Pivoting Techniques

Riya Jain
3 min readDec 31, 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, threat actors are constantly finding new and sophisticated ways to exploit vulnerabilities and infiltrate networks. One such advanced technique employed by attackers is “pivoting.” Pivoting involves moving through a network, gaining unauthorized access to different systems, and ultimately reaching a desired target. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the concept of pivoting, its significance in the realm of cybersecurity, and various methods attackers use to carry out this maneuver.

Understanding Pivoting:

Pivoting is a strategic method that malicious actors use to navigate a compromised network, maintain control, and escalate their attacks. It involves the exploitation of interconnected systems, allowing attackers to extend their reach and find valuable assets or data. Successful pivoting often goes undetected, making it a potent weapon in the hands of cybercriminals.

Different Pivoting Techniques:

  1. Port Forwarding:
    — Attackers may use compromised systems to set up port forwarding, creating a tunnel through which they can access other internal network resources. This method enables them to bypass perimeter security measures.

2. Proxy Pivoting:
— Malicious actors can establish proxy servers on compromised systems, redirecting their traffic through these intermediaries to obscure their origin and avoid detection. This technique is effective for hiding the true source of an attack.

3. SSH Tunnels:
— Secure Shell (SSH) tunnels allow attackers to create encrypted connections between systems. By leveraging compromised machines, they can establish SSH tunnels to move laterally within a network, evading traditional security controls.

4. Web Application Pivoting:
— Exploiting vulnerabilities in web applications is another common pivoting technique. Attackers can compromise a web server and use it as a launching pad to access other internal resources, often bypassing firewalls.

5. DNS Pivoting:
— Manipulating Domain Name System (DNS) configurations allows attackers to redirect network traffic, enabling them to traverse a network more stealthily. By compromising DNS servers, they can control communication pathways.

6. Database Pivoting:
— Attackers may target databases to pivot within a network. Exploiting vulnerabilities in database systems, they can gain access to sensitive information and potentially move laterally to other databases or systems.

Defensive Strategies:

To counter pivoting attacks, organizations must adopt robust cybersecurity measures:

1. Segmentation:
— Implement network segmentation to compartmentalize systems and limit lateral movement within the network.

2. Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS):
— Employ IDS to detect and respond to anomalous activities indicative of pivoting.

3. Patch Management:
— Regularly update and patch systems and applications to eliminate known vulnerabilities that attackers might exploit.

Conclusion:

Pivoting is a sophisticated technique that highlights the importance of a multi-layered cybersecurity approach. As threat actors continue to evolve, organizations must remain vigilant, adopting proactive measures to detect and mitigate pivoting attempts. By understanding the various pivoting techniques and implementing robust defensive strategies, we can bolster our cybersecurity posture and protect against these insidious attacks.

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Riya Jain

Security Researcher | Penetration Tester | Red Team | Blue Team | eJPT|CAP | CND | Purple Team