|Tactic||Defense Evasion, Initial Access, Persistence, Privilege Escalation|
|Platform||Linux, Windows, macOS|
|Permissions Required||User, Administrator|
|Effective Permissions||User, Administrator|
|Data Sources||Authentication logs, Process monitoring|
|Defense Bypassed||Anti-virus, Firewall, Host intrusion prevention systems, Network intrusion detection system, Process whitelisting, System access controls|
Adversaries may steal the credentials of a specific user or service account using Credential Access techniques or capture credentials earlier in their reconnaissance process through social engineering for means of gaining Initial Access.
Compromised credentials may be used to bypass access controls placed on various resources on systems within the network and may even be used for persistent access to remote systems and externally available services, such as VPNs, Outlook Web Access and remote desktop. Compromised credentials may also grant an adversary increased privilege to specific systems or access to restricted areas of the network. Adversaries may choose not to use malware or tools in conjunction with the legitimate access those credentials provide to make it harder to detect their presence.
Adversaries may also create accounts, sometimes using pre-defined account names and passwords, as a means for persistence through backup access in case other means are unsuccessful.
The overlap of credentials and permissions across a network of systems is of concern because the adversary may be able to pivot across accounts and systems to reach a high level of access (i.e., domain or enterprise administrator) to bypass access controls set within the enterprise.1
- APT18 actors leverage legitimate credentials to log into external remote services.2
- APT28 has used legitimate credentials to maintain access to a victim network and exfiltrate data.3
- APT3 leverages valid accounts after gaining credentials for use within the victim domain.4
- APT32 has used legitimate local admin account credentials.5
- APT33 has used valid accounts for privilege escalation.6
- APT34 has used valid administrator credentials to assist in lateral movement.7
- Carbanak actors used legitimate credentials of banking employees to perform operations that sent them millions of dollars.8
- FIN10 has used stolen credentials to connect remotely to victim networks using VPNs protected with only a single factor. The group has also moved laterally using the Local Administrator account.9
- FIN5 has used legitimate VPN, RDP, Citrix, or VNC credentials to maintain access to a victim environment.101112
- To move laterally on a victim network, FIN6 has used credentials stolen from various systems on which it gathered usernames and password hashes.13
- FIN8 has utilized Valid Accounts during Persistence and Lateral Movement.14
- Leviathan has used valid, compromised email accounts for defense evasion, including to send malicious emails to other victim organizations.15
- OilRig has used compromised credentials to access other systems on a victim network.16
- PittyTiger attempts to obtain legitimate credentials during operations.17
- Suckfly used legitimate account credentials that they dumped to navigate the internal victim network as though they were the legitimate account owner.18
- Threat Group-1314 actors used compromised credentials for the victim's endpoint management platform, Altiris, to move laterally.19
- Threat Group-3390 actors obtain legitimate credentials using a variety of methods and use them to further lateral movement on victim networks.20
- Threat Group-3390 has used OWA account credentials to attempt to regain access to a victim network after eviction.21
- menuPass has used valid accounts shared between Managed Service Providers and clients to move between the two environments.22
- Cobalt Strike can use known credentials to run commands and spawn processes as another user.23
- Adversaries can instruct Duqu to spread laterally by copying itself to shares it has enumerated and for which it has obtained legitimate credentials (via keylogging or other means). The remote host is then infected by using the compromised credentials to schedule a task on remote machines that executes the malware.24
- Some SeaDuke samples have a module to extract email from Microsoft Exchange servers using compromised credentials.25
- If Shamoon cannot access shares using current privileges, it attempts access using hard coded, domain-specific credentials gathered earlier in the intrusion.26
- Umbreon Umbreon creates valid users to provide access to the system. 27
Take measures to detect or prevent techniques such as Credential Dumping or installation of keyloggers to acquire credentials through Input Capture. Limit credential overlap across systems to prevent access if account credentials 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 and use of accounts is segmented, 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.28. Audit domain and local accounts as well as their permission levels routinely to look for situations that could allow an adversary to gain wide access by obtaining credentials of a privileged account.129
Configure robust, consistent account activity audit policies across the enterprise and with externally accessible services.30 Look for suspicious account behavior across systems that share accounts, either user, admin, or service accounts. Examples: one account logged into multiple systems simultaneously; multiple accounts logged into the same machine simultaneously; accounts logged in at odd times or outside of business hours. Activity may be from interactive login sessions or process ownership from accounts being used to execute binaries on a remote system as a particular account. Correlate other security systems with login information (e.g., a user has an active login session but has not entered the building or does not have VPN access).
Perform regular audits of domain and local system accounts to detect accounts that may have been created by an adversary for persistence.
- Microsoft. (2016, April 15). Attractive Accounts for Credential Theft. Retrieved June 3, 2016.
- Adair, S. (2017, February 17). Detecting and Responding to Advanced Threats within Exchange Environments. Retrieved March 20, 2017.
- Hacquebord, F.. (2017, April 25). Two Years of Pawn Storm: Examining an Increasingly Relevant Threat. Retrieved May 3, 2017.
- Symantec Security Response. (2016, September 6). Buckeye cyberespionage group shifts gaze from US to Hong Kong. Retrieved September 26, 2016.
- Carr, N.. (2017, May 14). Cyber Espionage is Alive and Well: APT32 and the Threat to Global Corporations. Retrieved June 18, 2017.
- Davis, S. and Carr, N. (2017, September 21). APT33: New Insights into Iranian Cyber Espionage Group. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
- Davis, S. and Caban, D. (2017, December 19). APT34 - New Targeted Attack in the Middle East. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
- Kaspersky Lab's Global Research and Analysis Team. (2015, February). CARBANAK APT THE GREAT BANK ROBBERY. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
- FireEye iSIGHT Intelligence. (2017, June 16). FIN10: Anatomy of a Cyber Extortion Operation. Retrieved June 25, 2017.
- Scavella, T. and Rifki, A. (2017, July 20). Are you Ready to Respond? (Webinar). Retrieved October 4, 2017.
- Higgins, K. (2015, October 13). Prolific Cybercrime Gang Favors Legit Login Credentials. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
- Bromiley, M. and Lewis, P. (2016, October 7). Attacking the Hospitality and Gaming Industries: Tracking an Attacker Around the World in 7 Years. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
- FireEye Threat Intelligence. (2016, April). Follow the Money: Dissecting the Operations of the Cyber Crime Group FIN6. Retrieved June 1, 2016.
- Elovitz, S. & Ahl, I. (2016, August 18). Know Your Enemy: New Financially-Motivated & Spear-Phishing Group. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
- Axel F, Pierre T. (2017, October 16). Leviathan: Espionage actor spearphishes maritime and defense targets. Retrieved February 15, 2018.
- Unit 42. (2017, December 15). Unit 42 Playbook Viewer - OilRig. Retrieved December 20, 2017.
- Bizeul, D., Fontarensky, I., Mouchoux, R., Perigaud, F., Pernet, C. (2014, July 11). Eye of the Tiger. Retrieved September 29, 2015.
- DiMaggio, J.. (2016, May 17). Indian organizations targeted in Suckfly attacks. Retrieved August 3, 2016.
- Dell SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit Special Operations Team. (2015, May 28). Living off the Land. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
- Dell SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit Threat Intelligence. (2015, August 5). Threat Group-3390 Targets Organizations for Cyberespionage. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
- Counter Threat Unit Research Team. (2017, June 27). BRONZE UNION Cyberespionage Persists Despite Disclosures. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
- PwC and BAE Systems. (2017, April). Operation Cloud Hopper. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
- Strategic Cyber LLC. (2017, March 14). Cobalt Strike Manual. Retrieved May 24, 2017.
- Symantec Security Response. (2011, November). W32.Duqu: The precursor to the next Stuxnet. Retrieved September 17, 2015.
- Symantec Security Response. (2015, July 13). “Forkmeiamfamous”: Seaduke, latest weapon in the Duke armory. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- FireEye. (2016, November 30). FireEye Responds to Wave of Destructive Cyber Attacks in Gulf Region. Retrieved January 11, 2017.
- Fernando Mercês. (2016, September 5). Pokémon-themed Umbreon Linux Rootkit Hits x86, ARM Systems. Retrieved March 5, 2018.
- Plett, C., Poggemeyer, L. (12, October 26). Securing Privileged Access Reference Material. Retrieved April 25, 2017.
- Microsoft. (2016, April 16). Implementing Least-Privilege Administrative Models. Retrieved June 3, 2016.
- Microsoft. (2016, April 15). Audit Policy Recommendations. Retrieved June 3, 2016.