What Is MITRE ATT&CK Lateral Movement (TA0008)?

The MITRE ATT&CK Framework outlines the critical components of the strategies cyber adversaries leverage to achieve their goals. Understanding these tactics and techniques is critical for cybersecurity professionals to provide the best defense against these attacks.

Lateral Movement is a crucial element in the MITRE ATT&CK framework. This concept is vital for both cyber professionals and business stakeholders to grasp, as understanding it can pave the way for a fortified defense system.

To truly understand Lateral Movement (TA0008), one must first recognize its placement in the broader scheme of an attack. Once an attacker gains initial access to a system or network—whether that's through phishing, exploiting vulnerabilities, or other means—their work has only just begun. Their ultimate goal might be stealing intellectual property, planting ransomware, or even setting up a permanent outpost within the network. To achieve these goals, they must often move laterally.

Lateral Movement in Action

Picture a vast corporate network like an enormous mansion with many rooms, each holding a different piece of information or level of access. The attacker, after entering one of these rooms, will look for ways to enter other rooms without raising alarms. They may:

  • Hijack Credentials: Attacking tools can extract usernames and passwords, allowing the intruder to move around as a legitimate user.
  • Exploit Software Vulnerabilities: If the software on one machine has an unpatched vulnerability, attackers can leverage this to spread their influence.
  • Leverage Remote Services: Techniques like Pass-the-Hash or Pass-the-Ticket can be employed to authenticate to remote systems or services without needing actual passwords.
  • Practice Internal Spearphishing: Using a trusted internal account that has been compromised by adversaries to spread malware further across the network, gaining access to additional accounts to move laterally through the network environment.

Detecting and Countering Lateral Movement

For defenders, spotting Lateral Movement can be the key to halting an attack in its tracks. This requires a combination of technical solutions and astute awareness.

  • Anomaly Detection: Tools that recognize unusual behavior, like an employee's account accessing systems they've never touched before, can flag potential lateral movement.
  • Segmentation: By segmenting a network, organizations can limit the 'movement space' available to an attacker, containing potential breaches.
  • Regular Patching: Keeping software and systems updated ensures that attackers can't exploit known vulnerabilities to move laterally.
  • Multi-factor Authentication (MFA): Even if attackers capture credentials, MFA can present a formidable barrier to further movement.
  • Zero Trust: The Zero Trust Security Architecture is a philosophy that can help minimize lateral movement. This set of security principles is designed to offer comprehensive protection focused on users, resources, and assets. It is based on the premise that no entity, inside or side of the network, is to be trusted by default.

In the evolving landscape of cyber threats, understanding Lateral Movement's nuances and strategies for its detection is a linchpin for robust security. By equipping themselves with this knowledge, businesses, and security professionals not only defend against present threats but also prepare for future ones. Remember, in the digital domain, it's not just about keeping intruders out—it's also about swiftly detecting and expelling those that make it inside.


Omnis Cyber Intelligence (OCI) helps enable beneficial cybersecurity philosophies, such as Zero Trust, to help keep adversaries from gaining access to sensitive data. This allows enterprises to have more visibility and control over where users, whether authorized or adversaries, can access when traversing the network.