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Defending Against Pass the Hash Attacks

By Tom Seest

What Are Pass the Hash Prevention Strategies In Cybersecurity?

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Pass the hash attacks are a type of lateral movement attack involving stolen password hashes. We’ll explore what this threat entails and how you can minimize its potential harm in this article.
Cyberattacks like pass the hash are continually adapting, which means cybersecurity measures may never completely protect businesses against them; however, they can reduce the risk of attackers exploiting your business and exploiting its assets.

What Are Pass the Hash Prevention Strategies In Cybersecurity?

What Are Pass the Hash Prevention Strategies In Cybersecurity?

Can You Protect Your Passwords From Hackers With Hashing?

Hashing is a form of security used to transform data, from passwords and encrypted files, into something that cannot be reversed or decoded – such as an opaque string of characters that cannot be reversed by hackers even if they get hold of your username and password. Hashing makes your private information nearly inaccessible even if someone gains access.
Hashing works by taking any input data and producing an output with specific size and shape characteristics. You can use any kind of input as the source material before running it through a hash function; this produces a fixed-size piece of data unique for every single input. Once this happens, you can compare both sets of results against one another to determine if they match or not.
If the results match, then you are safe to continue using the service or file. If they do not, then either change your password or use another means of gaining entry; this is how secure data, like passwords and keys are stored online.
Hackers frequently exploit authentication processes in operating systems to obtain password hashes without having to break them, which is why it’s crucial that users keep up-to-date on operating system updates, only allow approved applications onto computers, and install anti-malware software.
Although cybersecurity measures will never be 100% effective, you can reduce the risk of pass the hash attacks with mitigation techniques such as these and others. Furthermore, User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) tools on networked endpoints should be used to detect any signs of Mimikatz, Empire or Night Dragon malware which facilitate pass the hash attacks.
Pass the hash attacks occur when hackers take advantage of password hashes stolen from compromised computers to create authenticated sessions on another network. From there they gain access to resources on that network and can cause further damage. You can protect against this attack by making sure all computers use only approved applications with secure passwords for each user and updating all their operating systems to the most recent version available.

Can You Protect Your Passwords From Hackers With Hashing?

Can You Protect Your Passwords From Hackers With Hashing?

Are Your Passwords Really Safe With Password Hashing?

Password hashes are one-way mathematical functions that use cryptographic calculations to transform clear text passwords into data that cannot be changed back. They serve to authenticate your identity while acting as an important security feature by preventing passwords from being stored as plain text – something which would make them much more vulnerable during a data breach attack.
Password hashes are used in single sign-on (SSO) systems to allow users to log into one system and automatically access multiple applications, servers, and systems across the network without having to enter their passwords again and again. But hackers have found ways to bypass password hashing protection and gain unauthorized access by exploiting user credentials to execute what’s known as a pass the hash attack.
Few are unaware of the significance of password security; however, few understand how attackers gain unauthorized access to information they need via computer hacking attacks. Since many cybersecurity solutions cannot distinguish between an actual user and one pretending to be real user masquerading as legitimate, understanding attack techniques like pass the hash attacks used by cybercriminals and how best to defend against them is crucial for protection.
The Pass the Hash Attack is an innovative lateral movement attack that exploits vulnerabilities in NTLM authentication protocols on Windows systems. While NTLM authentication protocols have long been known for being vulnerable, attackers have found ways to take advantage of it and expand their access in compromised environments using this technique – moving from being just an average user account up to full administrators with domain- and super-admin rights on compromised networks.
To prevent this, it’s essential that your password hashing solution is configured appropriately – for instance, by salting hashes and employing cryptographic functions that make it hard for attackers to create pre-computed tables of hashes that compare against yours. Furthermore, a strong password policy should be implemented, with at least 15 characters containing uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols as minimum requirements for password creation.

Are Your Passwords Really Safe With Password Hashing?

Are Your Passwords Really Safe With Password Hashing?

Are Your Passwords Safe From Pass the Hash Attacks?

Pass the hash attacks are cyberattacks that exploit password hashes to gain entry to computers or networks. While these types of attacks can have devastating repercussions for businesses and their customers, there are steps businesses and employees can take to reduce risk from such cyberattacks.
Pass the hash attacks occur when an attacker steals hashed versions of user passwords in order to create new accounts on networks and gain access to additional accounts and systems within an organization – often as part of larger lateral movement attacks.
Password hashes are created through an unreversible one-way process that converts passwords into ciphertext that cannot be reversed or decoded to reveal their original state, making them ideal for Single Sign-On (SSO). Hash attacks can pose particular risk to organizations using Microsoft NTLM authentication protocol as it’s vulnerable to such exploits.
An attacker can obtain password hashes using any number of hacking tools, such as fgdump and pwdump7, among many others. Once they possess hashes, they can then upload them into the Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS) in order to gain entry to computer systems.
An attacker typically gains initial access to the network using social engineering techniques such as phishing. A cybercriminal will use psychological manipulation such as fear or greed to get someone else to divulge personal data or download malicious software, then they use various tools to scrape active memory for data that will lead them directly to hashes.
Once an attacker obtains hashes, they can use these passwords to gain entry to any accounts with SSO passwords using those hashes and gain administrative privileges within an organization – giving access to more powerful systems like customer databases or email servers.
To guard against pass-the-hash attacks, organizations should closely monitor their networks for suspicious activity. This can be achieved by closely observing Windows event logs, EDR logs, Kerberos logs, and Active Directory information – QOMPLX’s technology provides organizations with an easy way of ingestion, parsing, and analyzing this data at scale, helping organizations pinpoint which network resources were accessed or credentials were stolen by threats actors.

Are Your Passwords Safe From Pass the Hash Attacks?

Are Your Passwords Safe From Pass the Hash Attacks?

Are Your Credentials At Risk From Lateral Movement Attacks?

Cybercriminals employ lateral movement attacks as a strategy to gain unauthorized entry to systems and networks within an organization and gain control of more valuable assets. Once inside, attackers utilize various methods to expand their access and take control of additional systems and assets.
Reconnaissance is the first stage of any lateral movement attack, where attackers gather crucial intelligence about their targets. This information includes understanding an organization’s infrastructure such as which network segment they belong to, host naming conventions and configuration details – this helps attackers plan more strategically during subsequent phases.
After gaining initial access through password hash theft, cybercriminals use tools to gather more password hashes from a compromised system and use these hashes for login and gain unauthorized access to other computers on the network using pass the hash (PTH), taking advantage of weaknesses in single sign-on protocol (NTLM). PTH attacks use stolen hashes from one compromised machine to jump between machines on that network while circumventing security controls.
Once an attacker gains access to one machine, they can leverage its privileges to gain entry to other networks on which critical business data resides, such as servers. This is often employed during ransomware attacks as it gives attackers leverage against victims when demanding payment from them.
Organizations looking to detect pass the hash attacks must carefully monitor internal networks for anomalous behavior. They should track unregistered devices registering on the network, users logging in at odd hours or after hours and file-sharing access. Because attackers try to blend into networks during this stage, analyzing their behaviors can be challenging; security incident and event management (SIEM) solutions may generate too many alerts and get ignored by security teams.
As organizations wait longer to detect lateral movements, their damage increases exponentially and recovery becomes harder and harder. A 2019 report by One Identity revealed that 95% of victims experienced direct impacts to their business such as lost revenue or increased operational costs. To mitigate risks and prevent lateral movement from spreading further, restrict admin privileges to trusted systems without Internet access while also using two-factor authentication and password managers, which protect against phishing, brute force attacks, or other forms of attack methods.

Are Your Credentials At Risk From Lateral Movement Attacks?

Are Your Credentials At Risk From Lateral Movement Attacks?

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