Security groups


In the Windows Server operating system, there are several built-in accounts and security groups that are preconfigured with the appropriate rights and permissions to perform specific tasks. (Microsoft)

There are scenarios where testers can obtain full control over members of built-in security groups. The usual targets are members of the "Administrators", "Domain Admins" or "Entreprise Admins" groups, however, other groups can sometimes lead to major privileges escalation.


Below is a table summing up some groups' rights and abuse paths.

Security GroupRights and abuses

Account Operators

its members can create and manage users and groups, including its own membership and that of the Server Operators group (e.g. add a member to a group)

its members can also be used to help abuse user accounts with unconstrained delegations since Account Operators can edit users SPNs.

"This group is considered a service administrator group because it can modify Server Operators, which in turn can modify domain controller settings. As a best practice, leave the membership of this group empty, and do not use it for any delegated administration. This group cannot be renamed, deleted, or moved." (


full admin rights to the Active Directory domain and Domain Controllers

Backup Operators

Server Operators

its members can sign-in to a server, start and stop services, access domain controllers, perform maintenance tasks (such as backup and restore), and they have the ability to change binaries that are installed on the domain controllers


can read, write, create, delete DNS records (e.g. edit the wildcard record if it already exists). Its members can also run code via DLL on a Domain Controller operating as a DNS server (CVE-2021-40469).

Domain Admins

full admin rights to the Active Directory domain, all computers, workstations, servers, users and so on

Enterprise Admins

full admin rights to all Active Directory domains in the AD forest

Schema Admins

modify the schema structure of the Active Directory. Only the objects created after the modification are affected.

Group Policy Creators Owners

create Group Policies in the domain. Its members can't apply group policies to users or group or edit existing GPOs

Cert Publishers

its members usually are the servers where AD CS is installed


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