Credential access attacks have become over time one of the critical security concerns for organizations. This phase of an attack, where adversaries obtain access to sensitive credentials, poses the most significant threat. It enables adversaries to gain unauthorized entry into systems, facilitating lateral movement and privilege escalation within the targeted environment. This stealthy approach makes it easier for attackers to achieve their objectives while evading detection.

To effectively detect and respond to credential access attacks on Windows, organizations should implement a robust security monitoring system to check for abnormal behaviors. In this blog post, we demonstrate how to simulate and detect the following credential attack techniques:

  • Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS) memory dumping.
  • Security Account Manager (SAM) database extraction.
  • Windows Credential Manager Abuse.


To demonstrate the detection of credential access attacks with Wazuh, we use the following infrastructure.

  • A pre-built, ready-to-use Wazuh OVA 4.5.1 Follow this guide to download the virtual machine (VM). This VM hosts the Wazuh central components (Wazuh server, Wazuh indexer, and Wazuh dashboard).
  • A Windows 11 victim endpoint with Wazuh agent 4.5.1 installed and enrolled to the Wazuh server. To install the Wazuh agent, refer to the Wazuh Windows installation guide

Credential access attacks techniques

On a Windows system, possible targets for adversaries include but are not limited to:

  • Local accounts
  • Domain accounts
  • Browsers
  • Password managers
  • Windows Credential Manager

1. LSASS memory dumping:

Dumping LSASS memory is a technique that attackers can employ to steal sensitive information from a compromised system, particularly credentials. The Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS) is a critical Windows process responsible for security related functions including handling user authentication and storing credentials. By extracting the LSASS memory, attackers can potentially access plaintext passwords and other sensitive data.

Below are some LSASS memory dumping approaches:

  • Rundll32.exe MiniDump with comsvcs: rundll32.exe is a legitimate Windows process used to run dynamic link library (DLL) functions. Adversaries may abuse its MiniDump function to extract LSASS memory contents into a DMP (dump) file.
    For example Adversaries can leverage the capabilities of the Component Services (comsvcs) DLL to achieve similar memory dumping objectives. By invoking relevant functions, attackers can extract LSASS memory and save it in a DMP file for later analysis.
  • Use of Procdump, Process Explorer, or Dumpert: Some adversaries opt for specialized tools like Procdump, Process Explorer, or Dumpert to carry out LSASS memory dumping. These tools provide more control and flexibility, allowing attackers to target specific memory regions and extract sensitive information.

2. SAM database hive extraction

The Security Account Manager (SAM) is a crucial component within the Windows operating system’s security infrastructure. It serves as a database file responsible for storing local user accounts’ security information and credentials. This includes sensitive data like password hashes, which are used for authentication purposes. The SAM database is a fundamental part of the Windows Security subsystem and plays a vital role in maintaining the security of user accounts and system resources.

Exploitation is essentially done by using the legitimate Windows utility reg.exe to interact with the system’s registry. By exporting registry hives, attackers can access credentials offline, enabling them to crack passwords or perform other malicious activities.

3. Windows Credential Manager exploitation

Windows Credential Manager is a built-in feature in Microsoft Windows operating systems that allows users to store and manage various credentials such as usernames, passwords, and other authentication data. This tool helps users to simplify the process of logging into various applications, websites, and network resources. However, its utilization also makes it a target for malicious actors seeking to steal these sensitive credentials.

Exploitation techniques include:

  • Utilizing rundll32.exe and Key Management Service: Adversaries often abuse the rundll32.exe process to interact with the Windows Credential Manager. Specifically, they may employ the keymgr.dll file to manipulate credentials and the credwiz utility, to make a backup of the credentials (to a .crd file). For detection, we should pay special attention to detecting when rundll32.exe is used with commands that involve keymdr.dll, especially when the “KRShowKeyMgr” argument is used.
  • VaultCmd process enumeration: Adversaries may leverage the vaultcmd process to list credentials, granting them a comprehensive view of stored credentials. Detection efforts should be aimed at spotting vaultcmd commands that include the “listcmd” argument.

Detection with Wazuh

In this section, we use detection rules to spot malicious activities on the Windows 11 endpoint.

Sysmon integration

Perform the following steps to configure the Wazuh agent to capture Sysmon logs and send them to the Wazuh server for analysis.

1. Download Sysmon from the Microsoft Sysinternals page with the configuration file sysmonconfig.xml on the Windows 11 endpoint.

2. Run the following command as administrator to install Sysmon with the downloaded configuration file via PowerShell:

> .\sysmon.exe -accepteula -i sysmonconfig.xml

3. Configure the Wazuh agent to collect Sysmon events by appending the following settings to the agent configuration file in “C:\Program Files (x86)\ossec-agent\ossec.conf“:


4. Apply the changes by restarting the agent using this PowerShell command as administrator:

> Restart-Service -Name wazuh

Wazuh server configuration

1. Add the following rules to the /var/ossec/etc/rules/local_rules.xml file to generate alerts on the Wazuh dashboard whenever an attacker performs any of the attacks mentioned above:

<group name="Windows,attack,">
<!-- Detecting an LSASS memory dumping attack using Rundll32.exe Minidump Function or Comsvcs.dll Exploitation -->
  <rule id="100010" level="10">
    <field name="win.eventdata.image" type="pcre2">(?i)\\\\rundll32.exe</field>
    <field name="win.eventdata.imageLoaded" type="pcre2">(?i)[c-z]:\\\\Windows\\\\System32\\\\comsvcs\.dll</field>
    <description>Possible adversary activity - LSASS memory dump: $(win.eventdata.imageLoaded) loaded by using $(win.eventData.image) on $(</description>

<!-- Detecting an LSASS memory dumping attack using specialized tools -->
  <rule id="100011" level="10">
    <field name="win.eventData.targetFilename" type="pcre2">(?i)\\\\[^\\]*\.dmp$</field>
    <field name="win.eventData.image" negate="yes" type="pcre2">(?i)\\\\lsass.*</field>
    <description>Possible adversary activity - LSASS memory dump: $(win.eventdata.image) created a new file on $( endpoint.</description>

<!-- Detecting a Windows Credential Manager exploitation attack -->
  <rule id="100012" level="10">
    <field name="win.eventData.Image" type="pcre2">(?i)\\\\rundll32.exe</field>
    <field name="win.eventData.commandLine" type="pcre2">keymgr.dll,KRShowKeyMgr</field>
    <description>Possible adversary activity - Credential Manager Access via $(win.eventData.Image) on $( endpoint.</description>

<!--  Detecting a Windows Credential Manager exploitation attack by VaultCmd process enumeration -->
  <rule id="100013" level="10">
    <field name="win.eventData.image" type="pcre2">(?i)\\\\vaultcmd.exe</field>
    <field name="win.eventData.commandLine" type="pcre2">list</field>
    <description>Possible adversary activity - Attempt to list credentials via $(win.eventData.Image) on $( endpoint.</description>



  • Rule ID 100010 is triggered when LSASS memory is dumped using the Windows utilities rundll32.exe and comsvcs.dll
  • Rule ID 100011 is triggered when LSASS memory is dumped using tools like procdump or dumpert.
  • Rule ID 100012 is triggered when the Windows Credential Manager is being accessed and backed up.
  • Rule ID 100013 is triggered when Windows credentials are being listed by using the vaultcmd.exe utility.

2. Restart the Wazuh manager to apply the configuration changes:

# systemctl restart wazuh-manager

Attacks simulation

In this section, we explore the simulation of various credential access attack techniques on the Windows 11 endpoint.

Note: Run the commands below in Powershell with administrator privileges.

LSASS memory dumping

Rundll32.exe MiniDump with comsvcs

Run the following command to simulate an LSASS memory dump using the rundll32.exe and exploiting the comsvcs.dll:

> rundll32.exe C:\Windows\System32\comsvcs.dll, MiniDump 624 C:\temp\lsass.dmp full

Using specialized tools

The steps below show how simulating an LSASS dump can be done using tools like Procdump, Process Explorer, or Dumpert.

Note: Windows Security might block these tools execution. Turn off the Real-time protection on your Windows 11 endpoint to continue with the attack simulations.


Procdump is a command-line utility developed by Sysinternals that can be used to create memory dumps of processes, including LSASS. To simulate an LSASS dump with Procdump:

1. Download Procdump from the Microsoft website:

> Invoke-WebRequest -OutFile

2. Navigate to the download location and unzip the compressed file by running the following command:

> Expand-Archive

3. Navigate to the Procdump directory and run the executable to create a memory dump of the LSASS process as follows:

> cd procdump
> .\procdump.exe -accepteula -ma lsass.exe lsass.dmp

The output should be similar to the following: 

ProcDump v11.0 - Sysinternals process dump utility
Copyright (C) 2009-2022 Mark Russinovich and Andrew Richards
Sysinternals -

[20:04:09] Dump 1 initiated:
[20:04:09] Waiting for dump to complete...
[20:04:09] Dump 1 writing: Estimated dump file size is 45 MB.
[20:04:14] Dump 1 complete: 45 MB written in 5.4 seconds
[20:04:14] Dump count reached.


Dumpert is a memory dump utility developed by Outflank. It makes use of system calls and  API unhooking techniques to create a dump of the LSASS memory. To simulate an LSASS dump attack with dumpert:

1. Download Dumpert using the below command:

> Invoke-WebRequest -OutFile Outflank-Dumpert.exe

2. Run the executable to simulate the attack as follows:

> .\Outflank-Dumpert.exe

The output should be similar to the following:

 ________          __    _____.__                 __
 \_____  \  __ ___/  |__/ ____\  | _____    ____ |  | __
  /   |   \|  |  \   __\   __\|  | \__  \  /    \|  |/ /
 /    |    \  |  /|  |  |  |  |  |__/ __ \|   |  \    <
 \_______  /____/ |__|  |__|  |____(____  /___|  /__|_ \
         \/                             \/     \/     \/
                               By Cneeliz @Outflank 2019

[1] Checking OS version details:
        [+] Operating System is Windows 10 or Server 2016, build number 22621
        [+] Mapping version specific System calls.
[2] Checking Process details:
        [+] Process ID of lsass.exe is: 852
        [+] NtReadVirtualMemory function pointer at: 0x00007FFA6D86F520
        [+] NtReadVirtualMemory System call nr is: 0x3f
        [+] Unhooking NtReadVirtualMemory.
[3] Create memorydump file:
        [+] Open a process handle.
        [+] Dump lsass.exe memory to: \??\C:\Windows\Temp\dumpert.dmp
        [+] Dump succesful.

SAM database hive extraction

The SAM database can be located in the %SystemRoot%\System32\config\SAM directory. Various tools and techniques can be used to extract data from the SAM database hive. Commonly used tools include SAMInside, PwDump, and the built-in Windows Registry Editor (Regedit).

In this section, we show how to exploit the SAM database using the regedit utility. Run either of the following commands to simulate the hive extraction from SAM:

> reg.exe save hklm\sam

> reg.exe save hklm\system

The above commands will create a backup or save a copy of the Windows Security Account Manager (SAM) and the Windows Registry’s “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM” hive. Adversaries can then use them to successfully obtain the hashes of all local accounts on the system.

Windows Credential Manager exploitation

Utilizing rundll32.exe and Key Manager Process

Run the following command to simulate a Windows Credential Manager exploitation using this tactic:

> rundll32 keymgr.dll,KRShowKeyMgr

This command opens the “Stored User Names and Passwords” on the Windows endpoint making it easier for adversaries to create a backup of the list of credentials.

VaultCmd process enumeration

Run the following command to start a vaultcmd process to list credentials stored in the Windows credentials vault:

> vaultcmd /listcreds:"Windows Credentials" /all

Detection result

After completing each attack simulation, the different events will be displayed on the Wazuh dashboard as shown on the figure below:

Credential Access Attacks
Note the native Wazuh rule ID 92026 which is fired in case of SAM hive dumping.


In this blog post, we have explored the role that Wazuh plays in the proactive hunt for credential access threats. As organizations increasingly find themselves under the crosshairs of sophisticated cybercriminals, the need to fortify their defenses against credential compromise has never been more critical.

With Wazuh as your vigilant sentinel, you can stay one step ahead of attackers, safeguard your organization’s credentials, and preserve the integrity of your digital fortress.