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Penetration Testing

Penetration Testing on Remote Desktop (Port 3389)

In this article, we are discussing Remote Desktop penetration testing in four scenarios. Through that, we are trying to explain how an attacker can breach security in a different- different scenario and what types of the major step should take by admin while activating RDP services to resist against attack.

Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) also known as “Terminal Services Client” is a proprietary protocol developed by Microsoft, which provides a user with a graphical interface to connect to another computer over a network connection. RDP servers are built into Windows operating systems; by default, the server listens on TCP port 3389.  

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Let’s starts!!!

Suppose admin has allowed remote desktop service in his system for local network connection.

Scanning RDP Port with nmap

An attacker may take help of nmap to verify whether port 3389 is activated or not. For RDP penetration we are also using nmap in order to scan the targeted system ( for open RDP port.

If remote desktop service is allowed then nmap will show OPEN as a state for port 3389, as shown in the given image.

Brute force attack on RDP

In order to connect with RDP, we always need to login credential as an authenticated connection. A valid user can enter his username and password but an invalid user (attacker) cannot able to guess correct credential for login, therefore, they retrieve credential through brute force attack.

We are using hydra to demonstrate a brute force attack on RDP.

Hydra: It is a parallelized login cracker which supports numerous protocols to attack. It is very fast and flexible, and new modules are easy to add. This tool makes it possible for researchers and security consultants to show how easy it would be to gain unauthorized access to a system remotely.

Open terminal in your Kali Linux and type following command:

From given below image you can read the username: ignite and password: 123456 which we have to retrieve through brute force attack on port 3389.

Using this credential attacker can login for Remote Desktop service.

Add Security Policy against brute force

Admin can protect their network from brute force attack using Account lockout policy. Configure following policies under Security setting > Account policies > Account lockout policies

Account Lockout duration: Policy which defines the time period that a locked out account remains locked until become automatically unlock by itself or reset by admin. It will lock the account for a specified time when user will cross the login attempt set by account lockout threshold.

Account lockout threshold: Policy which defines the number of fail logon attempt and will lock the account for some period of time specified by Account lockout duration. It will allow a maximum number of specified attempts for sign-in into your account.

Rest Account lockout counter after Policy which defines the time period that must elapse after a failed logon attempt. The reset time must be less than or equal to the Account lockout duration.

Account Lockout duration: 30 minutes

Account lockout threshold: 2 invalid login attempts

Rest Account lockout counter after 30 minutes

If the number of attempts is greater than the value of the Account lockout threshold, the attacker could potentially lock every account.

Now let’s test Account lockout policy by again making brute force attack on port 3389.

When attacker retrieves the username and password, he will surely use them for login but as you can see it took more than 2 attempts to crack the password therefore according to set policies the account should be get locked for 30 minutes.

Let’s assure it by login into remote desktop

Open the terminal and type “rdesktop <target IP>” when you will get target screen, enter username and password which have to retrieve from brute force.

From the given image you can observe that we have entered above-discovered username and password ignite: 12345.

When you (attacker) will submit your credential then it will give you a message that current account has been locked out and cannot be login as shown in the given image.

This will lock the account of the user ignite for 30 minutes and hence admin will come to know that someone has tried brute force attack for unauthorized access.

In this way, we can protect the brute force attack for unauthorized access.

Scan port 3389 for DOS attack

Many times in order to identify whether the host is vulnerable to RDP or not, attacker use exploit MS12-020-check to test its strength.

Open the terminal in your Kali Linux and Load Metasploit framework now type the following command to scan for vulnerability.

From the given image you can, it is showing target is vulnerable, now you can use Google to find its exploit for the attack.

Once attack knows that target port 3389 is vulnerable MS12-020-check then he will surely try to make an attack with Ms12-0200maxchannelids. This will launch a DOS attack on the target system.

Now Type the following command for DOS attack which will crash the system.

From given below image you can notice the target is system is shutting down due to some problem.

The criminal executor of DoS attacks often targets sites or services hosted on high-profile web servers such as banks or credit card payment gateways to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users by temporarily or indefinitely disrupting services of a host connected to the Internet.

Enable RDP in Victims PC (2nd Scenario)

If an attacker has hacked victim system in which RDP service is not enabled then attacker himself can activate this service using post exploitation module built by Rapid 7 inside Metasploit.

Now to perform this we must need a meterpreter session of the target system. From the given image you can notice that have already meterpreter session of the target system.

Here we have meterpreter session 1 through multi handler and session 2 from bypassuac for admin privileges.

Now type the following command for generation post exploitation to enable RDP service.

This module makes it possible to apply the ‘sticky keys’ hack to a session with appropriate rights. The hack provides a means to get a SYSTEM shell using UI-level interaction at an RDP login screen or via a UAC confirmation dialog.

Now connect with the remote desktop using the following command:

It will ask to submit the credential for login but we are not aware of it, therefore, we had launched stick key attack above so that we can access victim command prompt by hitting 5 times shift key as shown in the given image.

Another way to enable RDP

When you are holding a meterpreter session of victim’s system type following command which enables RDP service moreover set credential of your own choice.

From the given image you can observe it has edited user raaz with password 1234 into “Remote Desktop Users” and in “Administrators”.  Now you can login with the created user, connect with the remote desktop using the following command:

Enter username: raaz and password: 1234 for login.

Awesome!!! We had successfully login into the remote system.

Port Forwarding (3rd scenario)

You can forward port 3389 on another port for increasing system security although to perform this in your window operating system explore the following location through registry editor.

From the given image you can see in the right panel port number is highlighted, Click on it.

Shift Port from 3389 to specific port number

You will get an edit DWORD window where that you can edit the 32-bit value. By default, it will show d3d which is hexadecimal value for 3389.

Replace 3389 value from another value of your choices such as 3314 and select hexadecimal as a base which will convert 3314 into cf2.

From the given image you can see port 3314 is open now.

Secure RDP through window firewall (4th Scenario)

Open window Firewall with Advance settings then move into its inbound rules and explore Remote Desktop (TCP-In) for domain profile for adding security filter by making some change in firewall setting.

Allow traffic from specific IP

After that, it will open a window for changing its properties, click on the scope. Here you will get two panels for the type of connection establishes local and remote IP address. 

In remote IP address choose the 2nd option for specific IP address and enter an IP to which you want to allow for connecting remote desktop services as shown in the given image.

It will stop all traffic coming from another IP and increase the security of your network against any kind of attack.

Author: Aarti Singh is a Researcher and Technical Writer at Hacking Articles an Information Security Consultant Social Media Lover and Gadgets. Contact here

5 thoughts on “Penetration Testing on Remote Desktop (Port 3389)

  1. I have a target with 3389 open confirm with nmap
    but metasploit error out saying “rdp-client not reached”
    kindly response

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