Active Directory Kill Chain Attack & Defense

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This document was designed to be a useful, informational asset for those looking to understand the specific tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) attackers are leveraging to compromise active directory and guidance to mitigation, detection, and prevention. And understand Active Directory Kill Chain Attack and Modern Post Exploitation Adversary Tradecraft Activity.

Table of Contents


SPN Scanning

Data Mining

User Hunting


Privilege Escalation

Passwords in SYSVOL & Group Policy Preferences

MS14-068 Kerberos Vulnerability


Unconstrained Delegation

Constrained Delegation

Insecure Group Policy Object Permission Rights

Insecure ACLs Permission Rights

Domain Trusts



Microsoft SQL Server

Red Forest

Lateral Movement

Microsoft SQL Server Database links

Pass The Hash

System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)


Password Spraying

Automated Lateral Movement

Defense Evasion

In-Memory Evasion

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) Evasion


Microsoft ATA & ATP Evasion

PowerShell ScriptBlock Logging Bypass

PowerShell Anti-Malware Scan Interface (AMSI) Bypass

Loading .NET Assemblies Anti-Malware Scan Interface (AMSI) Bypass

AppLocker & Device Guard Bypass

Sysmon Evasion

HoneyTokens Evasion

Disabling Security Tools

Credential Dumping

NTDS.DIT Password Extraction

SAM (Security Accounts Manager)


Kerberos AP-REP Roasting

Windows Credential Manager/Vault


LLMNR/NBT-NS Poisoning



Golden Ticket

SID History

Silver Ticket



Group Policy Object

Skeleton Keys


Security Support Provider

Directory Services Restore Mode

ACLs & Security Descriptors

Tools & Scripts

  • PowerView – Situational Awareness PowerShell framework
  • BloodHound – Six Degrees of Domain Admin
  • Impacket – Impacket is a collection of Python classes for working with network protocols
  • – Active Directory ACL exploitation with BloodHound
  • CrackMapExec – A swiss army knife for pentesting networks
  • ADACLScanner – A tool with GUI or command linte used to create reports of access control lists (DACLs) and system access control lists (SACLs) in Active Directory
  • zBang – zBang is a risk assessment tool that detects potential privileged account threats
  • PowerUpSQL – A PowerShell Toolkit for Attacking SQL Server
  • Rubeus – Rubeus is a C# toolset for raw Kerberos interaction and abuses
  • ADRecon – A tool which gathers information about the Active Directory and generates a report which can provide a holistic picture of the current state of the target AD environment
  • Mimikatz – Utility to extract plaintexts passwords, hash, PIN code and kerberos tickets from memory but also perform pass-the-hash, pass-the-ticket or build Golden tickets
  • Grouper – A PowerShell script for helping to find vulnerable settings in AD Group Policy.


Cheat Sheets

Defense & Detection

Tools & Scripts

  • SAMRi10 – Hardening SAM Remote Access in Windows 10/Server 2016
  • Net Cease – Hardening Net Session Enumeration
  • PingCastle – A tool designed to assess quickly the Active Directory security level with a methodology based on risk assessment and a maturity framework
  • Aorato Skeleton Key Malware Remote DC Scanner – Remotely scans for the existence of the Skeleton Key Malware
  • Reset the krbtgt account password/keys – This script will enable you to reset the krbtgt account password and related keys while minimizing the likelihood of Kerberos authentication issues being caused by the operation
  • Deploy-Deception – A PowerShell module to deploy active directory decoy objects
  • dcept – A tool for deploying and detecting use of Active Directory honeytokens
  • LogonTracer – Investigate malicious Windows logon by visualizing and analyzing Windows event log
  • DCSYNCMonitor – Monitors for DCSYNC and DCSHADOW attacks and create custom Windows Events for these events

Active Directory Security Checks (by Sean Metcalf – @Pyrotek3)

General Recommendations

  • Manage local Administrator passwords (LAPS).
  • Implement RDP Restricted Admin mode (as needed).
  • Remove unsupported OSs from the network.
  • Monitor scheduled tasks on sensitive systems (DCs, etc.).
  • Ensure that OOB management passwords (DSRM) are changed regularly & securely stored.
  • Use SMB v2/v3+
  • Default domain Administrator & KRBTGT password should be changed every year & when an AD admin leaves.
  • Remove trusts that are no longer necessary & enable SID filtering as appropriate.
  • All domain authentications should be set (when possible) to: “Send NTLMv2 response onlyrefuse LM & NTLM.”
  • Block internet access for DCs, servers, & all administration systems.

Protect Admin Credentials

  • No “user” or computer accounts in admin groups.
  • Ensure all admin accounts are “sensitive & cannot be delegated”.
  • Add admin accounts to “Protected Users” group (requires Windows Server 2012 R2 Domain Controllers, 2012R2 DFL for domain protection).
  • Disable all inactive admin accounts and remove from privileged groups.

Protect AD Admin Credentials

  • Limit AD admin membership (DA, EA, Schema Admins, etc.) & only use custom delegation groups.
  • ‘Tiered’ Administration mitigating credential theft impact.
  • Ensure admins only logon to approved admin workstations & servers.
  • Leverage time-based, temporary group membership for all admin accounts

Protect Service Account Credentials

  • Limit to systems of the same security level.
  • Leverage “(Group) Managed Service Accounts” (or PW >20 characters) to mitigate credential theft (kerberoast).
  • Implement FGPP (DFL =>2008) to increase PW requirements for SAs and administrators.
  • Logon restrictions – prevent interactive logon & limit logon capability to specific computers.
  • Disable inactive SAs & remove from privileged groups.

Protect Resources

  • Segment network to protect admin & critical systems.
  • Deploy IDS to monitor the internal corporate network.
  • Network device & OOB management on separate network.

Protect Domain Controllers

  • Only run software & services to support AD.
  • Minimal groups (& users) with DC admin/logon rights.
  • Ensure patches are applied before running DCPromo (especially MS14-068 and other critical patches).
  • Validate scheduled tasks & scripts.

Protect Workstations (& Servers)

  • Patch quickly, especially privilege escalation vulnerabilities.
  • Deploy security back-port patch (KB2871997).
  • Set Wdigest reg key to 0 (KB2871997/Windows 8.1/2012R2+): HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlSecurityProvidersWdigest
  • Deploy workstation whitelisting (Microsoft AppLocker) to block code exec in user folders – home dir & profile path.
  • Deploy workstation app sandboxing technology (EMET) to mitigate application memory exploits (0-days).


  • Enable enhanced auditing
  • “Audit: Force audit policy subcategory settings (Windows Vista or later) to override audit policy category settings”
  • Enable PowerShell module logging (“*”) & forward logs to central log server (WEF or other method).
  • Enable CMD Process logging & enhancement (KB3004375) and forward logs to central log server.
  • SIEM or equivalent to centralize as much log data as possible.
  • User Behavioural Analysis system for enhanced knowledge of user activity (such as Microsoft ATA).

Security Pro’s Checks

  • Identify who has AD admin rights (domain/forest).
  • Identify who can logon to Domain Controllers (& admin rights to virtual environment hosting virtual DCs).
  • Scan Active Directory Domains, OUs, AdminSDHolder, & GPOs for inappropriate custom permissions.
  • Ensure AD admins (aka Domain Admins) protect their credentials by not logging into untrusted systems (workstations).
  • Limit service account rights that are currently DA (or equivalent).


Attack Event ID
Account and Group Enumeration 4798: A user’s local group membership was enumerated
4799: A security-enabled local group membership was enumerated
AdminSDHolder 4780: The ACL was set on accounts which are members of administrators groups
Kekeo 4624: Account Logon
4672: Admin Logon
4768: Kerberos TGS Request
Silver Ticket 4624: Account Logon
4634: Account Logoff
4672: Admin Logon
Golden Ticket 4624: Account Logon
4672: Admin Logon
PowerShell 4103: Script Block Logging
400: Engine Lifecycle
403: Engine Lifecycle
4103: Module Logging
600: Provider Lifecycle
DCShadow 4742: A computer account was changed
5137: A directory service object was created
5141: A directory service object was deleted
4929: An Active Directory replica source naming context was removed
Skeleton Keys 4673: A privileged service was called
4611: A trusted logon process has been registered with the Local Security Authority
4688: A new process has been created
4689: A new process has exited
PYKEK MS14-068 4672: Admin Logon
4624: Account Logon
4768: Kerberos TGS Request
Kerberoasting 4769: A Kerberos ticket was requested
Lateral Movement 4688: A new process has been created
4689: A process has exited
4624: An account was successfully logged on
4625: An account failed to log on
DNSAdmin 770: DNS Server plugin DLL has been loaded
541: The setting serverlevelplugindll on scope . has been set to <dll path>
150: DNS Server could not load or initialize the plug-in DLL
DCSync 4662: An operation was performed on an object
Password Spraying 4625: An account failed to log on
4771: Kerberos pre-authentication failed
4648: A logon was attempted using explicit credentials