Deploying secure domain controllers - Part 1

A look at the first step in deploying secure domain controlers: building them in a secure environment.

To create a secure domain you have to start with a secure foundation. For Active Directory domain networks, that

foundation is the domain controller. If your domain controllers are not secure, then your network is not secure. Likewise, if a domain controller is compromised, your entire network may be compromised as well.

In order to have secure domain controllers, you must deploy them securely. This will involve improving and securing the environment in which new domain controllers are built, the procedure and process by which domain controllers are built, and to control physical security and restrict access to domain controllers at all times.

So, the first step is to secure the environment where domain controllers are created. This includes both the network segments involved as well as the physical area. You may need to create a dedicated new-system-build segment for your network and house it within a secured room in your facility. If your build area has weak network security or lacks good physical access controls, you should not build new domain controllers in that environment.

During the critical build process, you must protect new domain controllers to the best of your ability. During this phase there are numerous vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited over a network connection and through direct system access. During a domain controller build process, only the authorized system administrators should be able to access the new system either physically or logically. Only through tight security can you ensure that unwanted, rogue, or malicious programs, drivers, services, code or configurations are added to fledgling domain controllers.

One common and secure method of deploying new domain controllers, especially when they will be housed in new environments, distant branch offices or simply expansions of the current network solution, is to use a staged deployment. A staged deployment involves the building of the basic domain controller system, including all essential applications, services, and security features. Then ship the domain controller to its intended installation location. Once there, any final configuration settings can be made and you can be assured of the reliability of the security of the system. Obviously, if you are shipping a computer to a remote location, use only trusted shipping services, use sealed tamper-proof containers, and require signatures at both origin and destination ship points.

In my next tip, I'll talk about improving and securing your organization's procedures and processes used to build new domain controllers.


James Michael Stewart is a partner and researcher for ITinfopros, a technology-focused writing and training organization.


This was first published in February 2004

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