Identify-based attacks are among the most frequent cyber threats organizations face today. They're becoming more complex, sophisticated, and targeted by hackers looking to exploit personal information.
Security leaders must shift their focus toward Identity Threat Detection and Response (IDR) rather than traditional endpoint security EDR. Gartner recommends looking beyond conventional monitoring, detection, and response approaches to manage a more comprehensive set of risks.
What are Identity-Based Attacks?
Identity-based attacks are an increasingly prevalent threat in the cybersecurity industry. They use human identities to access data and networks to steal, destroy or gain control over them.
Due to companies' increasing reliance on cloud resources and remote work, attackers possess unprecedented identity data. Furthermore, malicious actors increasingly take advantage of stolen credentials and other vulnerabilities to breach identity security measures.
To protect against these threats, organizations must ensure their security strategies include identity as a foundational security layer. As such, security teams must adopt an approach that treats identity similarly to how they treat endpoints, networks, and cloud platforms.
Security teams must continually monitor their organization's identity data and access privilege usage to achieve this goal. This contextual data can be sent as alerts to SIEM, SOAR, and XDR systems as part of an integrated security operations response workflow. Having this type of information makes it much simpler for teams to investigate and resolve any incidents that may arise.
Types of Identity-Based Attacks
Identity-Based Attacks are a rapidly emerging threat spreading across numerous industries, particularly telecommunications firms, where the potential consequences of such incidents are immense.
Therefore, organizations in these sectors must be aware of the various identity-based attacks and how to defend against them. These may include credential stuffing, password spraying, phishing attempts, or third-party attacks.
In addition to mandating users change their passwords regularly, security teams should consider implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA). Requiring a one-time code or biometric marker for MFA can significantly hinder credential stuffing and password spraying attempts.
Five types of Identity-Based Attacks
1. Credential Stuffing
Credential stuffing is a cybersecurity risk that targets websites and applications by inserting stolen usernames and passwords into their login fields. This attack usually arises as a result of data breaches or phishing attempts.
These accounts can be leveraged for fraud, identity theft, social media influencers, or malware spreaders. Furthermore, criminals may utilize them to access corporate and institutional systems.
Cybercriminals often resell credentials on the dark web for profit. This is because many data breaches come with a cache of credentials that can be utilized in credential-stuffing attacks. Credential stuffing attacks can lead to account takeover (ATO) and fraudulence. The consequences of such an event can be catastrophic, leading to lost customers, application downtime, and customer churn.
Security teams must devote more effort to reviewing existing security protocols and patching vulnerabilities. Legal must take responsibility for any legal violations; otherwise, brand reputation could suffer significantly.
Credential stuffing attacks use automated tools, compromised credentials, and evolving techniques to impersonate or defraud real users of their digital experiences. As a result, these attacks can be challenging to detect and counter with traditional defenses.
2. Golden Ticket Attack
Golden Tickets are essential components of the Microsoft Kerberos authentication process. They operate like this: a user submits valid user information to a Key Distribution Service (KDC), which then issues them a Ticket Granting Ticket (TGT) that grants them access to specific resources or systems.
Before launching a Golden Ticket attack, attackers must first have gained access to the target environment. This could have been through phishing emails, malware infections, or exploiting vulnerable public-facing IT assets.
Once inside the target environment, threat actors use automated tools to collect data, including password hashes. This data is then leveraged for future Golden Ticket or identity-based attacks. Golden Ticket attacks may have a humorous name, but they pose a serious risk to any Active Directory environment. To protect against this attack, enterprises should adhere to established best practices and deploy multiple layers of defenses to reduce the chance of compromise.
Kerberoasting is a cyber attack against the Kerberos authentication protocol. These attacks use secret keys for encryption on service tickets that authenticate users and devices, making them hard for defenders to detect.
Kerberos-based systems such as Microsoft Active Directory allow users to request a ticket-granting service (TGS) ticket for resources requiring authentication with their domain account.
Kerberosting attackers can extract the password hash of any domain user account linked to an SPN value in a TGS ticket. This enables them to crack the password offline and bypass AD account lockouts.
Kerberosting attacks can be prevented by ensuring all service accounts have long, complex passwords that are changed regularly. Furthermore, organizations should utilize group-managed service accounts (GMSAs), which offer password management and eliminate the need to manage service account credentials manually.
4. Man-in-the-Middle MITM Attack
MITM (Man-In-The-Middle) attacks involve criminals intercepting, altering, or stealing data or conversations between two parties. It's a key component in many cyberattacks and may result in the theft of login credentials, payment information, or other sensitive data.
MITM attacks are relatively infrequent but remain a serious risk for businesses and organizations with sensitive data or proprietary information. For instance, attackers can exploit software-as-a-service (SaaS) application vulnerabilities to gain access to an organization's network and compromise any number of assets.
Man-in-the-middle attacks allow cybercriminals to insert themselves between two parties' lines of communication or directly impersonate legitimate parties through website spoofing. They then modify or redirect traffic toward their malicious destination, gaining access to user accounts and data.
Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks have become less risky as internet traffic becomes more encrypted, but they remain an essential cybersecurity risk. To be fully prepared for such threats, it's important to be aware of them and take proactive measures to mitigate them.
5. Silver Ticket Attack
Silver Ticket is a type of Ticket Granting Service (TGS) attack that exploits the Kerberos protocol. This type of attack allows attackers to create service tickets without consulting with a domain controller.
The Silver Ticket attack relies on a Kerberos vulnerability called Kerberosting, which harvests password hashes for Active Directory user accounts. By doing so, hackers can create ticket-granting service (TGS) tickets that allow them to authenticate for targeted services.
Organizations can prevent this by encrypting data stored in memory and creating methods to wipe sensitive data regularly. They should also ensure their systems have an automated backup process in place. Varonis can alert you to this type of attack if an attacker accesses a hacking tool on monitored storage space.
How does Multi-Factor Authentication prevent attacks?
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires two or more forms of authentication to confirm a user's identity. These are known as "authentication factors." Authentication factors may include passwords, PINs, security questions, and physical evidence, such as a security code sent directly to one's mobile device.
Hackers typically attempt to bypass MFA through phishing, malware, or brute-force attacks. MFA makes it hard for attackers to break in, but it remains likely that they will attempt to verify one or more authentication factors using phishing attempts, malware attacks, or brute-force methods.
Identity-based attacks involve guessing commonly used weak passwords across multiple accounts to gain unauthorized access. With this process, the attacker determines password length, special characters, and other specific characteristics.
Identity theft can result from various tactics, including basic methods where criminals steal mail, sift through dumpsters, or eavesdrop on phone conversations in public places.
Passive attacks are particularly challenging to detect because they do not involve any alteration of the data being transmitted. During the exchange of messages, neither the sender nor the receiver is aware that a third party may intercept the messages.
Malware is the most common type of cyber attack, encompassing various subsets such as ransomware, trojans, spyware, viruses, worms, keyloggers, bots, cryptojacking, and other malicious software that exploits vulnerabilities in a harmful manner.