Cobalt Strike 1.49 – HTTP Proxy Authentication? No Problem.

April 23, 2014

I spend a lot of time on the road in March and April—using my tools. During these months, I take careful notes of the usability issues I’d like to address and small tweaks that would make life better for Cobalt Strike’s hacker corps.

Today’s Cobalt Strike release is the result of notes and my first-hand experience from five different exercises. There’s a lot of great stuff here, particularly for Beacon users.

Beacon’s HTTP stager uses WinINet to communicate [even before this update]. This has a benefit. The HTTP stager will authenticate to a proxy server when stored credentials are available. Sometimes, the current process does not know the credentials needed to get through a web proxy server. Beacon’s HTTP stager now detects this situation and prompts the user for credentials. The dialog is the same one Internet Explorer uses. Between Beacon’s new HTTP stager and DNS stager—you now have the tools to defeat most tough egress restrictions.

Cobalt Strike’s Staged Executable Generator now gives you options to output Beacon as a raw blob of position independent shellcode. You also have the option to output a fully-staged Beacon as a PowerShell script too.

You may now assign a tiny note/label to each Beacon. This label is immediately visible to your teammates too. This makes Beacon management much easier.

13.19.43 Beacons

Beacon’s process injection code now falls back to an alternate method when CreateRemoteThread fails. This means you’ll have an easier time injecting into explorer.exe and other processes across logon sessions.

Beacon’s session spawning now creates patsy processes in a suspended state. This allows you to use spawnto with almost any program you can think of. And hurrah! Beacon no longer uses notepad.exe as the default process to spawn and inject code into.

These changes are the highlights. For a full accounting of changes, give the Release Notes a read. Licensed Cobalt Strike users may use the update program to get the latest. A 21-day trial is available too.


Meat and Potatoes

April 17, 2014

I’m well over 100 posts into this blog now. Wow! I’ve had several blogs in the past, but this is one of the few I’ve had a consistent run with. The other was the After the Deadline blog, which gets fewer updates since I left the project.

After 100 posts, I feel it’s time to capture what this blog is about and what I hope it says to you. It’s probably no surprise, but this is the “official” blog for Strategic Cyber LLC, which is my company and my full-time occupation. I get asked “what else do you do?” a lot. I want to make it crystal clear that this business has and has had my full-time focus for the past two and a half years.

I try to blog once each week; that’s my goal. Sometimes, I feel like writing and I draft several posts at once. It takes awhile to make a post suitable to publish. Right now, I have hundreds of posts in various draft states. Each week, I try to find the one that is close to publishable and I fix it up.


I blog each week because this is my signal to you that I’m alive. When I evaluate a company, I look at two things. I look at the footer of their website to see the copyright date. I then look at their blog. If the copyright date says 2007 or if their blog is dead, I assume that the company is dead. I don’t want to be that company, so I pay attention to these two things. The rest is gravy.

I write a lot of posts about basic penetration testing and Metasploit Framework stuff. Someone on Reddit once commented that some of my posts have a lot of insight, but others are hacking 101. There’s a reason for this…

It’s probably no surprise, but I don’t know everything about hacking or how different hacking techniques work. I’ve met many who claim they do. I’m not as good as these amazing geniuses among us. I’m learning every day. I watch presentations, I read source code, and I conduct experiments. Cobalt Strike is a great driver of this, as most features I implement require me to learn something new. It’s a lot of fun.

Several of my blog posts capture the essence of something I learned. My popular Bypass UAC blog post summarizes what I learned implementing this feature into Cobalt Strike’s Beacon. I didn’t understand this attack and the left and right bounds of it before this work. I reckoned that if the material were new to me, it’s new to someone else. So, I took the time to write about.

My recent post on getsystem falls along the same lines. I knew how to type getsystem. I understand what SYSTEM is. I didn’t understand what happened when I typed the command. I was surprised by what I found out. I wrote a blog post on it.

Other blog posts come from customer questions. Semi-regularly, I would get exasperated support requests from someone who had trouble sending a phish to their Gmail account. I tired of trying to rapid-fire explain email delivery on a case-by-case basis. I wrote a blog post about Email Delivery and spent a lot of time on issues that affect penetration testers. Writing this post wasn’t a simple matter of transferring my knowledge into the written word. I had to verify everything I wrote. During this process, I found that my understanding of some topics was off (e.g., my working knowledge of SPF was way off).

This verification is another reason I write and I teach. Both of these things keep me honest. Publishing code and writing are two ways to feel very naked. I know that if I misstate something or mislead someone, I will get called out. This is pretty intimidating. That said, if I can’t handle that intimidation, I probably have no business developing tools that other experts use to do an important job. So, I take it in stride.

Some blogs posts summarize my experiences. I care a lot about operations. I like to reflect on how people work, how things work, and how tools can work together and complement each other. When it’s appropriate to do so, I use this blog as a place to share my experiences about how I use my tools, how others use them, and different ways to organize a team. I think it’s important for tool developers to ground themselves in the reality of how people use and react to their tools. I spend a lot of time using my tools with other professionals to keep myself grounded.

My regular use of Cobalt Strike is what gives me so much confidence in this toolset. I see it do amazing things all of the time. Some days, I can’t believe I’m the one who works on it.

In terms of audience, I primarily write for the people who already read this blog. I used to have a keen interest in attracting attention for each post. I’d measure a post’s success by how many views it received in its first day. This pressure took some of the fun away from writing and it restricted me from writing what interested me. I won’t say I have more readers since this change—I don’t. But, freeing myself from this metric allows me to write with more candor. That’s how this blog ends up with posts like this one. It satisfies my weekly goal, allows me to say something I wanted to share, and do so in a way that’s free from any expectations.

So, what’s this blog about? It’s a signal that I’m alive and working on your behalf. It’s also an opportunity to share what I’m learning as I go.


Survival Skills for Small Infosec Vendors

April 11, 2014

Information Security is a strange field. There are probably few professions with such a wide range of social skills and preferences as the information security profession. Personally, I think this is what’s fun. It’s pretty cool that an MC can take a shot of vodka before introducing a speaker at a conference. Unfortunately, the perceived anything goes nature of this field, leads some of us to take it too far.

If you do business in this industry, here are a few principles that you may want to adhere to:

  1. Always project an image of success. No one wants to do business with failure. If folks like you enough, a sob story might get you some overflow work, but ultimately–it’s a losing strategy. Hold on to your self-respect and carry yourself the way you want the world to perceive you.
  2. Treat everyone with respect. There are some extremely intelligent people in this field. Extremely intelligent people reading this, look around! You’re surrounded by other extremely intelligent people. Intelligence is not a right to disrespect others. People have memories. The person you disrespect today, because you’re a hacker rock star, may be the person who chooses not to refer work to your new venture.
  3. Stay open to other ideas. None of us are going to solve security single-handedly. Period. Get used to the idea that others will have ideas and work on them. Sometimes their ideas will overlap with your area. Great! Don’t feel threatened. Continue to innovate, let them innovate, and see which ideas shake out. It’s best for everyone.
  4. If you want something, ask. Unfortunately, business isn’t like a conference call for papers. Opportunities happen not because of a democratic process or merit. They happen because of hustle. If you want to get involved with something, ask. Do so politely and in private. If it’s not appropriate, you’ll receive a respectful and dignified response in return. If it is, you’ll be amazed at the doors that open up to you, all because you asked for an opportunity.
  5. Keep your promises. If you commit to do something for someone, even if it means sending an email. Do it. If you find this is hard, learn to say no. You won’t damage relationships by saying no. You will damage relationships by failing to live up to things you promised.
  6. Deal with rejection, privately. Didn’t get accepted to the conference of a lifetime? Were you slighted on twitter? Did someone blatantly and for no good reason trash your work on Twitter? Oh well. Rejection happens. It happens to everyone. If you take things personally, process it privately, and move on. Turning every perceived slight into an online slug fest will only further damage your self-esteem and cause others to lose respect for you.
  7. Never insult your audience. This is an important public speaking tip. Some folks react to certain questions with disdain. Don’t. If someone asks a question, it means they don’t know the answer and probably others don’t either. Never treat your audience or professional community with disdain. Again, you’re surrounded by extremely intelligent people.
  8. Never insult your peers. If we’re on stage together–don’t tell the audience “I did _______. There’s probably only one or two other people here who could do _________”. Some of us may disagree with your assessment of our skills and capability or the novelty of what you’re touting. These kinds of public statements rarely have positive ramifications.
  9. Set a good example. Decide what your principles are. Decide how it is you want others to treat you. Treat others this way. It’s not always easy and we all falter. But, try to do your best. That’s all anyone can ask of you.

What happens when I type getsystem?

April 2, 2014

Meterpreter’s getsystem command is taken for granted. Type getsystem and magically Meterpreter elevates you from a local administrator to the SYSTEM user. What’s really happening though?

The getsystem command has three techniques. The first two rely on named pipe impersonation. The last one relies on token duplication.

meterpreter > getsystem -h
Usage: getsystem [options]

Attempt to elevate your privilege to that of local system.


    -h        Help Banner.
    -t   The technique to use. (Default to '0').
		0 : All techniques available
		1 : Service - Named Pipe Impersonation (In Memory/Admin)
		2 : Service - Named Pipe Impersonation (Dropper/Admin)
		3 : Service - Token Duplication (In Memory/Admin)

Let’s go through them:

Technique 1 creates a named pipe from Meterpreter. It also creates and runs a service that runs cmd.exe /c echo “some data” >\\.\pipe\[random pipe here]. When the spawned cmd.exe connects to Meterpreter’s named pipe, Meterpreter has the opportunity to impersonate that security context. Impersonation of clients is a named pipes feature. The context of the service is SYSTEM, so when you impersonate it, you become SYSTEM.

Technique 2 is like technique 1. It creates a named pipe and impersonates the security context of the first client to connect to it. To create a client with the SYSTEM user context, this technique drops a DLL to disk(!) and schedules rundll32.exe as a service to run the DLL as SYSTEM. The DLL connects to the named pipe and that’s it. Look at elevate_via_service_namedpipe2 in Meterpreter’s source to see this technique.

As the help information states, this technique drops a file to disk. This is an opportunity for an anti-virus product to catch you. If you’re worried about anti-virus or leaving forensic evidence, I’d avoid getsystem –t 0 (which tries every technique) and I’d avoid getsystem –t 2.

Technique 3 is a little different. This technique assumes you have SeDebugPrivileges—something getprivs can help with. It loops through all open services to find one that is running as SYSTEM and that you have permissions to inject into. It uses reflective DLL injection to run its elevator.dll in the memory space of the service it finds. This technique also passes the current thread id (from Meterpreter) to elevator.dll. When run, elevator.dll gets the SYSTEM token, opens the primary thread in Meterpreter, and tries to apply the SYSTEM token to it.

This technique’s implementation limits itself to x86 environments only. On the bright side, it does not require spawning a new process and it takes place entirely in memory.

Let’s say techniques 1-3 fail. You can always fall back to getting system by hand. All of these techniques rely on your ability, as a privileged user, to create or inject into a service. If these techniques fail, generate an executable for your payload and use sc or at to run it as SYSTEM. There you go, you’ve got system.


Listeners: Cobalt Strike’s Glue Feature

March 27, 2014

Listeners are Cobalt Strike’s abstraction in front of the Metasploit Framework’s payload handlers. A handler is the exploit/multi/handler module. This module sets up a server that waits for a payload on a compromised system to connect to you.


Cobalt Strike’s listeners feature is a way to configure handlers that start when Cobalt Strike starts. A listener consists of a user-defined name, a payload, a host, a port, and whether or not you would like the payload to automatically migrate.

Many Cobalt Strike features let you choose a listener to quickly configure a payload. When you take advantage of this, you’re certain that the information is correct. Here are the ways you can use listeners:

  • You can quickly configure a Metasploit Framework exploit to use a pre-defined listener. Double-click the PAYLOAD option to choose one of your listeners. This action will populate the module’s options for you.
  • When you task a Cobalt Strike Beacon to spawn a session—you get to choose a listener from any of the Cobalt Strike team servers you’re connected to. This is an incredibly seamless way to pass shells to different team servers.
  • All Cobalt Strike social engineering packages allow you to choose a listener to pair with the attack.


Listeners are an abstraction. They’re the one-stop shop to set up handlers in Cobalt Strike. Given that this convention works well—Cobalt Strike’s Listener Management feature becomes the place to hook in Cobalt Strike-specific stuff.

Beacon is a good example of this. To Cobalt Strike users–Beacon feels like a first-class payload. It’s not an external tool or something that is awkwardly integrated. Beacon doesn’t exist in the Metasploit Framework though. It’s a Cobalt Strike payload that stages as the windows/dllinject/reverse_http payload when used with a Metasploit Framework feature. Listeners made it possible for me to define Beacon as a payload alongside Meterpreter’s various options.

Listeners are also my opportunity to expose some hidden functionality in the Metasploit Framework to my users. For example, not many people know that it’s possible to tunnel reverse_tcp payloads through a Meterpreter session.  Cobalt Strike helps you do this through pivot listeners.

A Pivot Listener is a listener that is set up to route back to you through a Meterpreter session. This is really an incredible feature. A lot of privilege escalation actions will spawn a new session. If I care at all about stealth—I want to make as few outbound connections from a compromised system as possible. With a Pivot Listener—I can generate Cobalt Strike EXEs and DLLs that tunnel through an existing session. This is very powerful. Once the listener is set up, I just use it without having to recall the details behind it.


Cobalt Strike’s Listeners also setup stage encoding for Windows payloads as well. Once you get code execution, the stub of code sent with the attack downloads the rest of the payload to inject into memory. This transaction is easy to catch as the downloaded payload is a DLL with a little bootstrap code prepended to it. For nearly a year now, Cobalt Strike’s Listeners have helped users avoid detection by setting up stage encoding for them.


Listeners also make it possible to enjoy a wider variety of Metasploit Framework payloads. For example, if I want to do callbacks over IPv6, I can configure an IPv6 listener and provide it the right LHOST once. I don’t have to remember my IPv6 address every time I set LHOST. Cobalt Strike’s Listener keeps track of this information for me.

Listeners make Cobalt Strike redirector friendly too. A redirector is a server with iptables rules or port forwarding software that sends traffic to your attack server. Once you have redirector infrastructure setup—you can create Cobalt Strike listeners that call home to it. Redirectors are a way to obfuscate the true location of your attack server. You may assign a different redirector to each listener you create. After this initial setup, it just works. Cobalt Strike’s Beacon payload may also stage through a redirector and call home through multiple redirectors.

One danger with an abstraction, like Cobalt Strike’s listeners, is that they hide some output and information from you. Cobalt Strike mitigates this by making it possible for you to watch the output of any Metasploit Framework handler managed this way. Go to Cobalt Strike -> Listeners, right-click the listener, and choose Debug. Cobalt Strike will stop the handler and start it again in its own console. Through this console, you may see all output associated with that handler.

Listeners are the glue that holds Cobalt Strike together. They allow seamless cooperation between team servers, use of redirectors, and they save you and your team the trouble of remembering the configuration information for these shared assets.

If you’d like to learn more about Cobalt Strike’s listeners, review the documentation or watch Part 3 of the Tradecraft course.


User Account Control – What Penetration Testers Should Know

March 20, 2014

UAC is User Account Control. Introduced in Windows Vista, UAC is a collection of technologies that make it convenient possible to use Windows without administrator privileges and elevate your rights when needed. UAC has a lot of moving parts and encompasses a lot of things.

This post focuses on Windows Integrity levels and UAC elevation prompts. I will first explain some UAC concepts and then dive into three attacks to get past UAC.

Process Integrity Levels

In Windows Vista and later, processes run at three different levels of integrity: high, medium, and low. A high integrity process has administrator rights. A medium integrity process is one that runs with standard user rights. A low integrity process is very restricted.

A low integrity process can not write to the registry and it’s limited from writing to most locations in the current user’s profile. Protected Mode Internet Explorer runs with low integrity. The idea is to limit the amount of damage an attacker may do if they exploit the browser.

Most desktop applications run in a medium integrity process, even if the current user is a local administrator. Use Process Explorer to see which Integrity level your programs are running at.


UAC Settings

To perform a privileged action, a program must run another program and request the high integrity level at that time. If the user is an administrator, what happens next will depend on their UAC settings. There are four UAC settings:

Always Notify. This setting is the highest UAC setting. It will prompt the user when any program, including a built-in Windows program wants higher privileges.

Notify me only when programs try to make changes to my computer. This is the default UAC setting. This setting does not prompt the user when some built-in Windows program want higher privileges. It will prompt the user when any other program wants higher privileges. This distinction is important and it plays into the UAC bypass attack that we will cover in a moment.

Notify me only when programs try to make changes to my computer (do not dim my desktop). This is the same as the default setting, except the user’s desktop does not dim when the UAC elevation prompt comes up. This setting exists for computers that lack the computing power to dim the desktop and show a dialog on top of it.

Never notify. This option takes us back to life before Windows Vista. On Windows 7, if a user is an administrator, all of their programs will run with high integrity. On Windows 8, programs run at the medium integrity level, but anything run by an Administrator that requests elevated rights gets them without a prompt.

If the user is not an administrator, they will see a prompt that asks for the username and password of a privileged user when a program tries to elevate. Microsoft calls this “over the shoulder” elevation as someone is, presumably, standing over the shoulder of the user and typing in their password. If the UAC settings are set to Never Notify, the system will automatically deny any requests to elevate.

Who Am I?

When I get a foothold from a client-side attack, I have a few questions I like to answer right away. First, I like to know which user I’m currently executing code as. Second, I like to know which rights I have. With UAC this becomes especially complicated.

One way I like to sort myself out is with the Windows command: whoami /groups.

This command will print which groups my current user belongs to.

This command will also print which integrity level my command ran with. If my command ran in a high integrity context, I will see the group Mandatory Label\High Mandatory Level. This means I have administrator rights.

17.26.20 cmd_exe_2320_2

If my command ran in a medium integrity context, I will see the group Mandatory Label\Medium Mandatory Level. This means I have standard user rights.

17.26.31 cmd_exe_3588_1


If I find myself in a medium integrity process run by a user in an administrators group, there is potential to elevate from standard user rights to administrator user rights. One option is to use the ShellExecute function with the runas verb. This will run a program and request elevated rights.

If UAC is set to anything other than Never Notify, the user will see a prompt that asks them if they would like to allow the action to happen. This is not completely implausible. Oracle’s Java Updater randomly prompts me all of the time.

The Metasploit Framework’s exploit/windows/local/ask module by mubix implements this attack for you. Make sure you set EXE::Custom to avoid anti-virus!


If the user accepts the prompt, the system will run my program in a high integrity context. Remember, medium integrity is standard user rights. High integrity is administrator rights and this is what we’re after.

Bypass UAC

The RunAs option prompts the user and that’s an opportunity to get caught. We want a way to spawn a high integrity process from a medium integrity process without a prompt. Fortunately, there is a way to do this, it’s the bypass UAC attack.

This attack comes from Leo Davidson who made a proof-of-concept for it in 2009. David Kennedy and Kevin Mitnick popularized this attack in a 2011 DerbyCon talk. They also released the exploit/windows/local/bypassuac Metasploit Framework module that uses Leo’s proof-of-concept for the heavy lifting.

The bypass UAC attack requires that UAC is set to the default Notify me only when programs try to make changes to my computer. If UAC is set to Always Notify, this attack will not work. This attack also requires that our current user is in an administrators group.

Bypass UAC: How It Works

This is a fascinating attack whose inner workings are taken for granted. Please allow me the blog space to describe it in depth:

Our story starts with COM, the Component Object Model in Windows. COM is a way of writing components that other programs may use and re-use. One of the benefits of COM is that it’s language neutral. I find it extremely complicated and unappealing to work with. I suspect others share my feelings.

Some COM objects automatically elevate themselves to a high integrity context when run from a program signed with Microsoft’s code signing certificate. If the same COM object is instantiated from a program that was not signed by Microsoft, it runs with the same integrity as the current process.

The COM distinction between Microsoft and non-Microsoft programs has little meaning though. I can’t create a COM object in a high integrity context  because my programs are not signed with Microsoft’s certificate. I can spawn a Microsoft-signed program (e.g., notepad.exe) and inject a DLL into it though. From this DLL, I may instantiate a self-elevating COM object of my choice. When this COM object performs an action, it will do so from a high integrity context.

Leo’s Bypass UAC attack creates an instance of the IFileOperation COM object. This object has methods to copy and delete files on the system. Run from a high integrity context, this object allows us to perform a privileged file copy to any location on the system.

We’re not done yet! We need to go from a privileged file copy to code execution in a high integrity process. Before we can make this leap, I need to discuss another Windows 7 fun fact.

Earlier, we went over the different UAC settings. The default UAC setting will not prompt the user when some built-in Windows programs try to elevate themselves. More practically, this means that some built-in Windows programs always run in a high integrity context.

These programs that automatically elevate have a few properties. They are signed with Microsoft’s code signing certificate. They are located in a “secure” folder (e.g., c:\windows\system32). And, they request the right to autoElevate in their manifest.

We can find which programs autoElevate themselves with a little strings magic:

cd c:\windows\
strings –s *.exe | findstr /i autoelevate

Now, we know which programs automatically run in a high integrity context AND we have the ability to perform an arbitrary copy on the file system. How do we get code execution?

We get code execution through DLL search order hijacking. The public versions of the bypass UAC attack copy a CRYPTBASE.dll file to c:\windows\system32\sysprep and run c:\windows\system32\sysprep.exe. When sysprep.exe runs it will search for CRYPTBASE.dll and find the malicious one first.

Because sysprep.exe automatically runs in a high integrity context (when UAC is set to default), the code in the attacker controlled CRYPTBASE.dll will execute in this high integrity context too. From there, we’re free to do whatever we like. We have our administrator privileges.

Holy Forensic Artifacts Batman!

I mentioned earlier that the Metasploit Framework’s bypassuac module uses Leo Davidson’s proof-of-concept. This module drops several files to disk. It uses Leo’s bypassuac-x86.exe (and bypassuac-x64.exe) to perform the privileged file copy from a medium integrity context. It also drops a CRYPTBASE.dll file to disk and  the executable we want to run.

This module, when run, also creates a tior.exe and several w7e_*.tmp files in the user’s temp folder. I have no idea what the purpose of these files are.

When you use this module, you control the executable to run through the EXE::Custom option. The other artifacts are put on disk without obfuscation. For a long time, these other artifacts were caught by anti-virus products. A recent commit to the Metasploit Framework strips several debug and logging messages from these artifacts. This helps them get past the ire of anti-virus, for now.


A better approach is to use a module that has as little on-disk footprint as possible. Fortunately, Metasploit contributor Ben Campbell (aka Meatballs) is here to save the day. A recent addition to the Metasploit Framework is the exploit/windows/local/bypassuac_inject module.  This module compiles the UAC bypass logic into a reflective DLL. It spawns a Microsoft-signed program and injects the UAC bypass logic directly into it. The only thing that needs to touch disk is the CRYPTBASE.dll file.

Bypass UAC on Windows 8.1

In this post, I’ve focused heavily on Windows 7. Leo’s proof-of-concept and the bypassuac modules in the Metasploit Framework do not work on Windows 8.1. This is because the DLL hijacking opportunity against sysprep.exe does not work in Windows 8.1. The Bypass UAC attack is still possible though.

A few releases ago, I added bypassuac to Cobalt Strike’s Beacon. I do not invest in short-term features, so I had to convince myself that this attack had a viable future. I audited all of the autoElevate programs on a stock Windows 8.1 to find another DLL hijacking opportunity. I had to find a program that would load my DLL before displaying anything to the user. There were quite a few false starts. In the end, I found my candidate.

Beacon’s Bypass UAC command is similar to Ben Campbell’s, it performs all of the UAC bypass logic in memory. Beacon’s UAC bypass also generates an anti-virus safe DLL from Cobalt Strike’s Artifact Kit. Beacon’s UAC bypass checks the system it’s running on too. If it’s Windows 7, Beacon uses sysprep.exe to get code execution in a high integrity context. If it’s Windows 8, it uses another opportunity.

If you’re having trouble with the alternatives, Beacon’s version of this attack is an option.

Bypass UAC on Windows Vista

The Bypass UAC attack does not work on Windows Vista. In Windows Vista, the user has to acknowledge every privileged action. This is the same as the Always Notify option in Windows 7 and later. The UAC settings in Windows 7 came about because UAC became a symbol of what was “wrong” with Windows Vista. Microsoft created UAC settings and made some of their built-in programs auto-elevate by default to prompt the user less often. These changes for user convenience created the loophole described in this post.

Lateral Movement and UAC

The concept of process integrity level only applies to the current system. When you interact with a network resource, your access token is all that matters. If your current user is a domain user and your domain user is a local administrator on another system, you can get past UAC. Here’s how this works:

You may use your token to interact with another system as an administrator. This means you may copy an executable to that other system and schedule it to run. If you get access to another system this way, you may repeat the same process to regain access to your current system with full rights.

You may use the Metasploit Framework’s exploit/windows/local/current_user_psexec to do this.


These UAC bypass attacks are among my favorite hacker techniques. They’re a favorite because they take advantage of a design loophole rather than a fixed-with-the-next-update memory corruption flaw. In theory, we will have these attacks for a long time.


Cobalt Strike 03.13.14 – NECCDC Edition

March 13, 2014

I’m writing this from a New Hampshire Bed and Breakfast where I’ve apparently received the Jacuzzi suite. I’m here for a romantic weekend running psexec and managing Beacons inside of student networks for the North East Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition event. This is my seventh year with this event.

I made a lot of development progress early into my recent development cycle and I like to show up with my latest stuff, so everyone gets a Cobalt Strike update today. This release polishes the Cobalt Strike user experience and it adds a few features CCDC red teams will find very useful.

Export Staged Beacon Artifacts

You may now export an executable, service executable, 32-bit DLL, or 64-bit DLL with a fully staged Beacon. These fully staged artifacts are generated by Cobalt Strike’s Artifact Kit for anti-virus evasion.

This feature is a big win for stealthy lateral movement. Now you can copy SMB Beacon [the whole thing!] to a target host, schedule it to run, and link to it from another Beacon. This allows you to gain control of a system and control it over the SMB protocol only. You can do these things without ever lowering Beacon’s sleep time to something that could get caught.

A complete artifact is also an ideal candidate for persistence. Beacon is designed to call home to multiple sites. If one address doesn’t work, Beacon will try another one. If there’s an error, Beacon gracefully recovers from it and tries again. These are traits you want in a persistent agent.

Beacons don’t always have to call out though. Export an SMB Beacon and persist it on a host. So long as port 445 is open, you can link to that Beacon over an SMB named pipe. SMB Beacon is the perfect bind backdoor for Windows.


Beacon now includes its own timestomp command. This command will match the Modified, Accessed, and Created times for one file to another.

Cleaning House

This release also benefits from a thorough scrub of Cobalt Strike’s codebase. This cleansing changes how Cobalt Strike waits for results when it calls into the team server or requests information from the user. Now, in most cases, these actions will not block any other actions from taking place. The result is a snappier and more robust Cobalt Strike client. You will also notice that Cobalt Strike is better with large file transfers to and from the team server and that it also responds to disconnections better.

If you’re a Cobalt Strike license holder, use the built-in update program to get the latest.  A 21 day trial of Cobalt Strike is also available.


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