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Detecting lateral movement with Active Directory data

An advanced adversary trojanized a legitimate dynamically linked library (dll) in your organization's software and fed that into your customers’ update cycle. Once infected, this trojanized backdoor allowed the adversary to move laterally in a victim’s network and steal their critical data. This attack was perpetrated by an advanced adversary who carefully selected targets, changed their attacking infrastructure to match geographical location, and even named attacking hosts to match their victims to disguise their traffic better. By using a trusted software partner, they spread laterally across on-prem and cloud infrastructures to capture and exfiltrate data.

You need to do some damage control to your company's reputation, so you decide to help your customers by creating Splunk searches they can use on their Active Directory data to help with incident response. 

You can use Splunk software to find hosts where the adversary was able to gain a foothold or search for indicators of compromise related to specific lateral movement attacks. You can also use Splunk to analyze your Azure Active Directory data to hunt for techniques used in lateral movement, such as captured administrative passwords and forged SAML tokens.

How to use Splunk software for this use case

You can run many searches with Splunk software to detect lateral movement with Active Directory data. Depending on what information you have available, you might find it useful to identify some or all of the following: 


To maximize their benefit, the how-to articles linked in the previous section likely need to tie into existing processes at your organization or become new standard processes. These processes commonly impact success with this use case: 

  • Using external resources to inform yourself about the attack and possible ways to mitigate it, such as hunting for named pipes.
  • Using domain lookup files for specific threats, such as Sunburst Backdoor, to find hosts that have communicated with indicators of compromise.
  • Importing intelligence files for specific threats, such as Sunburst Backdoor, into your Splunk Enterprise Security application to facilitate your searches.
  • Reviewing external to internal network traffic to determine if unknown IP addresses have accessed your systems

Measuring impact and benefit is critical to assessing the value of security operations. When implementing this use case, you might want to track how many of the following Active Directory objects and properties you identified that couldn't be associated with legitimate activity:

  • New service principals
  • New credentials
  • New permissions, role assignments, or tenant access
  • Custom domain changes