What Are Active Directory Attacks And How To Protect Against Them?

active directory attacks

Securing your Active Directory has become more important now than ever. The AD controls who gets access to your network and what they can do once they are inside it.

Failure to authorize the right users or allow unauthorized users to access your network can result in severe data breaches and prolonged downtime. That’s why companies are outsourcing IT help desk companies to maintain their Active Directory and prevent common attacks.

Active Directory is the main target of cybercriminals. Alex Simons, working at Microsoft, said 90% of organizations use Active Directory, which accounts for 500 million users. Sadly, 95 million of these accounts are attacked every day.

That’s not the worst part. Most of these attacks go unnoticed and unaddressed until they disrupt the organization’s workflow. With AD attacks increasing at an alarming rate, you need to implement control measures to protect your network and company’s assets from such attacks.

Let’s check out the most common Active Directory attacks and how to protect your system against them.

6 Common Active Directory Attack Methods You Should Watch Out For

Your IT help desk providers are responsible for keeping your Active Directory safe. They implement the latest security protocols and tools to boost your authentication system.

Your IT team protects your systems against these 6 common AD attacks regularly to ensure the smooth running of your business.

1. LDAP Reconnaissance

When an attacker gets access to a domain, they can execute LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) queries to locate users, computers, and sensitive data that they can target in future attacks.

These attacks are internal, as LDAP queries can be accessed by someone who has already infiltrated your network. Unfortunately, LDAP reconnaissance is hard to detect since all users have access to these queries by default.


Any authorized user of your network can execute LDAP queries, so detecting these attacks is often pretty challenging.

You should monitor users’ activity and LDAP accounts closely to detect abnormal queries. If detecting LDAP attacks isn’t possible, you can ensure that the data discovered against your users and systems won’t do any damage to your business.

2. Default Credentials

The easiest way for an attacker to access your active Directory is through default credentials. Users often forget to change their default passwords for new applications or devices, making these systems a perfect entry point for adversaries.

It isn’t just for your software apps, but any device that’s connected to your office internet can be used to hack your Active Directory.


Update the passwords of all devices as soon you implement them in your organization. You can also use a random password generator that sets a random password for all hardware and software devices connected to your on-premise systems.

3. BloodHound Reconnaissance

A bloodHound is a web-based tool that identifies and visualizes the path to attack within Active Directory. It gives a local admin map to the attacker, helping them trace which account is linked to which user and how they can steal the login credentials and other sensitive data from AD.

The attackers first get a map of the users, the active sessions, and people who are currently logged into the domain. This data enables them to visualize an attack plan.


Protection against the BloodHound Reconnaissance attack requires the same web application. You can use BloodHound to identify vulnerable systems. You should also reset the authorization access for each user.

Microsoft recommends the best practices for avoiding attack paths in AD. You should keep an eye out for unusual authentication requests. Setting controls for who can access the servers is another way to minimize these risks.

4. Pass-the-Hash with Mimikatz

Once someone gets access to the Active Directory, they can steal the user’s login credentials through pass-the-hash with Mimikatz attacks.

Using the Mimikatz tool, attackers can exploit the NTLM protocol. All that’s needed is an NTLM hash to steal users’ login data and impersonate them to get access to the Active Directory.


Since Pass-the-hash targets the NTLM authentication protocol, the only way to prevent it is by ensuring that the passwords to your privileged accounts aren’t in a place where they can be easily found.

Enable LSA Protection for better security. Also, enable Restricted Admin Mode, so your remote employees have limited access to your Active Directory.

5. Password Spraying

Password spraying occurs when an attacker identifies and lists all the previously compromised hashes and runs them on the authentication page. They run all the previous hacked usernames and passwords until they find a match that gets accepted.

Most organizations implement a security protocol that locks the user account after a fixed number of failed attempts. So, attackers often switch their usernames to bypass this restriction.


You should create a strong password policy within your organization. Every employee must use complex passwords (preferably a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters). Change the authentication password every month. Also, implementing two-factor authentication can help prevent password spraying.

6. Hardcodedded Credentials

Attackers are on the lookout for scripts with hard-coded credentials. Hardcoding is a common practice in which a software developer embeds critical data into the script or source of the program.

Usually, developers embed the vital credentials to test the software and forget to erase them. The technique seems attractive to coders who are in a hurry. But it increases security risks for your organization.

Embedding these credentials into your scripts can provide attackers with a way to bypass the authentication system and access your sensitive data.


Hardcoding isn’t a safe practice. It might save you time, but it brings security risks that can leak your confidential data to the attackers and give them access to privileged accounts. Ask your developers to avoid embedding credentials into the scripts.

Bottom Line

Microsoft keeps updating protocols for AD attacks, but that doesn’t make your system immune to these attacks. Given the increasing number of Active Directory attacks, any business can become a victim of such incidents. You need to upgrade your security protocols and monitor user activity within the AD to mitigate the risks.

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