Default Passwords in Active Directory

July 21, 2023

Default passwords can be found in a variety of systems and software packages, including personal computers, client server systems, database management systems, and many other applications. Default passwords in active directory, often used for administrative tasks, can easily be cracked by hackers and result in security breaches.

1. Search for the Default Passwords

Passwords are a key security measure, so it’s essential that they are validated regularly. In the context of Active Directory, this means identifying weak passwords and taking measures to remediate them before being used in an attack.

Default passwords are a widely-used security risk, often the result of automated processes where new users are created with identical passwords. This reduces password complexity and makes it simpler for hackers to break into accounts.

However, there are password policies that can be implemented to promote password complexity and boost security in Active Directory environments. These settings include how many passwords can be remembered, the amount of time a password must be changed before expiring, and the maximum age for passwords.

Active Directory offers administrators the flexibility to craft custom password policies tailored for specific business requirements. These can be applied across domain and user accounts within an OU.

You can retrieve the current password policy for an OU using either the management console or PowerShell command Get-ADDefaultDomainPasswordPolicy.

Passwords in Active Directory are stored as hashed data, meaning they have been encrypted using a hashing algorithm. Hashing provides users with passwords that are easy to remember but also secure against brute force dictionary attacks from hackers.

Salting the hashing process can be further strengthened by adding an extra step called salting, which further bolsters password security. While this step requires additional time and resources, when done correctly it can provide significant gains.

Specops Password Policy is a free password audit tool that can quickly identify default passwords and other issues in your Active Directory. Utilizing an continuously updated compromised database of over 3 billion passwords, this tool has the capacity to identify weak or default passwords within minutes.

This tool can help identify service accounts with duplicate passwords and administrators who may be using the same password on both privileged and unprivileged accounts in your domain. It’s available to download, allowing you to scan all users within minutes.

2. Search for the Default Password Policy

Uncover Default Passwords in Your Active Directory

To safeguard your network against security breaches, it is essential to have a robust password policy in place. This should include complexity requirements and an automated change cycle, making it difficult for hackers to break into your network.

Microsoft provides various settings that can be configured to guarantee user passwords are strong and complex, such as requiring a minimum number of characters, setting an age limit on them, and activating lockout mechanisms which require users to change their passwords after a specified period. These measures help safeguard your organization against various types of attacks like dictionary and brute force ones that use programs to try different potential passwords on one account until they find the right one.

Fine-Grained Password Policies

Fine-grained password policies allow users to customize password policy and lockout settings based on which groups they belong to. Each policy also has a precedence value which determines which order in which it applies to that user.

Create finely detailed password policies using either Active Directory Management Center (ADAC) or Group Policy Management console. To begin, identify which domain you wish to configure a password policy for.

The second step is to create a detailed password policy object in Active Directory. To do this, open ADSIEDIT and narrow the view of your domain down until CN=System is visible.

Once you have created the CN=Password Policy object, customize its settings according to your security needs. These may include password length and complexity, expiration dates, reversible encryption and more.

A good password policy should require at least eight characters, including uppercase and lowercase letters as well as numbers; never use sequential or digits. Doing this makes it nearly impossible for attackers to guess your password.

If you have any queries regarding password policies, our team of Active Directory specialists are more than happy to discuss your requirements and offer guidance. Furthermore, we offer a free audit of your Active Directory with no obligations attached.

3. Search for the Default Domain Policy

Uncover Default Passwords in Your Active Directory

Network administrators often face the difficulty of locating password policy settings. These Group Policy settings apply across all users and computers within a domain, and can be configured at various levels such as domain, OU or site level.

When a new server is promoted to domain controller status, it creates a Default Domain Policy (DDP). This GPO takes precedence over all other Group Policy objects linked to the domain and applies to all users and computers within it.

The DDP also serves to manage default account policy settings such as password policies and lockout procedures. However, other settings should be managed through separate GPOs.

As a general guideline, only use the DDP for account policy settings; store any other settings in an entirely separate GPO. Doing this can help protect your systems and maximize Group Policy performance.

DDP not only sets password policies, but it also controls other security components like certificate autoenrollment. If your organization utilizes Certificate Services for user and computer certificates management, this setting in the DDP can be invaluable as users must manually enroll their certificates without assistance from IT personnel.

This GPO also controls password policies and account lockout settings for members of certain groups, such as the NT LAN Manager group or members of a security audit group. It sets the default password length and complexity for all domain users, along with how long an old password remains valid before it must be changed.

You can locate a Domain Policy Document by opening the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC), expanding Domains, then choosing the domain whose policy you need. Right-click on the Default Domain Policy folder and click Edit.

Group Policy Object (GPO) are configuration settings that determine the security, auditing and operational behaviors of Windows-based computers and users. When set at the domain level, it links back to its root location; using multiple GPOs for setting similar settings could cause issues with how those effects user and computer objects.

4. Search for the Default User Account Policy

Discovering Default Passwords Hidden in Your Active Directory

Many organizations employ scripts to automatically create user accounts. While this can simplify administrative tasks and enhance security, it also often leaves all users with identical or default passwords.

Administrators in Active Directory must implement a domain password policy to protect user accounts. This document specifies requirements for password complexity, length and frequency of change for both user and service account passwords. Doing this helps prevent passwords from being cracked or brute-forced by attackers who try different combinations of characters.

Administrators can set a password policy by creating Group Policy Objects (GPOs). These GPOs are linked to the root domain and apply to all users and computers within that domain.

You can access your domain password policy through the Group Policy management console. To open it, expand Domains in Active Directory and then select the Group Policy Objects tab.

The policy can be found in the Computer Configuration -> Policies -> Windows Settings -> Security Settings -> Account Policies -> Password Policy section of the console. It can then be edited using Group Policy Object Editor.

PowerShell commands can also provide access to this data. For instance, the Get-ADDefaultDomainPasswordPolicy command helps you locate and modify your domain password policy.

Once you have your password policy in place, you can customize it to meet your organization’s security needs. In doing so, you make it more challenging for users to break into your network or access sensitive data.

Another way to obtain the default password policy is through AD Pro Toolkit’s built-in list of security reports that can be downloaded at no cost. These reports provide invaluable assistance in protecting your accounts online.

The domain password policy is contained within a GPO linked to your Active Directory root domain, and applies to all users and computers within that domain; it does not extend coverage to OUs or workgroups.

Ammar Fakhruddin


Ammar brings in 18 years of experience in strategic solutions and product development in Public Sector, Oil & Gas and Healthcare organizations. He loves solving complex real world business and data problems by bringing in leading-edge solutions that are cost effective, improve customer and employee experience. At Propelex he focuses on helping businesses achieve digital excellence using Smart Data & Cybersecurity solutions.

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