Active Directory (AD) is a critical component of many organizations’ security infrastructure. It serves as a centralized repository for managing user accounts, permissions, and network resources in a Windows environment, and is sometimes referred to as the gatekeeper for enterprise network resources. However, many organizations that use Active Directory don’t have complete visibility into their AD environments. User accounts, once created, are often forgotten or not monitored, creating security gaps that could have been avoided by simply tracking and cleaning up the AD environment regularly. In this post, we will explore the importance of regularly monitoring Active Directory.
What is Active Directory?
Active Directory (AD) is a directory service and identity management system developed by Microsoft. It is used in Windows-based networks and environments to centralize and manage network resources, including users, computers, printers, servers, and other network-connected devices. It plays a critical role in ensuring that only authorized users can access specific resources and that their permissions are appropriately controlled.
On-prem Active Directory vs. Azure Active Directory
It’s important to note the difference between Active Directory on-premises and Azure Active Directory (Azure AD). While traditional Active Directory is used for on-premises environments, Azure AD is Microsoft’s cloud-based directory service, designed for modern cloud applications and services. Organizations often use both in a hybrid setup, making monitoring even more important.
The Importance of Regular Active Directory Monitoring
Organizations must monitor their Active Directory environments regularly to ensure that only active, legitimate users have access to network resources, and to detect any changes that may introduce security vulnerabilities. Regular cleaning up of Active Directory is not just a good cybersecurity practice, but also required by security regulations and standards like PCI DSS, HIPAA, GDPR, etc.
User Permissions and Access Control
AD is the gatekeeper for your network resources. Regular monitoring ensures that user permissions and access to these resources are maintained and controlled effectively.
Inactive and Unused Accounts
Cyber attackers often exploit inactive accounts to gain access to a company’s network. By catching these accounts early and removing unneeded accounts and permissions, you can significantly reduce the risk of breaches.
Preventing Lateral Movement
Threat actors with access to your environment aim to move laterally and escalate their privileges. Monitoring permissions and users on AD can help you identify and remove permissions that could allow attackers with initial access to gain admin-level privileges.
Detecting Malicious Activity
Regular monitoring also exposes unexpected changes or anomalous behavior in your AD environment, which could be signs of malicious activity.
Meeting Compliance Requirements
Many security regulations, such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR, mandate close management of Active Directory to ensure data security and privacy compliance.
Making AD Monitoring a Regular Process
For AD Monitoring to have real benefit for your organization, make it a regular, ongoing process, not a one-time activity. Ensure you have ongoing visibility into user accounts, password changes, account activity, and other relevant information, so you can clean up the environment, remove accounts or access permissions if necessary, and shrink your attack surface.
Doing this regularly can help prevent security breaches, unauthorized access, and compliance violations. With the right processes, you can stay ahead of potential threats and protect your organization’s valuable assets. Manual monitoring of AD environments is rarely feasible, so consider investing in a tool that gives you an overview of current AD status – users, domains, activity, password security, etc. – and enables you to spot anomalies quickly.
How CYRISMA helps with Active Directory Monitoring
CYRISMA’s Active Directory Monitoring feature covers both on-premises and Azure Active Directory environments.
It allows you to add an agent to monitor your Active Directory and view information such as active accounts, disabled accounts, the total number of users, registered devices, password status, user activity status, etc. This centralized view of your Active Directory environment makes it easy to manage so you can make the appropriate changes to strengthen security, and remain compliant with governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) standards.
In addition to AD Monitoring, CYRISMA’s consolidated cyber risk management platform includes capabilities for vulnerability and patch management, sensitive data discovery, configuration hardening, dark web monitoring, compliance tracking, risk quantification, cyber risk assessment reporting, and much more.
To explore CYRISMA’s complete feature-set, book a demo today.