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9/20/2012
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A Guide To Security And Enterprise Directories

Enterprise Directories, such as Microsoft's Active Directory, can be a boon to the security effort. Here are some ways to take advantage of them

[Excerpted from "A Guide to Security and Enterprise Directories," a new report posted this week on Dark Reading's Identity and Access Management Tech Center.]

An enterprise directory services infrastructure is at the heart of everything we do in IT. Let's face it: The average business can't function without a centralized database that keeps track of users, resources, systems and networks, not to mention the security policies that tie them all together. But all too often, we view our enterprise directories through a narrow prism.

Whether you're a Microsoft shop running Active Directory, a Mac OS shop running Open Directory, or a Solaris or Linux shop running NIS, we all tend to lean on our enterprise directories only for account management. Few IT shops view them as a potential solution for a wide array of security initiatives.

If you fit the profile of the typical Windows admin, you probably look to Microsoft's Active Directory for managing user accounts, authentication, managing group policy and organizing objects hierarchically. You might use it for search, and you might use it for reporting.

These are all examples of basic ways to leverage AD for administrative tasks, but the reality is that AD is a living LDAP-compliant database that can be extended to service a wide range of application access and security enforcement problems. It can grow and be used securely to store important user attributes and metadata that applications can access to make security-related decisions.

There's a perception that exists in some circles that AD is too limited in the scope of security services that it can provide. But if you peel back the onion a bit on some of AD's complete feature set, you'll find it surprisingly versatile at accomplishing a wide range of security-related tasks.

Most every organization uses the built-in security features of AD to secure user accounts and to enforce aggressive password policy. And many organizations make use of the wide range of Group Policy objects that are available to lock down systems, control software distribution and otherwise protect users from themselves during the course of business.

However, there are many other ways to leverage AD as a centralized clearinghouse for implementing a broad set of security policies that do much more than just secure users and enforce group policy. Organizations that fully leverage AD are also using it to secure data, to secure access to the network, to secure access to applications and even to secure the data contained within the directory itself.

To get step-by-step details on how you can use directories to ease security administration, download the free report on security and directories.

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