Smart Active Directory Management with Netwrix GroupID
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Gartner IAM 2023 was a huge success as thousands gathered in Grapevine, TX March 20 – 22. This year, the theme was: Beyond IAM: Enable Identity-First Security
Experts discussed the many challenges facing IT teams in selecting, administering, and managing IAM environments both hybrid and in the cloud. What did attendees talk about when visiting Netwrix GroupID at booth number 333?
I own my Identity Management pain points, how does Netwrix GroupID solve them?
Having the right identity management plan and tool in place is a challenge on the macro level. Waiting in the trenches at the micro level are the pain points that are specific to your environment. Netwrix GroupID has been a fixture at Gartner IAM from the beginning and we have a finger on the pulse when it comes to selecting and implementing Group and User management solutions for enterprises big and small.
What’s the GroupID approach?
Netwrix GroupID is designed by identity management professionals FOR identity management professionals. The focus is always on group and user management pain points and how to solve them. We get it – you’re busy and don’t need hype, you need solutions that make your job easier.
Here were the top four AzureAD and Active Directory pain points we heard at IAM 2023
Harnessing Nested Groups
Nested groups quickly become a headache…then get worse. Groups within groups within groups spin out of control and IT can face a difficult time correcting it. OK, who are we fooling, it becomes impossible.
Of course, there are best practices associated with creating and using nested AD groups. Those best practices should be tempered by built-in AD restrictions so that administrators aren’t allowed to extend nested groups to more than a single level. Additionally, a restriction to prevent more than one nested group per existing group would prevent future housekeeping and administrative problems from arising.
Nesting multiple group levels and allowing multiple groups within groups creates complex inheritance problems, bypasses security, and ruins organizational measures that group management was designed to prevent. Periodic AD audits will allow administrators and architects to reassess AD organization and correct nested group sprawl.
System administrators have had the “Manage groups, not individuals” credo pounded into their brains for years, but group management inevitably leads to nested groups and poorly managed permissions.
How can you solve it? GroupID, with its proactive approach towards building nested Active Directory groups, adds intelligence by using Dynasties. The concept of Dynasties is based on the nesting of groups in keeping with the hierarchal nature of your business. The groups that a Dynasty creates are called child groups, which become members of their respective parent Dynasties.
GroupID offers three types of Dynasties:
- Organizational Dynasty
- Geographical Dynasty
- Managerial Dynasty
In addition to this, It also offers a custom Dynasty template where you can set your attributes to create child groups.
Getting Rid of Group Glut
Groups in AzureAD and Active Directory are created all time, seemingly without any oversite. These groups can have permissions and access that IT is unaware of. Oh, wait, another four groups were just created while you were reading this. You get the point. At the last Garter IAM, we asked attendees whether Group Glut exists in their environments. The answer was a resounding “YES”. More importantly, they had no clue how to fix it and simply commented, “Fixing it would be extremely time-consuming, and it’s not getting better anytime soon.”
You can eliminate it with Netwrix GroupID. Attestation via lifecycle is the key. GroupID allows IT to delegate group ownership with policies in place that ensure groups never outlive their purpose. Here’s a short video eliminating group glut using GroupID.
Creating and Managing Distribution Groups
Communicating within the organization effectively is critical, yet, these organizations have challenges in creating and managing distribution groups. For example, people move around, and projects and associated groups are formed. Depending on the industry, improperly handling groups and distribution lists creates security and compliance risks that can be used by bad actors to gain entry that permits them to explore your environment. Distribution lists should represent the hierarchical and organizational structure of the corporation so that announcements can be made easily for each department.
Netwrix GroupID enables IT to make smart groups and dynasties that mimic the organizational and hierarchical structure of the organization so that effective distribution groups and associated communication can take place seamlessly. The smart group membership feature automatically updates the data in the directory whenever a user updates his/her profile.
Note: The terms “distribution groups” and “distribution lists” tend to be used interchangeably, particularly if you work with Microsoft Exchange Server administrators. Don’t let this trip you up!
Active Directory distribution groups work with your email client to define who is included in group messages, while security groups are used to control access to resources. Those could be hardware, SharePoint sites, applications, folders, or a host of other uses. Managing distribution lists and security groups is a mission-critical task for just about any IT organization.
Distribution groups are designed to combine users together so that you can send e-mails (via Microsoft Exchange Server) collectively to a group rather than individually to each user in the group. Active Directory Distribution groups are designed to be used for e-mail specifically and cannot be granted Windows permissions.
Active Directory Security Groups are a type of group object in Microsoft’s Active Directory that is used to organize and manage user accounts, computers, and other resources. Security groups are used to assign permissions and access controls to users or groups of users to certain network resources. These groups allow administrators to easily manage permissions and access to resources in a centralized location. Examples of security groups include Domain Admins, Account Operators, and Backup Operators.
For a deeper dive into the difference and how to use them effectively, check out our blog Distribution Groups or Mail Enabled Groups.
Permission Elevation and Permission Creep
There is a potential for privileged users to further elevate their privileges by adding themselves to other groups. Privileged users are those who have some elevated privileges, but who have just enough authority to add themselves to additional groups, which grants them additional privileges in Active Directory. This security flaw allows an internal attacker to add privileges in a stepwise manner until extensive control over a domain exists, including the ability to lock out other administrators. (Eliminate resource-consuming manual procedures in Active Directory Identity Management. Learn how here.)
Permission creep is a condition that occurs when administrators fail to remove users from a privileged group when a user’s job changes or when a user leaves the company. Permission creep can allow users access to corporate assets for which the user no longer has need. Permission elevation and permission creep both create serious security concerns. Various third-party applications exist that can perform audits to detect and prevent these conditions.
From small companies to global enterprises, Active Directory handles user authentication, access to resources, and computer management. It is one of the most valued pieces of network infrastructure in business today. As powerful a tool as Active Directory is, it has many shortcomings.
Fortunately, with Netwrix GroupID, we have extended Active Directory’s features, resolved its poorly conceived management interface design, consolidated its functionality, and massaged some of its more glaring inadequacies.
Netwrix GroupID engineers will impress you with their knowledge of AzureAD and Active Directory Group and User management. Sign up today.
Jonathan BlackwellView Profile
Since 2012, Jonathan Blackwell, an engineer and innovator, has provided engineering leadership that has put GroupID at the forefront of group and user management for Active Directory and Azure AD environments. His experience in development, marketing, and sales allows Jonathan to fully understand the Identity market and how buyers think.