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15 Ways to Bypass the PowerShell Execution Policy


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By default PowerShell is configured to prevent the execution of PowerShell scripts on Windows systems. This can be a hurdle for penetration testers, sysadmins, and developers, but it doesn't have to be. In this blog I'll cover 15 ways to bypass the PowerShell execution policy without having local administrator rights on the system. I'm sure there are many techniques that I've missed (or simply don't know about), but hopefully this cheat sheet will offer a good start for those who need it.

What is the PowerShell Execution Policy?

The PowerShell execution policy is the setting that determines which type of PowerShell scripts (if any) can be run on the system. By default it is set to "Restricted", which basically means none. However, it's important to understand that the setting was never meant to be a security control. Instead, it was intended to prevent administrators from shooting themselves in the foot. That's why there are so many options for working around it. Including a few that Microsoft has provided.  For more information on the execution policy settings and other default security controls in PowerShell I suggest reading Carlos Perez's blog. He provides a nice overview.

Why Would I Want to Bypass the Execution Policy?

Automation seems to be one of the more common responses I hear from people, but below are a few other reasons PowerShell has become so popular with administrators, pentesters, and hackers.  PowerShell is:

  • Native to Windows
  • Able to call the Windows API
  • Able to run commands without writing to the disk
  • Able to avoid detection by Anti-virus
  • Already flagged as "trusted" by most application white list solutions
  • A medium used to write many open source Pentest toolkits




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