Account Manipulation

Adversaries may manipulate accounts to maintain access to victim systems. Account manipulation may consist of any action that preserves adversary access to a compromised account, such as modifying credentials or permission groups. These actions could also include account activity designed to subvert security policies, such as performing iterative password updates to bypass password duration policies and preserve the life of compromised credentials. In order to create or manipulate accounts, the adversary must already have sufficient permissions on systems or the domain.

ID: T1098
Sub-techniques:  T1098.001, T1098.002, T1098.003
Tactic: Persistence
Platforms: AWS, Azure, Azure AD, GCP, Office 365, Windows
Data Sources: Authentication logs, Windows event logs
Contributors: Jannie Li, Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC); Praetorian; Tim MalcomVetter
Version: 2.1
Created: 31 May 2017
Last Modified: 28 March 2020

Procedure Examples

Name Description
APT3

APT3 has been known to add created accounts to local admin groups to maintain elevated access.[6]

Calisto

Calisto adds permissions and remote logins to all users.[3]

Dragonfly 2.0

Dragonfly 2.0 added newly created accounts to the administrators group to maintain elevated access.[7][8]

Lazarus Group

Lazarus Group malware WhiskeyDelta-Two contains a function that attempts to rename the administrator’s account.[4][5]

Mimikatz

The Mimikatz credential dumper has been extended to include Skeleton Key domain controller authentication bypass functionality. The LSADUMP::ChangeNTLM and LSADUMP::SetNTLM modules can also manipulate the password hash of an account without knowing the clear text value.[1][2]

Mitigations

Mitigation Description
Multi-factor Authentication

Use multi-factor authentication for user and privileged accounts.

Network Segmentation

Configure access controls and firewalls to limit access to critical systems and domain controllers. Most cloud environments support separate virtual private cloud (VPC) instances that enable further segmentation of cloud systems.

Operating System Configuration

Protect domain controllers by ensuring proper security configuration for critical servers to limit access by potentially unnecessary protocols and services, such as SMB file sharing.

Privileged Account Management

Do not allow domain administrator accounts to be used for day-to-day operations that may expose them to potential adversaries on unprivileged systems.

Detection

Collect events that correlate with changes to account objects and/or permissions on systems and the domain, such as event IDs 4738, 4728 and 4670.[9][10][10] Monitor for modification of accounts in correlation with other suspicious activity. Changes may occur at unusual times or from unusual systems. Especially flag events where the subject and target accounts differ[11] or that include additional flags such as changing a password without knowledge of the old password.[12]

Monitor for use of credentials at unusual times or to unusual systems or services. This may also correlate with other suspicious activity.

Monitor for unusual permissions changes that may indicate excessively broad permissions being granted to compromised accounts.

References