Hacking a flawed PC’s easier than you think

I used the Metasploit Framework to take control of a virtual machine for the first time this week. If I can do that after just six weeks of training (albeit with a little help), I hate to imagine what an experienced hacking expert is capable of doing to an improperly secured computer…

Metasploit and its scary number of built-in exploits – a penetration tester’s best friend

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how hackers are just like you and me. Most of them aren’t all-powerful coding masterminds, and many high-profile breaches are the product of amateurs using pre-written tools to take advantage of relatively simple weaknesses.

This week, I illustrated that point. Having been properly introduced to Metasploit, I used a ready-made exploit to drop a ready-made payload onto a vulnerable Windows 10 system. I was essentially able to take control of the computer, and – after a little Googling – even managed to take a screengrab from the machine showing the contents of the Edge browser window.

Admittedly, the system had been weakened – Windows Defender and the operating system’s firewall were turned off, for example – but it’s still scary to think about what I was able to do in just a couple of hours of network setup and command line tinkering.

Besides, even if Windows’ defences weren’t down, Metasploit is loaded with hundreds of exploits that can take advantage of outdated and vulnerable software that might be present on a system – and we all know how much of that is out there in the wild.

“Cyber security,” I remember someone at the SANS Cyber Retraining Academy telling me, “is a field where the more you learn, the more you realise you don’t know.”

Just a few weeks ago, I had no idea about Metasploit. But now I could have a pretty good crack at launching an attack if I wanted to, provided I had some solid reconnaissance behind me and got lucky with a target who was lazy about patching their software.

What’s scary, though, is that this is just the start of my journey into the cyber security industry. I’m just using pre-written exploits in a very basic way, much like a script kiddie would.

There are people out there who know a lot more about coding and have a lot more experience than I do. If I can already take control of a vulnerable PC and record its user’s activity, who knows what the expert hackers out there with more malicious intentions are capable of…

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