BeyondTrust Webcast: Darren Mar-Elia’s 4 Active Directory Change Scenarios to Track

Chris Burd, August 20th, 2014

darren-mar-eliaIn our latest webcast, we joined Darren Mar-Elia, CTO at SDM Software, to discuss best practices for Active Directory (AD) change management. Here are some key takeaways from the presentation, followed by a link to a full-length video of the presentation.

Mar-Elia kicks things off with a critical insight: that the best AD change management is proactive about preventing those AD changes in the first place. He then presents practical guidelines for reaching this elevated level of AD monitoring in the context of four common AD change tiers.

Prioritizing Common AD Change Scenarios

Throughout the webcast, Mar-Ella emphasizes that AD Change control isn’t a process of building an approval workflow for every little change – it’s a process of creating and managing an environment in which your users can work most effectively.

High levels of control don’t make sense for all object classes and attributes. You need to sort out the important “breaking” changes from the everyday “nuisance” changes. But what’s truly important is to focus on what matters for your organization, which will vary by organization and regulatory regime.

That said; Mar-Elia focuses on four AD change scenarios every company should be tracking:

Tier 1: Privileged Objects
Within your environment, the most important data should have the highest priority. Therefore, anything that grants access to privileged resources should also be actively monitored. This could refer to administrative access to sensitive servers, group membership that grants access to HR or PCI data, or service account changes.

Tier 2: User Activity Threats
The second most important priority is behavior that is suspicious, including AD changes that could represent threats. This might include multiple password changes for a single user within a short period of time, or many change attempts for multiple users at the same time. Depending on the object or access’s security level, these changes might not be important, but at the very least you should monitor these kinds of changes for privileged information.

Tier 3: User Outages
The next tier refers to changes that could impact or disrupt user activities. For example, if you have a lot of workflow built into AD data, changing information about a given user could disrupt that workflow. You’ll want to monitor these kinds of changes, which can include departmental transitions, OU moves, and Group Policy changes.

Tier 4: Other Stuff
The final tier is a catch-all for other important things that may or may not be vital to your performance but are important to monitor. Often, these are things you won’t need to store or monitor for any extended period of time, such as the creation and deletion of objects or changes to attributes. This also covers AD infrastructure changes that are important if only to allow a rollback to a previous state.

Mar-Elia also emphasizes the importance of “de-noising” AD auditing. Rather than audit every change in a large environment, focus on your organization’s tiered priorities. Tune down what you audit to track and manage only what you care about. Set your alerts accordingly to make sure you’re only distracted by the important things.

For all of your AD concerns, including auditing for compliance and leveraging AD auditing to promote productivity, Mar-Elia points out that every environment will have different priorities.

What matters most is that you identify those priorities and align your process to them. For some organizations, that means prioritizing compliance for access to critical organizational resources (including customer, company, and intellectual property). For others, that means a focus on preventing changes that you need to reverse in the first place.

If you’re interested in a more in-depth view of AD change management, including compliance-related topics, check out the on-demand webcast in full below.