A Guidebook on Active Directory Security Groups

Active Directory Security is a Microsoft Windows-enabled Directory Service that plays a vital role in Information Technology. Its services pertain to managing applications, users, data, and many other attributes of an organization’s network.

Every physical and virtual data in the network of your organization is an ‘object’ in Active Directory. This data is primarily used by the Network Administrators to assign privileges to systems and to control object authentications. It is highly vulnerable to security threats, hence it is critical to secure it without any compromise. Securing the Active Directory ideally protects the following data in your organization’s network.

● User & Client Credentials

● Software Applications

● Any Organizational Level Sensitive Data

It is obvious that unsecured Active Directory security can lead to a disastrous amount of data leakage. In this article, we present to you a compilation of the best practices to secure your Active Directory.

Types of groups in Active Directory:

The two types of groups in Active Directory are

● Distribution groups

● Security groups

Distribution groups are used to create email distribution lists. (i. e, send email to a collection of users) and security groups are used to provide an efficient way to assign access to resources that are linked to your network

types of groups in Active Director

Breaking it down, the two main functions of the security groups are:


● To assign a user the rights to security groups in Active Directory

● To assign permissions to security groups for resources

What are Active Directory Security Groups?

Active Directory Security groups assign permissions to shared resources. It is to be noted that permissions are different from user rights. Permissions are assigned to the security groups to determine the following.

1. Who can access the resource?

2. Level of access.

One of the many advantages of using an Active Directory Security group is that, the permissions are assigned only once to the security group, instead of assigning it several times for each individual user.

Active Directory Security Groups

There are four levels of scope for Active Directory. The scope determines which users belong to the group.

● Local: Local groups are limited and specific only to the systems they are created in.

● Domain Local: This group includes members of a trusted domain, or members from the same domain.

Global: Global groups contain members from other global groups from the same domain.

Universal: The Universal group includes accounts from any domain in the same forest (i.e., global groups from any domain in the same forest)

What are the possible threats to an unsecured Active Directory?

Active Directory security systems are vulnerable to security threats in the following key areas:

● Lack of visibility and reporting of unauthorized access attempts

● Broad access to roles and employees

● Inappropriate Administrative users and privileged access

● Unpatched vulnerabilities on Active Directory servers

● Uncomplex passwords for administrative accounts

● Default security settings

Why should you secure your Active Directory system?


Active Directory is the heart of an organization’s IT Infrastructure. It authorizes access, users, and applications throughout. When a cyber-attack is aimed at your organization, the main focus will be on the Active Directory, which apparently has all the information about your accounts, databases, and applications. Damage or attack on the Active Directory security may lead to unrecoverable losses to your organization. Therefore, it is very important to secure your Active Directory in the best possible ways.

Best practices to secure an Active Directory:

The following are some of the best practices to secure your Active Directory.

Review your default security settings: It is mandatory to review and amend your security settings in line with your business needs after your Active Directory security is installed.

Regularly patch your vulnerabilities:

The first and foremost task of the IT department is to identify the vulnerabilities in your software and patch them. Make sure you have a good patch manager that can not only notify you on threats and loopholes but also help you identify the vulnerabilities in your software well in advance. An efficient and effective maintenance process for Active Directory is recommended.

Set-up complex passwords:

As basic as it sounds, your passwords play a major role too. It is advisable to have a 12-character password which is complex. Use Two-Factor authentication to strengthen your network walls. Tools such as DUO and RSA come handy for this purpose. Lockout users when there are more than three incorrect attempts to sign in. Never forget, Security First!

Ensure backup and recovery from time to time:

Your Active Directory security configuration must be backed up frequently and periodically. In case your Active Directory is breached, make use of the disaster recovery process for fast data recovery.

Centralize and Automate workflows:

All your network reports, reviews and controls must be centralized in one place. Always prefer tools that can help you with automated workflows for alerting during threats and to reconcile issues.

Use real-time Windows Alerting and Auditing:

Monitor your logs and access processes periodically and watch out for logged out accounts and malicious activities. Make sure you provide full Windows auditing and alerting, both from inside and outside your organization.

Implement robust Active Directory security admin privileges:

Provide administrative access and privileges only to those who significantly need these to perform their responsibilities in the organization. It becomes much harder to detect internal threats, if a lot of people had permissions and access to your system.

Minimize/limit Domain user accounts:

Use solutions like Privileged Access Management (PAM) or Just Enough Administration (JEA) to ensure that access is limited to the minimal possible members.

Risk Management services at Ossisto 365:

We at Ossisto 365 help you with high-quality Risk Assessment software services for Active Directory and other server technologies. To safeguard your network systems against attacks, it is paramount to have well-positioned security systems. We help you assess your software security system at each level and create custom reports. Our summarized reports of assessment findings simplify the risk remediation process. With our assistance, you can undoubtedly proceed with your Service Improvement Plans (SIP) and Technology Transformation initiatives.

Above all, it is crucial to understand that, with proper management, auditing capabilities, reporting, and visibility, the security of Active Directory security can be significantly enhanced. Indeed, this will ensure the integrity of your system

To know more about Ossisto 365’s Risk Assessment Solution – the O365 IT Scanner – click here


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