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Just over one year ago (November 2015), I released WMIOps, a PowerShell
script that enables a user to carry out different actions via Windows
Management Instrumentation (WMI) on the local machine or a remote
machine. WMIOps can:

  • Start or stop a process.
  • Return a list of all running
  • Power off, reboot, or log users off the targeted
  • Get a listing of all files within a directory.
  • Read a file’s contents.
  • …and more.

As I continued to develop WMIOps and use it during Mandiant
Red Team Operations
, I realized that it has some of the same
capabilities that are in Remote Access Tools (RATs). WMIOps’s
capabilities were in a state of disparate functions, but if I wove
what existed along with new functionality, I could create a RAT. After
months of development and internal testing, I’m happy to publicly
release WMImplant.

WMImplant leverages WMI for the command and control channel, the
means for executing actions (gathering data, issuing commands, etc.)
on the targeted system, and data storage. It is designed to run both
interactively and non-interactively. When using WMImplant
interactively, it’s designed to have a menu of commands reminiscent of
Meterpreter, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: WMImplant main menu

Data Storage and Device Guard

After spending some time developing WMImplant, I ran into issues
storing data on systems that used Device
, a Microsoft security feature added in Windows 10 and Server
2016. Even though this feature and these operating systems are not
widely deployed today, I wanted WMImplant to support these systems
since I expect Device Guard protected systems to become more common,
especially at security-conscious organizations. Device Guard helps
protect systems by employing (among other capabilities not detailed here):

  1. Code Integrity Policies – When deploying Device Guard,
    administrators will create a code integrity policy (CIP) that
    explicitly defines what is allowed to run on the protected system.
    This granularity can range from file hash, file name, publisher,
    both file name and publisher, and much more. Administrators can
    create the CIP from a gold-imaged computer. Administrators can
    further enhance their CIP by preventing applications that provide
    attackers the ability to bypass Device Guard’s protections from
    running. Finally, administrators can use Group Policy Objects (GPO)
    to enable Device Guard, preventing executables or select scripts
    from running unless explicitly allowed, per the CIP.
  2. PowerShell Constrained Language Mode – Device Guard auto-enrolls
    PowerShell into ConstrainedLanguage
    mode. Constrained Language mode restricts the cmdlets and data types
    that are allowed to run in PowerShell. In this mode, .NET methods
    are completely blocked unless they are an allowed data type.

On a Device Guard protected system, attackers cannot run custom
executables, and the available PowerShell cmdlets are severely
restricted. For example, simple functionality such as base64 encoding
a string is not permitted within Constrained Language mode, as shown
in Figure 2.

Figure 2: PowerShell Constrained Language mode
blocking base64 encoding

At first, I designed WMImplant to use the Windows Registry for data
storage, as described in Matt
Graeber’s WMI research
. However, after discussing using the
Windows Registry for data storage with Matt Dunwoody (a Mandiant
coworker), he suggested, “Why not also use WMI itself for storage?”

This conversation led me to research using WMI for data storage. I
found a proof-of-concept for creating custom WMI properties (Figure 3)
in FireEye’s report on WMI
Offense, Defense, and Forensics

Figure 3: Sample code from FireEye report on WMI
Offense, Defense, and Forensics

However, after testing this code on a Device Guard protected system,
I discovered that this wasn’t permitted within Constrained Language
mode, as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Constrained Language mode blocking WMI
property creation

After some additional research, I found that within Constrained
Language mode, users are able to create custom WMI classes. But, as
evidenced by Figure 4, WMI property creation is not allowed, so this
wouldn’t work for data storage. Therefore, my next thought was to
store data in an existing WMI property. In order to leverage an
existing WMI property, a few conditions would need to be present:

  1. The property needs to be of type string.
  2. The property
    needs to be writable.
  3. The property needs to accept an
    arbitrary length of data.
  4. Modifications to the property
    need to not blue screen or degrade use of the targeted system.
  5. Most importantly, the property needs to be writable within
    Constrained Language mode.

I modified an existing PowerShell script to enumerate all WMI
classes, find the properties of each class, check if each property is
a string type, and determine if it is writable (the script is available here).

The script identified a list of candidate WMI properties, but for
one reason or another, modifications to those that I initially tested
resulted in “general failures”. Then, I came across a class I have not
previously used: Win32_OSRecoveryConfiguration. This class has
a property named “DebugFilePath”, which is the file path where Windows
will place a memory dump after a computer failure, as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Win32_OSRecoveryConfiguration’s
DebugFilePath property

The DebugFilePath appears to only accept a file path, and the
property should be limited to the length of a valid Windows paths (260
characters by default or 32k with LongPathsEnabled). In testing,
however, I discovered that I could write an arbitrary string to the
DebugFilePath property within Constrained Language mode without
adversely affecting the targeted system. The final test was to
determine how much data could be placed in the DebugFilePath property.

Figure 6: Data storage test within DebugFilePath

Figure 6 shows that the DebugFilePath property can store over 57
megabytes of data. This satisfied the data storage requirement for
WMImplant, and future testing showed that the DebugFilePath property
could store more than 250 megabytes of data. Additionally, using the
DebugFilePath WMI property for data storage provides the side-benefits
that it is easily retrievable and modifiable remotely.

This discovery shaped WMImplant’s command and control communications
methodology. For commands issued by WMImplant that require data
storage, the communication process is as follows:

  1. Remotely query and obtain the original value for
    Win32_OSRecoveryConfiguration’s DebugFilePath property.
  2. Use
    WMImplant to execute a command on the targeted system (such as
    ifconfig), encode the output, and store the encoded results in the
    DebugFilePath property.
  3. Remotely query the targeted
    system’s DebugFilePath over WMI to receive the encoded results.
  4. Decode the results and display them to the console.
  5. Set
    the DebugFilePath property on the targeted system back to its
    original value.

This methodology for command and control communications minimizes
the amount of time that the WMI property is modified from its original state.

WMImplant Usage

I’ve developed WMImplant for both interactive and non-interactive
use. Users also have the ability to change the user account that is
authenticating to the targeted machine. As shown in Figure 7, users
can issue the “change_user” command, provide the username and password
to use, and then all future commands through WMImplant will
authenticate with the provided credentials.

Figure 7: Changing the current user context
within WMImplant

The easiest way to use WMImplant is interactively; however, that
isn’t always possible. RATs such as Meterpreter or Cobalt Strike’s
Beacon allow users to load and execute PowerShell scripts, but both of
those tools require non-interactive use. That is, the tools accept a
command to run, execute it, and return the results. They do not allow
the user to interact with the command while running, however.
WMImplant includes a built-in command-line generating feature
specifically for this use case. To generate a command-line, start
WMImplant and specify the “gen_cli” command.

After issuing the “gen_cli” command, the user will be presented with
the normal WMImplant menu and asked for the command to be run.
WMImplant will then ask for any required information for the command
specified. Once the user has provided everything that’s required,
WMImplant will display the command-line command to run in a
non-interactive manner, as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8: “gen_cli” output

At this point, the user can load WMImplant within the RAT of choice,
and copy and paste the command to run WMImplant non-interactively.

Another of WMImplant’s capabilities is the ability to run a
PowerShell script on a remote machine and receive script output. This
is performed through a multi-step process:

  1. The attacking system queries the targeted system’s
    DebugFilePath property to obtain its original value.
  2. The
    attacking system reads in the specified PowerShell script, encodes
    it, and stores it in the targeted system’s DebugFilePath
  3. WMI spawns a PowerShell process on the targeted
    system that reads the DebugFilePath property, and decodes the
    PowerShell script.
  4. The PowerShell process runs the
    user-specified function and stores the function output in a
  5. The data in the variable is encoded and stored in
    the DebugFilePath property, and the PowerShell process exits.
  6. The attacking system makes an additional WMI query for the
    DebugFilePath value (currently storing the encoded data), decodes
    the data, and displays its contents to the console.
  7. The
    attacking system replaces the encoded data with the original
    DebugFilePath property contents on the targeted system over

This multi-step process is demonstrated in Figure 9.

Figure 9: Remote PowerShell execution

While I’ve only talked about a limited number of WMImplant’s
features, others include:

  • Setting/removing the “UseLogonCredential” Windows Registry
    value to enable credential caching.
  • Uploading/downloading
  • Enabling/disabling Windows Remote Management (WinRM)
    to remotely connect to and issue commands on a system using
  • Identifying users who have logged in to the
    targeted system.
  • Listing files by directory.
  • Reading file contents.
  • …and more.

I hope that WMImplant can help others as it has helped us on
multiple assessments. If you notice any bugs, please let me know and
I’ll be happy to get a fix pushed!

WMImplant can be downloaded here.


I want to state that I wouldn’t have been inspired to work on this
without the previous
of Matt Graeber, Willi Ballenthin, and Claudiu Teodorescu.
Their work gave me a lot of great ideas that I was able to build upon
when developing WMImplant.

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