Cayosoft-Enhanced Defense: Securing Active Directory in 2024

Active Directory (AD) remains a backbone of IT systems for many organizations, managing access and permissions for users and devices. But its frequent use made it a top target for cyberattacks. Attackers are getting smarter, finding ways to misuse AD’s features to gain control, spread through networks, and steal valuable information.

In this article, we’ll cover the essential best practices for securing Active Directory in 2024. You’ll learn specific techniques to harden your environment, along with the importance of proactive monitoring and rapid recovery. We’ll also talk about how Cayosoft’s solutions provide granular visibility into changes, detect threats traditional tools might miss, and allow instant Active Directory recovery to minimize business disruption.

Securing Active Directory in 7 Steps

Protecting your Active Directory environment isn’t just about following good practices, it’s about having the right tools in place when (not if!) something does go wrong.

Step 1: Limit the Number of Privileged Users

Accounts with extensive privileges are prime targets for attackers, as they offer a ‘shortcut’ to controlling your entire network if compromised. It’s also easy to make accidental changes with these accounts, so it’s important to be strict about who has them. Regularly review privileged users, especially groups like “Domain Admins” and “Enterprise Admins,” and remove anyone who doesn’t absolutely need that level of access.

Step 2: Use Groups to Manage Privileges

Think of these groups like departments within your company – some people need access to specific files, others to certain programs. By putting users into groups with the right permissions, it’s far easier to manage security and avoid mistakes that could give attackers chances.

Step 3: Protect Admin Accounts Like a Treasure

When setting up your network, the “Administrator” account gets created by default and given a lot of access. To protect it, mark it with a special “Account is sensitive and cannot be delegated” flag. Additionally, use settings called Group Policy Objects (GPOs) to carefully limit where and how these Administrator accounts can be used. For instance, block them from logging in to regular computers on the network or being used for tasks that run in the background. This makes it much harder for an attacker to misuse these accounts even if they manage to steal a password.

Step 4: Enforce Strong Passwords and Protect Service Accounts

Stolen passwords are the main cause of most attacks. Attackers don’t always try to brute-force guess a single password. Instead, they use “password spraying,” where they try common passwords across many accounts. To fight this, focus on eliminating those weak, frequently used passphrases from your organization.

Service accounts are another prime target for attackers, as they control programs and processes with wide access to your systems. Attackers usually target these accounts through a technique called “Kerberoasting”. They start by getting regular user access (often through phishing), then scan to find service accounts, especially those with high privileges. Once found, attackers can trick the system into giving them a piece of data that can be cracked offline to reveal the service account’s password, granting them significant control.

Monitor for threats and changes to AD that could prove risky – Cayosoft Guardian for Active Directory threat detection

The best way to defend against this is to make passwords incredibly difficult to guess. However, in 2024, it’s time to rethink traditional password complexity rules. Forcing people to use a mix of symbols and numbers often resulted in predictable patterns that are easy for computers to crack. Instead, encourage longer passwords or passphrases that are easy to remember but difficult to guess. For example, “We-R85-The-Ch@mpions” is easy to memorize but would take centuries to crack. Many password managers can generate good passphrases for you. Finally, don’t force password changes unless you think an account might be compromised – this outdated practice often makes people pick even weaker passwords.

95 million AD accounts face attack each day. Act now to secure Active Directory – schedule a demo to learn how Cayosoft Guardian can help.

Step 5: Disable Outdated Communication Protocols

SMBv1 is an old file-sharing system that Microsoft strongly recommends disabling, as it has several vulnerabilities attackers can exploit. Similarly, the way computers authenticate with each other using NTLM can be risky. Attackers can perform a NTLM Relay Attack by exploiting the NTLM protocol to capture credentials. While it isn’t always possible to completely remove NTLM, it’s important to limit its use as much as possible, as this helps reduce your chances of being attacked, thus securing Active Directory.

Step 6: Invest in Proactive Monitoring

The best way to deal with an attack is to stop it before it causes real damage. Traditional monitoring tools might catch an attack after the fact. For proactive protection, look for a solution that uses behavioral analytics and understands the normal patterns within your specific Active Directory environment. This allows it to spot the subtle deviations and anomalies that often signal an early attack, as opposed to relying on a list of known malicious patterns. Ideally, your monitoring tool should integrate with your security incident response system (SIEM) to centralize alerts and streamline investigations. Here are some specific attack techniques advanced monitoring can help detect:
  • Mimikatz: A tool used to steal credentials.
  • Pass the Hash: Attackers leverage stolen password hashes to gain unauthorized access.
  • Silver Ticket: Attackers forge Kerberos tickets to impersonate legitimate users.

Cayosoft’s behavioral analytics engine continuously learns about the normal activity within your unique AD environment. This enables the threat detection that traditional rule-based systems would miss – such as an unusual login from a privileged account outside of normal working hours. Integration with your SIEM and other incident response tools centralizes critical security data and helps orchestrate efficient investigation and remediation workflows, minimizing the impact of potential breaches.

Step 7: Have an Instant Recovery Tool

Even with the best defenses, attacks can still happen. Your recovery plan shouldn’t just get you back up and running, it needs to do so in minutes, not hours or days. This means having regularly tested backups of your entire Active Directory forest (not just individual domain controllers). Ensure your recovery solution allows for near-instant restoration, as traditional methods can take significantly longer.

Shocking survey results: IT teams drastically underestimate a major threat. Find out what it is.

Cayosoft Guardian allows companies to quickly find and reverse unwanted changes, including modifications to group memberships, group policy objects (GPOs), account settings, Microsoft licensing, Microsoft Teams memberships, and accidental AD object deletions. What sets Cayosoft apart is its instant AD forest recovery capabilities – restoring an entire forest takes only minutes, not the days or weeks required by other solutions.

Bonus Step: Active Directory Governance

Consider also how the combination of granular role and delegation combine with rules and policies to limit or eliminate bad behaviors and promote positive ones. Building automated processes is another way to remove the human element and ensure a smooth and consistent process outcome. You can use monitoring solutions like Cayosoft Guardian to detect violations to policies and continually course correct.

Cayosoft Administrator is a governance solution specific to AD combining roles, rules, and automations – Learn More

Securing Active Directory: How Cayosoft Can Help

An ITIC report found that 40% of enterprises say that a single hour of downtime costs $1 million to over $5 million – that’s why securing Active Directory and having a rapid recovery system in place are the main trends in 2024. Cayosoft can help secure Active Directory by combining proactive prevention to stop attacks before they happen, with industry-leading recovery tools to get you back online quickly in the event of a breach.


Cayosoft’s tools are designed to be compatible with a wide range of IT environments and offer integration capabilities with popular security solutions and SIEM systems. The idea is to enhance and not replace existing infrastructures to secure Active Directory.
Advanced Kerberos attacks remain a top concern, as attackers continually find new ways to exploit the protocol at the heart of AD authentication. Golden and silver ticket attacks are hard to detect, and attack methods are evolving. Zero-trust breaches are also a risk, as attackers won’t sit still once they gain initial access. They will try to move laterally through your network, making zero-trust strategies like micro-segmentation essential. Finally, watch out for third-party risks, as vendors and service providers with AD access can become an entry point for attackers if their own systems are compromised.
Cayosoft offers solutions for on-premises, hybrid, and cloud-based Active Directory environments, giving you the flexibility to secure Active Directory however it’s deployed.

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