What is Credential Access in Cyber Security?

Written By Sambita Panigrahy  
Anuraag Singh
Approved By Anuraag Singh 
Published On November 28th, 2023
Reading Time 9 Minutes Reading

Digital fraud and identity thefts are rising day by day. Hackers attack computer systems and steal information. Some essential information they steal is access to credentials. These are usernames, passwords, or PINs, which is the way attackers use credential access in cyber security.

Why is access with credentials risky? This is so because a hacker who obtains credentials has complete and authorized access to a system. This is significantly difficult to notice and observe. Thus, credential access in cybersecurity is risky.

In the physical world, you can typically verify documents by looking at them. But how can you preserve those credentials in the digital world? How do you know that those credentials are secure? What could be the solution? We need to know the answers to these common queries in the era of today’s digital life.

The purpose of this blog is to introduce you to these topics and help you find the answers to important concerns that may have arisen. Let’s talk about what it is, how it functions, and what it means in cyber security now without further ado.

Let Us Know About Credential Access-Based Attacks

When we talk about credentials, it simply means things like passwords, usernames, PINs, or any other piece of authentication used to log into your account. So, the use of valid credentials to access system resources is known as credential access.

To get access to systems, hackers employ a variety of methods to steal user passwords, PINs, or even MFA factors. Attackers who obtain access to an organization using credentials often utilize tactics to capture credential access in cyber security. After that, they use verified user credentials to access the network.

Now, let us know about the credential access attacks.

It is impossible to overestimate the risk of an attack of this nature. It is far more difficult to detect an attack when a hacker has authentic credentials. These credentials will give the hacker access to the car. Through this it allows them to do as they like (at least within the bounds of the privileges of the stolen credentials).

Theft of corporate credentials typically involves a targeted attack. Attackers trawl social networking platforms like LinkedIn in search of particular people whose login credentials will give them access to vital data and information.

The phishing emails and websites used to steal credentials from businesses are far more sophisticated than those used to steal credentials from consumers. Attackers worked very hard to make these emails and webpages appear almost exactly like official corporate applications and communications.

After knowing about credential access, in brief, let us move on to how credentials can be stolen.

Common Causes of Credential Theft in Cyber Security

Some common causes of credential theft are mentioned below:

  • Malware: the devices can become infected by malicious software, which can also steal passwords. Malware can be installed on consumers’ computers using drive-by downloads and social engineering.
  • Phishing: Phishing attacks usually take advantage of victims’ trust in well-known firms to trick them into giving over their credentials. They typically use an inviting email to convince the recipient to visit a malicious website and submit their credentials.
  • Weak Password or Password Reuse: Attackers take advantage of weak password security practices to gain access to the on-premises These attacks use accounts with a lot of rights to get deeper into the victim’s IT infrastructure.
  • Attacks on Cloud Services: Attacks on the cloud environment may give threat actors access to resources and systems that are located on-site. These attacks can extend their reach inside the victim’s IT infrastructure by using accounts with a lot of permissions.
  • Man-In-The-Middle Attacks: It is extremely simple for hackers to steal either encrypted or clear-text credentials (depending on how those credentials are supplied). If they can insert themselves into network connections between two parties, user credentials are transferred to that connection.
    attacks can assist social engineering attacks by redirecting users to bogus websites where credentials are collected.

Example of Credential Access Attacks

In the period of remote workers and cloud computing, credential access in cyber security has emerged as a common tactic for initial entry. Threat actors frequently run false authentication sites to collect real authentication information for cloud services like Microsoft Office 365 (O365), Okta, or webmail accounts.

They then attempt to enter victim accounts using these credentials.

Techniques for Unauthorized Credential Access in Cyber Security

Techniques for stealing credentials, such as account names and passwords, are referred to as “credential access.” Keylogging and credential dumping are two methods of obtaining credentials. By using authentic credentials, attackers can get access to systems, make themselves more difficult to find, and have the chance to create new accounts to further their objectives.

Here, we’ll discuss some of the primary credential access techniques that hackers employ to obtain user credentials:

Adversary-in-the-middle (Aitm): Adversary-in-the-middle, also known as Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attacks To assist further actions like transmitted data manipulation, adversaries may attempt to establish a middleman (AiTM) position between two parties, two users, or two devices.
This technique supports behaviors such as network sniffing and transmitted data manipulation. Adversaries may compel a device to communicate through a system they control in order to gather data or carry out other tasks.

Brute Force: Brute Force is the simplest type of attack for getting the user’s credentials. In this attack, a hacker attempts to determine a user’s password. This can be done directly on the target service or offline against the previously acquired password hash. Since it involves randomly guessing the password, it is not a very effective attack.

It can also take a long time. So, the best way to prevent brute force is to generate a strong password. with 10–12 characters using a length and variety of characters. The common threat-attacking group, Oilrig, is a suspected Iranian threat group that attacks supply chains.

Brute Force

Credentials for Password Store

Password text in Credential access in cyber security

Another method used by hackers to gain user credentials is to look in the typical places on your computer where passwords are kept. Most operating systems and programs store passwords in a specific location and hackers acquire such passwords to get the stored data.

By having strong endpoint protection, you can prevent this type of credential access attack by limiting the hacker’s ability to access the machine in the first place.

Additionally, you can change the password for the user’s login keychain (where the password is stored) so that it is different from the user’s login password.

A piece of malware known as stealth falcon, which would collect passwords from various places on the computer including Windows Credential Vault and Outlook, is an example of this technology being weaponized.

Exploitation for Credential Access

vulnerability results

Hackers can also gain access to the credentials by exploiting the software liability. This typically means that a hacker uses a programming flaw in a program or service to obtain remote code execution and collect the necessary credentials.

Network Sniffing

network sniffing technique in Credential access in cyber security

Network Sniffing is a method for continually watching and recording all data packets that pass via a network. Sniffer software is used by network and system administrators to track and analyze network traffic.

Password spraying is a brute force attack where a malicious actor attempts to use the same password on many accounts. Attackers did this without switching to another one and repeating the process again. Password spraying uses a single password (such as “Password01”) or a short list of popular passwords that may adhere to the domain’s complexity criteria.

Keylogging: Keylogging is also referred to as keystroke logging. It is the action of recording the keys struck on the keyboard. Before a system can properly collect credentials, an adversary may need to monitor keystrokes for a significant amount of time.  When an adversary’s efforts to perform OS credential dumping are unsuccessful, they are likely to resort to obtaining credentials for future access chances.

However, before they can properly collect credentials, they may need to monitor keystrokes on a system for a significant amount of time.

Catching credential access in cybersecurity will be very challenging. Therefore, the emphasis must be on preventing the credentials from being stolen.

What Role Does Credential Access Play in Advanced Persistence Threats (APTs)?

APT is a form of cyberattack in which data exfiltration is the primary goal of the hacker. APTs always consistently and aggressively affect companies and organizations with the goal of accessing their secured data.

But they always go undetected. They seek out the most valuable and restricted data. Some of these are trade secrets, intellectual properties, employee information, sensitive client data, target data, or financial information.

As might be expected, credential access is essential to the success of the lateral movement. These threats must have authentic credentials in order to remain undetected.

In order to gather as many user credentials as possible, such attacks will employ a variety of credential theft techniques (network sniffing, credential dumping, harvesting, etc.).

General Tips for Preventing Credentials Access

  • Password policy: The first piece of advice is to have a decent password policy, which we can apply to several different strategies. Therefore, you should require those passwords:
  1. Which should contain 12–15 characters long
  2. Use lower case, upper case, numbers, and special characters.
  3. Rotate the password every 90 days.
  • Encryption: Even if an attacker manages to obtain access to user credentials, properly encrypting them can stop their attempts to misuse the information. This dual-encryption strategy acts as a robust defense against unauthorized access and ensures the security of sensitive data.
  • 2 FA: Whenever you activate 2FA, make sure to add a second layer of protection to your users’ accounts in case someone steals their login credentials.
  • Use the least privilege on the user account: You must restrict user account privileges in order to lessen the harm brought on by stolen user credentials. In this manner, the account severely limits an attacker’s capacity to read data and take action, even if they gain access.


Credential access in cyber security refers to a group of techniques used by attackers to obtain your login information. Such as account names and passwords. The best approach to staying safe from ever-evolving cyber attacks is to deploy cybersecurity measures.

This includes regular scanning and performing vulnerability assessments on your assets. Organizations may need assistance responding to sophisticated cyber attacks. Hence, they can partner with the highly experienced cyber security firm SysTools.

This professional firm offers VAPT services that enhance the online security of your business infrastructure. Thus, It will be advantageous if you offer a password manager tool. This stops users from using passwords that are simple to remember. Using discovery technique tools can also reveal the default passwords on unaltered devices.