Active Directory (AD) Security Best Practices

Cyber attacks often target vulnerable Active Directory services that manage the authorization and authentication of all users and computers on networks. With it, hackers gain access to all connected user accounts, databases, applications and all sorts of information. What protective measures need to be taken?

Security in a Windows-based infrastructure starts with securing Active Directory. In many companies, Active Directory (AD) in a Windows-based domain system is a centralized management tool that offers users control over access to servers or use of services offered by different servers.

Even in cloud or hybrid environments, it is the central system that can provide access to the relevant resources. The AD system provides the necessary permissions when you access a document on the network, OneDrive, or the web, print jobs on a network printer, receive email, and so on.

Due to existing AD vulnerabilities, it can be very easy for hackers to find ways to exploit them or steal user credentials, which then grants them access to sensitive data. This means that if hackers gain unlimited access to Active Directory, the central management tool, they will end up owning and dominating the network.

Threat scenarios and best practices

The following shows the top threats to AD systems and their possible solutions or best practices that can provide consistent security after successful implementation.

Default security settings

Active Directory has a number of predefined default security settings set by Microsoft. These security settings are not always ideal for the needs of different companies. Because it is very easy for hackers to find loopholes and weak points here to use them for their attacks.

Solution: Review and update default security settings to meet your business needs.

Access rights management

Domain user accounts and other administrators are allowed privileged access to AD. However, most employees, even those working in IT, do not need high-level or superuser rights. Roles are assigned to groups that define access levels. It's important to only allow the levels of access that individuals and roles need to do their jobs.

Solution: Implement the principles of least privilege for AD roles and groups. To do this, you need to check all the necessary authorizations for the data and applications of the roles of employees in the organization. Ensure that employees are given only the minimum level of access they need to perform their tasks.

In addition, the respective powers of individuals and groups should be more clearly separated so that their roles can be better controlled and threats can be reliably prevented in the event of a compromise. Privileged Access Management (PAM) is subject to strict security policies and controls.

AD administrator rights should be better controlled and domain user accounts should be more tightly restricted. To do this, all IT staff must undergo a thorough background check.

Only those IT personnel who absolutely need this access to perform their tasks can be granted administrator rights or superuser access.

Weak passwords for administrator accounts

Brute force attacks on AD services often target passwords. Weak passwords are, of course, the most vulnerable.

Solution: Make sure all accounts are securely protected with strong passwords.

Unpatched vulnerabilities in AD servers

Hackers can quickly exploit unpatched applications, operating systems, and firmware on AD servers and take further action based on that.

Solution: Finding and fixing vulnerabilities is one of the most important tasks of the IT department. Therefore, it is important to provide a fast, efficient, and efficient process for fixing and maintaining the AD system, as well as fixing other possible failures.

Visibility of unauthorized access attempts

Knowing about unauthorized access attempts is essential to more effectively stop or prevent them in the future.

Solution: Use real-time Windows monitoring and alerts. Windows audit logs detect both legitimate and malicious access attempts, as well as any changes made to AD. Particular attention should be paid to monitoring Windows AD changes. It also helps to comply with PCI, SOX, HIPAA and other requirements.

Centralization, automation and disaster recovery

Adequate visibility, management, reporting, and monitoring capabilities have a direct impact on AD security and are essential to maintaining system integrity.

Solution: overviews, reports, controls and administration should be centrally stored. Appropriate tools must be used to provide automated workflows for notification and resolution of issues.

Ensure that your configuration and AD directories are regularly backed up. Periodically perform emergency disaster recovery processes to ensure fast recovery in the event of an AD integrity breach.

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