Gaining privileges (also known as privilege escalation) is the act of exploiting a vulnerability or configuration issue in a software/operating system that gives attackers more administrative privileges.
With their newfound access, attackers can exploit design flaws or errors that give them resources and access that shouldn’t be otherwise available to them. Attackers can steal sensitive data, deploy malicious software or malware, damage your operating systems, and tarnish the reputation of your organization.
Some of these damages can be long-lasting and irreversible, especially concerning a company’s brand or reputation, so staying on top of these threats is the only way to minimize, mitigate, and prevent future attacks.
Below we’ll get into everything you need to know about how to combat gain privileges vulnerabilities.
How do gain privileges attacks work?
Gain privileges attacks can come from within your systems or from an external source and is a necessary step of the cyberattack chain (command and control) and can cause some serious damage to your servers in several ways.
During the initial attack, attackers will exploit vulnerabilities to gain access to any restrictions to gain administrative powers. From there, there are two main types of attacks: horizontal privilege escalation and vertical privilege escalation.
- Vertical privilege escalation
Vertical privilege escalation is the more dangerous of the attack types. In vertical privilege attacks, attackers gain the privileges of an administrator (Microsoft Windows) or root (Unix/Linux systems). With this newfound access, your systems are essentially a hacker’s playground, and they initiate various forms of harm by stealing sensitive data, removing data, executing ransomware, and carrying out arbitrary code. Attacks are also very difficult to track because hackers can delete access logs and cover-up behind themselves.
- Horizontal privilege escalation
Horizontal privilege escalations don’t have quite as much access as vertical attacks, but they can still tamper with sensitive data, accounts, and system functionalities. Though they don’t have administrative or root control, they can still gain access to user-related data, which might include things like user account information/data, e-commerce, and other sensitive online platforms.
In both cases, attackers gain access to content, files, data, and accounts that they should not have. Below we’ll look at what a privilege escalation attack might look like.
Examples of gain privilege attacks
There are quite a few gain privilege attack types to go over, and below we’ll cover some of the most common that organizations might have to deal with.
- Windows Sticky Keys
One of the most common privilege escalation attacks for WIndows OS, sticky attacks are fairly easy to perform. Attackers can execute sticky attacks when they have physical access to a system and can boot the device from a repair disk. Once the system has been booted, they can utilize the sticky key execution function to change a file.
Popularized through the iPhone/IOS community, jailbreaking (a form of vertical privilege execution) exploits flaws of locked electronic devices to install applications or software outside of what the manufacturer has allowed for the specific device. Jailbreakers can gain access to the operating system and access features beyond their jurisdiction.
Cross site scripting
Cross site scripting, also known as an XXS attack, is a horizontal type of privilege escalation attack that allows hackers to inject malicious script into a web application or website. XXS attackers send malicious code to vulnerable web applications and end-users. These vulnerabilities are fairly ubiquitous and can occur anywhere that outputs aren’t validated.
While these attacks are commonplace and can be a huge detriment to your organization and systems, there are concrete ways to combat and mitigate privilege escalation attacks.
Below are some best practices for dealing with and mitigating gain privileges.
Because the easiest way to gain access into a system is through a user, mitigation strategies necessitate businesses to offer and upkeep security training regularly.
Utilize learning tools and software to help your users and employees interact with their systems and networks safely and sustainably.
Managing security software is essential in streamlining the monitoring and patching process. Automated notifications and monitoring tools can help your cyber security team stay updated and aware of vulnerabilities/attacks.
Password management solutions are a must to ensure robust password storing and accessibility needs.
Organizations need to enforce least privilege practices by limiting or removing administrative privileges from users and keeping web app and hardware privileges to a minimum.
While it’s true to prevent or seek out all vulnerabilities, you can take a proactive cybersecurity approach by utilizing a robust security solution, providing training, and following a comprehensive set of best practices to stay on top of your networks.
How Sumo Logic can help
Sumo Logic’s cloud-native, comprehensive platform helps your team make data-driven decisions and streamline the security investigation process of your networks by:
Providing you with real-time analytics that helps you identify and resolve potential cybersecurity threats
Enabling your team with machine-learning algorithms provide you with 24/7 alerts and notifications
Allowing you to easily customize your dashboards that align your teams by visualizing logs, metrics, and performance data for full-stack visibility
Try a free demo to see how Sumo Logic can help you today.
Complete visibility for DevSecOps
Reduce downtime and move from reactive to proactive monitoring.