Virtual lock over servers in data center showing access management for Active Directory

Using Access Management for Your Active Directory Users

It’s no secret that Active Directory (AD) credentials can easily be compromised. This is the reason why it is absolutely crucial for organizations to secure those credentials to protect against network breaches.

Active Directory – One identity source for all access

Today, Active Directory is still the primary source of trust for identity and access for more than 90% of organizations.

It provides ‘authentication services’ to verify the identity of the user, ‘authentication and authorization’ to allow access to resources on the network and ‘group policy processing’ to enforce security settings across users and servers in the company.

Nowadays, as more and more organizations allow or are forced to use remote working, users depend on RDP connections and VPN connections for remote access. VPNs rely upon an on-premises identity source – most of the time Active Directory – to authenticate users who are remotely accessing the company network.

Access is essential to stop attacks

Cyber-attacks on Active Directory are pretty common. In successful attacks, Active Directory is manipulated, encrypted or destroyed. It’s quite simple to explain: there are not many IT assets that allow criminals to spread after an initial breach, and one is above them all: Active Directory.

80% of data breaches involve the use of compromised credentials. They serve as an entry point into an organization’s network and its valuable data. Without compromising corporate Active Directory credentials, a criminal can’t do anything.

What’s important to understand is that this first access is only the way into your network. Most of the time it’s a low-level endpoint with no rights to access valuable resources. But, this is an initial foothold for the hacker and allows them to start moving laterally within the network to find data of value.

In fact, except for perimeter attacks (where attack methods such as SQL injections need no credentials to access data), all layers of access within your environment require a logon at some point. Think about it: endpoints require a logon for access, moving laterally requires authentication to access a target endpoint, and access to data first necessitates an authenticated connection.

To summarize, no logon, no access!

Access management for Active Directory environments

The concept of effective access management centers around five primary functions – all working in concert to maintain a secure environment:

  • Two factor authentication – Regulating user access involves authentication to verify the identity of a user. But authentication using only a strong username and password doesn’t cut it anymore. Two-factor authentication combines something you know (your password) with something you have (a token or authenticator application).
  • Access restrictions – Policies can be added on who can logon when, from where, for how long, how often, and how frequent. It can also limit specific combinations of logon types (such as console- and RDP-based logons).
  • Access monitoring – Awareness of every single logon as it occurs serves as the basis for the enforcing policy, alerting, reporting, and more.
  • Access alerting – Notifying IT – and users themselves – of inappropriate logon activity and failed attempts helps alert on suspicious events involving credentials.
  • Access response – Allows IT to interact with a suspect session, to lock the console, log off the user, or even block them from further logons.

By putting these sets of functionality together, access management puts a protective layer at the forefront of your network, ensuring use is appropriate.

Why should you use access management?

Many security solutions attempt to reside at the point of mischievous actions. However, access management tries to insert itself into the process, seamlessly, putting a stop to the threat action before it even occurs.

1. The logon is the foundation of every cyber attack

Like I said before, a hacker needs to logon for any attack to be successful. It can be done via a remote session, via PowerShell, leveraging a mapping of a drive, or by logging on locally to a console, in any case your network requires that a user logs in before he’s given any kind of access.

2. Automated access controls can really stop an attack

Most security solution that you can find on the market pretend they can stop attacks. However, there is a difference between alerting IT to a potential threat (which only stops an attack once IT intervenes) and taking action and actually stopping the attack.

Identifying a potential network breach with Access Management occurs before any access is achieved, which means before any damage has been done. With access management, you can automatically block the access if a logon falls outside a set of established rules.

3. Limit false positives

IT Teams don’t want a security solution that will generate a storm of alerts that are false positives. They need to have solutions in place that are certain about the threat potential.

Access management is configured based on the normal use of the environment only generating alerts when a logon is out of policy.

4. Seamless integration with Active Directory

Access management can integrate with Active Directory to extend, not replace its security. Solutions that work along the existing logon process don’t frustrate IT teams.

5. Easy adoption by users

To ensure a solution is adopted by the end users, it needs to happen behind the scenes. If it’s overwhelming and impedes productivity, users won’t be able to do their job correctly. Access management protects users and the network until the very moment the user is conflicting with security protocol.

6. Training-less Implementation

Training every user every time you implement a new security solution would be way too time-consuming. Access management doesn’t require any training, which makes its implementation easy in any organization.

7. Zero Trust Model

Zero trust principle is ‘never trust, always verify’. It emphasizes the need to see and verify everything that’s accessing and going on in the corporate network. Access management controls can be used to put more strict limits, alerts, and responses on the users with high risk.

8. Cost Effective

Security doesn’t have to be costly – however it has to be effective in relation to its cost. Access management makes sure you have the highest security protection with the least amount of money spent.

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Securing companies at the logon

Effective access management solutions give organizations the ability to seamlessly secure connections on their Windows Active Directory network. It allows business to continue as normal but with the the scrutiny and control necessary to automatically stop suspicious activity at the point of entry.