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2/9/2017
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Active Directory Mismanagement Exposes 90% of Businesses to Breaches

New analysis indicates active directory mismanagement unknowingly exposes 90% of businesses to security breaches.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - Skyport Systems, a leading secure, hyperconverged infrastructure provider for the hybrid enterprise, has found that many enterprises overly expose Active Directory (AD) administrators' credentials, leaving companies vulnerable to security breaches.  Skyport reached this conclusion after conducting comprehensive AD security assessments for enterprises over the past year.

Skyport's AD security assessments are based on a 100-point investigation into an organization’s current AD implementation, enabling scoring of the overall health of the organization’s AD infrastructure. The findings from each assessment highlight key lessons learned, benchmarks, and operational implications for reducing risk within the organization.

"We know that over 90 percent of all organizations use Active Directory to control policies for users and services," said Russell Rice, senior director, product management, Skyport Systems. "Successful attacks against AD or admin credentials can be devastating because the blast radius reaches nearly every system in the enterprise. The data we collected and analyzed shows that organizations need to pay more close attention to their AD infrastructure and use a modern approach to securing AD since many attack tools are widely available, effective and free," said Rice.

 Security experts recommend the following four pillars to protect against cyberattacks:

  • Implement AD hygiene by limiting domain admin privileges, configuring secure password policies, and frequent patching.
  • Make admin workstations secure to prevent credential theft and misuse.
  • Protect Domain Controllers (DCs) against insider and outsider threats.
  • Build an isolated admin forest for large or complex enterprises.

Despite these measures, there are many ways organizations’ defenses break down, according to key findings from Skyport’s Active Directory security assessments. 

These key findings include:

  • Over 50 percent of the organizations assessed allow administrators to use the same account to configure AD as they use for everything else. 
  • Microsoft recommends implementing secure administrative workstations (SAWs) for management of AD. However, less than 10 percent of the organizations Skyport Systems assessed have implemented a SAW.
  • Fewer than 25 percent of the organizations use multi-factor authentication (MFA) for AD administrator accounts.
  • It is a best practice to severely limit the systems that are permitted to alter the AD configuration. However, almost none of the organizations assessed implemented host-based firewalls for the DCs, and less than 15 percent use administrative whitelists.
  • Microsoft has recommendations for building an Enhanced Security Administrative Environment (ESAE), but virtually no mid-market enterprises appear to be aware of, or effectively implement these guidelines.

Obtain a full copy of the AD Assessment Findings here.

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Franois_ISDecisions
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Franois_ISDecisions,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/15/2017 | 10:32:04 AM
Shouldn't stop at adminstrators' credentials...
For me, Skyport Systems' focus on the over exposure of Active Directory (AD) administrators' credentials shouldn't stop there. Organisations need to better protect and secure all AD user accounts as an effective measure against compromised credentials from insider threats and external accounts... not just the administrators. While IT administrators are important gatekeepers, any kind of compromised staff credentials leave organisations vulnerable and can be equally devastating.

Although I agree with the conclusion that organisations need to pay more close attention to their AD infrastructure because of the growing threat and range of attack tools, I believe it's important that any modern approaches called for in the article don't add unnecessary complexity to systems.

Take multi-factor authentication (MFA). The article implies it is a negative that fewer than 25 percent of organisations are using MFA. IS Decision's own research conducted with IT security professionals last year similarly found that 76 percent of UK organisations don't use MFA. We identified that the primary barriers to adoption were frustrations with complexity, implementation time and cost.

A far more practical alternative to MFA is the use of context-aware security which is fast gaining in popularity. Context-aware security comes with all the security benefits of MFA but without the cons of lost productivity or unmanageability. It works by restricting access to networks through only IT-approved workstations, laptops, tablets, times of day and geographies, so companies stand a much better chance of keeping out attackers who use real logins. Crucially, this kind of security would've prevented some of the recent high-profile cyber attacks that have impacted companies like Dropbox, Sony, eBay, Sage and Three.

Context-aware security is well worth looking into.
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