Windows servers are one of the most popular components of the IT infrastructure of businesses and enterprises. Active Directory services contain several digital certificates that are available for deployment.
If companies decide to implement any of these digital certificates in their IT infrastructure, they’ll have to set up a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). The main purpose of the company’s PKI is to issue digital certificates.
Public Key Infrastructure manages the certificates used in user and device authentication, mail encryption, SSL protection for web servers, and many more activities. However, many people are unaware of the connection between PKIs and Active Directory; that’s where active directory certificate services (AD CS) come into play.
This article will briefly overview active directory certificate services and discuss some standard active directory certificate best practices.
What is Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS)
Active Directory Certificate Services is a Microsoft product that lets system administrators manage services required for managing PKI services. AD CS has been around for quite some time; it supports many applications like Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), Encrypting File System (EFS), Secure Wireless Networks, and many more.
AD CS is pretty widely used in Windows environments. However, you don’t need it to build a CA or signature certificate. You could purchase a couple of certificates and install them manually.
However, manually installing certificates will be time-consuming if you run a large enterprise network. AD CS allows large enterprises to distribute certificates from a CA on a large scale for companies with thousands of employees with an even more significant number of machines.
Understanding Active Directory Certificate Services Best Practices
Active Directory Certificate Services is widely used among enterprises and large corporations. However, before implementing AD CS in your network, you need to set some ground rules and avoid certain acts to ensure that AD CS runs optimally.
Here are some standard active directory certificate service best practices you should consider before implementing AD CS in your network.
1. Always Place Security Permissions on Servers
You can easily track each user’s actions when running a few servers. However, as the network expands, you’ll find it harder to keep track of what everyone and every device is doing in the network.
One of the safest ways to protect your servers is to place security permissions on servers. This ensures that users can only access information corresponding to their access privileges.
2. Never Use Default AD Templates
When you implement a new service, it comes with its built-in default features and functionality. Using AD CS with its default configuration is a pretty bad idea. AD CS has several templates that are the building blocks for future duplication or modification.
Active Directory allows enterprise admins to configure and manage templates by default. However, you have to edit the settings to ensure that only the selected admins can access the templates. You can create a security group and assign roles to each admin to limit the accessibility of templates to the selected individuals.
3. Issuing AD on Managed Devices
Active Directory integrates with Group Policy (GPO). Managed devices will find it hard to issue certificates on their devices. This means you’ll have to set up each device outside the Group Policy manually.
Thankfully, you don’t have to set up each device manually. You can implement a technology called SCEP (Simple Certificate Enrollment Protocol). This protocol will handle the auto-enrollment of managed devices. SCEP allows these devices to communicate directly with the PKI without human interaction.
4. Certificate Expiration Notification
Another helpful tip you should apply when using AD CS is setting up notifications for certificate expiration. You can easily create an auto-enrollment policy in the Group Policy settings. This ensures that devices are automatically renewed for new certificates before they expire.
The auto-enrollment policy you’ll create will only function if the devices to be renewed are used for Active Directory Managed Devices. However, tons of third-party software integrates seamlessly with all MDMs allowing you to kickstart your auto-enrollment policy on all devices.
5. Plan the Requirement of The Certificates Before Implementing
Before implementing any active directory certificates or PKI in your enterprise, ensure that you’ve analyzed and made a concise plan for implementing the certificates. This would prevent you from installing needless services.
6. Always Make Sure SSL Is Enabled When Using Web-Based Certificate Enrollment
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is one of the most widely used cryptographic protocols to secure internet connections. If you’re enrolling in a web-based certificate, ensure that SSL is enabled and operating. This provides you with maximum protection and privacy.
Active Directory Certificate Services is a valuable tool for managing PKI in an organization. Organizations that are built primarily on Microsoft environments have little to no problems. However, organizations not wholly built on Microsoft might encounter several issues.
These best practices will make AD CS much easier to operate.