Essential Considerations to Recover Your Active Directory Forest
Active Directory isn’t just a part of your IT infrastructure, it’s the forgotten central hub that keeps everything running smoothly. But with great power comes great responsibility – and vulnerability. It’s a primary target for attackers and any disruption will send ripple effects throughout your entire organization. For system administrators and executives, it’s essential to stay vigilant and ready to spring into action.
The Art of Forest Recovery
In the world of Active Directory, forest recovery isn’t just nice to have, it’s a must-have when disaster strikes, and it can now happen with greater frequency than ever before. This crucial process comes into play when your domain controllers – the guardians of your network – are either down or compromised. Imagine a scenario where all domain controllers, which by design replicate to serve your organization in dispersed locations, have spread corruption to one another and are now incapacitated. No one can log in, and now applications and services no longer function, leaving customers, vendors, suppliers, and employees unable to conduct business. Recovering an Active Directory forest is like conducting a complex orchestra – it requires skill, precision, and a solid plan.
The threats to AD are as diverse as they are harmful, from sophisticated malware to silent yet destructive insider threats (malicious or accidental). Let’s break down the common factors that can disrupt your company’s operations.
The frequency of outages is increasing, with the majority being caused by cyber attacks. Organizations are increasingly open to utilizing 3rd party solutions for assistance. However, many of these solutions require days or more to recover Active Directory, which is far too long considering that Cayosoft can restore your forest in mere minutes!
Cayosoft maintains a standby forest that’s ready to activate at the click of a button. We update, deploy, and test daily to make sure it functions reliably when you need it the most!
These are your basic yet brutal disruptors. Think of power outages and natural or unnatural disasters causing physical server damage. They can instantly bring your AD operations to a grinding halt.
Industry’s Best Practices: To mitigate the impact of hardware failures, ensure you have backup power sources, such as uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), in place. Additionally, create and test a robust disaster recovery plan that includes off-site backups and redundant hardware configurations to ensure the continuity of your AD operations.
Sometimes, what’s meant to improve your system ends up throwing it off balance. An incompatible software update or installation can cause system-wide instability in your Active Directory.
There are three things that can impact AD:
- Installing additional software on a DC that is unrelated to AD, essentially using DCs for purposes other than AD.
- MS updates or driver updates for the OS, as well as MS updates specifically for AD.
- Applications that require a schema change.
The most impactful and potentially threatening changes are those related to schema changes and updates specific to Active Directory.
Industry’s Best Practices: Cayosoft supports all the recommendations from Microsoft for Active Directory management:
- Avoid installing any software or services unrelated to AD on your AD servers.
- Always test schema changes, operating system updates, AD updates, and driver updates in a test AD environment.
Cayosoft offers an easy, fast forest replication solution that allows for an up-to-date version of the forest to be deployed for testing. In addition, this same technology can be used to create iron-clad plans that can recover Active Directory forest in minutes, should one of these software conflicts incapacitate the entire forest.
It’s the silent killer. A system crash or a sneaky bug can corrupt your AD data, turning what’s supposed to be a reliable resource into a source of chaos. If the system crashes because of a virus and that virus has started to spread to other DCs, there could be a real threat.
The two biggest threats to AD are corruption of the DIT file, which is the database for AD and handles replication from DC to DC, and sysvol, where AD stores AD system files and other files that need to be accessible to users and services on the DCs. These also replicate from DC to DC.
Industry’s Best Practices: Cayosoft supports Microsoft’s recommendations to implement robust plans that include regular backups and multiple versions of backups. Native and most third-party Active Directory (AD) backup and recovery plans are challenging to implement and even more difficult to test, resulting in uncertainty and potential gaps in the ability to actually recover.
Cayosoft utilizes a patent-pending methodology and technology that simplifies backup and recovery implementation, planning, and testing. It also provides instant Active Directory forest recovery in the event of a forest-wide disaster. Additionally, the technology is built on and follows Microsoft’s and industry recommendations.
Malicious Attacks or Human Error
These attacks are designed to hijack or disrupt your AD setup, leading to significant security breaches. Active Directory is usually the primary target of bad actors because they know that AD is central to the operation of most organizations. AD’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. It replicates everything! Beyond bad actors, keep in mind that human error is more common and can often be just as dangerous and disruptive.
Industry’s Best Practices: Implement a multi-layered security approach to protect your AD from malicious attacks. Have the ability to govern behavior: Roles to reduce overprivileged permissions, rules that allow “this” and “not that”, and automations that remove human errors. As always, have an active AD recovery plan including a facilitating solution.
Cayosoft enables organizations to successfully implement prevention, detection, and recovery measures. It offers features such as governance, rules, roles, automations, and more. These measures help prevent hacking attempts and mitigate human errors.
Real Lessons from Active Directory Disasters
A simple “Google” search identifies recent cyberattacks, mostly ransomware.
- December 4th: Staples Hit With Disruption After Cyber-Attack
- December 4th: Ransomware Attack Causes Outages at 60 Credit Unions, Federal Agency Says
- October 5th: Casino giant MGM Expects $100 Million Hit From Hack That Led to Data Breach
Over 90% of organizations use Active Directory. Every ransomware attack has the potential to infect Active Directory servers and domain controllers.
What impact would an Active Directory outage have on your organization?
- Employees can’t access PCs, email, or Microsoft Office, so no work can be done. An organization with 5000 employees and an average salary of $75K loses $1.5M a day in lost labor expenses.
- Suppliers can’t see inventory and production slows down because parts/materials are not scheduled or available on time for production/assembly.
- Customers can’t make purchases because the online ordering system is down. They can’t access their accounts or use point-of-sale (POS) systems.
The impacts at even medium-sized organizations easily and quickly reach millions per day! Every week it seems there is another cyber attack, and increasingly, they are targeting bigger and more recognizable names.
Anticipate Trouble Before You Have to Recover Your Active Directory Forest
Learning from the mishaps of the giants above, it becomes clear that foresight is crucial in managing AD environments. To avoid such scenarios, it’s essential to have measures in place for early detection and intervention. Implementing a robust change management and tracking tool is also vital. In essence, the right tool doesn’t just track changes, it empowers you to stay several steps ahead of potential disasters, ensuring your Active Directory remains a fortress of stability and security. Equally important is the ability to govern user and administrator behavior in the first place.
This holistic approach to AD management and security is something we call “Manage, Monitor, Recover” and they form the pillars of Cayosoft’s approach to AD, Entra ID/Azure AD, Microsoft 365, and Teams. Learn more about the ways to manage, monitor, and recover your Active Directory.