Windows September 2021 Update: Workaround for some printing issues

Windows[German]Zum Patchday am 14. September 2021 hat Microsoft für die unterstützten Windows-Systeme Sicherheitsupdates freigegeben, die auch weitere PrintNightmare-Schwachstellen beseitigen sollen. Diese Updates verursachen aber Probleme, so dass Netzwerkdrucker nicht mehr angesteuert werden können. In einigen Fällen könnte ein einfacher Workaround helfen, ohne dass das Sicherheitsupdate deinstalliert werden muss.


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PrintNightmare printing issues

Since early July 2021, vulnerabilities in the Windows print spooler have been public, allowing remote code execution (RCE) (see PoC for Windows print spooler vulnerability public, high RCE risk). An attacker could execute arbitrary code with SYSTEM privileges. This includes installing programs, viewing, modifying or deleting data, or creating new accounts with full user privileges.

  As of patchday on September 14, 2021, there was another PrintNightmare fix, but it poses problems again. For example, printers on terminal servers or print servers can no longer print. I had already reported on the issue in the blog post Patchday Sept. 2021 Review: New PrintNightmare fix, new issues, new desaster?

Microsoft acknowledged the problems late last week and advises updating printer drivers to be able to print again. I addressed this issue in the blog post Windows PrintNightmare: Microsoft confirms printing problems after Sept. 2021 update. If updating the printer drivers doesn't help, users should go to the OEMs and request new drivers – easier said than done. 

A workaround without uninstalling updates

As a consequence of the Microsoft recommendations, administrators are uninstalling the September 14, 2021 security updates to at least get the printers working. However, there is an approach that may also provide a (temporary) solution without uninstalling the update.

Background explanations

Security researcher Benjamin Delpy, who has been working intensively on the PrintNightmare issue for months, has posted a few tweets on Twitter that may shed some more light on the issue. 


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The spoofing vulnerability CVE-2021-1678 has been known for quite some time (in January 2021 Microsoft published something about it, see also my blog post Details of Windows NTLM vulnerability CVE-2021-1678 published). As I now read out from Benjamin Delpy above tweet, this also affects printer RPC binding and authentication for the remote Winspool interface.

Microsoft has started to address this vulnerability via security updates in January 2021 and September 2021. To do so, a new registry entry was set that administrators could use to increase or decrease the RPC authentication level.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Print

When the DWORD value RpcAuthnLevelPrivacyEnabled=1  is set, Windows encrypts RPC communication with network printers or print servers. However, this security measure was rolled out in two stages via security update: :

  • Since January 12, 2021, there was a so-called deployment phase for this purpose, in which administrators set this registry value
  • With the security update of September 14, 2021, the enforcement phase was initiated, i.e. RPC encryption is active by default

The details can be found in the Microsoft support article Managing deployment of Printer RPC binding changes for CVE-2021-1678 (KB4599464). This could explain the connection problems of clients with the Windows printer spooler in various scenarios. It is reported that printing is no longer possible after installing the September 2021 update.

This workaround could help

Instead of uninstalling the security update from September 14, 2021, users have come up with the idea of disabling the enforcement mode on the server.  

PrintNightmare issue

If I interpret the above tweet correctly, disabling the relevant settings under:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Print\

on the server to allow printing again. There is the DWORD value:

RpcAuthnLevelPrivacyEnabled=0

and then restart the print spooler (see this reddit.com thread and in Bleeping Computer's forum). Maybe it will help someone. Also, note my advice in the blog post Patchday Sept. 2021 Review: New PrintNightmare fix, new issues, new desaster?, where I gave advice on the error 0x0000011b.

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5 Responses to Windows September 2021 Update: Workaround for some printing issues

  1. cus2002 says:

    RpcAuthnPrivacyLevelEnable 0 fixed it for me .
    All printers connectable again and running in a network .
    Many thanks !

  2. Frank says:

    Same here
    RpcAuthnPrivacyLevelEnable 0 fixed it for me .
    All printers connectable again and running in a network .
    Many thanks !

  3. Bilal says:

    Did you have to create the RpcAuthnPrivacyLevelEnable in registry?
    We do not see this being created after installing the September Patches on Servers.

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  5. NotMyDay says:

    I create the key and restart the spooler. It work 1 time and after reloging got the same problem.. ):

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