What does it mean when the Advanced Security Settings dialog says that an ACE was inherited from "Parent Object" without naming the specific parent?

Raymond Chen

Raymond

The Advanced Security Settings dialog shows the ACEs in an object’s ACL, and one of the pieces of information is a column labeled Inherited from which identifies whether the ACE was inherited, and if so, from where. A customer observed that when they opened the Advanced Security Settings dialog, one of their objects had an ACE that showed Parent Object as the Inherited from.

Name: C:\dir1\dir2\dir3\dir4\file
TypePrincipalAccessInherited fromApplies to
AllowAdministratorsFull controlNoneThis folder only
AllowAdministratorsFull controlC:\dir1\dir2\This folder, subfolders and files
AllowSYSTEMFull controlC:\dir1\dir2\This folder, subfolders and files
AllowCREATOR OWNERFull controlC:\dir1\dir2\Subfolders and files only
AllowUsersRead & executeC:\dir1\dir2\This folder, subfolders and files
AllowUsersSpecialC:\dir1\dir2\This folder and subfolders
AllowAuthenticated UsersFull controlParent Object This folder, subfolders and files

However, when they went to the parent object C:\dir1\dir2\dir3\dir4, that ACE is nowhere to be found.

Name: C:\dir1\dir2\dir3\dir4
TypePrincipalAccessInherited fromApplies to
AllowAdministratorsFull controlNoneThis folder only
AllowAdministratorsFull controlC:\dir1\dir2\This folder, subfolders and files
AllowSYSTEMFull controlC:\dir1\dir2\This folder, subfolders and files
AllowCREATOR OWNERFull controlC:\dir1\dir2\Subfolders and files only
AllowUsersRead & executeC:\dir1\dir2\This folder, subfolders and files
AllowUsersSpecialC:\dir1\dir2\This folder and subfolders
AllowEveryoneFull controlC:\dir1\dir2\This folder, subfolders and files

How can an ACE be inherited from its parent, when it doesn’t exist in the parent?
The Advanced Security Settings dialog is trying to be helpful, but in doing so, it implies a greater level of confidence than it actually offers.
ACEs do not specify where they were inherited from. There is merely a bit in the ACE called INHERITED_ACE which means, “This ACE was created via inheritance.” Not only does this bit not tell you where the ACE was inherited from, but the bit might even be wrong! Anybody can go in and toggle the bit, and bingo, you now have forged the “I was created via inheritance” flag. Another way this flag could be out of sync is if the user started an ACL update operation and then canceled it partway through.
The Advanced Security Settings dialog uses the Get­Inheritance­Source function to determine the source of each ACE. That function walks up the parent chain looking for matching inheritable ACEs. If a match is found, then the Advanced Security Settings dialog shows that parent as the Inherited from. Otherwise, it shrugs its shoulders and says Parent Object.
The string Parent Object means “This ACE claims to have been inherited from somewhere, but I can’t figure out where, so I’m just going to be vague and say that it came from some parent object somewhere.” Perhaps a less confusing string would have been Ancestor Object or even simply Unknown.

The Advanced Security Settings dialog figured that it would go the extra mile and instead of merely saying Inherited = Yes, it would try to find a parent object that was the most likely source of the inheritance. But by doing that, you came to expect it, and then you got upset when it wasn’t able to come through for you. No good deed goes unpunished.

Raymond Chen
Raymond Chen

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