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IT consultant helping to protect SMBs from privilege escalation attacks.

Privilege escalation attacks begin when a malicious actor has gained access to a business’ network by creating an account for themselves or, more commonly, stealing an employee’s account credentials. Vertical privilege escalation occurs when a hacker will use an exploit, misconfiguration, or other means to grant themselves elevated privileges that the account normally would not be granted. These administrative level privileges are then used to steal information, launch malware on the network, or set up another attack on employees or clients. Even though privilege escalation requires an account to already be compromised, SMBs can take steps to prevent this step in a hacker’s plan, and we want to talk about some of the best strategies for defending your network.

Account Protection

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The best way to prevent privilege escalation attacks from occurring is to lower the risk of an employee’s account being stolen by an attacker. Small and medium businesses should implement password policies that require users to create strong passwords that must be updated regularly, and password managers can be recommended for use. Multifactor authentication (MFA) should also be used on any account that can access the business’ network to prevent unauthorized logins when user credentials get stolen. Additionally, employees must receive regular phishing training so that they can recognize the latest attack strategies hackers use and properly report phishing attacks to the IT department or the business’ IT consultant.

DNS Security Services

Because privilege escalation attacks can require the use of exploitations that need to make outside connection, DNS-layer security services, such as DNS layer filtering can help catch and prevent attacks that try to escalate account privileges. DNS security services can also monitor network habits and identify when unexpected deviations occur that can indicate an attack is occurring. These features in combination with analytics will allow the business’ IT team or trusted IT consultant to quickly respond to the threat, remediate any threats that might be lingering on the network, and prevent future attacks of the same kind occurring.

Network Detection and Response Tools

Privilege escalation attacks attempt to give a user account access and authority it normally would not gain, and this kind of suspicious activity can be detected with network detection and response tools (NDR). Small and medium businesses can work with a reliable IT consultant to setup the NDR services that can monitor their network traffic for suspicious requests, unauthorized changes to system settings, and other activities that could indicate a hacker is trying to escalate privileges on an employee’s account. The right NDR tools can even provide quick responses to remediate threats as they appear, limiting the time an attack has to cause damage to the network.


Preventing privilege escalation attacks is a critical step in improving a small or medium business’ cybersecurity posture because it stops a bad situation from becoming worse. Implementing strong password hygiene early, using tools like DNS-layer security, and working with an IT consultant to setup proper NDR services can improve your business’ chances of stopping attackers before they can gain administrative authority on your network. Our experts here at Robinett Consulting also recommend having an IT consultant assess your network and offer advice on the best ways to improve your security coverage against privilege escalation exploits and other cybersecurity threats!  

Robinett Consulting

Author Robinett Consulting

At Robinett Consulting, we are your consultative partner who strives to grow your business and have technology truly enabling you. We aim to understand you and your business so that you do what you do best unhindered by your IT.

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