What are nested security groups?

In many IT environments, access is controlled by collecting individual user accounts into security groups and then specifying access control on organizational IT resources for these security groups instead of for individual user accounts.

For instance, in IT infrastructures that are powered by Microsoft Windows Server, Active Directory security groups are used to collect domain user accounts into a single collective, and then access in granted or denied to various IT resources such as Sharepoint portals or File servers using these security groups.

In many cases, it can be beneficial to take a security group and make it a part of another security group so as to be able to collectively grant access to a large collective of users. The process of making one security group a member of another security group is referred to as group nesting and these groups are then referred to as nested security groups, since they are, well, nested.

While nesting security groups can be helpful, it can often also be problematic because it can make it hard to identity nested groups and it can make it harder to determine who ultimately has what access because of these nested security groups memberships, especially when groups are nested beyond two levels. In certain cases, a variety of tools can be used to identify nested groups. In particular, IT admins can use Active Directory reporting tools to identify nested groups and also use native Microsoft security group management tools to then manage these groups.

Overall, security group nesting for the purpose of access control can be helpful if used carefully, and can be problematic if used haphazardly.

What role does Active Directory security play in overall IT security management?

In IT infrastructures powered by Microsoft's Windows Server operating system, Active Directory is the foundation of identity and access management, the focal point of administrative delegation in Windows, and the heart of security audit and compliance reporting. This is because all essential IT security components including organizational domain user accounts, domain computer accounts and domain security groups are all stored in and protected by the Active Directory.

As a result, Active Directory security management must be a vital aspect of an organization's overall IT security management strategy and all appropriate measures must be implemented to ensure its protection. Fortunately, with some basic planning and some basic Active Directory security essentials in place, such as the right security strategies, the right Active Directory reporting tools, the right Active Directory security auditing measures and management tools, organizations can greatly increase their ability to efficiently manage the security of their foundational Active Directory deployments.

With the right guidance, the right approach and the right emphasis, organizations can efficiently maintain Active Directory security. For example, with the organizational IT personnel can often benefit from learning how to generate audit reports in Active Directory and use this information to proactively assess, monitor and manage Active Directory security.

All security conscious organizations must seriously consider the security of their Active Directory deployments and make it an important aspect of their overall IT security strategy.