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Cracking the Code: the Truth Behind Pass the Hash Attacks

By Tom Seest

What Is A Pass The Hash Attack?

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Pass the hash attacks are an advanced credential theft and lateral movement technique, enabling attackers to gain entry to sensitive systems and data without ever possessing their plaintext passwords.
Spotting these attacks requires an examination of Windows event logs, EDR logs, Kerberos logs and Active Directory information. Technology such as QOMPLX allows organizations to quickly ingest and interpret this data at scale.

What Is A Pass The Hash Attack?

What Is A Pass The Hash Attack?

Is Your Password Hashing Secure Enough?

Password hashing is an attack technique used by hackers to obtain user credentials and gain entry to other networks. In this QOMPLX Knowledge post, we’ll examine what password hash attacks are, their methods of operation, and ways to detect them.
Pass the hash attacks are a prevalent cyberthreat and one of the most lethal tools used by attackers to gain entry. Used against organizations, pass the hash attacks can steal sensitive data and compromise critical assets; leading to lost customer trust and revenue for organizations. Understanding their workings allows organizations to take measures against these attacks in order to effectively mitigate them.
Pass-the-hash attacks can be difficult to identify, but there are certain indicators that could point to such attacks taking place. These may include suspicious account activity, multiple failed login attempts, system crash reports, and/or suspicious system performance reports. It is also wise to implement user “least privilege” policies and two-factor authentication for all accounts in your organization.
Pass-the-hash attacks can also be detected when domain controllers are accessed outside the network, signaling that an attacker has gained local administrator credentials that allow access to critical systems like email servers and customer databases – leading to identity theft, financial loss, and regulatory fines as well as decreased productivity.
Even with various security measures in place, pass-the-hash attacks cannot be completely stopped. Because hackers take advantage of features and capabilities offered by NTLM protocol to gain remote access to computers. Organizations can reduce the impact of such attacks by implementing robust network protections and encouraging their users to choose complex passwords with strength.
Additionally, network administrators can monitor for suspicious activities associated with pass-the-hash attacks by employing security tools that correlate login and credential use events to detect anomalous behavior – this helps internal security teams prioritize high-value targets while providing clarity on which data has been compromised and how it was exfiltrated.

Is Your Password Hashing Secure Enough?

Is Your Password Hashing Secure Enough?

How Does Password Cracking Put Your Cybersecurity at Risk?

Password cracking is an increasingly popular tactic used by attackers to gain entry to compromised network resources. Leveraging weaknesses in NTLM protocol to capture password hashes stored in memory and use them to authenticate on other systems can enable attackers to move laterally within networks and even steal valuable assets. Such attacks are dangerous; their success could open doors into your organization that might otherwise remain closed off from outsiders.
Pass-the-hash attacks can be avoided through effective password policies and practices, including creating strong passwords with at least 12 characters long that contain uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, symbols, and two-factor authentication when possible. Password management tools also offer users help creating strong passwords and securely storing them away.
Though various cybersecurity measures may help prevent hash attacks, they cannot stop them entirely. Hackers continue to find innovative ways to access computers remotely; as a result, no single mitigation technique can guarantee 100% effectiveness; for this reason, it is critical that multiple mitigation strategies be deployed simultaneously.
Organizations should implement stringent password policies and monitor workstation and domain server logs for suspicious activity, particularly with respect to privileged account activities and login attempts. Logs provide valuable insight for security teams when looking for anomalous behavior; however, detecting it requires tools like QOMPLXs that correlate credential usage events to logs.
Pass-the-hash attacks are particularly hazardous to businesses, as they expose intellectual property and compromise sensitive data that could expose it. Such attacks also threaten financial losses, reputational harm, and legal liabilities for their victims. After an attack has taken place, it’s essential to understand how and what information was stolen; this can be achieved through analysis of Windows Event Logs, EDR logs, Kerberos logs, and Active Directory information. QOMPLX offers tools that ingest, parse, and analyze this data at scale to give an overall picture and pinpoint potential areas of exposure in your network.

How Does Password Cracking Put Your Cybersecurity at Risk?

How Does Password Cracking Put Your Cybersecurity at Risk?

Are Your Passwords Putting You at Risk?

Password reuse is a risk that increases the chance of data breaches and cybersecurity attacks, identity theft, ransomware, and ransomware infections. To reduce this risk, organizations should adopt multi-factor authentication and two-step verification while encouraging users to use unique passwords across systems instead of writing them down somewhere that’s visible to others.
Passwords provide effective security, but attackers have found ways to bypass them. One technique known as a pass-the-hash attack involves an attacker stealing the hashed credentials of users on a network and using them to fool it into creating an authenticated session without actually possessing their passwords. This enables access to other systems on that same network without actually possessing their actual passwords.
Attackers typically utilize pass-the-hash attacks as a lateral movement technique after gaining initial entry to a network. Tools like Mimikatz enable attackers to dump hashed credentials from compromised hosts in order to gain further access. They may eventually steal plaintext passwords for accounts, taking full control over compromised machines.
Passing the hash attacks can be difficult to identify and prevent. There are various strategies available to identify such attacks, such as reviewing workstation and network logs, monitoring unusual account activity, and resetting stolen credentials. Should an attack be identified, organizations must notify both their SOC and CIRT immediately.
Organizations should implement an incident response plan with procedures for recognizing and containing attacks, collecting evidence to support the prosecution of suspects, notifying victims, and recovering assets from attackers. Furthermore, regular security audits and assessments should be conducted to detect vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit to exploit any security gaps or vulnerabilities present within an organization.
As part of their incident response plan, businesses must have in place a backup and recovery process in the event of a pass the hash attack, including regular testing to make sure it works effectively. They should also implement a secure password policy and upgrade to more secure operating systems such as Windows Server 2022.

Are Your Passwords Putting You at Risk?

Are Your Passwords Putting You at Risk?

Are Your Passwords Protected? Tips for Better Password Management

Pass-the-hash attacks are designed to exploit vulnerabilities in how Windows stores user credentials. Attackers take advantage of stolen password hashes to move laterally within networks and bypass standard system access controls; attackers then leverage those hashed credentials for full system privileges on other systems. While typically targeted at Windows systems, this attack technique can also be employed against any OS or authentication protocol. In this QOMPLX Knowledge post, we will explore the techniques that attackers employ when conducting these attacks and how organizations can protect themselves from them.
First and foremost in protecting against pass-the-hash attacks is understanding their operation. For threat actors to conduct one, they must first gain entry to one or more systems within your environment through means such as phishing, exploiting public-facing IT assets, or malware infections on endpoints. Once this initial compromise has occurred, companies can either take measures such as immediately shutting off compromised accounts and taking systems offline in order to stop attackers or simply observe how they operate in their environment.
For organizations to protect themselves against this form of attack, strong password policies and best practices should be instituted. These should include creating strong passwords with at least 12 characters that include uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols, as well as unique ones for every system they access. Strong hashing algorithms must also be put into place along with two-factor authentication for critical accounts, while password management tools such as password managers can ensure users use secure passwords across accounts without using duplicated ones.
Organizations should conduct periodic penetration testing and vulnerability scans, in addition to password hygiene measures, in order to detect vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers and decrease the chances of passing the hash attacks. Penetration testing (sometimes known as ethical hacking) simulates real-world cyberattacks designed to test an organization’s cybersecurity capabilities and reveal any weaknesses – this typically includes system identification, enumeration, vulnerability discovery exploitation, privilege escalation, and lateral movement, among other steps.

Are Your Passwords Protected? Tips for Better Password Management

Are Your Passwords Protected? Tips for Better Password Management

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