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Security in Context: The BeyondTrust Blog

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Bringing you news and commentary on solutions and strategies for protecting critical IT infrastructure in the context of your business.

How to Stop Pass-the-Hash Attacks on Windows Desktops

Posted June 2, 2014    Morey Haber

The recent publication of attack techniques and the lack of preventative tools have forced enterprises to rely on ineffective techniques to mitigate this risk. Fortunately, by removing administrative rights from all users and leveraging a Windows privilege management solution like PowerBroker for Windows, you can mitigate this risk throughout your organisation.

Some of these techniques steal hash information from the current user logged in locally or via RDP. When those sessions contain privileges above a standard user, the malware or hacker has an advantage because they can elevate their privileges from system to system – from low-level user to high-value permissions such as help desk personnel or domain administrators. The key to protecting these systems when modern tools are not available for Windows 8.1 or Windows 2012 R2 is to never give elevated privileges to users in the first place. Therefore, if malware does infect a host, the hacker can only gain standard user access despite any lateral movement they are able to obtain without leveraging another vulnerability.

So, how does PowerBroker for Windows help? The solution doesn’t elevate the permissions of the user, but rather changes the application’s security token using patent-pending technology:

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Again, the user’s privileges never change and the modified application runs with the new security token, which can be customised to any level required for the application to correctly function:

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As a result, the user never has a hash that malware or a hacker can leverage against another resource with elevated permissions. In addition, the privileges granted to the application could either be executed as a full administrator or customised to only allow the privileges or process required for the task to execute. For example, the application can be granted full administrative privileges but denied access to shut down the system.

The fact remains that, in most organisations, too many users have excessive privileges. Hacking techniques like Pass-The-Hash have been successfully used to maliciously compromise entire infrastructures. Simply removing privileges can cripple business productivity, since critical applications and tasks can no longer function correctly as a standard user. A tool or technique is needed to bridge that gap, and PowerBroker for Windows is that solution.

PowerBroker for Windows preserves the privileges granted to the user and only modifies the application’s runtime security token to meet the needs of the application (on a per application basis). With over 250 rules in PowerBroker’s sample rules library, you do not need to start from scratch to make this change a reality. Our best practices guide, professional services team, and years of experience in privileged account management can help make hacking techniques like this a moot point for your business.

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Leave a Reply

2 Responses to “How to Stop Pass-the-Hash Attacks on Windows Desktops”

  1. Peter

    Would Powerbroker have prevented the execution of the infamous Trojan that is released by the Amazon faux order entry attack? And, is there a home use version of this software to protect customers’ home networks?

    June 30, 2014 9:59:30, Reply
  2. Morey

    Hi Peter, Depending on the attack vector used the Risk Compliance Rules (vulnerability based application management) could have stopped the Trojan from launching a vulnerability version of Microsoft help or Adobe Acrobat.

    June 30, 2014 10:55:32, Reply

Additional articles

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PowerBroker for Mac: A Least-Privileged Apple a Day…

Posted July 27, 2015    Jason Silva

BeyondTrust PowerBroker for Mac reduces the risk of privilege misuse by enabling standard users on Mac OS X to perform administrative tasks successfully without entering elevated credentials.

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On Demand Webinar – Now is the time for Privileged Account Management

Posted July 24, 2015    BeyondTrust Software

In this webinar, SANS Instructor and Founder of Voodoo Security, Dave Shackleford, will revisit several hacking and breach scenarios that involved privileged accounts, and use these as examples while discussing tools and tactics to get this problem under control once and for all.

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Privileged Account Management: The Time is Now

Posted July 22, 2015    Dave Shackleford

There’s plenty of problems we don’t have great options for in InfoSec today. Malware is a pain point that keeps evolving rapidly. 0-day exploits are tough to prepare for. Privileged account management? We got this. We know the root causes, we know how it manifests, we know how to get it under control effectively, and there are great technology solutions that are enterprise-class.

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