AD CS Account Persistence

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This is a small summary of the machine persistence chapters of the awesome research from

Understanding Active User Credential Theft with Certificates – PERSIST1

In a scenario where a certificate that allows domain authentication can be requested by a user, an attacker has the opportunity to request and steal this certificate to maintain persistence on a network. By default, the User template in Active Directory allows such requests, though it may sometimes be disabled.

Using a tool named Certify, one can search for valid certificates that enable persistent access:

Certify.exe find /clientauth

It's highlighted that a certificate's power lies in its ability to authenticate as the user it belongs to, regardless of any password changes, as long as the certificate remains valid.

Certificates can be requested through a graphical interface using certmgr.msc or through the command line with certreq.exe. With Certify, the process to request a certificate is simplified as follows:

Certify.exe request /ca:CA-SERVER\CA-NAME /template:TEMPLATE-NAME

Upon successful request, a certificate along with its private key is generated in .pem format. To convert this into a .pfx file, which is usable on Windows systems, the following command is utilized:

openssl pkcs12 -in cert.pem -keyex -CSP "Microsoft Enhanced Cryptographic Provider v1.0" -export -out cert.pfx

The .pfx file can then be uploaded to a target system and used with a tool called Rubeus to request a Ticket Granting Ticket (TGT) for the user, extending the attacker's access for as long as the certificate is valid (typically one year):

Rubeus.exe asktgt /user:harmj0y /certificate:C:\Temp\cert.pfx /password:CertPass!

An important warning is shared about how this technique, combined with another method outlined in the THEFT5 section, allows an attacker to persistently obtain an account’s NTLM hash without interacting with the Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS), and from a non-elevated context, providing a stealthier method for long-term credential theft.

Gaining Machine Persistence with Certificates - PERSIST2

Another method involves enrolling a compromised system’s machine account for a certificate, utilizing the default Machine template which allows such actions. If an attacker gains elevated privileges on a system, they can use the SYSTEM account to request certificates, providing a form of persistence:

Certify.exe request /ca:dc.theshire.local/theshire-DC-CA /template:Machine /machine

This access enables the attacker to authenticate to Kerberos as the machine account and utilize S4U2Self to obtain Kerberos service tickets for any service on the host, effectively granting the attacker persistent access to the machine.

Extending Persistence Through Certificate Renewal - PERSIST3

The final method discussed involves leveraging the validity and renewal periods of certificate templates. By renewing a certificate before its expiration, an attacker can maintain authentication to Active Directory without the need for additional ticket enrolments, which could leave traces on the Certificate Authority (CA) server.

This approach allows for an extended persistence method, minimizing the risk of detection through fewer interactions with the CA server and avoiding the generation of artifacts that could alert administrators to the intrusion.

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