NIST's guidance for a Zero Trust Architecture

Active Directory Fundamentals

  Integrating AD with LDAP 

Introduction 

Active Directory (AD) is a directory service that stores information about objects on the network in a logical and hierarchical manner. Administrators control and manage access to network resources based on the permissions assigned to the AD user role. Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) is a simplified version of the Directory Access Protocol (DAP). LDAP’s primary function is to allow users to find data about people, organizations, and other entities by storing data in the directory and authenticating users to access the directory. It also facilitates the sharing of information from directory services to other applications and services. LDAP authentication helps to verify usernames and passwords before granting access to the data stored in a directory. Therefore, LDAP makes it easier to connect, search, and modify directories by operating as an application protocol that performs authentication.

Why integrate AD with LDAP?

Both Active Directory and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol are essential for maintaining the security of your IT infrastructure. AD is a key component of your IT security layer, and LDAP is a key component of how AD operates. Active Directory is intended to serve as a directory service for user management and to assist you in managing and controlling all of the devices on your network, including computers, services, printers, and mobile devices, as well as the users who interact with them. Each user or group of users can also be granted privileges to Active Directory objects or information. On the other hand, the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) is a directory service authentication protocol that works across platforms. It provides the communication language through which application directory services communicate information about users, passwords, and computer accounts with other network entities.

Access to information in the directory can have a significant impact on system security, and directory services are practically a phone book for your company’s information and devices, which is why AD authentication is so essential. Users can utilize LDAP to gain access to the information they require in AD to do their duties efficiently. Furthermore, since Active Directory is critical to your IT environment, it might be a target for cybercriminals looking to attack your security systems. When a single high-level or high-access account is hacked, sensitive information such as files and information, as well as passwords for other accounts, are exposed. As a result, the integration of directory servers and LDAP is critical for the proper and secure operation of the organization’s IT systems.

Prerequisites  for integrating AD with LDAP:

  • IP address details or the hostname of the LDAP server.
  • Administrator account and credentials of LDAP server.
  • Organization’s Active Directory information.
  • System requirement of a minimum of 2 GB Disk Space and 1 GB Memory.
  • The base distinguished name that needs to be added in the LDAP fields.

How does Active Directory work with LDAP? 

There are two methods of LDAP authentication with respect to accessing the Active Directory:

  • Simple Authentication: In this authentication method, a bind request is created using the user credentials. The same request is forwarded to the server for authentication.  
  • SASL (Simple Authentication and Security Layer) Authentication: This framework uses a third-party authentication service as a first step to bind to the LDAP server. Based on that, the authentication request is approved or rejected. This method can provide increased security. Since there are multiple authentication methods deployed in this method and each acts as a separate process, the directory remains highly secure.

Steps to integrate LDAP with AD: 

Before implementing LDAP, you should determine what authentication methods you require, how users will search the systems for information/data, and where your security and information demands are. Follow the below steps to integrate LDAP with Active Directory:

  1. Login to Active Directory using an administrator account.
  2. Scroll down to the LDAP Support section and choose the Server Overview tab.
  3. A popup will now display some fields that need information pertaining to the LDAP account.
  4. Fill in the details of Server and Port in the fields provided beside them. For Server, use the domain name or the IP address, and for Port, use code 389 for unencrypted LDAP connection and 636 for encrypted LDAP connection.
  5. In the Base DN field, enter the complete base details of the AD including the suffix.
  6. Set the Search Scope as per the required level of search. When set to 0, the search gets limited to the base object. When set to 1, the search level gets expanded till the child objects. Setting it as 2 will search the whole subtree including the base object and all its child objects. This is the default search scope.
  7. For the Username Attribute, fill in the object name that needs to be searched in the directory.
  8. Enter the Search Filter with the details of the required string. This string is used for the LDAP search to locate and filter the object in the AD. For example, use (objectclass=user) to filter all entities that have the object class as User.
  9. Click on Verify to ensure that all the applied settings are correct.
  10. The details of the administrator account must be entered.
  11. Select Save to apply the changes.
  12. To enable LDAP authentication for users, go to Admin and select User Management.
  13. All the available users will be listed. Select the user for whom LDAP needs to be enabled.
  14. Click on Advanced and check the LDAP Authentication option.
  15. Click on Save to apply the changes.

Best Practices for LDAP Integration: 

By adhering to best practices for managing your AD user access privileges, you can ensure that your Active Directory is properly configured with LDAP authentication.

  • Ensure that your AD and LDAP servers are properly set up, in order to reduce the possibility of an AD problem affecting your end users.
  • Configure your AD groups based on their role or the level of access they should have, and keep these groups up to date to keep your system secure by restricting unauthorized access.
  • Set up each user or user group with the least amount of access necessary to complete their work or execute their duty, because the more access any user or user group has, the more likely the access will be exploited, i.e. the less access you offer each user and group, the safer your systems will be.
  • Review your Active Directory and LDAP authentication configuration on a regular basis to ensure there are no modifications that could cause a security threat to the network.

Conclusion: 

LDAP is a vital component of Active Directory’s operation since it communicates all messages between the AD and the rest of your IT environment. Therefore, monitor and manage your AD to ensure that you are using it in a safe and efficient manner, which is critical for the security and day-to-day operations of your IT systems.

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