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When it comes to business security, limiting the use of the Domain Administrators group is key. This is a crucial practice to reduce the attack surface of your network. When you know attacks will inevitably come, you want the impact to be as minimal as possible. 

What is the Domain Admin Group?

A Domain Admin group is a privileged group in the Windows Entra ID (formerly known as Active Directory) environment. Accounts in this group hold extensive administrative rights and permissions over a domain. It is a security group that grants its members full control and access to manage and administer the entire domain. This includes user accounts, security policies, organizational units, group policies, domain controllers, and other resources within the domain.

Members of the domain admin group have elevated privileges, allowing them to make critical changes, configure settings, install software, and perform administrative tasks across the domain. They have the highest level of authority within the domain, enabling them to modify and control various aspects of the network infrastructure.

Due to the significant level of access and control, it provides, the Domain Admins group should be limited to only trusted and essential individuals who require such extensive administrative capabilities. It is important to carefully manage and secure the membership of this group to prevent unauthorized access, minimize the risk of malicious actions, and protect the overall security and integrity of the Entra ID environment.

Three crucial protocols to keep your environment safe:

Protocol 1: Limited Access Timeframe

It is generally not recommended to keep the Domain Admins group open all the time due to security concerns. The Domain Admins group has the highest level of privilege in Entra ID. Granting too many people access to this group can increase the risk of security breaches, data loss, and other critical issues. However, there may be a need to grant temporary access to the Domain Admins group for certain tasks or projects.

When an account needs Domain Admin access, it’s recommended to grant access for a limited window of time. The access should be granted only to authorized personnel and for the specific tasks or projects that require it. The time window should be kept as short as possible. Once the task or project is completed, the access should be revoked immediately.

Conducting work daily with an account that has permanent Domain Admin privileges may be tempting and easy, but it leaves it too open and accessible. A compromise of that account would be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for an attacker, so let's not make it easy for them to get.


Protocol 2: Multiple Windows Accounts

It is recommended that IT Admins have two Windows accounts. One for everyday non-admin use, and another account for temporary Domain Admins group access. Workers should only use an account with the least amount of access and privilege possible to get their work done. 

Customizing an account can limit the number of functions it has. This reduces the attack surface and, in turn, limits the potential impact on your business in the event of a compromise. It also decreases the likelihood that malicious actors can exploit vulnerabilities or gain unauthorized access to sensitive information.

Admins can use additional accounts for server and network device administration. Where possible, avoid sharing domain admin passwords. When an IT Administrator leaves the company, no one enjoys that password change process.


Protocol 3: Clean Up Accounts

Regularly clean up old user and device accounts. Simply run reports to see which accounts haven't been used in a while. A stale admin account lingering in Entra ID is like leaving your front door open. These accounts could be discovered and used by an attacker if not recognized and disabled by IT staff first.

This process typically includes identifying and disabling or deleting accounts that are no longer needed. This ensures that only authorized personnel have administrative access, and implement proper access controls and monitoring mechanisms. Keeping your accounts clean keep things lean and secure, mitigating potential vulnerabilities and protecting sensitive data and systems from unauthorized access.

These are just a few of the ways to decrease the potential malicious use of Windows account privileges. Implementing least-privilege administrative models is a pillar of the zero-trust methodology. Ultimately, it ensures that only authorized users and specific tasks are using the precious Domain Admins group.


Ascend Can Help

Do you still have questions? Check out more of our IT Tips, or let us know by reaching out to talk to an expert. We are here to help! Ascend Technologies has dedicated engineers to help in setting security protocols, securing your network with implementation, 24/7 monitoring and support, and more.

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