Today Active Directory Security has become mission-critical to organizational security worldwide and thus mission-critical to Cyber Security worldwide. On this blog, former Microsoft Program Manager for Active Directory Security, and today, CEO of Paramount Defenses, shares valuable technical insights on Active Directory Security.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Some Love For Microsoft + Time to Help Microsoft (and the Entire World)


Folks,

This is a Trillion $ post. I wanted to show some love for Microsoft and help them out, as it appears they could use some help.

BTW, for those wondering who I am to make such a statement, I'm a nobody who knows a thing about a thing that impacts WD.




Trillion $ Background

From the White House to the Fortune 1000, Microsoft Active Directory is the very foundation of cyber security at over 85% of organizations worldwide. In fact, it is also the foundation of cyber security of almost every cyber security company worldwide.


Active Directory is the Foundation of Cyber Security Worldwide

The compromise of an organization's foundational Active Directory deployment could have disastrous consequences for the organization and its stakeholders, and the real extent of damage would be a function of the perpetrators' proficiency and intent.

If you understand the inner workings of Active Directory based networks, then you know that the amount of damage that we've seen in recent breaches such as the Equifax breach, is nothing, compared to the amount of damage that can actually be done.



Thus far, perpetrators have been focused on simple attack vectors such as credential-theft attacks aimed at the compromise of an organization's privileged users (e.g. Domain Admins), and over time Microsoft has made their enactment much harder.

As these attack vectors become harder to enact, perpetrators have started focusing on increasing their knowledge about Active Directory, and exploring ways to try and target and compromise Active Directory itself, as evidenced by the fact that in the last year alone, we've seen the introduction of Mimikatz DCSync, BloodHound and recently the advent of Active Directory Botnets.

Today Active Directory security, and in particular Active Directory access control lists (ACLs) impact organizational security and national security, worldwide. Speaking of which, and just so the world knows, here is Microsoft's take on them, and here is ours.

Perpetrators seem to be learning fast, and building rapidly, so the next big wave of cyber breaches could involve compromise of Active Directory deployments, unless organizations act swiftly to lock-down their foundational Active Directory deployments.

To do so, organizations worldwide need the right insight, guidance and tooling to adequately lock-down their Active Directory deployments. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn't seem to know much about it (proof: 1, 2, 34), and thus may be unable to help.




Some Love for Microsoft

Today I may be the CEO of Paramount Defenses, but I'm also former Microsoft Program Manager for Active Directory Security, and I for one deeply love Microsoft, and deeply care about the foundational cyber security of all organizations worldwide, so I'm going to help Microsoft and the entire world adequately secure and defend their foundational Active Directory deployments.


To Satya (Nadella) and my former colleagues at Microsoft I say - "Microsoft is one of the greatest companies in the world today, and we care deeply and passionately about not only the role we play in society and the impact we have on billions of people, but also the responsibility that goes along, so we're* going to help the world address this colossal cyber security challenge."

* I may no longer be a Microsoft employee, but I still do care deeply and equally, so I'm happy to help you.
  If I were you, I'd most respectfully embrace this opportunity, be thankful for it, and not squander it.

To my friends at Microsoft, if I may have recently been a tad critical of you, its only because I care deeply about our customers, and I know that Microsoft can do much better at educating its global customer base about a matter of paramount importance.





Er, What Cyber Security Challenge?

Now, there might be billions of people and thousands of organizations worldwide who may have absolutely no idea about what I'm talking about, so perhaps I should succinctly and unequivocally spell it out not just for the entire world, but also for Microsoft.


Stated simply, and as described in The Paramount Brief, here's the #1 cyber security challenge that impacts the world today -


"From Silicon Valley to New York and London to Sydney, at the very foundation of cyber security and IT of 85+% of all business and government organizations across 190+ countries worldwide lies Microsoft's Active Directory.
Within the foundational Active Directory domains of these organization lie the entirety of their building blocks of their cyber security i.e. their user accounts, computer accounts, security groups, security policies etc. each one of which is represented by an Active Directory object & protected by an Active Directory Access Control List (ACL).
Today, in most of these organizations, there exist millions of ACLs in their Active Directory, and within these ACLs exists an ocean of excessive/unauthorized access, that today paves thousands of privilege escalation paths to literally the entirety of all objects in these Active Directory deployments, including to all their privileged users.
This ocean of unauthorized access exists worldwide today because Active Directory lacks and has always lacked the essential ability to help organizations correctly and adequately audit effective access in Active Directory, and consequently even though organizations have been delegating/provisioning all kinds of access in Active Directory to fulfill various business needs, they've never had the opportunity to correctly audit this ocean of access, resulting in a situation caused over time (i.e. over the years) wherein today unauthorized access pervades Active Directory.
In short, today, at most organizations, no one knows exactly who has what access on any of their building blocks of security, and possibly an excessive number of users, computers and service accounts may have substantial unauthorized access on them, and thus be in a position to easily and instantly compromise their security.

  • A Trillion $ Note: Most organizations (and perpetrators, as well as the Bloodhound Tool) audit "Who has what permissions in Active Directory?" Unfortunately, that does not provide the accurate picture. What they need to audit is "Who has what effective permissions/access in Active Directory?" Sadly, Microsoft has NEVER provided this guidance in an entire decade, so no one even seems to know this.

Anyone who possesses the tooling to correctly analyze effective access in Active Directory could instantly identify, and either eliminate or exploit, all such unauthorized access grants and the 1000s of privilege escalation paths they pave, and thus be in a position to either formidably defend or completely compromise these organizations.
The potential impact of this huge cyber security challenge is best illustrated by these 7 examples. Its that simple."


As simple as it is, not a single one* of the 1000+ cyber security companies that exist today has a solution for this challenge.


Let there be no mistake about this - a proficient intruder who possesses tooling that lets him/her correctly analyze effective permissions/access in Active Directory, could easily find, hundreds if not thousands, of unauthorized access grants in most Active Directory domains, and exploit them to compromise and obtain complete command and control over the organization.


If you find this hard to believe, you don't have to take my word for it, as here is Microsoft finally acknowledging it, and doing their best to downplay it. By the way, if they truly understood the depth of this problem, what they should've actually said is here.

Unfortunately, perpetrators can develop their own tooling and they don't even have to be 100% accurate (e.g. Bloodhound.)

Fortunately, organizations that possess the right tooling (e.g. 1, 2) can reliably mitigate all such security risks to Active Directory, from Mimikatz DCSync to Active Directory Privilege Escalation and from Sneaky Persistence to Active Directory Botnets, before perpetrators have the opportunity to exploit them, leaving no unauthorized access in Active Directory for perpetrators to exploit.





Time to Help Microsoft (and the Entire World)

Over the next few days, not only am I going to help reduce the almost total lack of awareness, education and understanding that exists at organizations today concerning Active Directory Security, I am also going to help organizations worldwide learn just how they can adequately and swiftly address this massive cyber security challenge before it becomes a huge problem.


Of course, today we can also uniquely empower organizations worldwide to adequately secure and defend their foundational Active Directory deployments, and we are happy to help organizations that request our help, but we are not going to go to anyone explicitly offering our help, because we're not your ordinary company.


So, in days to come, we'll begin by educating the world about the following -


  1. What Constitutes a Privileged User in Active Directory

  2. How to Correctly Audit Privileged Users/Access in Active Directory

  3. How to Render Mimikatz DCSync Useless in an Active Directory Environment

  4. How to Easily Identify and Thwart Sneaky Persistence in Active Directory

  5. How to Easily Solve The Difficult Problem of Active Directory Botnets

  6. Why the World's Top Active Directory Permissions Analysis Tools Are Mostly Useless

  7. Why is the Need to Lockdown Access Privileges in Active Directory Paramount to its Defense?

  8. How to Attain (Lockdown) and Maintain Least Privileged Access (LPA) in Active Directory

  9. How to Securely Delegate and Correctly Audit Administrative Access in Active Directory

  10. How to Easily Secure Active Directory and Operate a Bulletproof Active Directory Deployment

You see, each one of these Active Directory security focused objectives can actually be easily accomplished today, but and in order to do so, what is required is the ability to be able to accurately and adequately audit effective access in Active Directory.

Each one of these topics is absolutely essential for organizational cyber security worldwide, and if you know of even one other entity (e.g. individual/company) on the planet that can help the world address each one of these objectives today, let me know.

So, within the next 7 days, as a part of this, I'll start penning the above, and you'll be able to read them right here.




In Summary

If you truly understand Active Directory Security, then you know that literally the entire world's wealth is being protected by it, so and thus we just cannot afford for organizations to start having their foundational Active Directory deployments being breached.


Together, we can help adequately secure and defend organizations worldwide and deny perpetrators the opportunities and avenues they seek to compromise our foundational Active Directory deployments, because we must and because we can.


Best wishes,
Sanjay

CEO, Paramount Defenses

Formerly, Program Manager,
Active Directory Security,
Microsoft Corporation


PS: To anyone who believes they know more about Active Directory Security than us, or can help the world more than we can, go ahead and demonstrate that you can - this is your opportunity. If you can, let's see it. If you can't, you'll want to listen to us.

PS2: If you liked this post, you may also like the 20+ posts that are a part of - Helping Microsoft with Active Directory Security.

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