How to identify who changed the role of a Domain controller?

Flexible single master operation (FSMO) roles are necessary to perform certain important operations. It is desirable to move them from one domain controller to another when an FSMO role owner becomes unavailable. However, unintended FSMO role changes could signal the presence of a malicious insider. Early detection of such actions is key to save the organization from a potential cyber attack.

The following is a comparison to track changes made to the role of a domain controller using native auditing and ManageEngine's ADAudit Plus, a comprehensive real-time Active Directory auditing solution.

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  • With Native AD Auditing

  • With ADAudit Plus

  • Login to ADAudit Plus web console as an administrator.

  • Navigate to the Reports tab and from the Configuration Auditing section in the left pane, select the FSMO Role Changes report.

  • Select the domain and click Generate.

  • Select Export As to export the report in any of the preferred formats (CSV, PDF, HTML, CSVDE and XLSX).

  • Step 1: Configure DS Objects
  • Follow the steps given below to enable Directory Service Objects auditing:

  • Go to Start Menu -> Administrative Tools.

  • Open “Group Policy Management Console”.

  • Go to Forest -> Domains -> Domain Controllers.

  • Next, right-click on the “Default Domain Controllers Policy”. From the context menu, click on “Edit” to open the “Group Policy Management Editor” window.

  • Go to “Computer Configuration” -> “Policies” -> “Windows Settings” -> “Security Settings” -> “Advanced Audit Policy Configuration” -> “Audit Policies” in the editor window.

  • In the “Audit Policies”, click on “DS Access”. The following policies will be displayed:

    1. Audit Directory Service Access

    2. Audit Directory Service Changes

    3. Audit Directory Service Replication

    4. Audit Detailed Directory Service Replication

  • Double-click on each of these policies and enable both “Success” and “Failure” auditing as shown in the figure below.

  • Step 2: Configure AD auditing through ADSI Edit
  • Follow the steps given below to allow Active Directory auditing through ADSI edit:

  • Open "ADSI Edit" window.

  • Right-click the root “ADSI Edit” on the left pane and select “Connect to” option from the context menu. Connect to the current domain controller (DC), which appears with “Default Naming Context”.

  • Click “OK” to connect.

  • In the left panel, a tree will appear. Double click on the node of “Default naming Context” and go to “DC=www,DC=domain,DC=com” -> “CN=System” -> “CN=Policies”.

  • Right click on the “CN=Policies” and navigate to "Properties".

  • Go to “Security” tab and click on “Advanced” button to access its Advanced Security Settings.

  • Navigate to “Auditing” tab in the Advanced Security Settings.

  • Add the user for whom the auditing has to be enabled. The following window appears.

  • Enter the name of the user for which you want to enable the auditing. To audit all the users' changes, type “Everyone”.

  • Click “Check Names” to confirm the username.

  • Click on “OK” to add the user. “Auditing Entry for Policies” dialog box appears.

  • Choose the entries for which the user’s action will be audited. Select “Full Control” for auditing both “successful” and “failed” events.

  • Select the “Apply these auditing entries to objects and/or containers within this container only” checkbox to apply the changes to the child objects as well.

  • Click on “OK” to apply these auditing entries. “Auditing” tab of Advanced Security Settings will appear. Click “Apply” and “OK” to apply the auditing settings.

  • Step 3: Viewing events
  • In “Event Viewer” window, click “Windows Logs” and choose “Security” logs.

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

  • Search for Event ID 5136 that shows permission changes in Active Directory.

  • Double-click any specific event to view its “Event Properties”.

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The following are the limitations to track the changes made to the role of domain controllers using native auditing:

  • The report obtained in Event Viewer is not reader-friendly. Details specific to “Who, What, When and Where” will not be displayed in the same place, and before and after values will not be available side-by-side.
  • It's difficult to generate the report for different time zones and date formats.

ADAudit Plus will generate the report of changes made to the domain controller role and display it in a simple and intuitively designed UI.

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