OS Credential Dumping: NTDS

Adversaries may attempt to access or create a copy of the Active Directory domain database in order to steal credential information, as well as obtain other information about domain members such as devices, users, and access rights. By default, the NTDS file (NTDS.dit) is located in %SystemRoot%\NTDS\Ntds.dit of a domain controller.[1]

In addition to looking for NTDS files on active Domain Controllers, adversaries may search for backups that contain the same or similar information.[2]

The following tools and techniques can be used to enumerate the NTDS file and the contents of the entire Active Directory hashes.

  • Volume Shadow Copy
  • secretsdump.py
  • Using the in-built Windows tool, ntdsutil.exe
  • Invoke-NinjaCopy
ID: T1003.003
Sub-technique of:  T1003
Platforms: Windows
System Requirements: Access to Domain Controller or backup
Contributors: Ed Williams, Trustwave, SpiderLabs
Version: 1.2
Created: 11 February 2020
Last Modified: 28 July 2023

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
G0007 APT28

APT28 has used the ntdsutil.exe utility to export the Active Directory database for credential access.[3]

G0096 APT41

APT41 used ntdsutil to obtain a copy of the victim environment ntds.dit file.[4]

G0114 Chimera

Chimera has gathered the SYSTEM registry and ntds.dit files from target systems.[5] Chimera specifically has used the NtdsAudit tool to dump the password hashes of domain users via msadcs.exe "NTDS.dit" -s "SYSTEM" -p RecordedTV_pdmp.txt --users-csv RecordedTV_users.csv and used ntdsutil to copy the Active Directory database.[6]

S0488 CrackMapExec

CrackMapExec can dump hashed passwords associated with Active Directory using Windows' Directory Replication Services API (DRSUAPI), or Volume Shadow Copy.[7]

C0029 Cutting Edge

During Cutting Edge, threat actors accessed and mounted virtual hard disk backups to extract ntds.dit.[8]

G0035 Dragonfly

Dragonfly has dropped and executed SecretsDump to dump password hashes. They also obtained ntds.dit from domain controllers.[9][10]

S0404 esentutl

esentutl can copy ntds.dit using the Volume Shadow Copy service.[11][12]

G1016 FIN13

FIN13 has harvested the NTDS.DIT file and leveraged the Impacket tool on the compromised domain controller to locally decrypt it.[13]

G0037 FIN6

FIN6 has used Metasploit’s PsExec NTDSGRAB module to obtain a copy of the victim's Active Directory database.[14][15]

G0117 Fox Kitten

Fox Kitten has used Volume Shadow Copy to access credential information from NTDS.[16]


HAFNIUM has stolen copies of the Active Directory database (NTDS.DIT).[17]

S0357 Impacket

SecretsDump and Mimikatz modules within Impacket can perform credential dumping to obtain account and password information from NTDS.dit.[18]

G0004 Ke3chang

Ke3chang has used NTDSDump and other password dumping tools to gather credentials.[19]

S0250 Koadic

Koadic can gather hashed passwords by gathering domain controller hashes from NTDS.[20]


LAPSUS$ has used Windows built-in tool ntdsutil to extract the Active Directory (AD) database.[21]

G0045 menuPass

menuPass has used Ntdsutil to dump credentials.[22]

G0129 Mustang Panda

Mustang Panda has used vssadmin to create a volume shadow copy and retrieve the NTDS.dit file. Mustang Panda has also used reg save on the SYSTEM file Registry location to help extract the NTDS.dit file.[23]

G0034 Sandworm Team

Sandworm Team has used ntdsutil.exe to back up the Active Directory database, likely for credential access.[24]

G1015 Scattered Spider

Scattered Spider has extracted the NTDS.dit file by creating volume shadow copies of virtual domain controller disks.[25]

G1017 Volt Typhoon

Volt Typhoon has used ntds.util to create domain controller installation media containing usernames and password hashes.[26][27][28]

G0102 Wizard Spider

Wizard Spider has gained access to credentials via exported copies of the ntds.dit Active Directory database. Wizard Spider has also created a volume shadow copy and used a batch script file to collect NTDS.dit with the use of the Windows utility, ntdsutil.[29][30]


ID Mitigation Description
M1041 Encrypt Sensitive Information

Ensure Domain Controller backups are properly secured.[2]

M1027 Password Policies

Ensure that local administrator accounts have complex, unique passwords across all systems on the network.

M1026 Privileged Account Management

Do not put user or admin domain accounts in the local administrator groups across systems unless they are tightly controlled, as this is often equivalent to having a local administrator account with the same password on all systems. Follow best practices for design and administration of an enterprise network to limit privileged account use across administrative tiers.

M1017 User Training

Limit credential overlap across accounts and systems by training users and administrators not to use the same password for multiple accounts.


ID Data Source Data Component Detects
DS0017 Command Command Execution

Monitor executed commands and arguments that may attempt to access or create a copy of the Active Directory domain database in order to steal credential information, as well as obtain other information about domain members such as devices, users, and access rights. Look for command-lines that invoke attempts to access or copy the NTDS.dit.

Note: Events 4688 (Microsoft Windows Security Auditing) and 1 (Microsoft Windows Sysmon) provide context of commands and parameters being executed via creation of a new process. Event 800 (PowerShell) provides context of commands and parameters being executed via PowerShell. This detection is based on known Windows utilities commands and parameters that can be used to copy the ntds.dit file. It is recommended to keep the list of commands and parameters up to date.

Analytic 1 - Command line attempt to access or create a copy of ntds.dit file

((source="WinEventLog:Microsoft-Windows-Powershell/Operational" EventCode="800") AND((CommandLine LIKE "%ntds%" AND CommandLine LIKE "%ntdsutil%" AND CommandLine LIKE "%create%") OR (CommandLine LIKE "%vssadmin%" AND CommandLine LIKE "%create%" AND CommandLine LIKE "%shadow%") OR (CommandLine LIKE "%copy%" AND CommandLine LIKE "%ntds.dit%")))

DS0022 File File Access

Monitor for access or copy of the NTDS.dit.

Note: Events 4656 and 4663 (Microsoft Windows Security Auditing) provide context of processes and users requesting access or accessing file objects (ObjectType = File) such as C:\Windows\NTDS\ntds.dit. It is important to note that, in order to generate these events, a System Access Control List (SACL) must be defined for the ntds.dit file. Access rights that allow read operations on file objects and its attributes are %%4416 Read file data, %%4419 Read extended file attributes, %%4423 Read file attributes. If you search for just the name of the file and not the entire directory, you may get access events related to the ntds.dit file within a snapshot or volume shadow copy.

Events 4656 and 4663 (Microsoft Windows Security Auditing) provide context of processes and users creating or copying file objects (ObjectType = File) such as C:\Windows\NTDS\ntds.dit. It is important to note that, in order to generate these events, a System Access Control List (SACL) must be defined for the ntds.dit file. In order to filter file creation events, filter access rigths %%4417 Write data to the file and %%4424 Write file attributes.

Event 11 (Microsoft Windows Sysmon) provide context of processes and users creating or copying files. Unfortunately, this event provides context of the file being created or copied, but not the file being copied. A good starting point would be to look for new files created or copied with extension .dit.

Analytic 1 - Active Directory Dumping via NTDSUtil

(source=WinEventLog:"Security" EventCode IN (4656, 4663)) OR (source=WinEventLog:"Microsoft-Windows-Sysmon/Operational" EventCode="11") ANDObjectType="File" AND TargetFilename="*ntds.dit" AND (AccessList="%%4416" OR AccessList="%%4419" OR AccessList="%%4417" OR AccessList="%%4424")


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