Valid Accounts: Local Accounts

Adversaries may obtain and abuse credentials of a local account as a means of gaining Initial Access, Persistence, Privilege Escalation, or Defense Evasion. Local accounts are those configured by an organization for use by users, remote support, services, or for administration on a single system or service.

Local Accounts may also be abused to elevate privileges and harvest credentials through OS Credential Dumping. Password reuse may allow the abuse of local accounts across a set of machines on a network for the purposes of Privilege Escalation and Lateral Movement.

ID: T1078.003
Sub-technique of:  T1078
Tactics: Defense Evasion, Persistence, Privilege Escalation, Initial Access
Platforms: Linux, Windows, macOS
Permissions Required: Administrator, User
Data Sources: Authentication logs
Version: 1.0
Created: 13 March 2020
Last Modified: 23 March 2020

Procedure Examples

Name Description

APT32 has used legitimate local admin account credentials.[1]

Cobalt Strike

Cobalt Strike can use known credentials to run commands and spawn processes as a local user account.[2][3]


Emotet can brute force a local admin password, then use it to facilitate lateral movement.[4]


FIN10 has moved laterally using the Local Administrator account.[5]


NotPetya can use valid credentials with PsExec or wmic to spread itself to remote systems.[6][7]


PROMETHIUM has created admin accounts on a compromised host.[8]

Stolen Pencil

Stolen Pencil has a tool to add a Windows admin account in order to allow them to ensure continued access via RDP. [9]

Tropic Trooper

Tropic Trooper has used known administrator account credentials to execute the backdoor directly.[10]


Umbreon creates valid local users to provide access to the system.[11]


Mitigation Description
Password Policies

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

Privileged Account Management

Audit local accounts permission levels routinely to look for situations that could allow an adversary to gain wide access by obtaining credentials of a privileged account. [12] [13] These audits should check if new local accounts are created that have not be authorized. Implementing LAPS may help prevent reuse of local administrator credentials across a domain.[14]


Perform regular audits of local system accounts to detect accounts that may have been created by an adversary for persistence. Look for suspicious account behavior, such as accounts logged in at odd times or outside of business hours.