.

Fourth Red Flag

Grammar; “Are you sure to cancel this order, please see attachment for more details. thanks you” a question ending in a period with a following “thanks you” with an s and no cap, and the subject was for an account creation…. need I say more?

What now?

OK, so pretty obvious here there some shenanigans goin’ on here. If you’re an end user this is a good time to send the email (as an attachment) to your IT department. It is important to send the email itself as an attachment to retain the email headers (discussed later in this post) for admins to analyze the original sender details.

Technical Stuff

Now we’re going to get technical, so if you are not a technical person you education session is done, else keep reading.

Initial Analyses

Yeah you guessed it; VirusTotal.

Well, nyet….

Nothing… OK, let’s analyze the headers quick with MxToolbox

Here we can see it was sent from the domain “retail-payment.com”, they also masked their list of targets by BCCing them all, shady, and pointing to main to address to noreply@apple.com or device@apple.com which probably are non existent addresses for apple, and making it look more legit while not letting apple actually know. What about this sending domain?

sad another zero day domain registration, I was expecting GoDaddy to be honest, was rather disappointed to see Wix supporting such rubbish.

What’s next? Joe Sandbox!

At this point it’s clear the file and email are brand new attempts and not caught by virus total, so what is it attempting to accomplish. I signed up to JoeSandbox to find out. Then submitted the file, I was impressed with the results!


I’m not sure why older OS with older Office was clean? but newer showed some results, when I opened the report I was like HA!

Neat looks like it the doc had links to some websites, and yeah.. the sandbox went there! 😀

Would ya look at that! It looks like the apple login page, thankfully the URL doesn’t match apple’s at all and should be another duh red flag.

OK, who registered that domain?

I have no clue who that registrar is, nor do I know how they managed to keep it alive since the 2000’s hosting malicious phishing sites? Sad…


Don’t open up stupid emails, and report them to your admins whenever possible. 😀

Using OpenSSL to convert PKCS12 to PEM

Found from here

openssl pkcs12 -in path.p12 -out newfile.crt.pem -clcerts -nokeys
openssl pkcs12 -in path.p12 -out newfile.key.pem -nocerts -nodes

After that you have:

  • certificate in newfile.crt.pem
  • private key in newfile.key.pem

To put the certificate and key in the same file use the following

openssl pkcs12 -in path.p12 -out newfile.pem

If you need to input the PKCS#12 password directly from the command line (e.g. a script), just add -passin pass:${PASSWORD}:

openssl pkcs12 -in path.p12 -out newfile.crt.pem -clcerts -nokeys -passin 'pass:P@s5w0rD'

Thanks KMX

WordPress: Error Establishing a Connection to the Database

This will be a short one, as I didn’t take screen shots, and I didn’t have to do much to resolve it. Just wanted to make note of it.

The other day I wanted to check my own site and instead of loading I got the message “Error Establishing a Connection to the Database”.

I applied my usual fix first; reboot. While the VM was rebooting it appeared there had been some disk corruption? the automatic fsck failed stating a manual fsck was required.


fsck /dev/sda1

and a bunch of “errors” and fix?<y>

after a bunch of answering yes, it stated the disk was repaired successfully.

after this I typed “exit” or “return”, and the system rebooted like normal. Lucky for me the WordPress site came up clean after that. However even had this had failed, we all have backups right?

Exchange: Something Went Wrong

Fixing Exchange

Now, I’ve taken a couple Exchange courses. They cover all the bases… expect when things go wrong. That’s why it’s nice to have labs… today in my Lab I discovered I was unable to get email from my exchange server, neither from activeSync nor Outlook Web App (OWA).

Something went wrong alright… first thing I noticed was my disk had run out of space… whoops. Hahaha. Expand the drive, reboot and… Something Went Wrong…

Sigh…. alright event viewer… what ya got for me…

Unable to mount…. I guess it didn’t like what happened to the DB after the disk ran out of space… some quick googling (1 and 2 copy cats… and can’t even tell you the DB file locations…) and one more, more personal blog post.

Exchange Default DB File Locations

If you are using Exchange Server 2000 & 2003, you can locate your EDB files at:

C:\Program Files\Exchsrvr\MDBDATA\Priv1.edb
C:\Program Files\Exchsrvr\MDBDATA\Pub1.edb

If you are using Exchange Server 2007, you can locate your EDB files at:

C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\Mailbox\First Storage Group\Mailbox Database.edb
C:\Program\Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\Mailbox\First Storage Group\Public Folder Database.edb

If you are using Exchange Server 2010, you can locate your EDB files at:

C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\V14\Mailbox Database\Mailbox Database.edb
C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\V14\Public Folder Database\Public Folder Database.edb

If you are using Exchange Server 2013, you can locate your EDB files at:

C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\V15\Mailbox\Mailbox database Name\Mailbox database Name.edb

If you are using Exchange Server 2016, you can locate your EDB files at:

C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\V15\Mailbox\Mailbox Database Name.edb

Repairing the Exchange Mailbox Database

Which they all tell you to use a cool old “tool” eseutil. which seemed straight forward, ensure you run an elevated cmd or you won’t have access to the directory path of the exchange DB file. In my case I used the Exchange 2013 path which was the version used in my lab.

I also moved the log files:

move *.log c:\temp

Yeah… that took a lil while.

Mounting the Exchange Mailbox Database

Once it’s repaired used Exchange Mgmt Shell to mount it:

Whoops, silly me, since everyone said to stop the information store service I did… so after starting the service, and rerunning the command it succeeded.

Which resulted in:

Much better!


  1. Check the source of the Database Corruption. (Mine was Disk Space)
  2. Stop the Information Store Service
  3. Check the Validity of the Mailbox Database (eseutil /mh)
  4. Repair if required (eseutil /p)
  5. Restart the Exchange Information Store Service
  6. Mount the Mailbox Database

Hope this helps someone.

Windows MCS and MPIO

I was configuring some iSCSI disk on a Windows server and noticed there were two different options available that seem to provide similar functionality and I had to know… What’s the difference?



First we agree upon the common features within both technologies: both serve a multipathing for (iSCSI) I/O-operations utilizing multiple hardware (or OSI Level 1) components, such as Ethernet NICs or iSCSI HBAs. The purpose of multipathing is redundancy and aggregation – how this is implemented depends on the above depicted figures, i.e. through the decision which paths are active and which are passive (or standby, using Microsoft parlance). For the exact definition of the policies, such as round robin, weighted path, fail over only, etc. please refer to “MS iSCSI UG”, p. 41.

Finally here come the condensed definitions for both technologies:

MCS allows the initiator to establish multiple TCP/IP connections to the same target within the same iSCSI session.

MPIO in contrast allows the initiator to establish multiple iSCSI sessions (each having single TCP/IP connection) to the same target, effectively aggregating the duplicate devices into a single device.

If you are not familiar with the terminology (initiator, target, session, connection, initiator port and network portal) please refer to “Multivendor Post” which provides very informative sketches to the iSCSI network architecture.

Now that we know that MCS means effectively several connections within a session and MPIO means multiple sessions the question is when to use what. Mainly you will have to concentrate on two perspectives – vendor support and load balance policy inheritance. The question – or rather schools of thought – about the speed and performance differences are factored out here, because in the author’s opinion these are almost equal and you will probably never get to the point of fully utilizing them. With this said consider the following simple rule of thumb: you can use MCS only when it is supported from the vendor’s SAN and you are not using hardware iSCSI HBAs. In any other case use MPIO. The second thought is – if considering the above conditions you are able to use MCS, but want to apply different load balancing policies to different targets (and effectively LUNs or groups of LUNs) you will still be better off using MPIO. This is because load balancing policies are session adherent. In other words when you are applying policy to MCS it is for the whole session, no matter how many connections are aggregated “beneath” it. On the other side when using MPIO you can set different policies for different LUNs, because the multipathing is using different iSCSI sessions.


I’m still trying to wrap my hear around exactly what the source is getting at. But will update the blog when I do some more testing.

HPE SSD Firmware Bug (Critical)

I’m just gonne leave this right here…..


I wonder who they outsourced the firmware code out to back in 2015….

IMPORTANT: This HPD8 firmware is considered a critical fix and is required to address the issue detailed below. HPE strongly recommends immediate application of this critical fix. Neglecting to update to SSD Firmware Version HPD8 will result in drive failure and data loss at 32,768 hours of operation and require restoration of data from backup in non-fault tolerance, such as RAID 0 and in fault tolerance RAID mode if more drives fail than what is supported by the fault tolerance RAID mode logical drive. By disregarding this notification and not performing the recommended resolution, the customer accepts the risk of incurring future related errors.

HPE was notified by a Solid State Drive (SSD) manufacturer of a firmware defect affecting certain SAS SSD models (reference the table below) used in a number of HPE server and storage products (i.e., HPE ProLiant, Synergy, Apollo, JBOD D3xxx, D6xxx, D8xxx, MSA, StoreVirtual 4335 and StoreVirtual 3200 are affected).

The issue affects SSDs with an HPE firmware version prior to HPD8 that results in SSD failure at 32,768 hours of operation (i.e., 3 years, 270 days 8 hours). After the SSD failure occurs, neither the SSD nor the data can be recovered. In addition, SSDs which were put into service at the same time will likely fail nearly simultaneously.

To determine total Power-on Hours via Smart Storage Administrator, refer to the link below:

Smart Storage Administrator (SSA) – Quick Guide to Determine SSD Uptime

Yeah you read that right, drive failure after a specific number of run hours. Yeah total drive failure, if anyone running a storage unit with these disks, it can all implode at once with full data loss. Everyone has backups on alternative disks right?

Lesson and review of today is. Double check your disks and any storage units you are using for age, and accept risks accordingly. Also ensure you have backups, as well as TEST them.

Another lesson I discovered is depending on the VM version created will depend which ESXi host it can technically be created on. While this is a “DUH” thing to say, it’s not so obvious when you restore a VM using Veeam and Veeam doesn’t code to tell you the most duh thing ever. Instead the recovery wizard will walk right through to the end and then give you a generic error message “Processing configuration error: The operation is not allowed in the current state.” which didn’t help much until I stumbled across this veeam form post

and the great Gostev himself finishes the post with…

by Gostev » Aug 23, 2019 5:52 pm

“According to the last post, the solution seems to be to ensure that the target ESXi host version supports virtual hardware version of the source VM.”

That’s kool…. or about… why doesn’t Veeam check this for you?!?!?!
Once I realized what the problem was, I simply restored the VM with a new name on the same host it was backed up from (Which was on a 6.5 ESXi host) and I was attempting to restore the VM on a 5.5 ESXi host. Again, after I realized I had created the VM under the options that I picked a higher VM level allowing it only to be used with higher versions of ESXi it was like again… “DUHHH” but then it made me think, why isn’t the software coded to check for such an obvious pre-requisite?
Whatever nothings perfect

Getting A+ Qualys Report

As some of you may know you can validate the security strength of your HTTPS secured website using https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/index.html

A good read on Perfect Forward secrecy

I use HA Proxy with Lets Encrypt for my sites security. While setting up those to plugins to work together apparently by default it’s not using the most secure suites ok the dev shows how you can adjust accordingly… but which ones? This what I get by default:

Phhh only a B, lets get secure here.

Little more searching I find the base ssl suites from mozilla config generator

which gave me this for the string of suites


But then ssllab report still complained about weak DH… so had to remove the final two options in the list leaving me with this


Now after applying the setting on the listener I get this!

Mhmmm yeah! A+ baby but looks like some poor saps may not be able to see my site:

Too bad so sad for IE on older OS’s, same with iOS (Macs) running older Safari.

Now let’s tackle DNS CAA well I was going to discuss how to set this up, but the linked site covers it well. Since my external DNS provider was listed in the supported providers, I logged into my providers portal to manage my DNS, and sure enough the wizard was straight forward to grant Lets Encrypt authority to sign my certificates! Finally one that was actually really easy! Wooo!

Now I suppose I can eventually play with experimental TLS1.3 but I’ll save that for another post! Cheers!