Remote Service Session Hijacking: RDP Hijacking

ID Name
T1563.001 SSH Hijacking
T1563.002 RDP Hijacking

Adversaries may hijack a legitimate user’s remote desktop session to move laterally within an environment. Remote desktop is a common feature in operating systems. It allows a user to log into an interactive session with a system desktop graphical user interface on a remote system. Microsoft refers to its implementation of the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) as Remote Desktop Services (RDS).[1]

Adversaries may perform RDP session hijacking which involves stealing a legitimate user's remote session. Typically, a user is notified when someone else is trying to steal their session. With System permissions and using Terminal Services Console, c:\windows\system32\tscon.exe [session number to be stolen], an adversary can hijack a session without the need for credentials or prompts to the user.[2] This can be done remotely or locally and with active or disconnected sessions.[3] It can also lead to Remote System Discovery and Privilege Escalation by stealing a Domain Admin or higher privileged account session. All of this can be done by using native Windows commands, but it has also been added as a feature in red teaming tools.[4]

ID: T1563.002
Sub-technique of:  T1563
Platforms: Windows
Version: 1.1
Created: 25 February 2020
Last Modified: 14 August 2023

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
G0001 Axiom

Axiom has targeted victims with remote administration tools including RDP.[5]

S0366 WannaCry

WannaCry enumerates current remote desktop sessions and tries to execute the malware on each session.[6]


ID Mitigation Description
M1047 Audit

Audit the Remote Desktop Users group membership regularly. Remove unnecessary accounts and groups from Remote Desktop Users groups.

M1042 Disable or Remove Feature or Program

Disable the RDP service if it is unnecessary.

M1035 Limit Access to Resource Over Network

Use remote desktop gateways.

M1030 Network Segmentation

Enable firewall rules to block RDP traffic between network security zones within a network.

M1028 Operating System Configuration

Change GPOs to define shorter timeouts sessions and maximum amount of time any single session can be active. Change GPOs to specify the maximum amount of time that a disconnected session stays active on the RD session host server.[7]

M1026 Privileged Account Management

Consider removing the local Administrators group from the list of groups allowed to log in through RDP.

M1018 User Account Management

Limit remote user permissions if remote access is necessary.


ID Data Source Data Component Detects
DS0017 Command Command Execution

monitor service creation that uses cmd.exe /k or cmd.exe /c in its arguments to detect RDP session hijacking. Windows PowerShell log Event ID 4104 (PS script execution) can be used to capture PowerShell script block contents which may contain commands used as a precursor to RDP hijacking. For example, the following command in a PowerShell script block may be used to enumerate the systems on a network which have RDP access: Find-DomainLocalGroupMember -GroupName "Remote Desktop Users" | select -expand ComputerName.

DS0028 Logon Session Logon Session Creation

Use of RDP may be legitimate, depending on the network environment and how it is used. Other factors, such as access patterns and activity that occurs after a remote login, may indicate suspicious or malicious behavior with RDP. Windows security log Event ID 4624 (An account was successfully logged on) is generated when a user logs onto a remote machine using RDP.

Correlating logon session creation events with RDP network flows can provide a clearer picture of RDP activity and serve as a useful starting point for investigating suspicious RDP connections.

DS0029 Network Traffic Network Traffic Content

Monitor and analyze traffic patterns and packet inspection associated to protocol(s) that do not follow the expected protocol standards and traffic flows (e.g extraneous packets that do not belong to established flows, gratuitous or anomalous traffic patterns, anomalous syntax, or structure). Consider correlation with process monitoring and command line to detect anomalous processes execution and command line arguments associated to traffic patterns (e.g. monitor anomalies in use of files that do not normally initiate connections for respective protocol(s)). Network Analysis frameworks such as Zeek can be used to capture, decode, and alert on network protocols including RDP.

Network Traffic Flow

Monitor network data for uncommon data flows. Processes utilizing the network that do not normally have network communication or have never been seen before are suspicious. RDP sessions may be split up into multiple flows and would therefore need to be aggregated.

Anomaly detection using machine learning or other methods based on baselined RDP network flows may be a viable approach to alerting on potential RDP session hijacking.

DS0009 Process Process Creation

Consider monitoring processes for tscon.exe usage. Using tscon.exe to hijack an RDP session requires SYSTEM level permissions. Therefore, we recommend also looking for Privilege Escalation techniques that may be used for this purpose in conjunction with RDP Session Hijacking.

In addition to tscon.exe, mstsc.exe can similarly be used to hijack existing RDP sessions. In this case, we recommend looking for the command-line parameters of /noconsentPrompt and /shadow:, which allow for stealthy hijacking of an RDP session with no prompt and without kicking off the existing session.