Mimikatz is a program for extracting passwords, hashes, PINs, and Kerberos tickets from Windows memory. It is a dangerous tool against Windows clients, leading to data theft, system compromise, or even reputational damage for companies. This article explains Mimikatz and its functions and provides information on how to protect yourself.
Mimikatz is an open-source tool that hackers use to steal credentials and other sensitive data from compromised Windows computers. It breaks Windows functionality and allows malicious users to access a system’s memory and security tokens, such as Kerberos tickets, which later can be used to gain unauthorized access to restricted information. Mimikatz extracted credentials usually come in the shape of a hash or plaintext password.
The Mimikatz application was first developed in 2007 by French ethical hacker Benjamin Delpy, who wanted to demonstrate Windows authentication system vulnerabilities. Despite being created almost two decades ago, Mimikatz is still widely used among malicious actors and has been expanded and developed in several ways.
Hackers use Mimikatz to perform attacks like pass the hash and pass the ticket, which allow them to access victims’ systems with stolen credentials. It is a dangerous tool in the bad actors’ hands that may lead to serious security breaches and sensitive and confidential data theft. Therefore, it is important for companies and organizations to take every precaution to protect their systems against Mimikatz, such as through the use of security patches, up-to-date software, and multifactor authentication.
Hackers started using Mimikatz to exploit a Windows feature called WDigest, which is intended to make it easier for Microsoft users to verify their identity when accessing apps over the internet. To be precise, WDigest remembers login credentials and reuses them automatically.
In 2011, when Benjamin Delpy first launched a Mimikatz attack on Windows systems, Microsoft rejected his warning, claiming that this was not an actual vulnerability because the hacker still needed access to admin privileges before obtaining passwords stored in a system. However, hackers were still very interested in using Mimikatz to exploit Microsoft authentication software to gain administrative privileges, steal encrypted passwords, and use infected computers to access multiple devices on a network. It has since been used to carry out high-profile attacks, including the famous DigiNotar and WannaCry ransomware attacks.
Even though Mimikatz is a dangerous tool, it is not necessarily destructive. Cybersecurity professionals and penetration testers worldwide use this legitimate tool to test and audit systems. However, its prevalence among hackers has earned it a reputation as a dangerous hacking tool.
Mimikatz is a tool whose primary purpose is to extract sensitive information from the Windows operating system. Here are some of the things the Mimikatz tool is capable of:
Although the Mimikatz tool is often used for malicious purposes and should be carefully monitored to prevent unauthorized access to systems and data, cybersecurity professionals use it for legitimate purposes such as penetration testing and forensic analysis.
Mimikatz is not malware. However, it is often used as part of malicious attacks and is therefore considered a dangerous hacking tool. Malicious actors use it to extract sensitive information from Windows operating systems, such as passwords, usernames, and domain information, which may lead hackers to gain unauthorized access to apps and systems.
Although hackers often use the Mimikatz tool, it is not illegal. Cybersecurity professionals and testers use it to handle patch management, deal with privileged access, and detect system vulnerabilities to prevent hacking and malware.
Here are a few security measures that you can take to prevent Mimikatz attacks:
These security measures can help keep your systems safe from Mimikatz attacks and other cyber threats.
Unauthorized access to endpoints is one of the leading causes of data breaches. Use endpoint protection and security software to detect and block known Mimikatz binaries, implement real-time monitoring with EDR to detect suspicious behavior, enable threat intelligence feeds, use behavioral analysis techniques, and keep your software updated.
User and event behavioral analytics can help detect abnormal behavior in internal systems and user accounts. Monitoring system logs for suspicious activity, such as failed login attempts and unusual behavior by authorized users, can help prevent Mimikatz attacks. It identifies normal behavior, monitors for unusual activity, flags suspicious activity, and provides forensic data in the event of a breach.
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