Adversaries may obtain and abuse credentials of existing accounts as a means of gaining Initial Access, Persistence, Privilege Escalation, or Defense Evasion. Compromised credentials may be used to bypass access controls placed on various resources on systems within the network and may even be used for persistent access to remote systems and externally available services, such as VPNs, Outlook Web Access and remote desktop. Compromised credentials may also grant an adversary increased privilege to specific systems or access to restricted areas of the network. Adversaries may choose not to use malware or tools in conjunction with the legitimate access those credentials provide to make it harder to detect their presence.
The overlap of permissions for local, domain, and cloud accounts across a network of systems is of concern because the adversary may be able to pivot across accounts and systems to reach a high level of access (i.e., domain or enterprise administrator) to bypass access controls set within the enterprise. 
APT28 has used legitimate credentials to gain initial access, maintain access, and exfiltrate data from a victim network. The group has specifically used credentials stolen through a spearphishing email to login to the DCCC network. The group has also leveraged default manufacturer's passwords to gain initial access to corporate networks via IoT devices such as a VOIP phone, printer, and video decoder.
Adversaries can instruct Duqu to spread laterally by copying itself to shares it has enumerated and for which it has obtained legitimate credentials (via keylogging or other means). The remote host is then infected by using the compromised credentials to schedule a task on remote machines that executes the malware.
|Application Developer Guidance||
Ensure that applications do not store sensitive data or credentials insecurely. (e.g. plaintext credentials in code, published credentials in repositories, or credentials in public cloud storage).
Applications and appliances that utilize default username and password should be changed immediately after the installation, and before deployment to a production environment.  When possible, applications that use SSH keys should be updated periodically and properly secured.
|Privileged Account Management||
Audit domain and local accounts as well as their permission levels routinely to look for situations that could allow an adversary to gain wide access by obtaining credentials of a privileged account.   These audits should also include if default accounts have been enabled, or if new local accounts are created that have not be authorized. Follow best practices for design and administration of an enterprise network to limit privileged account use across administrative tiers. 
Configure robust, consistent account activity audit policies across the enterprise and with externally accessible services.  Look for suspicious account behavior across systems that share accounts, either user, admin, or service accounts. Examples: one account logged into multiple systems simultaneously; multiple accounts logged into the same machine simultaneously; accounts logged in at odd times or outside of business hours. Activity may be from interactive login sessions or process ownership from accounts being used to execute binaries on a remote system as a particular account. Correlate other security systems with login information (e.g., a user has an active login session but has not entered the building or does not have VPN access).
Perform regular audits of domain and local system accounts to detect accounts that may have been created by an adversary for persistence. Checks on these accounts could also include whether default accounts such as Guest have been activated. These audits should also include checks on any appliances and applications for default credentials or SSH keys, and if any are discovered, they should be updated immediately.
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