Most businesses today rely on Microsoft Active Directory (AD) to run their operations. AD is primarily the gateway that connects employees to their resources on a company network (such as email or network file shares). Administrators use it to manage users’ permissions, authenticating them as they log in and determining which resources they can access.
AD has numerous advantages. It’s simple to utilize, has been around for a long time, and is exceptionally dependable. However, many businesses are unaware of the security risks associated with it.
Why is AD a Problem Today?
AD is vulnerable for a variety of reasons. For starters, it was not intended to deal with complex security threats. It was released before ransomware, sophisticated nation-state-backed cyber outfits, and widespread cloud computing adoption. Because it is an older technology, it cannot effectively combat many of the advanced threats we face today.
Second, AD was designed to be open to facilitate use. To prioritise a seamless user experience, it trusts those users who are logged into a network. However, today’s openness poses a difficult challenge for defenders, as it presents few barriers to successful infiltrators.
Third, it’s primarily experienced that it has harboured, in many cases, 20-plus years of poor security decisions made for practicality’s sake, which have accumulated to create a massive target that even unskilled attackers would struggle to miss.
The Simplicity of the Attack Methods Utilizied To Target AD
An attacker will affect a PC through phishing. An attacker will send a bogus message or email to trick their target into disclosing sensitive information, such as their AD login credentials.
They then work to gain privileges on that local machine – Attackers can gain benefits on the machine in various ways, including exploiting device vulnerabilities.
The attackers then use AD to find other computers, mapping out all the machines connected and used within that network.
Besides that, attackers reset in on more devices. From here, attackers move around a network conducting difficult-to-detect reconnaissance, attacking numerous machines in search of one with AD administrator privileges.
Eventually, secure access to a privileged account – They ultimately gain access to the credentials of a privileged or admin account. Once they have that, they will completely control AD and everything utterly reliant on it.
How Can Firms Respond?
To reduce your security problems, you must first understand where they exist. Trying to gain this understanding can be overwhelming for many businesses, especially those with little cybersecurity knowledge. However, there are solutions and support available to assist.
Purple Knight is a perfect way to start. It is a free Active Directory security assessment tool developed and managed by a leading group of Microsoft identity experts that can assist you in recognising weak points in your Active Directory before attackers do, highlighting common vulnerabilities that should be resolved.