PowerShell has gained popularity with SysAdmins and for good reason. It’s on every Windows machine (and now some Linux machines as well), has capabilities to interact with almost every service on every machine on the network, and it’s a command-line utility. For the same exact reasons, PowerShell has also become a favourite method of attackers interacting with a victim machine. Because of this, organizations have gotten wise to this attack vector and have put measures in place to mitigate its use. But there’s another way! Many don’t know of another built-in Windows utility that actually pre-dates PowerShell and can also help them in their
hacking pentesting engagements. That tool is Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI). This tutorial will be a small introduction to not only understand the usage of WMI to enumerate information from local and remote machines, but we’ll also show you how to start and kill processes! So let’s jump into WMI 101 for pentesters.
Background on WMI
I will keep this article at an introductory level to understand how to enumerate information at a high level. But as with most tutorials, let’s define some terms and provide some historical background. This may get dry but stick with me.
Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) is Microsoft’s implementation of Web-based Business Management Standards (WBEM), the common information model (CIM) and the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF). Microsoft has officially stated:
“Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) is the infrastructure for management data and operations on Windows-based operating systems.”
So what does that mean? Simply, WMI stores a bunch of information about the local machine and allows you to access that data as well as manage Windows computers locally and remotely.
WMI came pre-installed in Windows 2000. It was made available as a download for Windows NT and Windows 95/98. For historical purposes, Monad, was born in 2002 with its first public appearance in 2003. In the spring of 2006, Monad was renamed Windows PowerShell and didn’t make a final release until November of 2006.
By default, WMI can be accessed by the Windows Script Host (WSH) languages such as VBScript and JScript. From Windows 7 PowerShell can be also used to access WMI. Furthermore, the IWbem COM API can be used with C/C++ and the ‘System.Management’ namespace with .Net languages such as C#, VB.Net and F#. Almost every popular programming languages such as Python, Ruby, PHP, Delphi, et al have third-party libraries or built-in libraries which support WMI.
The command-line interface to access WMI is called the Windows Management Instrumentation Command-line (WMIC). However, WMI can also be accessed directly with PowerShell. From PowerShell v3 onwards, CIM (Common Information Model) cmdlets can be found. The CIM cmdlets can be used to interact with WMI over WS-MAN (WinRM). These CIM cmdlets will aid us when WMI is blocked but WinRM is allowed on the target machine.