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An Introduction to Active Directory

There is not many resources on Active Directory attacks online so i decided to make a blog series to contribute to the community. This will be a mini blog series on Active Directory penetration testing covering the basic to all the way to more advanced topics eventually.

What is Active Directory?

Active Directory (AD) is a collection of services to manage a Windows network which runs on a Windows Server to manage a network, computers, services and users. Active Directory stores data as objects such as services, users, groups and devices. This provides a way for administrators to grow and manage a large network, typically used in large organisations.

Active Directory services

Active Directory provides several services to manage an Active Directory network which includes:

  • AD DS: Active Directory Domain Services - AD DS is a role used to manage information and resources on a network. This includes the management of computers, users, services, network devices and applications.
  • AD CS: AD Certificate Services - AD CS is Microsoft implementation of public key infrastructure (PKI) used to manage certificates on an AD network. PKI is set of hardware, software, people, policies, and procedures needed to create manage, distribute, store and revoke digital certificates.
    AD FS: AD Federation Services - AD FS is a way to shares resources with the outside network and allows users to access resources on the outside network.
    AD RMS: AD Rights Management Services - AD RMS is a service used to protect data and restricted access to information.
    AD LDS: AD Lightweight Directory Services - AD LDS is a lightweight version of AD DS which provides flexible support for direcotry-enabled applications without the dependancy of domain restrictons of AD DS.
Active Directory Structure

A forest in AD is at the top of the hierarchy which contains domains, computers and users. Inside a forest the domains have multiple Organisational Units (UO) which is used typically for group policies inside a domain. A domain may have 2 sub UO which are the Admin team and HR. Both these UOs can have different group policies inside the domain.

Why learn Active Directory in Penetration testing?

A lot of organisations use AD to manage there internal network for organising the users, computers and files of a organisation. A majority of large organisations use AD to run internal infrastructure. This is why AD penetration testing is important to understand

AD course and labs:

Several labs / courses that are recommended to learn AD pen testing are the following:
HackTheBox: Rasta and Offshore labs
Pentester Academy: Attack Defence and Red Team Labs:
eLearn Security: PTX course