Exploitation of Vulnerability

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Exploitation of Vulnerability
ID T1068
Tactic Credential Access, Defense Evasion, Lateral Movement, Privilege Escalation
Platform Linux, macOS, Windows
System Requirements Unpatched software or otherwise vulnerable target. Depending on the target and goal, the system and exploitable service may need to be remotely accessible from the internal network. In the case of privilege escalation, the adversary likely already has user permissions on the target system.
Permissions Required User, Administrator, SYSTEM
Effective Permissions User, Administrator, SYSTEM
Data Sources Windows Error Reporting, File monitoring, Process monitoring
Defense Bypassed Anti-virus, System access controls
Contributors John Lambert, Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center

Exploitation of a software vulnerability occurs when an adversary takes advantage of a programming error in a program, service, or within the operating system software or kernel itself to execute adversary-controlled code. Exploiting software vulnerabilities may allow adversaries to run a command or binary on a remote system for lateral movement, escalate a current process to a higher privilege level, or bypass security mechanisms. Exploits may also allow an adversary access to privileged accounts and credentials. One example of this is MS14-068, which can be used to forge Kerberos tickets using domain user permissions.12


  • APT28 has used CVE-2014-4076, CVE-2015-2387, and CVE-2015-1701 to escalate privileges, as well as CVE-2015-4902 to bypass security features.34
  • APT28 exploited a Windows SMB Remote Code Execution Vulnerability to conduct lateral movement.56
  • APT32 has used CVE-2016-7255 to escalate privileges.7
  • FIN6 has used tools to exploit Windows vulnerabilities in order to escalate privileges. The tools targeted CVE-2013-3660, CVE-2011-2005, and CVE-2010-4398, all of which could allow local users to access kernel-level privileges.8
  • Threat Group-3390 has used CVE-2014-6324 to escalate privileges.9
  • Cobalt Strike can exploit vulnerabilities such as MS14-058.10
  • CosmicDuke attempts to exploit privilege escalation vulnerabilities CVE-2010-0232 or CVE-2010-4398.11
  • Flame can use MS10-061 to exploit a print spooler vulnerability in a remote system with a shared printer in order to move laterally.12
  • JHUHUGIT has exploited CVE-2015-1701 and CVE-2015-2387 to escalate privileges.1314
  • Remsec has a plugin to drop and execute vulnerable Outpost Sandbox or avast! Virtualization drivers in order to gain kernel mode privileges.15
  • Wingbird exploits CVE-2016-4117 to allow an executable to gain escalated privileges.16


Update software regularly by employing patch management for internal enterprise endpoints and servers. Develop a robust cyber threat intelligence capability to determine what types and levels of threat may use software exploits and 0-days against a particular organization. Make it difficult for adversaries to advance their operation through exploitation of undiscovered or unpatched vulnerabilities by using sandboxing, virtualization, and exploit prevention tools such as the Microsoft Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit.17


Software exploits may not always succeed or may cause the exploited process to become unstable or crash. Software and operating system crash reports may contain useful contextual information about attempted exploits that correlate with other malicious activity. Exploited processes may exhibit behavior that is unusual for the specific process, such as spawning additional processes or reading and writing to files.