Credential Dumping

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Credential Dumping
ID T1003
Tactic Credential Access
Platform Windows
Permissions Required Administrator, SYSTEM
Data Sources API monitoring, Process command-line parameters, Process monitoring, PowerShell logs
Contributors Vincent Le Toux, Ed Williams, Trustwave, SpiderLabs

Credential dumping is the process of obtaining account login and password information, normally in the form of a hash or a clear text password, from the operating system and software. Credentials can then be used to perform Lateral Movement and access restricted information.

Several of the tools mentioned in this technique may be used by both adversaries and professional security testers. Additional custom tools likely exist as well.

SAM (Security Accounts Manager)

The SAM is a database file that contains local accounts for the host, typically those found with the ‘net user’ command. To enumerate the SAM database, system level access is required.   A number of tools can be used to retrieve the SAM file through in-memory techniques:

Alternatively, the SAM can be extracted from the Registry with Reg:

  • reg save HKLM\sam sam
  • reg save HKLM\system system

Creddump7 can then be used to process the SAM database locally to retrieve hashes.1

Notes: Rid 500 account is the local, in-built administrator. Rid 501 is the guest account. User accounts start with a RID of 1,000+.

Cached Credentials

The DCC2 (Domain Cached Credentials version 2) hash, used by Windows Vista and newer caches credentials when the domain controller is unavailable. The number of default cached credentials varies, and this number can be altered per system. This hash does not allow pass-the-hash style attacks.   A number of tools can be used to retrieve the SAM file through in-memory techniques.

Alternatively, reg.exe can be used to extract from the Registry and Creddump7 used to gather the credentials.

Notes: Cached credentials for Windows Vista are derived using PBKDF2.

Local Security Authority (LSA) Secrets

With SYSTEM access to a host, the LSA secrets often allows trivial access from a local account to domain-based account credentials. The Registry is used to store the LSA secrets.   When services are run under the context of local or domain users, their passwords are stored in the Registry. If auto-logon is enabled, this information will be stored in the Registry as well.   A number of tools can be used to retrieve the SAM file through in-memory techniques.

Alternatively, reg.exe can be used to extract from the Registry and Creddump7 used to gather the credentials.

Notes: The passwords extracted by his mechanism are UTF-16 encoded, which means that they are returned in plaintext. Windows 10 adds protections for LSA Secrets described in Mitigation.

NTDS from Domain Controller

Active Directory stores information about members of the domain including devices and users to verify credentials and define access rights. The Active Directory domain database is stored in the NTDS.dit file. By default the NTDS file will be located in %SystemRoot%\NTDS\Ntds.dit of a domain controller.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
  • Using the in-built Windows tool, ntdsutil.exe
  • Invoke-NinjaCopy

Group Policy Preference (GPP) Files

Group Policy Preferences (GPP) are tools that allowed administrators to create domain policies with embedded credentials. These policies, amongst other things, allow administrators to set local accounts.   These group policies are stored in SYSVOL on a domain controller, this means that any domain user can view the SYSVOL share and decrypt the password (the AES private key was leaked on-line.34   The following tools and scripts can be used to gather and decrypt the password file from Group Policy Preference XML files:  

  • Metasploit’s post exploitation module: "post/windows/gather/credentials/gpp"
  • Get-GPPPassword5

  Notes: On the SYSVOL share, the following can be used to enumerate potential XML files. dir /s *.xml

Service Principle Names (SPNs)

See Kerberoasting.

Plaintext Credentials

After a user logs on to a system, a variety of credentials are generated and stored in the Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS) process in memory. These credentials can be harvested by a administrative user or SYSTEM.   SSPI (Security Support Provider Interface) functions as a common interface to several Security Support Providers (SSPs): A Security Support Provider is a dynamic-link library (DLL) that makes one or more security packages available to applications.

The following SSPs can be used to access credentials:   Msv: Interactive logons, batch logons, and service logons are done through the MSV authentication package. Wdigest: The Digest Authentication protocol is designed for use with Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and Simple Authentication Security Layer (SASL) exchanges.6 Kerberos: Preferred for mutual client-server domain authentication in Windows 2000 and later. CredSSP:  Provides SSO and Network Level Authentication for Remote Desktop Services.7   The following tools can be used to enumerate credentials:  

  As well as in-memory techniques, the LSASS process memory can be dumped from the target host and analyzed on a local system.   For example, on the target host use procdump:

  • procdump -ma lsass.exe lsass_dump

  Locally, mimikatz can be run:

  • sekurlsa::Minidump lsassdump.dmp
  • sekurlsa::logonPasswords


DCSync is a variation on credential dumping which can be used to acquire sensitive information from a domain controller. Rather than executing recognizable malicious code, the action works by abusing the domain controller's application programming interface (API)891011 to simulate the replication process from a remote domain controller. Any members of the Administrators, Domain Admins, Enterprise Admin groups or computer accounts on the domain controller are able to run DCSync to pull password data 12 from Active Directory, which may include current and historical hashes of potentially useful accounts such as KRBTGT and Administrators. The hashes can then in turn be used to create a Golden Ticket for use in Pass the Ticket13 or change an account's password as noted in Account Manipulation.14 DCSync functionality has been included in the "lsadump" module in Mimikatz.15 Lsadump also includes NetSync, which performs DCSync over a legacy replication protocol.16


  • APT1 has been known to use credential dumping.17
  • APT28 regularly deploys both publicly available and custom password retrieval tools on victims.18
  • APT3 has used a tool to dump credentials by injecting itself into lsass.exe and triggering with the argument "dig." The group has also used a tools to dump passwords from browsers.19
  • APT34 has dumped credentials from victims in several ways, including by using open source tools Mimikatz and Lazagne, or by harvesting credentials when users log into Outlook Web Access.20
  • APT37 has used a credential stealer known as ZUMKONG that can harvest usernames and passwords stored in browsers.21
  • Axiom has been known to dump credentials.22
  • BRONZE BUTLER has used various tools to perform credential dumping.23
  • Cleaver has been known to dump credentials.24
  • Dragonfly dropped and executed SecretsDump, a tool that dumps password hashes.2526
  • FIN5 has dumped credentials from victims.27 Specifically, the group has used the tool GET5 Penetrator to look for remote login and hard-coded credentials.28
  • FIN6 has used Windows Credential Editor for credential dumping, as well as Metasploit’s PsExec NTDSGRAB module to obtain a copy of the victim's Active Directory database.29
  • FIN8 harvests credentials using Invoke-Mimikatz or Windows Credentials Editor (WCE).30
  • Ke3chang dumps credentials.31
  • Molerats used the public tool BrowserPasswordDump10 to dump passwords saved in browsers on victims.32
  • MuddyWater has performed credential dumping with Mimikatz and Lazagne.33
  • OilRig has used credential dumping tools to steal credentials to accounts logged into the compromised system.34
  • PLATINUM has used keyloggers that are also capable of dumping credentials.35
  • Patchwork dumped the login data database from \AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Login Data.36
  • Poseidon Group conducts credential dumping on victims, with a focus on obtaining credentials belonging to domain and database servers.37
  • Sowbug has used credential dumping tools.38
  • Stealth Falcon malware gathers passwords from multiple sources, including Windows Credential Vault, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Outlook.39
  • Strider has registered its persistence module on domain controllers as a Windows LSA (Local System Authority) password filter to dump credentials any time a domain, local user, or administrator logs in or changes a password.40
  • Suckfly used a signed credential-dumping tool to obtain victim account credentials.41
  • Threat Group-3390 actors have used gsecdump and a modified version of Mimikatz called Wrapikatz to dump credentials. They have also dumped credentials from domain controllers.4243
  • menuPass has used a modified version of pentesting tools wmiexec.vbs and to dump credentials.4445
  • Some Backdoor.Oldrea samples contain a publicly available Web browser password recovery tool.46
  • Cachedump can extract cached password hashes from a system’s registry.17
  • ChChes steals credentials stored inside Internet Explorer.44
  • Cobalt Strike can recover hashed passwords.47
  • CosmicDuke collects user credentials, including passwords, for various programs and browsers, including popular instant messaging applications, Web browsers, and email clients. Windows account hashes, domain accounts, and LSA secrets are also collected, as are WLAN keys.48
  • Password stealer and NTLM stealer modules in CozyCar harvest stored credentials from the victim, including credentials used as part of Windows NTLM user authentication. CozyCar has also executed Mimikatz for further victim penetration.49
  • Crimson contains a module to steal credentials from Web browsers on the victim machine.50
  • Fgdump can dump Windows password hashes.17
  • H1N1 dumps usernames and passwords from Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Outlook.51
  • HOMEFRY can perform credential dumping.52
  • Lslsass can dump active logon session password hashes from the lsass process.17
  • Matroyshka is capable of stealing Outlook passwords.5354
  • MimiPenguin can dump process memory and extract clear-text credentials.55
  • Mimikatz performs credential dumping to obtain account and password information useful in gaining access to additional systems and enterprise network resources. It contains functionality to acquire information about credentials in many ways, including from the LSA, SAM table, credential vault, DCSync/NetSync, and DPAPI.561557
  • Mivast has the capability to gather NTLM password information.58
  • Net Crawler uses credential dumpers such as Mimikatz and Windows Credential Editor to extract cached credentials from Windows systems.24
  • OLDBAIT collects credentials from Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Eudora, and several email clients.59
  • OnionDuke steals credentials from its victims.48
  • PinchDuke steals credentials from compromised hosts. PinchDuke's credential stealing functionality is believed to be based on the source code of the Pinch credential stealing malware (also known as LdPinch). Credentials targeted by PinchDuke include ones associated with The Bat!, Yahoo!,, Passport.Net, Google Talk, Netscape Navigator, Mozilla Firefox, Mozilla Thunderbird, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Outlook, WinInet Credential Cache, and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP).48
  • PowerSploit contains a collection of Exfiltration modules that can harvest credentials from Group Policy Preferences, Windows vault credential objects, or using Mimikatz.6061
  • A module in Prikormka collects passwords stored in applications installed on the victim.62
  • Pupy executes Mimikatz using PowerShell and can also perform pass-the-ticket and use Lazagne for harvesting credentials.63
  • Remsec can dump the SAM database.64
  • Trojan.Karagany can dump passwords and save them into \ProgramData\Mail\MailAg\pwds.txt.46
  • Unknown Logger is capable of stealing usernames and passwords from browsers on the victim machine.65
  • ... further results


Monitor/harden access to LSASS and SAM table with tools that allow process whitelisting. Limit credential overlap across systems to prevent lateral movement opportunities using Valid Accounts if passwords and hashes are obtained. Ensure that local administrator accounts have complex, unique passwords across all systems on the network. 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.66

On Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2, enable Protected Process Light for LSA.67

Identify and block potentially malicious software that may be used to dump credentials by using whitelisting68 tools, like AppLocker,6970 or Software Restriction Policies71 where appropriate.72

With Windows 10, Microsoft implemented new protections called Credential Guard to protect the LSA secrets that can be used to obtain credentials through forms of credential dumping. It is not configured by default and has hardware and firmware system requirements.73 It also does not protect against all forms of credential dumping.74

Manage the access control list for “Replicating Directory Changes” and other permissions associated with domain controller replication.7576

Consider disabling or restricting NTLM traffic.77


Common credential dumpers such as Mimikatz access the LSA Subsystem Service (LSASS) process by opening the process, locating the LSA secrets key, and decrypting the sections in memory where credential details are stored. Credential dumpers may also use methods for reflective Process Injection to reduce potential indicators of malicious activity.

Hash dumpers open the Security Accounts Manager (SAM) on the local file system (%SystemRoot%/system32/config/SAM) or create a dump of the Registry SAM key to access stored account password hashes. Some hash dumpers will open the local file system as a device and parse to the SAM table to avoid file access defenses. Others will make an in-memory copy of the SAM table before reading hashes. Detection of compromised Valid Accounts in-use by adversaries may help as well.

On Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2, monitor Windows Logs for LSASS.exe creation to verify that LSASS started as a protected process.

Monitor processes and command-line arguments for program execution that may be indicative of credential dumping. Remote access tools may contain built-in features or incorporate existing tools like Mimikatz. PowerShell scripts also exist that contain credential dumping functionality, such as PowerSploit's Invoke-Mimikatz module,78 which may require additional logging features to be configured in the operating system to collect necessary information for analysis.

Monitor domain controller logs for replication requests and other unscheduled activity possibly associated with DCSync.8910 Note: Domain controllers may not log replication requests originating from the default domain controller account.79. Also monitor for network protocols 816 and other replication requests80 from IPs not associated with known domain controllers.75


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