Credentials in Files

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Credentials in Files
Technique
ID T1081
Tactic Credential Access
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 Access to files
Permissions Required User, Administrator, SYSTEM
Data Sources File monitoring, Process command-line parameters
CAPEC ID CAPEC-545

Adversaries may search local file systems and remote file shares for files containing passwords. These can be files created by users to store their own credentials, shared credential stores for a group of individuals, configuration files containing passwords for a system or service, or source code/binary files containing embedded passwords.

It is possible to extract passwords from backups or saved virtual machines through Credential Dumping.1 Passwords may also be obtained from Group Policy Preferences stored on the Windows Domain Controller.2

Examples

  • If an initial connectivity check fails, pngdowner attempts to extract proxy details and credentials from Windows Protected Storage and from the IE Credentials Store. This allows the adversary to use the proxy credentials for subsequent requests if they enable outbound HTTP access.3
  • BlackEnergy has used a plug-in to gather credentials stored in files on the host by various software programs, including The Bat! email client, Mozilla password manager, Google Chrome password manager, Outlook, Internet Explorer, and Windows Credential Store.45
  • A module in Prikormka gathers logins and passwords stored in applications on the victims, including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and several other browsers.6
  • XTunnel is capable of accessing locally stored passwords on victims.7

Mitigation

Establish an organizational policy that prohibits password storage in files. Ensure that developers and system administrators are aware of the risk associated with having plaintext passwords in software configuration files that may be left on endpoint systems or servers. Preemptively search for files containing passwords and remove when found. Restrict file shares to specific directories with access only to necessary users. Remove vulnerable Group Policy Preferences.8

Detection

While detecting adversaries accessing these files may be difficult without knowing they exist in the first place, it may be possible to detect adversary use of credentials they have obtained. Monitor the command-line arguments of executing processes for suspicious words or regular expressions that may indicate searching for a password (for example: password, pwd, login, secure, or credentials). See Legitimate Credentials for more information.