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Azure Active Directory course

Maximum protection for your business: Tame Azure Active Directory and secure your cloud environment

Strengthen the security of your Cloud infrastructure with our course on Azure Active Directory. Learn identity and access management best practices, as well as advanced data protection strategies. Get the skills you need to effectively secure your Cloud environment and prevent cyber threats. Join us now to gain cutting-edge expertise in cybersecurity and Azure Active Directory.

75 minutes

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Contents

🔰 Introduction

Active Directory stores information about objects on a network, and makes it available to users and network administrators so they can find and use them quickly. Active Directory uses a structured data store as the basis for its hierarchical and logical organization of directory information.

 

  • What is Active Directory?

Active Directory is a directory service or container that stores data objects on your local network environment. The service stores data on users, devices, applications and groups in a hierarchical structure.

The data structure enables you to retrieve details of network-connected resources from one location. In essence, Active Directory acts like a telephone directory for your network, so you can easily search for and manage devices.

Introduction to Active Directory
  • Why Active Directory?

Digging a little deeper, Active Directory reproduces the structure of an organization, including the devices and resources used. The so-called domains, which we'll talk about a little later, logically separate the various domains from one another. Domains are structured hierarchically. The hierarchy is independent of the underlying network infrastructure. The objects managed in an AD are, for example, computers, services, servers, storage, printers, users, groups or shared files.

The AD administrator can release or block network resources for users. Only the administrator has the right to modify objects, their attributes and the structure of directory services.

 

  • The benefits of an active directory

Some of the advantages of an active directory are as follows:

  • Centralized management of objects and resources on a network, including attributes, file shares and instructions.
  • High reliability thanks to redundancy and replication mechanisms
  • Support for other directory services and operating systems
  • Flexible and easy to expand
  • Representation of different organizational structures
  • High information security
  • It is based on the domain name system

🕹️ How Active Directory works

Active Directory technology is based on several network protocols, including LDAP, DHCP, KERBEROS and DNS. This means that Active Directory functions as a kind of database, in which data on the identification of users who are part of a computer network is stored in real time. All this data is under a central control element.

  • What does Active Directory do?

There are many reasons why companies use directory services like Active Directory. The main reason is convenience. Active Directory enables users to log in and manage a variety of resources from a single location. Login credentials are unified, making it easier to manage multiple devices without having to enter account details to access each individual machine.

Active Directory Management
  • Active Directory logical structure

 

How is an active directory structured? Actually, it's not a very difficult thing to understand. Of course, there are certain terms with which we need to familiarize ourselves first, but in reality, to simplify a little, we can think of a forest made up of different trees. These trees of the same group or species are part of a domain, so we work our way down until we reach the objects, which can be users, peripherals or whatever.

Active Directory logical structure
  • Objects: An object is the smallest managed drive in the directory service, comparable to a single data record in a database. Describes resources or devices such as computers, services, servers, storage, printers, users, groups or shared files. The properties of an object are called attributes. The object types, classes, attributes and attribute syntax used can generally be defined by a schema as a kind of template for all directory entries.
  • Classes: These are templates for the types of objects that can be created in Active Directory. Each object class is defined by a group of attributes, which identify the possible values that each object can take on. Each object has a unique combination of attribute values.
  • Regimes: The mapping of an organization's structure is done between domains. A domain is a logically distinct network zone with the same security guidelines and configurations.
  • Uo: These are containers of objects and are used to organize them (for purely administrative purposes). You can delegate authority to administer them and even assign special security policies to each one.
  • Domain controller: The domain controller makes Active Directory available to users and devices, and manages user authentication and role assignment. Active Directory information is stored on the domain controller server. To connect to the directory service, search for and address objects or resources, you must first contact the domain controller.
  • Domains: A domain name is, for example, tecnologiandroid.com. Active Directory domain names do not have to correspond to a registered Internet domain, but they can. Domain structures can be configured independently of the organization's existing logical or physical structures. Each domain is identified by a unique name based on DNS (Domain Name System) naming conventions. Sub-domains start from a root domain. The full name includes sub-domains and the root domain.
  • Tree: These are domains grouped into hierarchical structures: when you add a second domain to a structure, it becomes a child of the main domain, and so on. An example of this would be ba.contoso.com (child), where the main domain or tree would be contoso.com
  • Forest: A forest is an entire instance of Active Directory, consisting of one or more trees.

 

  • Group strategies

Group policies are one of the tools included in Microsoft operating systems. This tool is used to manage user and machine environments, apply IT strategies, simplify administrative tasks and implement security configurations. And as you can imagine, they are becoming a very important part of active consulting.

Depending on the field of application, they can be catalogued as follows:

  • Active Directory: Group Policy Object (GPO)
  • Local computer: LGPO (local group policy object)

 

  • Purpose of group strategies

In short, policies allow you to centrally control and configure various aspects of the configuration that different users receive when they log on to the PC. These include security configurations, script execution, desktop configurations, Internet Explorer configurations, automatic software installation and so on.

Policies can be applied at different levels of Active Directory: site level, domain level and organizational unit level.

OU-level policies affect only the computers and users they contain. OUs can be nested and in turn are inherited from higher levels, unless otherwise specified. Policies are generally not applied at site level, as this is not best practice.

Policies are applied when a user logs on or when the computer starts up, and by default every 90 minutes, although this value can be modified.

🥊 AD Microsoft Vs AD Azure

Although they share a similar name, Azure AD is not a cloud version of Windows Server Active Directory. Nor is it intended to completely replace a local Active Directory. Instead, if you're already using a Windows AD server, you can connect it to Azure AD to extend your directory into Azure. This approach enables users to use the same credentials to access both local and cloud resources.

Microsoft AD vs. Azure AD

Structural differences

The biggest difference between local Active Directory and Azure AD lies in the way they are structured. Whereas AD supports the use of Organization Units (OUs) and Group Policy Objects (GPOs), enabling administrators to view and organize the enterprise in all its components and sub-units, Azure Active Directory does NOT support Organization Units and Group Policy Objects. For cloud-only users, this could lead to a number of problems:

  • Lack of organizational units: It is not possible to create the same domains, trees and forests in Azure AD as in normal AD.
  • Increased administrative workload: As there are no organizational units, it is more difficult to delegate administrative tasks or to achieve a certain level of standardization and/or automation in Azure AD.
  • Less control: As Azure AD does not support group policies, there is no way to control device functions and settings in greater detail.

 

Cloud benefits

With Active Directory, the login process is stored in your corporate networks, which Microsoft has no visibility of.

With Azure Active Directory, its cloud location enables this directory service to benefit from advanced security features optimized by Microsoft. These include :

  • A "condition-based" approach to challenging an alternative form of authentication (MFA) on login attempts assessed as risky - either by organization-defined parameters (such as coming from an unknown location where you have no staff) or behavior that Microsoft's analysis has detected.
  • The ability for users to reset their own passwords, as we can challenge for MFA before authorizing it.
  • Automatic provisioning of new users in third-party Software as a Service applications, such as Salesforce and ServiceNow. Pre-defined connectors are available, and Azure AD supports applications that use the Cross-Domain Identity Management (CDIM) system.
  • An intelligent locking system that can detect the difference between connections from valid users and those from unknown sources, and handle them differently - locking out bad actors while allowing users to connect.

 

Active Directory and Azure Active Directory together

If you already have an Active Directory environment, you can run it in conjunction with Azure Active Directory for authentication in the cloud. This is known as hybrid identity and is commonly used by organizations that want a seamless single sign-on process for their users, so they can access both local and cloud or Microsoft 365 resources. It also removes the need for administrators to manage identities in two different systems.

Active Directory

How you design this will depend on your organization's specific requirements, including whether synchronizing your identities and password hashes with the cloud is allowed or not. To support various compliance scenarios, Microsoft supports password hash synchronization, direct authentication and federation.

 

🤓 Active Directory management tips

Group Policy is a series of settings in the Windows Registry that control security, auditing and other operational behavior. We can regard them as the central pillar to be maintained in order to build a healthy active directory.

For example, Group Policy lets you prevent users from accessing certain files or system settings, run specific scripts on system startup or shutdown, or force a particular home page to be opened for each user on the network.

Below, we'll list some Active Directory Group Policy best practices that will help you protect your systems and optimize Group Policy performance.

  • Do not modify the default domain policy and the default domain controller policy.
  • Creates a well-designed organizational unit (OU) structure in Active Directory.
  • Give descriptive names to Group Policy objects.
  • Add comments to Group Policy objects
  • Do not define Group Policy objects at domain level.
  • Apply Group Policy objects at the root level of the organizational unit.
  • Do not use the Users or Computers root folders in Active Directory.
  • Avoid disabling Group Policy objects.
  • Implement Group Policy change management.
  • Avoid using inheritance and the application of locking strategies.
  • Use small Group Policy Objects to simplify management.
    • Speed up processing of Group Policy objects by disabling unused computer and user settings. 

🎬 Conclusion

As we can see, Active Directory is a very important tool for centralizing resources in a hardware-based work environment. Thanks to it, we won't need to carry out individualized maintenance on workstations, since everything will be manageable from one or more central servers. What's more, the structure is highly intuitive, making it easy to assign authorizations and resources.

Want to find out more about Azure Active Directory?

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Azure Active Directory is a cloud directory and identity management service provided by Microsoft. It lets you manage identities and access to resources in a cloud environment.

Azure AD offers features such as user management, group management, single sign-on (SSO), role-based access management (RBAC), identity synchronization and much more.

Azure AD enhances security by providing centralized authentication and authorization for users and applications. It enables the implementation of security policies, conditional access controls and advanced threat detection features.

Azure AD integrates with many popular cloud applications and services such as Office 365, Azure DevOps, Salesforce, Dropbox and more. It also supports standard authentication protocols such as SAML, OAuth and OpenID Connect.

You can manage user identities by creating user accounts, assigning roles and permissions, configuring password policies, enabling multi-factor authentication and more.

Single sign-on (SSO) enables users to access multiple applications with a single set of credentials. This improves ease of use, while enhancing security by reducing the risks associated with weak or reused passwords.

To get started, you can create an Azure account, then activate the Azure Active Directory service. From there, you can configure users, groups, applications and security policies according to your organization's needs.

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