Preventing Lateral Movement Attacks with PowerBroker for Windows

March 13, 2018

Preventing Lateral Movement Attacks with PowerBroker for Windows


It goes without saying— your organization is a target for digital attacks. It may be deliberate (someone went out of their way to focus on your company), or opportunistic (a social engineering/phishing attack). Either way, once an attacker is in, they’re going to want to move around in search of sensitive data, access to mailboxes, or privileged credentials. This process, attempting and then gaining access to other assets is referred to as “lateral movement”. Being able to quickly detect and prevent these activities can be the difference between a good day and a bad year for your company.

BeyondTrust PowerBroker for Windows helps organizations monitor for and prevent the activities related to lateral movement by allowing IT admins to create rules that identify suspicious access to attack vectors and can either flag the activity or prevent the user from executing the attack. This capability adds a layer of protection which may be missing in your current security model.

Here are some examples of attack vectors used during a lateral movement attack, and how PowerBroker for Windows allows for tracking and prevention of these activities.

Revealing Open Ports and Connections Using NETSTAT.EXE

After successfully gaining access to a machine, an attacker may want to see what other ports and connections are open. From command, they would type ‘Netstat –an’ and a list of active connections will be shown. While this command is common for members of IT to run, it’s not something the average user has a need for. Seeing this launched may indicate a larger issue.

A passive, or whitelist rule placed on netstate.exe would log the activity. For further protection, a user message can be presented when these activities are seen.

Doing so will alert the user if it was not an intentional action or warn a malicious user that these activities are being monitored.

Modifying a System’s Routing Table Using ROUTE.EXE

Another example of an activity that should not be performed by most users is the Route command. It would be unusual for someone in marketing, for instance, to view or modify a system’s routing table.

Similar to the netstat.exe example above, you can use the passive rule included with PowerBroker for Windows to monitor for this activity or switch it to a deny rule to block this action.

Executing Programs on a Remote System Using PSExec.exe

PSExec is a powerful tool used by system administrators globally. It can be extremely useful, but it can also be quite damaging if not used properly. Additionally, it can, and has been used by attackers in a number of incidents. In most cases, companies would prefer to block this application from most users. PowerBroker for Windows has had this ability [to block] for years, but in more recent versions is more tightly associated with the lateral movement rules/reporting.

PowerBroker for Windows Reporting Feature

Being able to monitor and prevent lateral movement is important. Equally so is being able to see all of this attempted activity in one place. With PowerBroker for Windows reporting, part of the included BeyondInsight IT Risk Management Platform, you can report on who, what, and when these activities took place.

These are just three examples of hundreds of resources available to attackers on your network if they’re able to penetrate your security and move laterally. To learn more about which types of events to monitor, please register for our upcoming webinar “Windows Server Security: Which Events to Monitor & Why”.