Privileges govern the access of a user or a device to the resources of the information system. Attackers who manage to elevate their privileges can cause considerable damage. But this is not inevitable. Operating systems and software rely on privileges to limit user and device access to configuration settings, functions, and data. These can range from simple rights that only allow basic actions, such as access to office applications, to a more extensive administrator or root privileges that provide complete system control. So it’s no surprise that privileges are a target for attackers. A privilege escalation aims to gain additional privileges for systems and applications in a network or online service. This is a continuation of the lateral shift.
Types Of Privilege Escalation
Privilege escalation operations fall into two broad categories:
- Horizontal elevation of privilege. After successfully gaining access to an existing user account or authorized device, the attacker uses this vector to compromise another performance. This tactic does not necessarily lead to additional privileges, but it can cause harm to the new victim if the attacker collects personal data – among other things – in the process. Website vulnerabilities may allow cross-site scripting and forgery of cross-site requests to capture another user’s login credentials or authentication data and gain access to their account.
- The vertical elevation of privileges. This is usually the second phase of a multi-stage cyberattack. Attackers seek to exploit system misconfigurations, vulnerabilities, weak passwords, and inadequate access controls to gain administrative permissions to continue accessing other network resources. Once armed with higher privileges, attackers can install malware and ransomware, change system settings, and steal data. They can even delete activity traces so that their presence on the network goes unnoticed.
How Are These Privilege Escalation Attempts Conducted?
Malicious hackers commonly use the following methods to carry out privilege escalation attacks – the first two methods are used in horizontal privilege escalation attacks. Still, depending on the attacker’s end goal, compromised accounts can be used to attempt to elevate privileges vertically.
- Social engineering. . Social designing assaults — including phishing, watering opening, and pharming — are ordinarily used to fool clients into unveiling their record accreditations. With these sorts of assaults, it isn’t essential to mounting a mind-boggling effort to sidestep a framework’s security protections.
- Weak credentials. Weak, reused, or shared passwords are easy for attackers to gain unauthorized access to an account. The network could be seriously compromised if the version has administrative privileges.
- Wrong system configuration. Network resources whose security settings have not been locked down, or hardened, may offer attackers the opportunity to gain greater privileges than intended. Think, for example, cloud storage buckets with public access. Improperly configured network defenses, such as firewalls and open and unprotected ports, default passwords on essential accounts, and unmodified defaults on newly installed apps – two widespread phenomena on IoT devices – open a path for an attacker to gain additional privileges.
- Malware. Malware, such as info stealers, can steal passwords. Again, the data collected from Web browsers can constitute an additional open door.
- System vulnerabilities. Any publicly available vulnerability in a system’s design, implementation, or configuration can give attackers the ability to gain account privileges by executing malicious code to gain shell access.
Six Ways To Prevent Privilege Escalation
In any cyberattack, the elevation of privilege exploits vulnerabilities in services and applications running on a network, especially those with weak access controls. Elevation of freedom is a vital phase of a broader cyberattack. Security controls must be strong and regularly maintained to prevent this operation.
Here are six best practices to help keep your network secure.
- Keep accounts up-to-date with comprehensive privileged account management. Applying the principle of least privilege to limit user and service access rights to the bare minimum reduced an attacker’s chance of gaining administrative-level benefits. The Security team and Human Resources should work together to avoid unnecessary privilege drift and ensure that the user account inventory accurately reflects who, what, where, and why an account exists and the privileges assigned to it. Been granted. Minimizing the number and scope of privileged accounts while monitoring and logging their activities also helps identify potential abuse.
- Software patches and updates. Reducing the chances that an attacker can find an exploitable vulnerability is the best way to stop any cyberattack. A comprehensive patch management policy makes it harder for attackers to take advantage of system and application vulnerabilities, mainly to keep browsers and anti-virus software up to date.
- Perform vulnerability scans. Regularly scanning all IT infrastructure components for vulnerabilities makes it more difficult for an attacker to gain a foothold on the network. Vulnerability scans can detect misconfigurations, undocumented system modifications, unpatched or insecure operating systems and applications, and other flaws before potential attackers can exploit them.
- Monitor network traffic and behavior. If an attacker obtains a user’s credentials from the network, their presence may go unnoticed if the network is not constantly monitored for unusual traffic or user behavior. User and entity behavior analysis (UEBA) software can create a baseline of legitimate behavior and flag activities that deviate from the norm and may betray a possible compromise.
- Establish a firm password policy. A password policy is the most effective way to prevent privilege escalation, especially if combined with multi-factor authentication (MFA). Password management tools can help users generate and securely store unique and complex passwords that meet security policy rules. All accounts with administrative privileges should require multi-factor authentication. Digital certificates used for machine authentication should be rotated regularly.
- Organize security awareness training. People are usually the weakest link in an organization’s security. They can unwittingly contribute to an attack by using weak passwords, clicking on malicious links or attachments, and ignoring warnings about dangerous websites. Regular security awareness training helps explain new threats and keep security policies in mind. Emphasize the dangers and risks of sharing accounts and credentials.
Escalation of privilege is one of the most critical phases of a cyberattack. A well-functioning incident management plan is essential. If an elevation of privilege incident is discovered, the compromised account should be quickly isolated, its password changed, and then disabled. The security team must then conduct a thorough investigation to determine the extent of the intrusion and identify the compromised resources.
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