I wrote Cobalt Strike and I take it for granted that my users know where things are. This doesn’t come from nowhere though. The users who get the most from this tool have read the documentation, watched my videos, or had a lot of trial and error.

If you’re new to Cobalt Strike, consider this blog post my “Get Started with the Cool Stuff” cheat sheet.

Let’s start with the Cobalt Strike menubar:


Under the Cobalt Strike menu are options to control and configure your Cobalt Strike instance. Use New Connection to connect to another team server. Go to Interfaces to work with your Covert VPN interfaces. The Listeners item is where you setup payload handlers. This is also where you configure Beacon. Go to Close to disconnect from the current team server.


The View menu is where you reach Cobalt Strike’s data. The Applications item takes you to the results from the System Profiler. Go to Beacons to manage your Beacon sessions. I like to use Ctrl+B to dock the Beacon tab to the bottom of my Cobalt Strike instance. The Web Log item shows the activity on Cobalt Strike’s Web Server. Go to Reporting to generate a report, jump to log files, or export data.


I keep Cobalt Strike’s custom attacks under the Attacks menu. Visit Packages to generate an executable or a document tied to a listener. Use Web Drive-by to host a file on Cobalt Strike’s web server or start a web drive-by attack. This is where the applet attacks live. Go to Spear Phish to kick off a spear phishing campaign.


Under Help, I have one item of special interest to licensed Cobalt Strike users. This is the Arsenal option. This menu takes you to a site where you may download source code to Cobalt Strike’s Applet Kit and Artifact Kit. The Artifact Kit is Cobalt Strike’s solution to swap anti-virus evasion techniques. I make this source code available to licensed users to allow changes for evasion purposes.


Cobalt Strike’s workflow for lateral movement [psexec and friends] goes beyond Armitage. You get a few new options such as wmi (token) and psexec (token). All psexec dialogs are setup to work with Cobalt Strike listeners as well. Cobalt Strike also gives you a workflow to manage SSH keys too. Finally, the psexec menus that require executables use Cobalt Strike’s Artifact Kit to generate executables.

Several of Cobalt Strike’s post-exploitation capabilities work with Meterpreter. Let’s take a look at these:


Try Access -> Bypass UAC to elevate from a medium integrity context to a high integrity context. This menu uses the Metasploit Framework’s bypassuac_inject module with an Artifact Kit DLL.


Go to Interact -> Desktop (VNC) to get to your target’s desktop via VNC. This option will use a Meterpreter script to stage a VNC server in memory on the target. Once the server is up, Cobalt Strike will connect to it with a built-in VNC client. I had to license the VNC client and I consider it money very well spent.


Explore -> Browser Pivot is the place to start Cobalt Strike’s man-in-the-browser session stealing technology for Internet Explorer. This feature allows you to browse to websites authenticated as your target user. It’s a really interesting pen tester take on a classic crimeware activity.


Jump to Pivoting -> Deploy VPN to run Covert VPN on your target’s system. This will create a layer-2 VPN into your target’s network. How this VPN communicates frames is up to you. It can tunnel through Meterpreter or connect to you over HTTP, UDP, or a TCP connection.

Finally, Pivoting -> Listener… creates a pivot listener. This is a little user-interface magic on top of a hidden Metasploit Framework feature. A pivot listener allows you to setup a reverse connection that tunnels through a Meterpreter session. You may use these listeners anywhere a normal listener would work.

And, that’s about it. This post is a good map to find Cobalt Strike’s feature set. You’ll notice this is not a lot of new interface elements. There’s a reason for this. I hate bloated user interfaces. Most of Cobalt Strike’s feature set is in its Beacon payload. Beacon gives Cobalt Strike its new communication channels [DNS, SMB], its indicator flexibility [Malleable C2], and new post-exploitation tools. Beacon has PowerShell integration and its bypass UAC attack works on Windows 8.1. If you want to get the most out of Cobalt Strike as a toolset, study Beacon. This payload will change the way you work.