With cybercrime at an all-time high, it is more important than ever to learn how to use security in the business world. Penetration testing allows businesses to evaluate the overall security of their IT infrastructure. Metasploit is one of the best penetration testing frameworks that help a business find out and shore up vulnerabilities in their systems before exploitation by hackers. To put it simply, Metasploit allows hacking with permission.

Throughout this article, we will explore what is Metasploit, what is meterpreter, what is Metasploit framework, the basics of using Metasploit framework, and the modules it includes. 

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A Brief History of Metasploit

Metasploit was conceived and developed by H D Moore in October 2003 as a Perl-based portable network tool for the creation and development of exploits. By 2007, the framework was entirely rewritten in Ruby. In 2009, Rapid7 acquired the Metasploit project, and the framework gained popularity as an emerging information security tool to test the vulnerability of computer systems. Metasploit 4.0 was released in August 2011 and includes tools that discover software vulnerabilities besides exploits for known bugs. 

What Is Metasploit, and How Does It Work?

Metasploit is the world’s leading open-source penetrating framework used by security engineers as a penetration testing system and a development platform that allows to create security tools and exploits. The framework makes hacking simple for both attackers and defenders. 

The various tools, libraries, user interfaces, and modules of Metasploit allow a user to configure an exploit module, pair with a payload, point at a target, and launch at the target system. Metasploit’s large and extensive database houses hundreds of exploits and several payload options.

A Metasploit penetration test begins with the information gathering phase, wherein Matsploit integrates with various reconnaissance tools like Nmap, SNMP scanning, and Windows patch enumeration, and Nessus to find the vulnerable spot in your system. Once the weakness is identified, choose an exploit and payload to penetrate the chink in the armor. If the exploit is successful, the payload gets executed at the target, and the user gets a shell to interact with the payload. One of the most popular payloads to attack Windows systems is Meterpreter – an in-memory-only interactive shell. Once on the target machine, Metasploit offers various exploitation tools for privilege escalation, packet sniffing, pass the hash, keyloggers, screen capture, plus pivoting tools. Users can also set up a persistent backdoor if the target machine gets rebooted. 

The extensive features available in Metasploit are modular and extensible, making it easy to configure as per every user requirement.  

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What Is the Purpose of Metasploit?

Metasploit is a powerful tool used by network security professionals to do penetration tests, by system administrators to test patch installations, by product vendors to implement regression testing, and by security engineers across industries. The purpose of Metasploit is to help users identify where they are most likely to face attacks by hackers and proactively mend those weaknesses before exploitation by hackers. 

Who Uses Metasploit?

With the wide range of applications and open-source availability that Metasploit offers, the framework is used by professionals in development, security, and operations to hackers. The framework is popular with hackers and easily available, making it an easy to install, reliable tool for security professionals to be familiar with even if they don’t need to use it. 

Metasploit Uses and Benefits

Metasploit provides you with varied use cases, and its benefits include:

  • Open Source and Actively Developed – Metasploit is preferred to other highly paid penetration testing tools because it allows accessing its source code and adding specific custom modules. 
  • Ease of Use – it is easy to use Metasploit while conducting a large network penetration test. Metasploit conducts automated tests on all systems in order to exploit the vulnerability. 
  • Easy Switching Between Payloads – the set payload command allows easy, quick access to switch payloads. It becomes easy to change the meterpreter or shell-based access into a specific operation. 
  • Cleaner Exits – Metasploit allows a clean exit from the target system it has compromised.
  • Friendly GUI Environment – friendly GUI and third-party interfaces facilitate the penetrate testing project.

What Tools Are Used in Metasploit?

Metasploit tools make penetration testing work faster and smoother for security pros and hackers. Some of the main tools are Aircrack, Metasploit unleashed, Wireshark, Ettercap, Netsparker, Kali, etc.

How to Download and Install Metasploit?

If you are using Kali Linux for presentation testing, Metasploit is preinstalled in your system. So you don’t need to download and install it. 

The Github repository helps to download and install Metasploit in both Windows and Linux systems. It is available in the GUI version, but you have to purchase for full access to Metasploit licensed version.   

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What Is Metasploitable?

Metasploitable refers to a vulnerable machine that enables the learning and practice of Metasploit. It is illegal to hack or attack any system without the owner’s consent. So, the metasploitable machine enables users to set up a penetration testing environment to learn and practice hacking.   

Metasploit Framework

Following is the filesystem of Metasploit Framework (MSF):

  • Data – contains editable files for storing binaries, wordlist, images, templates, logos, etc
  • Tools – contains command utilities including plugins, hardware, memdump
  • Scripts – contains Meterepreter scripts, resources to run functionalities
  • Modules – contains actual MSF modules 
  • Plugins – additional extensions for automating manual tasks
  • Documentation – documents and pdfs concerning Metasploit framework
  • Lib – contains libraries required to run Metasploit from start to end

Metasploit Shell Types

There are two types of shells in Metasploit — for attacking or interacting with the target system. 

  • Bind Shell – here, the target machine opens up a listener on the victim machine, and then the attacker connects to the listener to get a remote shell. This type of shell is risky because anyone can connect to the shell and run the command.
  • Reverse Shell – here, the headset runs on the attacker, and the target system is connected to the attacker using a shell. Reverse shells can solve problems that are caused by bind shells. 

Metasploit Commands 

Some basic commands of Metasploit are msfconsole, banner, search, connect, cd, back, grep, jobs, kill, load, info, show options, set, check, edit, use, exploit, exit, help, and others.  

Hands-on - How to protect a system from cyber attack 

Here’s how you can use Metasploit to protect a system from cyber-attack:

  1. Open your terminal and start the “Postgres SQL” database.
  2. Run msfconsole command to go to Metasploit interface
  3. Use the Attacker system where Metaspolit tool is present to hack the Metasploitable system or victim system. 
  4. Scan victim system for information gathering.
  5. Run nmap tool to scan the victim’s OS
  6. Use search command to find exploit to access victim’s system
  7. Go inside the exploit and set remote host IP in the exploit
  8. Run exploit command and wait to enter victim system

Make sure to maintain legality by using Metasploitable OS for penetration testing. 

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