Red Teaming WSUS

3 minute read


Windows updates are an important aspect of security in every organization. For a Windows Update to be delivered at an endpoint, the endpoint will first have to either check for any new updates online or check with a local WSUS server for the same matter.

Windows Update Fundamentals

Windows Update from a security perspective

  • Privileged service. Updates can be downloaded and installed by non-privileged users. Potential privilege escalation.
  • Windows Update downloads and executes code over the internet. This introduces a huge attack vector if not done properly.
  • 3rd Party code is also distributed trough Windows Update, such as drivers.
  • Any malicious code that manages to be delivered through Windows Update will look trustworthy.


  • Windows service.
  • wuauclt.exe runs periodically to check for updates.
  • Reg Keys govern various details:
    • Update Server’s location.
    • Update frequency.
    • Privilege escalation of unprivileged users.
  • Communication between client and server takes place over HTTPS / SOAP XML web service.
  • Local database of updates saved into C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\DataStore\DataStore.edb
  • Updates end up in C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download
  • Logs are kept in C:\Windows\WindowsUpdate.log

Update Types

  • Critical Update
  • Security Update
  • Definition Update
  • Update Rollup
  • Service Pack
  • Tool
  • Feature Pack
  • Update
  • Drivers

Windows Software Update Services (WSUS)


  • WSUS can be seen as the enterprise variant of Windows Update
  • WSUS is actually the Windows Update software responsible for the fetching, downloading and installing of Windows updates but it is installed and run from an organization’s own local server.
  • Same underlying communications Web Service / SOAP XML
  • Updates fetched from WSUS within the organisation, not from a remote MS server.
  • Administrators have full control over what will be installed.

WSUS Security

  • SSL not enabled by default
  • WSUS checks each update’s digital signature and hash while downloading.
  • All updates must be signed by Microsoft.
  • Default Windows behaviour it to download and install drivers for new devices.
  • Drivers must be signed, though not necessarily by Microsoft

Identify WSUS

  • reg query HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU /v UseWUServer –> 1==WSUS, 0!=WSUS.
  • reg query HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate /v WUServer –> Get WSUS URL
  • reg query "HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\Connections" Check if proxy automatic detection is enabled. 5th byte of the result must be even!

Attacking WSUS

Unencrypted communications



  • SSL Must be disabled (default)
  • Only signed binaries by MS can be delivered (PsExec)
  • ARP Spoofing or tampering system’s proxy settings ability.
  • Windows 10 Not Supported.
  • pip2.7 install twisted
  • OS Requirements: samba dsniff iptables
# clone WSUXploit repository
git clone

# enter on wsuxploit directory
cd wsuxploit

# clone WSUSpect Proxy repository
git clone


  • Bettercap can be used for ARP Spoofing.



  • SSL Must be disabled (default)
  • Only signed binaries by MS can be delivered (PsExec)
  • ARP Spoofing or tampering system’s proxy settings ability.
  • Windows 10 Not Supported.
  • pip2.7 install twisted


  • python -I eth0 -wFb
  • python2.7 psexec –> Example
  • bginfo can be abused to load vbs scripts.

Leveraging WSUS Interconnectivity

Sensitive information could be in a separate network which is difficult to reach. WSUS is usually within our reach and may communicate with another WSUS server if “Multiple Internally Synchronized WSUS Servers” Network architecture exists. Compromising a WSUS server could be used to reach segregated networks.

Fake updates can be injected into the WSUS Database using WSUSpendu, the WSUS database will be eventually be synchronized between all the domain’s WSUS servers.

Stealthily Spreading the Compromise Through Windows Server Update

Leveraging Windows Update For Persistence

Windows Update uses the following autostart key:

  • HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\WindowsUpdate\Setup\ServiceStartup

Example Entry:


This entry will copy malware.dll to c:\windows\system32\malware.dll and load it.

Not working on Windows 8 or 10 (Different triggering method required)