Skip to main content

Beyond Net User - Part 1: Limitations of the "Net" commands

I've had a number of cases where the Windows "net user", "net group", and "net localgroup" have failed me. I've had SQLMap fail to give the last line of "net user" output, I've had "net group /domain" not give me the full names (I still don't get how that failed!). On top of that, the commands don't support wildcards. Also, the output of those commands is a pain to parse due to the columns. I'd much prefer to use the AD PowerShell cmdlets, but those aren't always available. I set to find other ways to get the same data. First, let's look at the limitations of the "net" commands.

Net command limitations

Hiding Groups in Groups

Often when pen testing and red teaming, we would like to figure out information about the domain, most notably the members of the Domain Admins group. Output of the net group "domain admins" command as shown below.

It shows three members: Administrator, sqlagent, and sqlengine. Let's compare this with the view from the GUI on the Domain Controller.

The GUI shows a group "Ha Ha You Can't See This Group N00b" as a member of the other group. Unfortunately, net group doesn't show this information. The net group command will only show users in the group. Let's look in inner group:

This doesn't have any members, but if we look in the GUI it does!

What To Do

First off, incident responders need to be aware of this limitation. If you are simply looking at the group memberships with "net group" you don't get the full picture.

This can be an interesting method for hiding in plain sight. If you have a user you want to hide, create group, add the user to the group, then start adding the user all over the place.

We'll discuss better ways to look at this information in future posts.


The Net commands don't offer us a way to search using wildcards. I've seen a number of environments where admin accounts are in the same OU or they have a common naming structure, such as appending -admin. The Net command don't provide us a way to flexibly search in this way. In future posts we'll cover some ways command line ways to get around these limitations. 


  1. Looking forward to seeing some of the methods you use to over come this. Great post... been frustrating to me for years. ;-)


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Extracting Users from LinkedIn via Burp

We do a lot of pen tests and red teaming at Red Siege. Part of reconnaissance includes gathering a list of employees from a target organization. Typically, those usernames will be used in either phishing or password spray attacks (trying a few passwords across a long list of users). LinkedIn is a treasure trove of information! I'm going to use my good friends at Black Hills Information Security as my guinea pigs (sorry, and thanks!). The tool is here. First, let's look at what the data from LinkedIn looks like a response.

After performing a search for "Black Hills Information Security" we can look at the requests and responses. LinkedIn includes all the user information in responses to "/voyager/api/mux".

We can click the "Next" button a few times in our search to load multiple pages of info. Now, for the extraction. First, select everything in the "HTTP history" with Ctrl+A or Command+A on macOS. Second, right click in the top portion. …

Beyond Net User - Part 2: DS Commands

In the previous post we discussed some of the limitations of Net commands. Most notably, the output limitation (doesn't show all groups) and it doesn't allow for flexible searching. In this post we'll discuss the DS commands to get around these limitations.
DSGet, DSQuery, DS* While these tools are useful, they aren't always available. As a pen tester and red teamer, I have to live with what I can find on the systems I come across. I find that these tools are still more widespread than the latest PowerShell Active Directory cmdlets, at least on non-system administrator systems. Here is a useful Stack Overflow post on the subject. Recursive Searches In the last post, we discussed a limitation in net group in that it doesn't show groups in other groups. The DS commands do! As a reminder, let's take a look at what we saw with net group when looking at the list of domain administrators.

Now let's do the same search, but use the dsquery and dsget.
dsquery group -…