As Hybrid and Cloud Deployments Grow, Protecting Azure Active Directory Is Essential
Authored by: Carolyn Crandall, Chief Security Advocate, Attivo Networks – Determined attackers can almost always find their way into a network. Even the strongest perimeter protections in the world cannot stop 100% of attacks, and while firewalls and antivirus software continue to play an important role, they are no longer enough. In today’s world, identity is the new perimeter, and the ability to protect both human and nonhuman identities from compromise should be a top priority for modern organizations. It is not always easy, particularly as organizations continue down the path of digital transformation, embracing the cloud and hybrid environments that can create dangerous security vulnerabilities if not properly configured.
This new reality demands a solution capable of providing continuous exposure visibility and remediation guidance across the full spectrum of network environments, including on-premises, cloud, and managed Active Directory (AD). Microsoft designed its Azure AD service to provide a single identity management solution that bridges the gap between on-premises and the cloud. Unfortunately, AD’s ubiquity and relative vulnerability make it a high-value target for attackers, and organizations must protect their identities across all network environments. Thankfully, today’s most prominent Active Directory protections add new capabilities to protect Azure AD.
Attackers Leverage Identity Security Gaps
Recent research shows that nearly 80% of cyberattacks are from threat actors leveraging gaps in identity security to gain privileged access and move laterally throughout the network. This finding is consistent with attack patterns observed over the past several years: compromising an identity can allow an adversary to circumvent perimeter protections by appearing to be a valid user or device with a right to operate within the network. Once inside, they are often free to move about and conduct reconnaissance without fear of detection. The addition of the cloud gives these attackers more room to operate and creates more opportunities for misconfigurations and gaps in security as ownership over the environment becomes more nebulous.
Additional research from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) also highlights the rapid increase in Active Directory exploits and identity-based attacks. Over 70% of organizations admit that operational concerns led them to accept a certain degree of AD exposure, highlighting that operational efficiency and effectiveness often sideline security. Unfortunately, this has led to just 33% of organizations stating that they believed they could defend against AD attacks in real-time. Over half reported that they plan to prioritize AD to a greater degree in the future, but the current state of affairs is cause for concern.
Closing the Security Gap
The Attivo Networks ADAssessor solution provides identity exposure visibility across both on-premises and cloud deployments and now provides the same degree of visibility and protection for Azure AD. The solution currently offers more than 200 checks for exposures that adversaries commonly use to gain privileges, install backdoors, and proliferate malware within victim networks. The added Azure AD features include 15 additional automated Azure AD risk health checks and remediation guidance to help organizations address potential vulnerabilities before attackers exploit them.
These new capabilities can allow enterprises to reduce risk by finding, fixing, and remediating exposures within Azure AD environments. It limits the attacker’s ability to identify sensitive targets, compromise misconfigurations, move laterally, and gain persistence across hybrid environments. Essentially, it increases the difficulty for attackers to move throughout the network, escalate their privileges, or even identify valuable data to steal or encrypt. Given the prevalence of identity-based attacks among today’s most popular attack patterns, this strikes a major blow to attackers by making one of their favorite methods significantly more challenging.
Protecting Azure AD Is Critical
Boosting protection for Active Directory, both in Azure and on-premises, should be a high priority for organizations seeking to defend themselves against today’s most dangerous cyber threats. Continuous visibility is critical, as is the ability to generate actionable insights into exposures and domain, user, and device misconfigurations. Attackers will always seek to leverage those vulnerabilities to enter and move throughout the network. Improving both detection and prevention capabilities can help network defenders nip attacks in the bud.
The ADAssessor solution remains the gold standard in AD exposure visibility, providing a scalable and easy-to-use solution delivering critical insights to a single pane of glass. By adding Azure AD-specific capabilities, ADAssessor has given defenders another tool to help protect themselves in today’s hybrid and cloud environments. As attackers increasingly turn their attention toward the cloud, it will be an essential resource for quickly finding and fixing risks in Azure AD and hybrid environments.
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