Exploiting vulnerabilities or misconfigurations to grant a user administrative access is known as privilege escalation, and it is a crucial part of penetration testing and security assessment. When it comes to Windows systems, an attacker can get unauthorized access through a number of lesser-known methods that are typically hidden from common security measures. Here we’ll explore some of the lesser-known methods for elevating your privileges on Windows machines, with an emphasis on making the most of the powerful WinPEAS (Windows Privilege Escalation Awesome Script).
WinPEAS is a robust open-source instrument for scanning Windows machines for privilege escalation flaws. It’s written in PowerShell and can automatically discover things like users, groups, services, scheduled activities, registry settings, and more on a Windows system. WinPEAS aids in locating vulnerabilities that could be exploited to elevate privileges by examining these components.
Mistakes Made By The User
Misconfigurations made by end users are a common source of vulnerabilities that allow for privilege escalation. WinPEAS can help find potential entry points for attackers by revealing users with weak passwords, privileged group members, and misconfigured user settings.
Bad Service Access Controls
Due to their enhanced rights, Windows services are a common vector for privilege escalation attacks. Privilege escalation vulnerabilities can be found and exploited with the help of WinPEAS, which reveals both privileged-user-context services and services with incorrectly configured permissions.
Scheduled tasks on Windows systems can be executed with administrative capabilities, which can be exploited for privilege escalation if the task is misconfigured or refers to an unsafe executable. WinPEAS can detect such activities and any accompanying configuration errors.
To hijack a DLL
DLL hijacking is a method in which a malicious DLL is placed in a directory that is searched by a good program, tricking the good program into loading the malicious DLL instead. WinPEAS can show whether programs are vulnerable to DLL hijacking, which can then be used to get administrative access.
Security Flaws in the Registry
Possibilities for privilege escalation due to incorrectly configured registry settings exist. Scan the registry for weak permissions, keys pointing to non-existent executables, and keys that can be edited by non-privileged users with WinPEAS.
Hacks that Target the Kernel
Finding vulnerable or out-of-date kernels is another area where WinPEAS can lend a hand. Keeping the system patched with the most recent security updates is essential for protecting against attacks that use kernel exploits to elevate privileges.
Mistakes in Configuring Group Policy
The security of a Windows system relies heavily on its Group Policy settings. Winpeas provides visibility into Group Policy misconfigurations that may lead to privilege escalation vulnerabilities.
Making the Most of WinPEAS
Here are the steps you need to do to successfully use WinPEAS for privilege escalation:
- To get WinPEAS, get the most recent version from the official WinPEAS repository or other reliable sources.
- Copy the WinPEAS script to the Windows system you’re targeting, using a secure mechanism like SCP or SMB.
- To guarantee a successful enumeration, run WinPEAS on the target system with the correct permissions (for example, a policy that allows PowerShell to execute).
- Examine the Outcomes Pay great attention to any privilege escalation issues as you peruse the WinPEAS output.
- Remedy the observed flaws by fixing the vulnerabilities to strengthen the security of the system.
As such, attackers are always on the lookout for new, less well-known methods of privilege escalation to obtain access to restricted areas of Windows machines. When it comes to automating the enumeration process and discovering secret routes to admin rights, WinPEAS proves to be an important tool. WinPEAS enables security professionals to fortify Windows systems by detecting vulnerabilities caused by human error, insufficient service permissions, scheduled tasks, DLL hijacking, registry settings, kernel exploits, and improper Group Policy settings.
It must be stressed, however, that WinPEAS should only be used inside a lawful and permitted framework, such as for penetration testing and security assessments that have the owner’s permission. The goal should be to strengthen the security of the system as a whole and prevent possible threats from exploiting the flaws.