Understanding the correct type of payload to use or the functions of different shells can be the difference between getting discovered during a penetration test or moving on undetected. This module will cover many different methods of establishing a shell on a host and creating payloads to match our target applications and architecture.
- Understand the purpose of a shell (
- Experiment with different types of shells on
cmd, and more...)
- Practice with common Web shells (
Tiny web shell,
Aspx, and more...)
MSFvenomto quickly craft payloads and launch exploits to help us gain shell sessions
- Identify strategies to
preventreverse shells & payloads from being used to compromise a network environment
CREST CPSA/CRT-related Sections:
- All sections
CREST CCT APP-related Sections:
- All sections
This module is broken into sections with accompanying hands-on exercises to practice each of the tactics and techniques we cover. The module ends with a practical hands-on skills assessment to gauge your understanding of the various topic areas.
As you work through the module, you will see example commands and command output for the various topics introduced. It is worth reproducing as many of these examples as possible to reinforce further the concepts presented in each section. You can do this in the target host provided in the interactive sections or your virtual machine.
You can start and stop the module at any time and pick up where you left off. There is no time limit or "grading," but you must complete all of the exercises and the skills assessment to receive the maximum number of cubes and have this module marked as complete in any paths you have chosen.
The module is classified as "Medium" and assumes a working knowledge of the Windows command line and operating system fundamentals and a fundamental understanding of information security principles.
A firm grasp of the following modules can be considered prerequisites for successful completion of this module:
- Introduction to Academy
- Getting Started
- Introduction to Networking
- Windows Fundamentals
- Linux Fundamentals
- Introduction to Web Applications
- Web Requests
Shells Jack Us In, Payloads Deliver Us Shells
shell is a program that provides a computer user with an interface to input instructions into the system and view text output (Bash, Zsh, cmd, and PowerShell, for example). As penetration testers and information security professionals, a shell is often the result of exploiting a vulnerability or bypassing security measures to gain interactive access to a host. We may have heard or read the following phrases used by people discussing an engagement or a recent practice session:
"I caught a shell."
"I popped a shell!"
"I dropped into a shell!"
Typically these phrases translate to the understanding that this person has successfully exploited a vulnerability on a system and has been able to gain remote control of the shell on the target computer's operating system. This is a common goal a penetration tester will have when attempting to access a vulnerable machine. We will notice that most of this module will focus on what comes after enumeration and identification of promising exploits.
Why Get a Shell?
Remember that the shell gives us direct access to the
system commands, and
file system. So if we gain access, we can start enumerating the system for vectors that may allow us to escalate privileges, pivot, transfer files, and more. If we don't establish a shell session, we are pretty limited on how far we can get on a target machine.
Establishing a shell also allows us to maintain persistence on the system, giving us more time to work. It can make it easier to use our
document all the details of our attack, as we will soon see in the proceeding demonstrations. It's important to note that establishing a shell almost always means we are accessing the CLI of the OS, and this can make us harder to notice than if we were remotely accessing a graphical shell over VNC or RDP. Another significant benefit of becoming skilled with command-line interfaces is that they can be
harder to detect than graphical shells,
faster to navigate the OS, and
easier to automate our actions. We view shells through the lens of the following perspectives throughout this module:
||The text-based userland environment that is utilized to administer tasks and submit instructions on a PC. Think Bash, Zsh, cmd, and PowerShell.|
||A shell is often the result of exploiting a vulnerability or bypassing security measures to gain interactive access to a host. An example would be triggering EternalBlue on a Windows host to gain access to the cmd-prompt on a host remotely.|
||This is a bit different. A web shell is much like a standard shell, except it exploits a vulnerability (often the ability to upload a file or script) that provides the attacker with a way to issue instructions, read and access files, and potentially perform destructive actions to the underlying host. Control of the web shell is often done by calling the script within a browser window.|
Payloads Deliver us Shells
Within the IT industry as a whole, a
payload can be defined in a few different ways:
Networking: The encapsulated data portion of a packet traversing modern computer networks.
Basic Computing: A payload is the portion of an instruction set that defines the action to be taken. Headers and protocol information removed.
Programming: The data portion referenced or carried by the programming language instruction.
Exploitation & Security: A payload is
codecrafted with the intent to exploit a vulnerability on a computer system. The term payload can describe various types of malware, including but not limited to ransomware.
In this module, we will be working with many different types of
payloads and delivery methods within the context of granting ourselves access to a host and establishing
remote shell sessions with vulnerable systems.