Report: Penetration testers’ five most reliable methods of compromising targets include four different ways to use stolen credentials, but zero ways to exploit software.

Playing whack-a-mole with software vulnerabilities should not be top of security pros’ priority list because exploiting software doesn’t even rank among the top five plays in the attacker’s playbook, according to a new report from Praetorian.
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Attacker’s Playbook Top 5 Is High On Passwords, Low On Malware
Report: Penetration testers’ five most reliable methods of compromising targets include four different ways to use stolen credentials, but zero ways to exploit software.

Playing whack-a-mole with software vulnerabilities should not be top of security pros’ priority list because exploiting software doesn’t even rank among the top five plays in the attacker’s playbook, according to a new report from Praetorian.

Organizations would be far better served by improving credential management and network segmentation, according to researchers there.

Over the course of 100 internal penetration tests, Praetorian pen testers successfully compromised many organizations using the same kinds of attacks. The most common of these “root causes” though, were not zero-days or malware at all.

The top five activities in the cyber kill chain — sometimes used alone, sometimes used in combination — were:

1. abuse of weak domain user passwords — used in 66% of Praetorian pen testers’ successful attacks
2. broadcast name resolution poisoning (like WPAD) — 64%
3. local admin password attacks (pass-the-hash attacks) — 61%
4. attacks on cleartext passwords in memory (like those using Mimikatz) — 59%
5. insufficient network segmentation — 52%

The top four on this list are all attacks related to the use of stolen credentials, sometimes first obtained via phishing or other social engineering. Instead of suggesting how to defend against social engineering, Praetorian outlines mitigations to defend against what happens after a social engineer gets past step one.

Source: Attacker’s Playbook Top 5 Is High On Passwords, Low On Malware