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Red Teaming

Windows Exploitation: msbuild

The purpose of this post is to demonstrate the most common and familiar techniques of whitelisting AppLocker bypass.  As we know for security reason, the system admin adds group policies to restrict app execution for the local user. In our previous article, we had discussed on “Windows Applocker Policy – A Beginner’s Guide” as they define the AppLocker rules for your application control policies and how to work with them. But today you will learn how to bypass Applocker policies with MSbuild.exe.

Table of Content

Introduction to MSbuild.exe

Exploiting Techniques

  • Generate CSharp file with Msfvenom
  • Generate XML file to Exploit MSbuild
  • Nps_payload Script
  • Powershell Empire
  • GreatSCT

Introduction to MSbuild.exe

The Microsoft Build Engine is a platform for building applications. This engine, which is also known as MSBuild, provides an XML schema for a project file that controls how the build platform processes and builds software. Visual Studio uses MSBuild, but it doesn’t depend on Visual Studio. By invoking msbuild.exe on your project or solution file, you can organize and build products in environments where Visual Studio isn’t installed.

Visual Studio uses MSBuild to load and build managed projects. The project files in Visual Studio (.csproj.vbproj.vcxproj, and others) contain MSBuild XML code.

Exploiting Techniques:

Generate CSharp file with Msfvenom

We use Microsoft Visual Studio to create C # (C Sharp) programming project with a *.csproj suffix that saved in MSBuild format so that it can be compiled with the MSBuild platform into an executable program.

With the help of a malicious build, we can obtain a reverse shell of the victim’s machine. Therefore, now we will generate our file.csproj file and for that, first generate a shellcode of c# via msfvenom. Then later that shellcode will be placed inside our file.csproj as given below.

The shellcode generated above should be placed in the XML file and you can download this XML file from GitHub, which has the code that the MSBuild compiles and executes. This XML file should be saved as. file.csproj and must be run via MSBuild to get a Meterpreter session.

Note: Replace the shellcode value from your C# shellcode and then rename buf as shellcode as shown in the below image.

You can run MSBuild from Visual Studio, or from the Command Window. By using Visual Studio, you can compile an application to run on any one of several versions of the .NET Framework.

For example, you can compile an application to run on the .NET Framework 2.0 on a 32-bit platform, and you can compile the same application to run on the .NET Framework 4.5 on a 64-bit platform. The ability to compile to more than one framework is named multitargeting.

To know more about MSBuild read from here: //

Now launch multi handler to get meterpreter session and run the file.csproj file with msbuild.exe at the target path: C:\Windows\Microsoft.Net\Framework\v4.0.30319 as shown.

Note: you need to save your malicious payload (XML / csproj) at this location:

C:\Windows\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v4.0.30319\ and then execute this file with a command prompt.

As you can observe, we have the meterpreter session of the victim as shown below:

Generate XML file to Exploit MSBuild

As mentioned above, MSBuild uses an XML- based project file format that is straightforward and extensible, so we can rename the generated file.csproj as file.xml and again run the file.xml with msbuild.exe on the target path: C:\Windows\Microsoft.Net\Framework\v4.0.30319 as shown.

As you can observe, we have the meterpreter session of the victim as shown below:

Nps_Payload Script

This script will generate payloads for basic intrusion detection avoidance. It utilizes publicly demonstrated techniques from several different sources. Written by Larry Spohn (@Spoonman1091) Payload written by Ben Mauch (@Ben0xA) aka dirty_ben. You can download it from github.

Nps_payload generates payloads that could be executed with msbuild.exe and mshta.exe to get the reverse connection of the victim’s machine via the meterpreter session.

Follow the below step for generating payload:

  1. Run ./ script, once you have downloaded nps payload from GitHub
  2. Press key 1 to select task “generate msbuild/nps/msf”
  3. Again Press key 1 to select payload “windows/meterpreter/reverse_tcp”

This will generate a payload in the XML file, send this file at target location C:\Windows\Microsoft.Net\Framework\v4.0.30319 as done in the previous method and simultaneously run below command in a new terminal to start the listener.

Now repeat the above step to execute msbuild_nps.xml with command prompt and obtain a reverse connection via meterpreter as shown below:

PowerShell Empire

For our next method of msbuild Attack, we will use empire. Empire is a post-exploitation framework. Till now we have paired our XML tacks with Metasploit but in this method, we will use empire framework. It’s solely a python-based PowerShell windows agent which makes it quite useful. Empire is developed by @harmj0y, @sixdub, @enigma0x3, rvrsh3ll, @killswitch_gui, and @xorrior. You can download this framework from Here

To have a basic guide of Empire, please visit our article introducing empire:

Once the empire framework is started, type listener to check if there are any active listeners. As you can see in the image below that there are no active listeners. So to set up a listener type :

With the above commands, you will have an active listener. Type back to go out of listener so that you can initiate your PowerShell.

For our MSBuild attack, we will use a stager.  A stager, in the empire, is a snippet of code that allows our malicious code to be run via the agent on the compromised host. So, for this type:

Usestager will create a malicious code file that will be saved in the /tmp named launcher.xml.

And once the file runs, we will have the result on our listener. Run the file in your victim’s by typing following command :

To see if we have any session open type ‘agents’. Doing so will show you the name of the session you have. To access that session type :

The above command will give you access to the session.


GreatSCT is a tool that allows you to use Metasploit exploits and lets it bypass most anti-viruses. GreatSCT is current under support by @ConsciousHacker. You can download it from here: //

Once it’s downloaded and running, type the following command to access the modules:

Now to see the list of payloads type :

Now from the list of payloads, you can choose anyone for your desired attack. But for this attack we will use :

Once the command is executed, type :

While generating the payload, it will ask you to give a name for a payload. By default, it will take ‘payload’ as the name. We had given msbuild as payload name where the output code will be saved in XML.

Now, it made two files. One Metasploit RC file and other a msbuild.xml file.

Now, firstly, start the python’s server in /usr/share/greatsct-output/source by typing:

Run the file in your victim’s by typing following command:

Simultaneously, start the multi/handler using the resource file. For this, type :

And voila! We have a meterpreter session as shown here.

Reference: //

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

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