of a hacker in a network
Image by David Mark on Pixabay
I. What is meant by a hacker's lateral movement?
A hacker's lateral movement refers to the ability to move within a compromised network without being detected. Hackers use this technique to gain access to valuable information, control systems, or even secure long-term access. Lateral movement is an essential step in escalating an attack after the hacker has gained initial access to the target.
The lateral movement of hackers compares well to the attack in a soccer game. While directly in front of the goal the attack of the striker is blocked, other players move unnoticed into advantageous positions in order to reach their goal, the goal shot or the preparation of an attack, when they regain possession of the ball.
II. Methods of lateral movement
- Exploiting vulnerabilities: Hackers specifically look for security holes in a network to gain access to other systems. This can be achieved by exploiting software flaws, unsecured access points, or vulnerabilities in the configuration of websites, for example.
- Password cracking and credential theft: A common approach is to guess or crack passwords to gain access to accounts and systems. Often, stolen credentials are used to move within the network.
- Use of malware: Hackers use malware to gain control of compromised systems. This malware can be used to infect additional systems on the network and facilitate lateral movement.
- Pass-the-Hash Attacks: This method involves intercepting hash values of credentials and reusing them to gain access to other accounts without knowing the actual password.
III. Taktics and consequences
- Stealth and camouflage: Hackers try to cover their tracks by camouflaging their activities and posing as legitimate users. This makes it more difficult to detect and defend against attacks.
- Lateral escalation: Hackers move from one compromised system to the next to gain more and more control and access in the network. This can lead to significant damage as the attacker gains access to increasingly sensitive data.
- Data exfiltration: one of the main purposes of lateral movement is to extract data from the network. This stolen information can be used for various purposes, including extortion, espionage or financial gain.
- Ransomware installation: The attacker infects as many devices as possible to maximize the damage and to be able to give more emphasis to his ransom demand.
The consequences of a successful lateral movement can be devastating. They range from data breaches and financial losses to serious reputational damage for companies and organizations.
Lateral movement is a crucial step in a hacker's activities that is often overlooked but can have dramatic consequences. Lateral attacks can also be the result of an attack that has already been successfully executed in the past. Companies and organizations must be aware of the threat and implement robust security measures to detect and defend against such attacks. Ongoing development of security protocols and employee training are essential to make lateral movement across a network more difficult and to protect the integrity of sensitive data.