Top 10 Active Directory Attack Methods

Active Directory Techhyme

Active Directory (AD) is a widely used directory service developed by Microsoft, primarily used for managing and organizing resources within a network environment. While AD offers robust security features, it is not immune to attacks. In this article, we will explore the top 10 attack methods targeting Active Directory and discuss ways to mitigate these threats.

1. Kerberoasting:
Kerberoasting is an attack that exploits the vulnerability of weak service account passwords stored within Active Directory. Attackers use the Kerberos authentication protocol to request and crack the encrypted password hashes of these service accounts, potentially gaining unauthorized access.

2. Password Spraying:
Password spraying is a brute-force attack method that targets multiple user accounts using a small set of commonly used or previously compromised passwords. By avoiding account lockouts, attackers attempt to gain unauthorized access to Active Directory by identifying weak passwords across the organization.

3. Local Loop Multicast Name Resolution (LLMNR):
LLMNR is a name resolution protocol used to perform hostname-to-IP address translations when the standard DNS resolution fails. Attackers can exploit LLMNR by intercepting DNS requests and redirecting them to their malicious servers. This method allows attackers to gather user credentials and perform various attacks, such as phishing or Man-in-the-Middle attacks.

4. Pass-the-Hash with Mimikatz:
Pass-the-Hash is an attack technique that bypasses the need for the actual user password by using the hashed password stored in memory. Attackers can leverage tools like Mimikatz to extract hashed credentials from compromised systems, gaining unauthorized access to Active Directory.

5. Default Credentials:
Many organizations overlook changing default credentials or use weak initial passwords for service accounts and administrator accounts. Attackers can exploit this oversight by gaining access to Active Directory using default or easily guessable credentials. It is crucial to change default passwords and enforce strong password policies.

6. Hard-coded Credentials:
Developers often include hard-coded credentials within their applications or scripts for ease of use or troubleshooting. Attackers can reverse engineer or discover these credentials, enabling them to gain unauthorized access to Active Directory. It is essential to eliminate hard-coded credentials and adopt secure authentication methods, such as OAuth or token-based authentication.

7. Privilege Escalation:
Once an attacker gains initial access to a system, they may attempt to escalate their privileges within Active Directory. This involves exploiting vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, or weak access controls to gain higher-level privileges. Regular vulnerability scanning, patching, and implementing the principle of least privilege are critical to mitigating privilege escalation attacks.

8. LDAP Reconnaissance:
LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) reconnaissance involves querying the Active Directory database to gather valuable information about user accounts, group memberships, system configurations, and more. Attackers use this information to plan subsequent attacks, such as targeted phishing or privilege escalation. Implementing proper access controls and minimizing the exposure of sensitive information can help mitigate LDAP reconnaissance attacks.

9. BloodHound Reconnaissance:
BloodHound is a popular tool used for Active Directory reconnaissance. It allows attackers to map the network, identify user accounts, group memberships, and assess the trust relationships within the AD environment. BloodHound can expose potential vulnerabilities and paths to privilege escalation. Regularly monitoring and auditing Active Directory for unusual activities can help detect and prevent BloodHound reconnaissance.

10. NTDS.dit Extraction:
The NTDS.dit file contains the Active Directory database and is a prime target for attackers. By extracting this file, either through offline methods or exploiting vulnerabilities, attackers can gain access to hashed user passwords, enabling them to crack them offline. Protecting the NTDS.dit file by implementing strong access controls, encrypting backups, and regularly monitoring for file integrity can mitigate this attack vector.


Active Directory is a critical component of network infrastructure, and securing it is of utmost importance. By understanding and proactively addressing the top 10 attack methods targeting Active Directory, organizations can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access, data breaches, and other security incidents.

Regular vulnerability assessments, user awareness training, strong password policies, and implementing robust access controls are vital to maintaining a secure Active Directory environment.

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