Metasploit For Penetration Testing
The basic tools used to verify the security of information system are tools for automatic data collection on the system and penetration testing. One of the popular and affordable options for self-sustained pentesting is Metasploit.
What Is Metasploit?
Metasploit is an open-source penetration testing platform with which you can find, exploit, and confirm vulnerabilities. The purpose of the platform is to collect various information about known weaknesses and to make this information available to security administrators and developers.
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Metasploit has a wide range of functionality. The solution can work both through the web interface and the command line interface - the option is determined by the user. At the same time, a full range of functions is available only when using the web interface. Metasploit supports operating systems of the Windows and Linux family.
The story of Metasploit dates back to 2003 when the hacker HD Moore, who worked as a pentester in a small consulting company, noted that the storage and use of security analysis tools was inconvenient. At that time, it was just a collection of disparate exploits and scripts, general information about which was stored in a database. Information about the required environment for running scripts was usually lacking. They also carried a lot of outdated code, required modification of hard-coded paths for each particular case, which greatly complicated the workflow and development of new tools.
Trying to solve the described problem in Metasploit, the author created the Perl console utility with a false-graphic interface and included about eleven exploits in it. Although the community then coldly greeted the first version of Metasploit, criticizing both the architecture and the idea itself, HD Moore did not give up, found a partner, with whom they developed the modular architecture of the framework and released the second version in 2004. Over time, the framework began to gain popularity and new members.
The next important step was to convert Metasploit from Perl to Ruby to avoid Perl limitations, provide cross-platform support, and achieve greater development flexibility.
PRO and Community versions appeared, and in 2010 a more simplified version was released for unskilled users - Metasploit Express. The framework has long outgrown the status of a simple set for a pentester.
Today Metasploit is distributed in four versions:
- Framework - the basic version with a console interface;
- Community - a free version, which additionally includes a web interface and part of the functionality from commercial versions;
- Express - for commercial users, includes functionality to simplify the conduct of basic audits and reporting on them;
- Pro - the most advanced version, provides advanced capabilities for attacks, allows you to create task chains for audit, write detailed reports and much more.
In addition to the web interface available in Community, Express, and Pro versions, there are projects like Armitage and Cobalt strike that provide a friendly and intuitive graphical interface for the infrastructure.
Basic Metasploit Concepts
Before you start working with the package, you should consider the melon database to store information about hosts, services, vulnerabilities, and much more. Connecting to the database is not a prerequisite for the functioning of the platform, but, nevertheless, increases the usability of performance.
Metasploit uses PostgreSQL, so before you start working with it, you need to install the Database Management System. Then make sure that the required database and framework services are working.
This is a general term in the computer security community to refer to a piece of software code that, using the opportunities provided by an error, failure or vulnerability, leads to privilege escalation or denial of service for a computer system.
- Shell code.
Shell code is a binary executable code that usually transfers control to the console, command.com in MS-DOS, and cmd.exe on Microsoft Windows operating systems. The shellcode can be used as an exploit payload, providing the cracker access to the shell in a computer system.
- Reverse shell.
When exploiting a remote vulnerability, the shellcode can open a predetermined TCP port of the vulnerable computer through which further access to the command shell will be carried out, this code is called port binding shellcode. If the shellcode connects to the attacker's computer port, which is done to bypass the firewall or NAT, then this code is called reverse shell shellcode.
In computer security , the term vulnerability is used to mean a vulnerable or open place in the system. Vulnerability may result from programming errors or flaws in system architecture. Vulnerability can exist only theoretically, or have a known exploit. Vulnerabilities are often the result of a programmer’s carelessness, but may also have other causes.
Vulnerability usually allows an attacker to trick an application, for example, by injecting data in some unplanned way, by executing a command on the system on which the application is running, or by using an omission that allows unintended memory access to execute code at the program privilege level. Some vulnerabilities arise due to insufficient verification of user input; often this allows one to directly execute SQL commands (SQL injection). Other vulnerabilities arise due to more complex problems, such as writing data to the buffer, without checking its boundaries, as a result, the buffer may be full, which can lead to the execution of arbitrary code.
Payload in Metasploit
The payload is a code or part of a malicious software, such as worms or viruses, that executes a destroying functionality directly. They send spam, encrypt or delete data. Malicious programs also have an overhead code, which is understood as the part of the code that is responsible for delivering the payload to the attacked machine, distributing the malware independently, or preventing detection. In the end, this means that the payload for the victim user is harmful.
Payload for a hacker is a main component that he or she tried to deliver to a target machine. The payload code can be written independently and this can essentially decrease the probability of detecting by antivirus software.
The nature of the operation of this software is that you choose an exemplary objective like, for instance, initializing a shell for entering commands with a reverse call, and the generator provides you an executable code for the chosen platform. This will be the solely variant in case you do not have coding skills. One of the most sought-after payload generators is MSFvenom. This is a separate part of Metasploit, created to generate payload.
The core of the Metasploit is a Rex library. This is required for such general operations as working with sockets, protocols, formatting text, working with encodings, and the like. It is based on the MSF Core library, which provides basic functionality and a low-level API. It is used by the MSF core library, which in turn provides an API for plugins, a user interface, both console and graphical, as well as plugins.
All modules are divided into several types depending on the functionality provided:
- Exploit - code that uses a certain vulnerability in the target system, for example, stack overflow.
- Payload is the code that runs on the target system after the exploit completes, it establishes a connection, executes a shell script, and so on.
- Post - code that runs on the system after successful penetration, for example, collects passwords, downloads files.
- Encoder - tools for obfuscating modules for masking antivirus
- NOP generators. This is an assembly instruction that does not take any action. Used to fill in voids in executable files to fit the required size.
- Auxiliary - modules for network scanning, traffic analysis and so on.
How to Work with Metasploit
In general, working with Metasploit consists of the following steps:
- Creation of the project.
The project contains a workspace that is used to create a penetration test, and the configuration of tasks planned for completion. Each penetration testing is launched from its own project.
- Collection of information.
At this point, Metasploit collects information about the target network: installed operating system, open ports, running hosts and processes. During the scan, all received data is automatically saved in the project.
- Using exploits.
The attack can be carried out manually or using the exploit database. The network data obtained in the second stage is used here.
- Actions on a compromised system.
After getting access, an exploit payload is used, with which interactive sessions are initiated to collect additional information, and it is also possible to use post-operational modules to automatically collect passwords stored in the operating system and applications, screenshots, snapshots from webcams, record keystrokes, configuration files, etc.
How Effective is Metasploit?
Despite all the positive aspects of Metasploit, the effectiveness of a stand-alone pentest cannot be compared with the effectiveness of commercial penetration testing.
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Metasploit as a way to ensure the cyber security of your information system is a real tool for identifying vulnerabilities. This method can be especially relevant for small companies.
Also, in addition to the features that Metasploit offers, you can use our free testing tools, such as Website Security Test or Mobile App Security Test to test web or mobile applications for weaknesses that could allow hackers to get access to your systems.