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The Importance Of Powershell For Ethical Hacking

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By: Shimon Brathwaite

July 14, 2021

Powershell scripting is a scripting tool for automating almost any task in the windows operating system. Powershell is a more advanced version of the command prompt (CMD). It can be used to look at the processes running on Windows systems, start and stop processes, interact with files, and much more. Using PowerShell, you can do everything that CMD can do and more. Unlike entering commands in the CMD, PowerShell scripts can be saved and reused similar to many other programming languages, and this makes Powershell a very useful tool for security professionals. As an ethical hacker, you can use PowerShell to start and stop different processes on the windows machine and execute commands in the terminal. Here we go over the main reasons why learning PowerShell is useful for ethical hacking:

1) Executing commands in the windows command line

The most popular operating system in a corporate environment is still Windows. By having a solid understanding of PowerShell scripting, you will effectively navigate the Windows file system and interact with individual files. This includes changing directories, copying and pasting files, downloading files, and building command-line tools using only the local PowerShell commands. This is especially useful if your machine doesn't have a user interface. Also, even in situations where you have a user interface, it's much faster to do things in the command line.

In addition to navigation, you must be comfortable interacting with individual files. A common use case for a security professional needs to search log files for IP addresses or error codes. It's useful to know PowerShell Select-String cmdlet, which works very similar to grep, helps you find text patterns in an input string. One example is wanting to create, read or write to files, which can all be accomplished through PowerShell scripting. Also, you can look for specific Windows processes, which is important if you want to see what is running on a system or start and stop select processes that are part of your exploitation phase of a penetration test.

2) Create PowerShell scripts for exploitation and automation

The biggest benefit of PowerShell is its ability to automate any process in the Windows environment. Unlike general programming languages like Python, PowerShell is specifically designed for the Windows environment, and as a result, it has cmdlets for very specific use cases. If you're a Penetration Tester that often tests Windows systems, knowing how to create PowerShell scripts will allow you to perform actions like creating new user accounts for maintained access, pinging other systems on the same network, check running processes, and privilege escalation, which are essential parts of the getting continued access during a penetration test. Since PowerShell gives you the option of saving your scripts, you can reuse old code on new machines without installing a third-party programming language. This is important because if you only know programming languages like Python, Javascript, or Java, then you must install it on your target computer during a penetration test, which may not be feasible or takes extra time. It's much more reliable and efficient to learn PowerShell and use that as your attack vector for Windows machines.

Conclusion

Powershell is a great tool for automation on Windows environments. It is specifically designed to interact with the Windows operating system, which means it will be much more efficient in automation than general programming languages. From an Ethical Hacker's point of view, PowerShell offers great utility for interacting with targeted Windows machines. You can be confident that any target you compromise will have PowerShell installed. Therefore, you will be able to run your scripts and continue your penetration test without worrying about installing other software.

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