How to detect domain functional level changes in Active Directory (AD)?

By monitoring functional level changes made to AD, IT administrators can protect the organization from attacks that might be caused by employing domain functional level (DFL) versions that don't have adequate security features. Domain policy change auditing, of which DFL change tracking is a part, helps in detecting privilege misuse and mitigate internal threats.

Audit functional level changes Free, fully functional 30-day trial
  • With Native AD Auditing

  • With ADAudit Plus

How to track domain functional level changes with ADAudit Plus

  • Once ADAudit Plus has been installed, it automatically configures audit policies required for Active Directory auditing.

  • To enable automatic configuration: Log in to the ADAudit Plus web console → Domain Settings → Audit Policy: Configure.

  • Changes in LAPS can be identified by following the below mentioned steps:

    1. Login to ADAudit Plus.

    2. Select the required Domain from the dropdown list.

    3. Go to the Reports tab.

    4. Navigate to Domain Object Changes.

    5. Select Domain Policy Changes.

    6. Click the Add/Remove Columns dropdown list.

    7. Tick the Domain Behaviour Version checkbox, and click Apply.

  • If any change has been made to the domain functional level, it will be displayed in the Domain Behaviour Version column.

  • The following are some of the details you can get in this report:

    1. Caller User Name - Name of the user who initiated the policy change

    2. Modified Time - The time at which the domain functional level policy is altered

    3. Domain Controller - Name of the domain controller in which the policy is changed

    4. Domain Behaviour Version - Displays changes made at domain functional level

    5. Remarks - Mentions the action that was performed

    6. Modifies Properties - Lists the domain policies that have been altered

  • ADAudit Plus enables IT administrators to get a comprehensive picture of all the activities that happen within an organization's network. The real-time monitoring and out-of-the-box reports generated by ADAudit Plus makes it easier to audit critical domain functional level changes.

With native AD auditing, here is how you can monitor domain functional level changes in Active Directory:

  • Step 1: Enable 'Audit logon events' policy
  • Launch 'Server Manager' in your Windows Server instance.

  • Under Manage, select 'Group Policy Management' and launch the Group Policy Management console.

  • Navigate to 'Forest' --> 'Domain' --> 'Your domain' --> 'Domain Controllers'.

  • Create a new GPO and link it to the domain containing the computer object, or edit any existing GPO that is linked to the domain to open the 'Group Policy Management Editor'.

  • Navigate to 'Computer Configuration' ➔ 'Windows Settings' ➔ 'Security Settings' ➔ 'Advanced Audit Policy Configuration' ➔ 'System Audit Policies' ➔ 'DS Access'

  • Under DS Access, turn auditing on for Success and failure events of the following policies:

    1. Audit account logon events

    2. Audit account management

    3. Audit policy changes

  • In the GPMC, choose the modified GPO, and click 'Add' in the 'Security' section on the right pane.

  • Type 'everyone' in the text box to apply the modified GPO to all the objects, click 'Check Names' to confirm the same.

  • Press 'OK' and Exit GPMC.

  • To enforce these changes throughout the domain, run the command 'gpupdate /force', in the "Run" console.

  • Step 2: Allow AD Auditing through ADSI Edit
  • From your 'Server Manager' go to 'Tools' and select 'ADSI Edit'.

  • Right click 'ADSI Edit' node from the left pane and select 'Connect to' option. This pulls up the 'Connection Settings' window.

  • Select the 'Default Naming Context' option from the 'Select a well-known Naming Context' drop down list.

  • Click 'Okay' and return to the ADSI Edit window. Expand 'Default Naming Context' and select the associated 'DC' subnode. Right-click this subnode and click 'Properties'.

  • In the 'Properties' window, go to the 'Security' tab and select 'Advanced'. After that select 'Auditing' tab and click 'Add'.

  • Click on Select a principal. This will bring up a Select User, Computer or Group Window.

  • Type Everyone in the textbox and verify it with Check Names.

  • The principal field in the Auditing Entry window now shows Everyone.

  • In the Type drop-down select All to audit for both success and failure events.

  • In the Select drop-down choose This object and all descendant object's. This allows the auditing of the OU's descendant objects.

  • Select Full Control in the Permissions section.

  • This selects all the checkboxes available. Unselect the following check boxes:

    1. 'Full Control'

    2. 'List Contents'

    3. 'Read all properties'

    4. 'Read permissions'

  • Click 'Apply', 'OK' and close the console.

  • Step 3: View events in Event Viewer
  • In Event Viewer window, go to Windows Logs ➔ Security logs.

  • Click on Filter current log under Action in the right panel.

  • Search for Event ID 4739 that identifies domain functional level changes.

  • You can double-click on the event to view Event Properties.

  • These steps need to be repeated for all the domains to policy changes. Manually checking every event is time-consuming, inefficient and practically impossible for large organizations.

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ADAudit Plus simplifies domain functional level changes tracking by offering predefined domain policy changes report along with intuitive graphical representation of the same for the ease of comprehension. ADAudit Plus also provides you the option to generate custom reports and export them in your preferred format (.pdf, .xls, .html and .csv).

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