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9 Best Practices for Active Directory Security

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Active Directory (AD) is a service by Microsoft Windows that lets IT administrators manage data, applications, users, and other network aspects of their organization. AD security is vital to safeguard company systems, user credentials, software applications, and sensitive data from unauthorized access.

Active Directory’s security compromise can sabotage your identity management infrastructure’s integrity, resulting in possibly disastrous data leakage levels and system destruction or corruption.

Since AD is crucial to authorizing access, applications, and users throughout a company, it’s a significant target for cyberattacks. Ensuring Active Directory security helps secure all the data in the AD, preventing widespread fallout, which can be challenging to recover from.

When considering best practices for Active Directory security, it’s important to implement robust access control solutions to safeguard your organization’s resources.

This article outlines nine best practices for Active Directory security.

1. Use identity threat detection tools

Strengthening your organization’s AD security is crucial to protecting it from cyberattacks. Considering malicious users’ tools and tactics change with time, your IT team needs to remain informed concerning the newest threat trends while continuously monitoring for any breach signs.

With an identity threat detection tool, you can identify identity-related threats in real-time with AI and behavioral analytics to prevent modern attacks such as ransomware.

This tool reduces adaptive authentication risk by enabling additional verification layers to improve security. Identity threat detection tools also help you track terminated and dormant account use to detect unusual activities and remediate their privileges.

They also help you identify orphan accounts, enhance security, monitor accounts with privileges, and more. Consider investing in an identity threat detection tool to safeguard your business against cyber threats.

2. Modify default security settings

Some default AD settings, including settings letting every user add a workstation to your domain, allow unnecessary privileges to the company users.

Upon installing an Active Directory, assess the security configurations and make alterations to suit your business needs. Additionally, evaluate user permissions to ascertain that you allow only the lowest required access level.

When you limit authorizations, malicious users will likely not get privileged access, and your organization’s employees are less likely to misuse their privileges. To modify default security settings, consider using AD tools that enable the configuration of these settings or manually adjust attribute permissions and values.

3. Ensure AD backup and recovery

The most crucial backup action for securing AD is ensuring your Active Directory is backed regularly, preferably every 60 days, because AD tombstone objects have a 60 days lifetime. To prevent expired tombstone object errors, institute an AD backup whose life is less than 60 days. It’s also good practice to use more than one backup kept in various locations should one get compromised.

Creating a disaster recovery process is crucial for securing your Active Directory. The process should show the steps your IT team has to follow to recover from a breach. You have to consider the recovery dependencies and sequences since a domain controller, for instance, should be retrieved before recovering other machines.

4. Implement a strong password policy

While you may be tempted to use easy-to-guess passwords, it’s essential to understand and implement a solid password policy. A stringent AD password policy is your initial line of defense.

Microsoft AD has a password system attribute that allows you to implement the use of robust passwords. It lets you customize an account lockout strategy used to ascertain that attackers can’t use a brute-force attack to guess your password easily.

AD also offers you the alternative to configure various policies for varying domains. With AD’s enforce password history policy feature, you can set it to determine the unique passwords you should use before reusing an old password. Other valuable policy settings you can utilize are passwords that should meet complexity requirements and minimum password age.

5. Implement least-privilege administrative models

The least-privilege principle, when applied correctly, significantly boosts your security and lessens risk. It states that every user should log on using a user account with minimum permissions essential to finish the task at hand and nothing else.

This offers protection over malicious code and other attacks. Consider granting every domain administrator user their domain privileges under the least privilege concept to reduce security threat risks.

6. Implement secure administrative hosts

A secure administrative host is a server or workstation configured purposely to create a secure platform from which a privileged account can complete administrative tasks in AD and other systems.

This account could be a Help Desk account with the capacity to reset passwords for most of the users in a domain, an account used for administering DNS zones and records, or an account for managing configurations.

While most attacks in the latest threat landscape take advantage of malicious hacking and malware, don’t exclude physical security when creating and applying secure administrative hosts.

To secure your AD against attacks, never administer trusted systems from less trusted hosts; only rely on one authentication factor when doing privileged activities. Password and username combinations shouldn’t seem acceptable since only one factor is represented.

7. Educate your employees

Employees pose a major security risk to organizations using Active Directory. They might even unknowingly click phishing links or be scammed by emails that trick them into divulging vital company data.

Consider educating and training your staff on identifying malware attacks, phishing attacks, and cybersecurity attack dangers, and equip them with the necessary tools to ensure the systems aren’t compromised. Let them know that no single user has complete access to the system.

8. Centralize security reporting and management

When organizations centralize security reporting and management, they establish dedicated teams in charge of Active Directory security. These teams can acquire proficiency and respond faster to attacks.

A detailed threat detection tool can also enable your security department to assess and track the system with a program that lets them scrutinize alerts quicker.

9. They have a secure admin workstation

Secure admin workstations should be practiced by privileged accounts only to conduct administrative tasks, including group policy, Active Directory administration, DNS and DHCP server management, Office 365 administration, and more.

These aren’t meant for internet browsing or checking emails. Daily workstation usage can be risky for conducting network admin-level activities. Consider using secure admin workstations to safeguard accounts from cyber attackers.


AD security is crucial to protecting your organization’s applications, credentials, and confidential information from unauthorized access. Consider applying these best practices for Active Directory security.

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