Exploitation for Privilege Escalation

Adversaries may exploit software vulnerabilities in an attempt to elevate privileges. Exploitation of a software vulnerability occurs when an adversary takes advantage of a programming error in a program, service, or within the operating system software or kernel itself to execute adversary-controlled code. Security constructs such as permission levels will often hinder access to information and use of certain techniques, so adversaries will likely need to perform privilege escalation to include use of software exploitation to circumvent those restrictions. [1]

When initially gaining access to a system, an adversary may be operating within a lower privileged process which will prevent them from accessing certain resources on the system. Vulnerabilities may exist, usually in operating system components and software commonly running at higher permissions, that can be exploited to gain higher levels of access on the system. This could enable someone to move from unprivileged or user level permissions to SYSTEM or root permissions depending on the component that is vulnerable. This may be a necessary step for an adversary compromising an endpoint system that has been properly configured and limits other privilege escalation methods. [1]

ID: T0890
Sub-techniques:  No sub-techniques
Platforms: None
Version: 1.1
Created: 13 April 2021
Last Modified: 13 October 2023

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description

INCONTROLLER has the ability to exploit a vulnerable Asrock driver (AsrDrv103.sys) using CVE-2020-15368 to load its own unsigned driver on the system.[2]

S1009 Triton

Triton leverages a previously-unknown vulnerability affecting Tricon MP3008 firmware versions 10.010.4 allows an insecurely-written system call to be exploited to achieve an arbitrary 2-byte write primitive, which is then used to gain supervisor privileges. [3]

Targeted Assets

ID Asset
A0008 Application Server
A0007 Control Server
A0009 Data Gateway
A0006 Data Historian
A0002 Human-Machine Interface (HMI)
A0005 Intelligent Electronic Device (IED)
A0012 Jump Host
A0003 Programmable Logic Controller (PLC)
A0014 Routers
A0010 Safety Controller
A0011 Virtual Private Network (VPN) Server
A0001 Workstation


ID Mitigation Description
M0948 Application Isolation and Sandboxing

Make it difficult for adversaries to advance their operation through exploitation of undiscovered or unpatched vulnerabilities by using sandboxing. Other types of virtualization and application microsegmentation may also mitigate the impact of some types of exploitation. Risks of additional exploits and weaknesses in these systems may still exist. [4]

M0950 Exploit Protection

Security applications that look for behavior used during exploitation such as Windows Defender Exploit Guard (WDEG) and the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) can be used to mitigate some exploitation behavior. [5] Control flow integrity checking is another way to potentially identify and stop a software exploit from occurring. [6] Many of these protections depend on the architecture and target application binary for compatibility and may not work for all software or services targeted.

M0919 Threat Intelligence Program

Develop a robust cyber threat intelligence capability to determine what types and levels of threat may use software exploits and 0-days against a particular organization.

M0951 Update Software

Update software regularly by employing patch management for internal enterprise endpoints and servers.


ID Data Source Data Component Detects
DS0015 Application Log Application Log Content

Detecting software exploitation may be difficult depending on the tools available. Software exploits may not always succeed or may cause the exploited process to become unstable or crash.