Attackers often target Active Directory, the Microsoft-powered tool that facilitates smoother management of IT administration work. Your Outsourced IT service desk company controls authorization, employees’ rights, and other security-related operations from the Active Directory.
AD covers emails, printing requests, authentication & authorization rules, OneDrive, and other resources that are only accessible to the trusted members of the organization. So, an AD security breach can shut down your network for good.
According to a report by BusinessWire, 50% of the business surveyed reported an Active Directory attack, and 40% of these attacks were successful. These attacks can be prevented by strengthening your AD security practices. Let’s dive into the 10 security tips for Active Directory.
1. Adjust Authorization Settings
The default AD settings allow privileged access to all users. After installing Active Directory, configure the authorization settings to fit your organizational requirements. Make sure you provide limited access to each user.
It prevents attackers from hacking your system and ensures that your employees use their privileges wisely and get access to only the systems they need to execute their jobs. Ideally, you should follow the least privileged access system that grants the lowest-level permission to the user.
2. Identity Threat Detection Tools
Cyber attackers discover new techniques to deploy the malware into your system. To prevent these attackers from compromising your network, you must keep up-to-date with the latest security tools that offer advanced protection.
Identity threat detection is one such security tool that adds multiple layers of verification to your Active Directory. It monitors the activity of privileged users, those with Domain Admin Access, and dormant accounts. It detects unusual activity and alerts immediately before an attacker breaches your security.
3. Keep a Backup
Since your entire network is on the Active Directory, you need a backup to ensure that your data won’t get lost if a breach occurs. AD attacks can shut your entire network, and you won’t be able to recover it if there’s no backup in place.
A solid security response policy includes a data backup that can prevent hackers from shutting down your business. You should keep at least two backups in case one gets compromised during the attack.
4. Limit the Domain Admin Access
The domain admin of an Active Directory has full control over your entire IT infrastructure. They can access all computers, smartphones, software systems, and on-premise hardware tools connected to the router. When you give these rights to multiple users, the risk of a security breach increases.
Attackers know that people in the DA group are privileged users, and targeting them means they can hack the entire network. So, clear the Domain Admin groups frequently. Only your IT department that handles AD operations must have DA access.
5. Use Strong Passwords
The AD password is your first line of defense against a security breach. So, it’s important to implement a strong password strategy after installing the Active Directory.
Fortunately, Microsoft has launched security attributes that help you keep a strong password for AD accounts. This protects your system from a brute-force attack.
Change the passwords every month and use unique passwords that meet the password complexity standards of Microsoft.
6. Remove Inactive Accounts
There are dozens of ways for an attacker to compromise your Active Directory. The easiest one is the dormant accounts that aren’t used for weeks. CIS Critical Security Controls recommend deleting these accounts after 45 days of inactivity.
An attacker can be anyone from an outsider to an internal member you’ve fired. If someone quits their job, remove their AD account immediately. You can use an Active Directory cleanup tool to find and remove these dormant accounts easily.
7. Educate Your Staff
Hackers can target your employees to get quick access to your network. They might use phishing attempts, i.e., sending a malicious link to your staff through email or messaging apps. Your employees can give AD access to the hackers by running malicious files or clicking on the infected links.
Educate your staff about phishing attempts, malicious codes, and other cybersecurity attacks that can compromise the entire network. Moreover, your staff must be equipped with the right security tools to prevent phishing attacks.
8. Outsource IT Help Desks for Security Management
Delegating the AD security to a third party that specializes in managing all network and security-related operations makes sense. When your business scales and you have more employees using Active Directory, you need a dedicated team that responds to security alerts and monitors your AD operations regularly.
The IT help desk will create a backup for your network, store sensitive data in secure places, give user privileges based on their role in your organization, disable dormant accounts, and implement the latest security practices.
From setting stringent passwords to developing a comprehensive security response policy, an outsourced IT team will handle all security operations flawlessly.
9. Use a Secure Admin Workstation
You should install a Secure Admin Workstation (SAW) for all privileged users. This should be used strictly for tasks that require Domain Admin Access. This workstation should not be used for emails, browsing, or any internet-based activity, for that matter.
A Secure Admin Workstation reduces the risk of AD attacks, as these systems are not connected to the internet and are not used regularly.
10. Monitor Unusual Activity
Any unusual activity on your network indicates a compromised Active Directory. For example, if your antivirus program has been disabled manually or an unknown account shows up in your active user accounts in the AD, there’s a chance your system is hacked.
Any change to the privileged accounts or a large number of wrong password attempts suggests a breach. It’s important to watch out for any abnormal behavior.
Your entire IT infrastructure is stored and managed within the Active Directory. This makes it a perfect entry point for hackers looking for a way to get access to your system. If the hacker steals the login credentials of an authorized employee, they can hack your Active Directory and control your network. Follow the above security practices to improve your network security.