Unsecured Credentials: Credentials In Files

Adversaries may search local file systems and remote file shares for files containing insecurely stored credentials. These can be files created by users to store their own credentials, shared credential stores for a group of individuals, configuration files containing passwords for a system or service, or source code/binary files containing embedded passwords.

It is possible to extract passwords from backups or saved virtual machines through OS Credential Dumping.[1] Passwords may also be obtained from Group Policy Preferences stored on the Windows Domain Controller.[2]

In cloud and/or containerized environments, authenticated user and service account credentials are often stored in local configuration and credential files.[3] They may also be found as parameters to deployment commands in container logs.[4] In some cases, these files can be copied and reused on another machine or the contents can be read and then used to authenticate without needing to copy any files.[5]

ID: T1552.001
Sub-technique of:  T1552
Platforms: Containers, IaaS, Linux, Windows, macOS
System Requirements: Access to files
Contributors: Jay Chen, Palo Alto Networks; Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC); Rory McCune, Aqua Security; Vishwas Manral, McAfee; Yossi Weizman, Azure Defender Research Team
Version: 1.2
Created: 04 February 2020
Last Modified: 15 April 2024

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S0677 AADInternals

AADInternals can gather unsecured credentials for Azure AD services, such as Azure AD Connect, from a local machine.[6]

S0331 Agent Tesla

Agent Tesla has the ability to extract credentials from configuration or support files.[7]

G0022 APT3

APT3 has a tool that can locate credentials in files on the file system such as those from Firefox or Chrome.[8]

G0064 APT33

APT33 has used a variety of publicly available tools like LaZagne to gather credentials.[9][10]

S0344 Azorult

Azorult can steal credentials in files belonging to common software such as Skype, Telegram, and Steam.[11]

S0089 BlackEnergy

BlackEnergy has used a plug-in to gather credentials stored in files on the host by various software programs, including The Bat! email client, Outlook, and Windows Credential Store.[12][13]

S0367 Emotet

Emotet has been observed leveraging a module that retrieves passwords stored on a system for the current logged-on user. [14][15]

S0363 Empire

Empire can use various modules to search for files containing passwords.[16]

G1016 FIN13

FIN13 has obtained administrative credentials by browsing through local files on a compromised machine.[17]

G0117 Fox Kitten

Fox Kitten has accessed files to gain valid credentials.[18]

S0601 Hildegard

Hildegard has searched for SSH keys, Docker credentials, and Kubernetes service tokens.[3]

S0283 jRAT

jRAT can capture passwords from common chat applications such as MSN Messenger, AOL, Instant Messenger, and and Google Talk.[19]

G0094 Kimsuky

Kimsuky has used tools that are capable of obtaining credentials from saved mail.[20]

S0349 LaZagne

LaZagne can obtain credentials from chats, databases, mail, and WiFi.[21]

G0077 Leafminer

Leafminer used several tools for retrieving login and password information, including LaZagne.[22]

G0069 MuddyWater

MuddyWater has run a tool that steals passwords saved in victim email.[23]

G0049 OilRig

OilRig has used credential dumping tools such as LaZagne to steal credentials to accounts logged into the compromised system and to Outlook Web Access.[24][25][26][27]

S0067 pngdowner

If an initial connectivity check fails, pngdowner attempts to extract proxy details and credentials from Windows Protected Storage and from the IE Credentials Store. This allows the adversary to use the proxy credentials for subsequent requests if they enable outbound HTTP access.[28]

S0378 PoshC2

PoshC2 contains modules for searching for passwords in local and remote files.[29]

S0192 Pupy

Pupy can use Lazagne for harvesting credentials.[30]

S0583 Pysa

Pysa has extracted credentials from the password database before encrypting the files.[31]

S0262 QuasarRAT

QuasarRAT can obtain passwords from FTP clients.[32][33]

G1015 Scattered Spider

Scattered Spider Spider searches for credential storage documentation on a compromised host.[34]

S0226 Smoke Loader

Smoke Loader searches for files named logins.json to parse for credentials.[35]

G0092 TA505

TA505 has used malware to gather credentials from FTP clients and Outlook.[36]

G0139 TeamTNT

TeamTNT has searched for unsecured AWS credentials and Docker API credentials.[37][38][39]

S0266 TrickBot

TrickBot can obtain passwords stored in files from several applications such as Outlook, Filezilla, OpenSSH, OpenVPN and WinSCP.[40][41] Additionally, it searches for the ".vnc.lnk" affix to steal VNC credentials.[42]

S0117 XTunnel

XTunnel is capable of accessing locally stored passwords on victims.[43]


ID Mitigation Description
M1047 Audit

Preemptively search for files containing passwords and take actions to reduce the exposure risk when found.

M1027 Password Policies

Establish an organizational policy that prohibits password storage in files.

M1022 Restrict File and Directory Permissions

Restrict file shares to specific directories with access only to necessary users.

M1017 User Training

Ensure that developers and system administrators are aware of the risk associated with having plaintext passwords in software configuration files that may be left on endpoint systems or servers.


ID Data Source Data Component Detects
DS0017 Command Command Execution

While detecting adversaries accessing these files may be difficult without knowing they exist in the first place, it may be possible to detect adversary use of credentials they have obtained. Monitor executed commands and arguments of executing processes for suspicious words or regular expressions that may indicate searching for a password (for example: password, pwd, login, secure, or credentials). See Valid Accounts for more information.

DS0022 File File Access

Monitor for files being accessed that may search local file systems and remote file shares for files containing insecurely stored credentials. While detecting adversaries accessing these files may be difficult without knowing they exist in the first place, it may be possible to detect adversary use of credentials they have obtained.

DS0009 Process Process Creation

Monitor newly executed processes for local file systems and remote file shares for files containing insecurely stored credentials.

Note: Pseudocode Event IDs are for Sysmon (Event ID 1 - process create) and Windows Security Log (Event ID 4688 - a new process has been created). The Analytic looks for command-line instances of searching the Windows Registry for insecurely stored credentials. This can be accomplished using the query functionality of the Reg system utility, by looking for keys and values that contain strings such as "password". In addition, adversaries may use toolkits such as PowerSploit in order to dump credentials from various applications such as IIS. Accordingly, this analytic looks for invocations of reg.exe in this capacity as well as that of several PowerSploit modules with similar functionality.

Analytic 1 - Credentials in Files & Registry

(source="WinEventLog:Microsoft-Windows-Sysmon/Operational" EventCode="1") OR (source="WinEventLog:Security" EventCode="4688")
CommandLine="reg query HKLM /f password /t REG_SZ /s" ORCommandLine="reg query HKCU /f password /t REG_SZ /s" ORCommandLine="Get-UnattendedInstallFile" ORCommandLine="Get-Webconfig" ORCommandLine="Get-ApplicationHost" ORCommandLine="Get-SiteListPassword" ORCommandLine="Get-CachedGPPPassword" ORCommandLine="Get-RegistryAutoLogon*"


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