This is an updated blog that was originally published on May 19, 2015.
In May of 2015, Microsoft announced Local Administrator Password Solution (LAPS) at the Microsoft Ignite conference. LAPS is a password management feature that allows the randomization of local administrator accounts across the domain. Although it would seem that this capability overlaps with features in BeyondTrust’s Password Safe, the reality is that LAPS is more suited for simple use cases, such as changing the local Windows administrator account password, checking out the current version to an authorized user, and not much more.
What does Microsoft LAPS do and not do?
LAPS provides the ability – via Group Policy – to randomize the password for a local admin account on a remote system joined to the domain. Policies control who can access the password for retrieval. These passwords are then stored against the machine object in Active Directory and can be retrieved when access is needed to the account by an administrator or help desk technician.
LAPS requires that the system be on the domain, have a client-side extension loaded, and can ONLY manage the local admin account (even if it is renamed). Non-domain systems will not work. LAPS does have the benefit of not requiring a functional account, and it is integrated into Active Directory for a seamless experience for Microsoft-only dedicated shops. It does require a Client-Side Extension (CSE) on the client in order to function and that in itself may be a deployment challenge for some organizations. In a nutshell, MS LAPS:
- Does not support any other account/password changes aside from the local admin
- Does not support UNIX, Linux, or MacOS accounts – only Windows
- Does not offer any features for workflow, reporting, session monitoring, etc.
- Requires a client-side extension (agent) to be installed on all managed systems.
What are the differences between MS LAPS and BeyondTrust Password Safe?
Microsoft is known for focusing on basic functionality across their platforms. This leaves several voids that need to be filled when it comes to Privilege Account Management (PAM) and necessitates tools for Active Directory security and management, migration, identity management, , auditing, etc. As soon as requirements expand beyond basic use cases, organizations will require other commercial solutions to meet their security needs. BeyondTrust and other vendors have therefore created more robust solutions to fill these voids.
For instance, here’s a simple chart comparing the Microsoft Local Administrator Password solution to BeyondTrust Password Safe:
The Bottom Line
More than anything else, LAPS validates the need for password rotation, just as Microsoft validated the need for antivirus by including free anti-virus with their desktop operating system versions.
If you need the basics for a Windows-only environment, Microsoft LAPS may help you get by and protect against a critical attack vector for administrator lateral movement. Most organizations, however, will need a lot more, and this has only grown more true since the initial release of LAPS over 4 ½ years ago. Today, non-person accounts (applications, service accounts, machines, etc.) are pervasive across industries, yet LAPS lacks capabilities for managing and securing these and many other account types. Compliance mandates are growing significantly more demanding, making robust session monitoring and management capabilities an absolute must.
For organizations where LAPS alone won’t cut it, BeyondTrust can help with a simple, but comprehensive, enterprise password management solution. In addition to covering the broadest range of privileged credential management use cases and including the industry’s most powerful session monitoring/management, unlike LAPS, BeyondTrust Password Safe does not require an agent (CSE) to make password changes, though it does provide that option for management of off-network devices.
Morey J. Haber, Chief Security Officer at BeyondTrust
Morey J. Haber is the Chief Security Officer at BeyondTrust. He has more than 25 years of IT industry experience and has authored three books: Privileged Attack Vectors, Asset Attack Vectors, and Identity Attack Vectors. He is a founding member of the industry group Transparency in Cyber, and in 2020 was elected to the Identity Defined Security Alliance (IDSA) Executive Advisory Board. Morey currently oversees BeyondTrust security and governance for corporate and cloud based solutions and regularly consults for global periodicals and media. He originally joined BeyondTrust in 2012 as a part of the eEye Digital Security acquisition where he served as a Product Owner and Solutions Engineer since 2004. Prior to eEye, he was Beta Development Manager for Computer Associates, Inc. He began his career as Reliability and Maintainability Engineer for a government contractor building flight and training simulators. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.