Remote Desktop Protocol

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Remote Desktop Protocol
Technique
ID T1076
Tactic Lateral Movement
Platform Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Vista, Windows 8.1
System Requirements RDP service enabled, account in the Remote Desktop Users group.
Permissions Required User, Remote Desktop Users
Data Sources Authentication logs, Netflow/Enclave netflow, Process monitoring
CAPEC ID CAPEC-555

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 There are other implementations and third-party tools that provide graphical access Remote Services similar to RDS.

Adversaries may connect to a remote system over RDP/RDS to expand access if the service is enabled and allows access to accounts with known credentials. Adversaries will likely use Credential Access techniques to acquire credentials to use with RDP. Adversaries may also use RDP in conjunction with the Accessibility Features technique for Persistence.2

Examples

  • The Axiom group is known to have used RDP during operations.3
  • The APT1 group is known to have used RDP during operations.4
  • Lazarus Group malware SierraCharlie uses RDP for propagation.5
  • FIN6 used RDP to move laterally in victim networks.6
  • Patchwork attempted to use RDP to move laterally.7

Mitigation

Disable the RDP service if it is unnecessary, remove unnecessary accounts and groups from Remote Desktop Users groups, and enable firewall rules to block RDP traffic between network security zones. Audit the Remote Desktop Users group membership regularly. Remove the local Administrators group from the list of groups allowed to log in through RDP. Limit remote user permissions if remote access is necessary. Use remote desktop gateways and multifactor authentication for remote logins.8

Detection

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. Monitor for user accounts logged into systems they would not normally access or access patterns to multiple systems over a relatively short period of time.