Valid Accounts: Domain Accounts

Adversaries may obtain and abuse credentials of a domain account as a means of gaining Initial Access, Persistence, Privilege Escalation, or Defense Evasion. [1] Domain accounts are those managed by Active Directory Domain Services where access and permissions are configured across systems and services that are part of that domain. Domain accounts can cover users, administrators, and services.[2]

Adversaries may compromise domain accounts, some with a high level of privileges, through various means such as OS Credential Dumping or password reuse, allowing access to privileged resources of the domain.

ID: T1078.002
Sub-technique of:  T1078
Tactics: Defense Evasion, Persistence, Privilege Escalation, Initial Access
Platforms: Linux, Windows, macOS
Permissions Required: Administrator, User
Data Sources: Authentication logs, Process monitoring
Version: 1.1
Created: 13 March 2020
Last Modified: 16 September 2020

Procedure Examples

Name Description

APT29 has used valid accounts, including administrator accounts, to help facilitate lateral movement on compromised networks.[3][4]


APT3 leverages valid accounts after gaining credentials for use within the victim domain.[5]

Cobalt Strike

Cobalt Strike can use known credentials to run commands and spawn processes as a domain user account.[6][7]


If Shamoon cannot access shares using current privileges, it attempts access using hard coded, domain-specific credentials gathered earlier in the intrusion.[8][9]


TA505 has used stolen domain admin accounts to compromise additional hosts.[10]

Threat Group-1314

Threat Group-1314 actors used compromised domain credentials for the victim's endpoint management platform, Altiris, to move laterally.[11]

Wizard Spider

Wizard Spider has used administrative accounts, including Domain Admin, to move laterally within a victim network.[12]


Mitigation Description
Multi-factor Authentication

Integrating multi-factor authentication (MFA) as part of organizational policy can greatly reduce the risk of an adversary gaining control of valid credentials that may be used for additional tactics such as initial access, lateral movement, and collecting information. MFA can also be used to restrict access to cloud resources and APIs.

Privileged Account Management

Audit domain account permission levels routinely to look for situations that could allow an adversary to gain wide access by obtaining credentials of a privileged account. Do not put user or admin domain accounts in the local administrator groups across systems unless they are tightly controlled and use of accounts is segmented, 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. Limit credential overlap across systems to prevent access if account credentials are obtained.


Configure robust, consistent account activity audit policies across the enterprise and with externally accessible services.[13] 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 accounts to detect accounts that may have been created by an adversary for persistence.