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How to Detect Lateral Movement in Your Network?

What is Lateral Movement?

According to Mitre Att&ck,

"Lateral Movement consists of techniques that adversaries use to enter and control remote systems on a network. Following through on their primary objective often requires exploring the network to find their target and subsequently gaining access to it. Reaching their objective often involves pivoting through multiple systems and accounts to gain. Adversaries might install their own remote access tools to accomplish Lateral Movement or use legitimate credentials with native network and operating system tools, which may be stealthier."

Once hackers perform reconnaissance and gain initial access, they try to execute malicious scripts and attempt to evade the defenses in place. Later, they try to escalate the privileges and gain advanced controls on the victim machine. Upon gaining access as a domain admin or related escalated privileges, the attackers then deploy backdoors to establish their footholds and stay persistently in the victim machine. After establishing the foothold on the zero machines, now it’s time for the attackers to look out and discover other vulnerable computers in the network for exploitation. Once the attacker discovers the vulnerable computers inside the target network, then the attacker tries to move from one computer to another and this movement is considered the Lateral Movement.

Lateral Movement in ATT&CK Matrix for Enterprise

Different Lateral Movement Techniques

According to Mitre Att&ck, there are 9 major techniques that attackers use for lateral movement.

ID

Name

Description

T1210

Exploitation of Remote Services

Adversaries may exploit remote services to gain unauthorized access to internal systems once inside of a network. Exploitation of a software vulnerability occurs when an adversary takes advantage of a programming error in a program, service, or within the operating system software or kernel itself to execute adversary-controlled code. A common goal for post-compromise exploitation of remote services is for lateral movement to enable access to a remote system.

T1534

Internal Spearphishing

Adversaries may use internal spearphishing to gain access to additional information or exploit other users within the same organization after they already have access to accounts or systems within the environment. Internal spearphishing is multi-staged attack where an email account is owned either by controlling the user's device with previously installed malware or by compromising the account credentials of the user. Adversaries attempt to take advantage of a trusted internal account to increase the likelihood of tricking the target into falling for the phish attempt.

T1570

Lateral Tool Transfer

Adversaries may transfer tools or other files between systems in a compromised environment. Files may be copied from one system to another to stage adversary tools or other files over the course of an operation. Adversaries may copy files laterally between internal victim systems to support lateral movement using inherent file sharing protocols such as file sharing over SMB to connected network shares or with authenticated connections with SMB/Windows Admin Shares or Remote Desktop Protocol. Files can also be copied over on Mac and Linux with native tools like scp, rsync, and sftp.

T1563

Remote Service Session Hijacking

Adversaries may take control of preexisting sessions with remote services to move laterally in an environment. Users may use valid credentials to log into a service specifically designed to accept remote connections, such as telnet, SSH, and RDP. When a user logs into a service, a session will be established that will allow them to maintain a continuous interaction with that service.

.001

SSH Hijacking

Adversaries may hijack a legitimate user's SSH session to move laterally within an environment. Secure Shell (SSH) is a standard means of remote access on Linux and macOS systems. It allows a user to connect to another system via an encrypted tunnel, commonly authenticating through a password, certificate or the use of an asymmetric encryption key pair.

.002

RDP Hijacking

Adversaries may hijack a legitimate user’s remote desktop session to move laterally within an environment. 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).

T1021

Remote Services

Adversaries may use Valid Accounts to log into a service specifically designed to accept remote connections, such as telnet, SSH, and VNC. The adversary may then perform actions as the logged-on user.

.001

Remote Desktop Protocol

Adversaries may use Valid Accounts to log into a computer using the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). The adversary may then perform actions as the logged-on user.

.002

SMB/Windows Admin Shares

Adversaries may use Valid Accounts to interact with a remote network share using Server Message Block (SMB). The adversary may then perform actions as the logged-on user.

.003

Distributed Component Object Model

Adversaries may use Valid Accounts to interact with remote machines by taking advantage of Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM). The adversary may then perform actions as the logged-on user.

.004

SSH

Adversaries may use Valid Accounts to log into remote machines using Secure Shell (SSH). The adversary may then perform actions as the logged-on user.

.005

VNC

Adversaries may use Valid Accounts to remotely control machines using Virtual Network Computing (VNC). VNC is a platform-independent desktop sharing system that uses the RFB ("remote framebuffer") protocol to enable users to remotely control another computer’s display by relaying the screen, mouse, and keyboard inputs over the network.

.006

Windows Remote Management

Adversaries may use Valid Accounts to interact with remote systems using Windows Remote Management (WinRM). The adversary may then perform actions as the logged-on user.

T1091

Replication Through Removable Media

Adversaries may move onto systems, possibly those on disconnected or air-gapped networks, by copying malware to removable media and taking advantage of Autorun features when the media is inserted into a system and executes. In the case of Lateral Movement, this may occur through modification of executable files stored on removable media or by copying malware and renaming it to look like a legitimate file to trick users into executing it on a separate system. In the case of Initial Access, this may occur through manual manipulation of the media, modification of systems used to initially format the media, or modification to the media's firmware itself.

T1072

Software Deployment Tools

Adversaries may gain access to and use third-party software suites installed within an enterprise network, such as administration, monitoring, and deployment systems, to move laterally through the network. Third-party applications and software deployment systems may be in use in the network environment for administration purposes (e.g., SCCM, HBSS, Altiris, etc.).

T1080

Taint Shared Content

Adversaries may deliver payloads to remote systems by adding content to shared storage locations, such as network drives or internal code repositories. Content stored on network drives or in other shared locations may be tainted by adding malicious programs, scripts, or exploit code to otherwise valid files. Once a user opens the shared tainted content, the malicious portion can be executed to run the adversary's code on a remote system. Adversaries may use tainted shared content to move laterally.

T1550

Use Alternate Authentication Material

Adversaries may use alternate authentication material, such as password hashes, Kerberos tickets, and application access tokens, in order to move laterally within an environment and bypass normal system access controls.

.001

Application Access Token

Adversaries may use stolen application access tokens to bypass the typical authentication process and access restricted accounts, information, or services on remote systems. These tokens are typically stolen from users and used in lieu of login credentials.

.002

Pass the Hash

Adversaries may "pass the hash" using stolen password hashes to move laterally within an environment, bypassing normal system access controls. Pass the hash (PtH) is a method of authenticating as a user without having access to the user's cleartext password. This method bypasses standard authentication steps that require a cleartext password, moving directly into the portion of the authentication that uses the password hash.

.003

Pass the Ticket

Adversaries may "pass the ticket" using stolen Kerberos tickets to move laterally within an environment, bypassing normal system access controls. Pass the ticket (PtT) is a method of authenticating to a system using Kerberos tickets without having access to an account's password. Kerberos authentication can be used as the first step to lateral movement to a remote system.

.004

Web Session Cookie

Adversaries can use stolen session cookies to authenticate to web applications and services. This technique bypasses some multi-factor authentication protocols since the session is already authenticated.

Table 1: Mitre Att&ck Lateral Movement Techniques

Preventing Lateral Movement

The following measures can help prevent lateral movement in your network:

  • Regular updates of all software within the organization
  • Implement a security-first approach within the organization
  • Protect high privilege accounts
  • Maintain Proper IT Hygiene
  • Zero Trust Policy
  • Segregate network
  • Threat hunting
  • Strong endpoint security controls

Use ThreatResponder to Detect Lateral Movements Inside Your Network

Cyber security threats and ransomware attacks are increasing at a tremendous pace. It is extremely difficult for cyber security analysts and incident responders to investigate and detect cyber security threats using conventional tools and techniques. NetSecurity’s ThreatResponder, with its diverse capabilities, can help your team detect the most advanced cyber threats, including APTs, zero-day attacks, and ransomware attacks. It can also help automate incident response actions across millions of endpoints, making it easy, fast, and hassle-free.

Want to try our ThreatResponder, cutting-edge Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR) security solution in action? Click on the below button to request a free demo of our NetSecurity’s ThreatResponder platform.


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I am a cybersecurity enthusiast and an author. I write technical blogs and articles related to cyber security.
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About Inno Eroraha
Dulles, Virginia Website
Inno Eroraha is the Founder & Chief Strategist of NetSecurity Corporation, a cybersecurity products and services company based in Dulles, VA. NetSecurity is the developer of ThreatResponder Platform.
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