Now that we’ve compromised privileged credentials by exploiting weak permissions, it’s time to make sure we don’t lose our foothold in the domain. That way, even if the accounts we’ve compromised are deleted, disabled, or have their passwords reset we can easily regain Domain Admin rights. To do so, we will be exploiting some of the internal workings of Active Directory that are intended to keep privileged accounts well-protected: AdminSDHolder and SDProp.
AdminSDHolder is a container that exists in every Active Directory domain for a special purpose. The Access Control List (ACL) of the AdminSDHolder object is used as a template to copy permissions to all “protected groups” in Active Directory and their members. Protected groups include privileged groups such as Domain Admins, Administrators, Enterprise Admins, and Schema Admins. This also includes other groups that give logon rights to domain controllers, which can be enough access to perpetrate attacks to compromise the domain. For a more complete listing of protected groups go here.
Active Directory will take the ACL of the AdminSDHolder object and apply it to all protected users and groups periodically, in an effort to make sure the access to these objects is secure. This works, in theory, because the default ACL for AdminSDHolder is very restrictive. However, if an attacker is able to manipulate the ACL for AdminSDHolder, then those permissions will automatically be applied to all protected objects. This will give an attacker a way to create persistent access to privileged accounts within the domain.
Here is an example of the AdminSDHolder ACL with a new user added to give that user account access to all protected objects:
The AdminSDHolder permissions are pushed down to all protected objects by a process SDProp. This happens, by default, every 60 minutes but this interval can be changed by modifying a registry value. That means if an administrator sees an inappropriate permission on a protected object and removes it, within an hour those permissions will be put back in place by SDProp. This default setting can be frustrating and hard to track down if you don’t understand what’s happening.
Protected groups and their members are flagged in Active Directory using an attribute adminCount, which will be set to 1 for protected users and groups. By looking at all objects with adminCount set to 1, you will get an idea of how pervasive an attack against AdminSDHolder could be to your environment. This analysis can be done easily with PowerShell and an LDAP filter.
One point to note is that once a user is removed from a privileged group, they still maintain the adminCount value of 1, but are no longer considered a protected object by Active Directory. That means the AdminSDHolder permissions will not be applied to them. However, they will likely have a version of the AdminSDHolder permissions still set because inheritance of their permissions will still be disabled as a remnant of when they were protected by the AdminSDHolder permissions. Therefore, it is still useful to look at these objects and, in most cases, to turn on inheritance of permissions.
Only users with administrative rights will be able to modify the AdminSDHolder permissions, so the easiest way to stop their abuse is to prevent compromise of administrative credentials. If an administrative account is compromised, it is important to have regular monitoring on the AdminSDHolder object permissions and alert on any changes made. These changes should never happen so any alert is worth immediately investigating and reverting.
Reporting on objects with an adminCount value of 1 is also important and making sure they are still intended to have administrative rights. If they are not, put them in the right location and ensure they are inheriting permissions.
In the next post, we will continue to explore Active Directory Permissions by looking at unconstrained delegation permissions.
Active Directory Permissions Attack #1 – Exploiting Weak Active Directory Permissions with PowerSploit Read Now
Active Directory Permissions Attack #2 – Attacking AD Permissions with Bloodhound Read Now
Active Directory Permissions Attack #4 – Unconstrained Delegation Permissions Read Now
Jeff Warren is Stealthbits’ General Manager of Products. Jeff has held multiple roles within the Technical Product Management group since joining the organization in 2010, initially building Stealthbits’ SharePoint management offerings before shifting focus to the organization’s Data Access Governance solution portfolio as a whole. Before joining Stealthbits, Jeff was a Software Engineer at Wall Street Network, a solutions provider specializing in GIS software and custom SharePoint development.
With deep knowledge and experience in technology, product and project management, Jeff and his teams are responsible for designing and delivering Stealthbits’ high quality, innovative solutions.
Jeff holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems from the University of Delaware.
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