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Safeguarding Infrastructure: Understanding and Mitigating the Risks of Vulnerable Microsoft Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS)


·        Introduction to AD CS

·        Conclusion


Microsoft Active Directory Certificate Services

Introduction to AD CS

IT leaders and professionals understand the imperative to ensure the security of their organisations’ data and networks in 2024. However, despite the implementation of various security controls and measures, there exists a critical threat that often goes overlooked - vulnerable and misconfigured Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS). In this article, we delve into the risks associated with vulnerable AD CS, where a low privileged domain user can exploit domain controllers by leveraging AD CS misconfigurations and explore strategies to mitigate these risks effectively.

Understanding AD CS and the Associated Risks

Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS) is a Windows Server role that issues and manages digital certificates for securing communication, authenticating users, and encrypting data. Vulnerabilities in AD CS were reported in 2021, highlighting the risk of credential theft and domain escalation. AD CS certificates are used to specify rules for issuance, ensuring adherence to security policies and authorised access. However, improperly configured certificate templates can introduce security vulnerabilities that malicious actors may exploit. Additionally, in order to enumerate information about AD CS templates within a target domain, valid domain credentials are necessary. This task typically does not require highly privileged domain user accounts. Most domain credentials can be used to query details about AD CS templates and their configurations to enable effective management and oversight of certificate issuance within the organisation.

Vulnerable Certificate Templates

Each of the ESC1 to ESC13 certificate templates presents vulnerabilities due to their individual misconfigurations. Also, it is possible the domain has other certificate related vulnerabilities such as Certified (CVE-2022-26923), Petitpotam (CVE-2021-26943), and public key infrastructure (PKINT). Exploiting these vulnerabilities may require distinct tactics tailored to each template's specific settings and permissions.

Consequences of Ignoring the Threat

Exploiting vulnerabilities in AD CS can have significant impacts on an organisation's security posture and operations. Some of the potential impacts include:

  • Credential Theft: Attackers can abuse AD CS vulnerabilities to steal sensitive credentials stored within digital certificates. This can include user authentication credentials, cryptographic keys, and other sensitive information used for secure communication.

  • Domain Escalation: By exploiting vulnerabilities in AD CS, attackers may escalate their privileges within the domain, gaining unauthorised access to critical systems, resources, and sensitive data. This can lead to a complete compromise of the domain and significant security breaches.

  • Data Breaches: Compromising AD CS can result in unauthorised access to encrypted data and communications, leading to data breaches. Attackers can intercept, decrypt, and tamper with sensitive information transmitted over secure channels, compromising the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data.

  • Identity Theft: Exploiting AD CS vulnerabilities can enable attackers to impersonate legitimate users or entities by obtaining fraudulent digital certificates. This can lead to identity theft, unauthorised access to systems and services, and fraudulent activities conducted under the guise of legitimate users.

Protecting Your AD CS Environment

To mitigate the risks associated with vulnerable AD CS templates, organisations must take proactive measures. This includes conducting thorough audits of all AD CS templates, modifying vulnerable templates to enhance security, and updating AD CS with the KB5014754 patch.

How Spartans Security Can Help?

Spartans Security is dedicated to comprehensively understanding the unique needs of your organisation and stay up to date with emerging security threats. Our approach involves tailoring recommendations to provide the best-suited solutions for your specific requirements. We not only identify the most fitting security solutions but also offer practical advice on successful implementation. Our commitment lies in ensuring that your organisation not only achieves its security goals but does so with a seamlessly implemented and practical strategy for success.


Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS) is a Windows Server role for issuing and managing digital certificates, vulnerable to exploitation since 2021, posing risks like credential theft and domain escalation. Vulnerable certificate templates require thorough auditing and modification to mitigate risks. Mitigation involves securing certificate templates and updating AD CS with KB5014754. Spartans Security offers tailored security solutions and implementation guidance to address organisation-specific needs effectively.

Looking for cyber security advice and guidance? Then feel free to reach out to us at Our dedicated experts are looking forward to assist with robust solutions according to your organisation's needs.



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