Today Active Directory Security is 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.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Did Microsoft Just Reveal How Little It May Seem to Know about Active Directory Security In Speaking of Access Control List Attacks & Defense?


Three (3) days ago i.e. on September 18, 2017, Microsoft's Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA) Team posted a blog post titled -

If you haven't read it, I highly recommend that you read it, NOT because you'll learn anything at all, but only because it reveals volumes about just how little Microsoft may actually seem to know about Active Directory Security, ACLs, attacks and defense.

When you read it, it will likely be unequivocally clear to you as well as to just how little Microsoft seems to understand about not just the sheer depth and breadth of this monumental challenge, but about the impact it could have on organizations worldwide!

You see, if you understand the subject of Active Directory Security well enough, then you know that Active Directory access control lists (ACLs) today don't just impact organizational security worldwide, they likely impact national and global security !

That said, in that post, the best Microsoft could do is concede that this could be a problem, wonder why organizations might ever need to change AdminSDHolder, falsely assume that it may not impact privileged users, praise a massively inaccurate tool for shedding light on this attack vector, and end by saying - "If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably leads somewhere!"

Oh, and the very last thing they tell you that is their nascent ATA technology can detect multiple AD reconnaissance methods.

You really have to read it to get what I'm saying. Seriously, here's all this post mostly touched upon - a quick overview of Active Directory ACLs, an overview of AdminSDHolder protection in Active Directory, and a note on delegated permissions in AD.

Oh, and they thanked whoever made that massively inaccurate tool called Bloodhound for bringing ACLs to the front, literally!

By the way, that baby of a tool, Bloodhound just recently came out, and I've been saying this since for half a decade now, here. Maybe to learn a thing or two re AD Security, the good folks at Microsoft should Google "Active Directory Privilege Escalation"

Perhaps the one line that stood out most (of many lines that stand out) is -

"Why would you want to change AdminSDHolder manually? 
To date, our team hasn't found a solid reason!"

Microsoft, when you publicly ask such a question, you reveal how little your team may know about Active Directory Security.

(Dear Microsoft, FYI, and in case you didn't know, likely the number #1 thing most organizations need to do to secure/lockdown access to/on all their default privileged user accounts and security groups in Active Directory, is to change AdminSDHolder!)

Oh, and has it ever occurred to you that many mature organizations may choose to implement their own custom AD delegation models, in which case they may not even end up relying on default AD administrative accounts and groups, in which case your point concerning ACL based vulnerabilities not impacting privileged users and groups in Active Directory would be moot.

You see, here's what they should have said - "We care deeply about cyber security and we understand that left unaddressed, this could pose a serious cyber security risk to our customers. Be rest assured that Microsoft Active Directory is a highly robust and securable technology, and here's exactly how organizations can adequately and reliably identify and lock-down privileged access in their Active Directory deployments, leaving no room for perpetrators to identify and exploit any weaknesses."

The reason I say that should've been the response is because if you know enough about this problem, then you also know that it can actually be completely and sufficiently addressed, and that you don't need to rely on detection as a security measure.

Sadly, since they don't seem to have a clue as to this, you're likely not going to get that response from Microsoft.

BTW, to appreciate how little Microsoft seems to understand about this huge cyber security challenge, you'll want a yardstick to compare Microsoft's response with, so here it is (; you'll want to read the posts) - Active Directory Security School for Microsoft.

Finally, if this is how little Microsoft seems to understand about such a profoundly important cyber security challenge concerning your own technology, I cannot help but wonder how well their customers might actually be protected in its recent Cloud offering!

It is now abundantly clear that Microsoft may need help, so in days to come, I'm going to help them out.

Best wishes,

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