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Microsoft SQL (MSSQL) is Microsoft's SQL-based relational database management system. Unlike MySQL, MSSQL is closed source and was initially written to run on Windows operating systems.

MSSQL Clients

SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) comes as a feature that can be installed with the MSSQL install package or can be downloaded & installed separately. It is commonly installed on the server for initial configuration and long-term management of databases by admins.


Pentester's may find Impacket's to be the most useful due to SecureAuthCorp's Impacket project being present on many pentesting distributions at install.

neutron@kali[/kali]$ locate mssqlclient


MSSQL Databases

MSSQL has default system databases that can help us understand the structure of all the databases that may be hosted on a target server.

Default System Database Description
master Tracks all system information for an SQL server instance
model Template database that acts as a structure for every new database created. Any setting changed in the model database will be reflected in any new database created after changes to the model database
msdb The SQL Server Agent uses this database to schedule jobs & alerts
tempdb Stores temporary objects
resource Read-only database containing system objects included with SQL server

Source: System Databases Microsoft Doc

Default Configuration

When an admin initially installs and configures MSSQL to be network accessible, the SQL service will likely run as NT SERVICE\MSSQLSERVER. Connecting from the client-side is possible through Windows Authentication, and by default, encryption is not enforced when attempting to connect.


Authentication being set to Windows Authentication means that the underlying Windows OS will process the login request and use either the local SAM database or the domain controller (hosting Active Directory) before allowing connectivity to the database management system. Using Active Directory can be ideal for auditing activity and controlling access in a Windows environment, but if an account is compromised, it could lead to privilege escalation and lateral movement across a Windows domain environment.

Dangerous Settings

It can be beneficial to place ourselves in the perspective of an IT administrator when we are on an engagement. This mindset can help us remember to look for various settings that may have been misconfigured or configured in a dangerous manner by an admin. It only takes one tiny misconfiguration that could compromise a critical server or service on the network. This applies to just about every network service and server role that can be configured, including MSSQL.

We may benefit from looking into the following:

  • MSSQL clients not using encryption to connect to the MSSQL server
  • The use of self-signed certificates when encryption is being used. It is possible to spoof self-signed certificates
  • The use of named pipes
  • Weak & default sa credentials. Admins may forget to disable this account

Default tcp port 1433 that MSSQL listens on.

Below, we can see the hostname, database instance name, software version of MSSQL and named pipes are enabled.

neutron@kali[/kali]$ sudo nmap --script ms-sql-info,ms-sql-empty-password,ms-sql-xp-cmdshell,ms-sql-config,ms-sql-ntlm-info,ms-sql-tables,ms-sql-hasdbaccess,ms-sql-dac,ms-sql-dump-hashes --script-args mssql.instance-port=1433,mssql.username=sa,mssql.password=,mssql.instance-name=MSSQLSERVER -sV -p 1433

Starting Nmap 7.91 ( ) at 2021-11-08 09:40 EST
Nmap scan report for
Host is up (0.15s latency).

1433/tcp open  ms-sql-s Microsoft SQL Server 2019 15.00.2000.00; RTM
| ms-sql-ntlm-info: 
|   Target_Name: SQL-01
|   NetBIOS_Domain_Name: SQL-01
|   NetBIOS_Computer_Name: SQL-01
|   DNS_Domain_Name: SQL-01
|   DNS_Computer_Name: SQL-01
|_  Product_Version: 10.0.17763

Host script results:
| ms-sql-dac: 
|_  Instance: MSSQLSERVER; DAC port: 1434 (connection failed)
| ms-sql-info: 
|   Windows server name: SQL-01
|     Instance name: MSSQLSERVER
|     Version: 
|       name: Microsoft SQL Server 2019 RTM
|       number: 15.00.2000.00
|       Product: Microsoft SQL Server 2019
|       Service pack level: RTM
|       Post-SP patches applied: false
|     TCP port: 1433
|     Named pipe: \\\pipe\sql\query
|_    Clustered: false

Service detection performed. Please report any incorrect results at .
Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 8.52 seconds

Metasploit to run an auxiliary scanner called mssql_ping that will scan the MSSQL service and provide helpful information in our footprinting process.

msf6 auxiliary(scanner/mssql/mssql_ping) > set rhosts

rhosts =>

msf6 auxiliary(scanner/mssql/mssql_ping) > run

[*]       - SQL Server information for
[+]       -    ServerName      = SQL-01
[+]       -    InstanceName    = MSSQLSERVER
[+]       -    IsClustered     = No
[+]       -    Version         = 15.0.2000.5
[+]       -    tcp             = 1433
[+]       -    np              = \\SQL-01\pipe\sql\query
[*]       - Scanned 1 of 1 hosts (100% complete)
[*] Auxiliary module execution completed

If we can guess or gain access to credentials, this allows us to remotely connect to the MSSQL server and start interacting with databases using T-SQL (Transact-SQL).

neutron@kali[/kali]$ python3 [email protected] -windows-auth

Impacket v0.9.22 - Copyright 2020 SecureAuth Corporation

[*] Encryption required, switching to TLS
[*] ENVCHANGE(DATABASE): Old Value: master, New Value: master
[*] ENVCHANGE(LANGUAGE): Old Value: , New Value: us_english
[*] ENVCHANGE(PACKETSIZE): Old Value: 4096, New Value: 16192
[*] INFO(SQL-01): Line 1: Changed database context to 'master'.
[*] INFO(SQL-01): Line 1: Changed language setting to us_english.
[*] ACK: Result: 1 - Microsoft SQL Server (150 7208) 
[!] Press help for extra shell commands

SQL> select name from sys.databases