Skip to content

T1134 Access Token Manipulation

Adversaries may modify access tokens to operate under a different user or system security context to perform actions and bypass access controls. Windows uses access tokens to determine the ownership of a running process. A user can manipulate access tokens to make a running process appear as though it is the child of a different process or belongs to someone other than the user that started the process. When this occurs, the process also takes on the security context associated with the new token.

An adversary can use built-in Windows API functions to copy access tokens from existing processes; this is known as token stealing. These token can then be applied to an existing process (i.e. Token Impersonation/Theft) or used to spawn a new process (i.e. Create Process with Token). An adversary must already be in a privileged user context (i.e. administrator) to steal a token. However, adversaries commonly use token stealing to elevate their security context from the administrator level to the SYSTEM level. An adversary can then use a token to authenticate to a remote system as the account for that token if the account has appropriate permissions on the remote system.6

Any standard user can use the runas command, and the Windows API functions, to create impersonation tokens; it does not require access to an administrator account. There are also other mechanisms, such as Active Directory fields, that can be used to modify access tokens.

Item Value
ID T1134
Sub-techniques T1134.001, T1134.002, T1134.003, T1134.004, T1134.005
Tactics TA0005, TA0004
Platforms Windows
Permissions required Administrator, User
Version 2.0
Created 14 December 2017
Last Modified 30 March 2023

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
S0622 AppleSeed AppleSeed can gain system level privilege by passing SeDebugPrivilege to the AdjustTokenPrivilege API.21
S1068 BlackCat BlackCat has the ability modify access tokens.2423
G0108 Blue Mockingbird Blue Mockingbird has used JuicyPotato to abuse the SeImpersonate token privilege to escalate from web application pool accounts to NT Authority\SYSTEM.32
C0017 C0017 During C0017, APT41 used a ConfuserEx obfuscated BADPOTATO exploit to abuse named-pipe impersonation for local NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM privilege escalation.33
S0625 Cuba Cuba has used SeDebugPrivilege and AdjustTokenPrivileges to elevate privileges.30
S0038 Duqu Duqu examines running system processes for tokens that have specific system privileges. If it finds one, it will copy the token and store it for later use. Eventually it will start new processes with the stored token attached. It can also steal tokens to acquire administrative privileges.22
S0363 Empire Empire can use PowerSploit‘s Invoke-TokenManipulation to manipulate access tokens.10
G0037 FIN6 FIN6 has used has used Metasploit’s named-pipe impersonation technique to escalate privileges.31
S0666 Gelsemium Gelsemium can use token manipulation to bypass UAC on Windows7 systems.16
S0697 HermeticWiper HermeticWiper can use AdjustTokenPrivileges to grant itself privileges for debugging with SeDebugPrivilege, creating backups with SeBackupPrivilege, loading drivers with SeLoadDriverPrivilege, and shutting down a local system with SeShutdownPrivilege.1920
S0203 Hydraq Hydraq creates a backdoor through which remote attackers can adjust token privileges.27
S0607 KillDisk KillDisk has attempted to get the access token of a process by calling OpenProcessToken. If KillDisk gets the access token, then it attempt to modify the token privileges with AdjustTokenPrivileges.28
S1060 Mafalda Mafalda can use AdjustTokenPrivileges() to elevate privileges.25
S0576 MegaCortex MegaCortex can enable SeDebugPrivilege and adjust token privileges.29
S0378 PoshC2 PoshC2 can use Invoke-TokenManipulation for manipulating tokens.11
S0194 PowerSploit PowerSploit‘s Invoke-TokenManipulation Exfiltration module can be used to manipulate tokens.1213
S0446 Ryuk Ryuk has attempted to adjust its token privileges to have the SeDebugPrivilege.17
S0633 Sliver Sliver has the ability to manipulate user tokens on targeted Windows systems.1415
S0058 SslMM SslMM contains a feature to manipulate process privileges and tokens.26
S0562 SUNSPOT SUNSPOT modified its security token to grants itself debugging privileges by adding SeDebugPrivilege.18


ID Mitigation Description
M1026 Privileged Account Management Limit permissions so that users and user groups cannot create tokens. This setting should be defined for the local system account only. GPO: Computer Configuration > [Policies] > Windows Settings > Security Settings > Local Policies > User Rights Assignment: Create a token object. 7 Also define who can create a process level token to only the local and network service through GPO: Computer Configuration > [Policies] > Windows Settings > Security Settings > Local Policies > User Rights Assignment: Replace a process level token.8
M1018 User Account Management An adversary must already have administrator level access on the local system to make full use of this technique; be sure to restrict users and accounts to the least privileges they require.


ID Data Source Data Component
DS0026 Active Directory Active Directory Object Modification
DS0017 Command Command Execution
DS0009 Process OS API Execution
DS0002 User Account User Account Metadata


  1. Atkinson, J., Winchester, R. (2017, December 7). A Process is No One: Hunting for Token Manipulation. Retrieved December 21, 2017. 

  2. Mathers, B. (2017, March 7). Command line process auditing. Retrieved April 21, 2017. 

  3. Microsoft TechNet. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2017. 

  4. Microsoft TechNet. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2017. 

  5. Microsoft TechNet. (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2017. 

  6. netbiosX. (2017, April 3). Token Manipulation. Retrieved April 21, 2017. 

  7. Brower, N., Lich, B. (2017, April 19). Create a token object. Retrieved December 19, 2017. 

  8. Brower, N., Lich, B. (2017, April 19). Replace a process level token. Retrieved December 19, 2017. 

  9. Microsoft TechNet. (n.d.). Runas. Retrieved April 21, 2017. 

  10. Schroeder, W., Warner, J., Nelson, M. (n.d.). Github PowerShellEmpire. Retrieved April 28, 2016. 

  11. Nettitude. (2018, July 23). Python Server for PoshC2. Retrieved April 23, 2019. 

  12. PowerShellMafia. (2012, May 26). PowerSploit - A PowerShell Post-Exploitation Framework. Retrieved February 6, 2018. 

  13. PowerSploit. (n.d.). PowerSploit. Retrieved February 6, 2018. 

  14. Kervella, R. (2019, August 4). Cross-platform General Purpose Implant Framework Written in Golang. Retrieved July 30, 2021. 

  15. BishopFox. (n.d.). Sliver. Retrieved September 15, 2021. 

  16. Dupuy, T. and Faou, M. (2021, June). Gelsemium. Retrieved November 30, 2021. 

  17. Hanel, A. (2019, January 10). Big Game Hunting with Ryuk: Another Lucrative Targeted Ransomware. Retrieved May 12, 2020. 

  18. CrowdStrike Intelligence Team. (2021, January 11). SUNSPOT: An Implant in the Build Process. Retrieved January 11, 2021. 

  19. Dani, M. (2022, March 1). Ukrainian Targets Hit by HermeticWiper, New Datawiper Malware. Retrieved March 25, 2022. 

  20. Thomas, W. et al. (2022, February 25). CrowdStrike Falcon Protects from New Wiper Malware Used in Ukraine Cyberattacks. Retrieved March 25, 2022. 

  21. Jazi, H. (2021, June 1). Kimsuky APT continues to target South Korean government using AppleSeed backdoor. Retrieved June 10, 2021. 

  22. Kaspersky Lab. (2015, June 11). The Duqu 2.0. Retrieved April 21, 2017. 

  23. Brandt, Andrew. (2022, July 14). BlackCat ransomware attacks not merely a byproduct of bad luck. Retrieved December 20, 2022. 

  24. Microsoft Defender Threat Intelligence. (2022, June 13). The many lives of BlackCat ransomware. Retrieved December 20, 2022. 

  25. SentinelLabs. (2022, September 22). Metador Technical Appendix. Retrieved April 4, 2023. 

  26. Baumgartner, K., Golovkin, M.. (2015, May). The MsnMM Campaigns: The Earliest Naikon APT Campaigns. Retrieved April 10, 2019. 

  27. Lelli, A. (2010, January 11). Trojan.Hydraq. Retrieved February 20, 2018. 

  28. Gilbert Sison, Rheniel Ramos, Jay Yaneza, Alfredo Oliveira. (2018, January 15). KillDisk Variant Hits Latin American Financial Groups. Retrieved January 12, 2021. 

  29. Del Fierro, C. Kessem, L.. (2020, January 8). From Mega to Giga: Cross-Version Comparison of Top MegaCortex Modifications. Retrieved February 15, 2021. 

  30. Roccio, T., et al. (2021, April). Technical Analysis of Cuba Ransomware. Retrieved June 18, 2021. 

  31. McKeague, B. et al. (2019, April 5). Pick-Six: Intercepting a FIN6 Intrusion, an Actor Recently Tied to Ryuk and LockerGoga Ransomware. Retrieved April 17, 2019. 

  32. Lambert, T. (2020, May 7). Introducing Blue Mockingbird. Retrieved May 26, 2020. 

  33. Rufus Brown, Van Ta, Douglas Bienstock, Geoff Ackerman, John Wolfram. (2022, March 8). Does This Look Infected? A Summary of APT41 Targeting U.S. State Governments. Retrieved July 8, 2022.