Domain Controller

What is a Domain Controller?

A domain controller is a server that manages users with respect to verification, authentication, identity security, and authorization for data access. Domains represent a hierarchical network of users and computers – the domain controller keeps all this data neatly organized and secured. You can also use domain controllers to host Active Directory services.

What Does a Domain Controller Do?

Domain controllers are the key to imposing data governance over networks. They help administrators enforce network policies, security protocols, and permissions to access network resources. It ensures that the network remains secure and reliable.

In simpler words, it is the job of a domain controller to check the username, password, and other authentication parameters of each user using the Windows network to provide access or deny it.

Domain controllers can also host Microsoft’s Active Directory to manage Windows users and their accounts on Windows-based networks from a centralized point.

Differences Between Domain Controller and Active Directory

Active Directory is a combination of a database and a set of services introduced by Microsoft to centralize domains management. Its main function is to connect the users within a system to the network resources to help them get their work done.

The database contains important information about the environment that determines each computer’s role in a network and the users allowed access to resources.

On the other hand, a domain controller is the engine that functions within the Active Directory, performing the task of user authentication and regulation of access to network resources.

Benefits of a Domain Controller

Domain controllers help reinforce the security of network resources against unauthorized access. Some other benefits of using domain controllers are:

  • Domain controllers provide and enforce various security policies across the network, like strong password policies.
  • In a network where all the devices are connected centrally, the domain controller allows sharing of resources using login privileges. This helps prevent superfluous expenses, such as installing new devices.
  • Domain controllers prevent unauthorized access to network resources, enforcing enterprise-prescribed data governance guidelines to prevent theft or misuse.
  • Domain controllers help save time by enabling central management of a network.

Domain Controller Best Practices

To ensure that hackers and attackers cannot elevate their user privileges on a network in an unauthorized manner, leverage the following best practices:

  • Keep the default administrator user disabled because this is the primary attack point.
  • Always keep the web browsers disabled on the domain controller, as it creates an entry point for hackers.
  • Employ robust security for the control plane that includes domain controllers, certificate servers, identity sync servers, federation servers, and backup modules. High-level security on the control plane ensures that whatever changes are initiated by these entities on the servers are monitored and controlled.
  • Leverage Microsoft’s Privileged Access Management to isolate accounts with high-level privileges using the Bastion environment. The resource access on these accounts is time-based and directed through Microsoft Identity Management servers for better monitoring.
  • Always keep your domain controllers updated and decommission all legacy operating systems as soon as possible.
  • Leverage the newest features in Active Directory, such as protected groups, restricted RDP, testing, and time-based group membership.
  • Consider deploying an intruder detection system to prevent unauthorized access to the Active Directory.
  • Use network filtering to control internet access on domain controllers.
  • Always ensure that your suppliers are trusted when installing third-party applications on domain controllers.