Application Security
2/20/2017
12:00 PM
Derek Melber
Derek Melber
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Controlling Privileged Access To Prevent Rogue Users In Active Directory

Knowing which of your employees have which privileges is the first step to staying safe.

Often, a rogue user is an internal employee who has been granted privileges that he or she shouldn't have. Controlling privileges for your Windows servers, domain controllers, and Active Directory environment is key to limiting what your users can do. The problem is knowing who has privileges and how to restrict those privileges.

But there is a solution! First, you need to report on each area that grants privileged access to ensure the privileges are correct. If they are not correct, simply set the privileges to the appropriate level.

The following is a list of security controls that grant privileges within your Microsoft environment:

  • Group membership (domain admins, enterprise admins, Exchange admins, etc.)
  • User rights (backup files and folders, change system time, system shutdown, etc.)
  • File and folder permissions (access control lists for databases, IP files, etc.)
  • Delegation (Active Directory, Group Policy, etc.)
  • Service access control lists (stop, start, manage) 

To successfully secure your privileged access, have a process and stick to it. Following the steps illustrated in Figure 1 will allow you to get control of privileged access.

Privileged access security control process. (Source: the author.)
Privileged access security control process. (Source: the author.)

1. Report on what security settings are in place. This allows you to make corrections where needed.

2. Analyze the information in the reports that you obtain. Ideally, you should evaluate every area of privileged access to ensure that only the correct users have this level of access to your Windows Servers, domain controllers, and Active Directory.

3. Once you have decided on which security settings to implement, configure them. Usually, Group Policy will be the method to deploy your security controls, but you might also use other Active Directory tools such as Active Directory Users and Computers.

If you stop at just securing your environment, you will never know if anything changes. So, to ensure that a privileged access doesn't change without your knowledge, you need to monitor and alert on changes that occur.

4. Monitor and track all changes that occur to privileged access within your Microsoft environment. This will give you reporting and alerting capabilities.

5. For all of the security settings that can allow vulnerabilities, attacks, and malicious actors to enter your environment, have systems in place to alert you via email when changes to privileges occur.

Once you get control of privileged access for your Windows infrastructure, you will have reduced your attack surface and dramatically increased security for your organization.

Related Content:

Derek Melber is the technical evangelist for ManageEngine, a division of Zoho Corporation. As one of only a handful of Microsoft Group Policy MVPs, Derek helps Active Directory administrators, auditors, and security professionals understand the finer points of how to manage, ... View Full Bio
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kuingul
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kuingul,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/21/2017 | 3:00:32 AM
Cure cause as well as symtopms
Just saying that alerts and reports on important security events that lead to overpriveleging users is a great thing to do and it definitely should be done, but it's a bit of taking care of the symptoms, not the causes.

IMO, it's equally (if not more) important to automate things like user lifecycle management, group membership management and other stuff like that. You can do that in a lot of different ways starting from a buch of PowerShell scripts to fully-featured 3rd party solutions like Adaxes or similar.

That is because most of the overprivileging happens because somebody makes a mistake and adds a user to a wrong group. Automation eliminates such things. It's also cool to add approvals that practically send an alert to an admin or another authority before overprivileging happens rather than after like an alert does.
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