Top 6 Active Directory Security Tools for Auditing, Monitoring & Protection (2024)

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Active Directory security tools protect the critical Active Directory (AD) services that manage identities and access throughout a network. While many specialty AD tools exist, the best tools cover a breadth of capabilities to audit, monitor, harden, and secure AD. To help you select the right solution for your needs, I compared capabilities, ranked the tools, and identified strong use cases for each of the top-ranking solutions.

Here are the six best Active Directory security tools:

Table of Contents

Top Active Directory Security Tools Comparison

The following table provides a quick overview of the top six tools across four important AD security functions and pricing.

Audit Accounts & PrivilegesAttack Path DiscoveryReal-Time ProtectionAD Backup & RecoveryPricing
Tenable Identity Exposure✔️✔️✔️Contact for quote
Varonis Data Security Platform✔️✔️✔️Contact for quote
CrowdStrike Falcon Identity Protection✔️✔️✔️$24.71+/ month/ endpoint for 1,000 licenses
SolarWinds ARM✔️$2,083+
Netwrix Auditor✔️✔️✔️Contact for quote
Semperis Directory Services Protector✔️✔️✔️✔️Contact for quote

Although some Active Directory tools may score highly in one category or another, I found that Tenable Identity Exposure offers the best overall value. Learn more below how each solution fared in terms of pricing, features, and primary use cases, or jump down to see how I evaluated the products.

Tenable Identity Exposure Best Overall AD Security Tool

Overall Rating: 4.4/5

  • Audit and harden features: 4.8/5
  • Monitoring, response, and recovery features: 4.6/5
  • Ease of use: 4.5/5
  • Price and value: 3.6/5
  • Support availability: 3.4/5

Tenable Identity Exposure earns the highest score overall and the top score for audits and hardening features. The tool uses an intuitive GUI to clearly expose vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, attack paths, and groups policy object (GPO) issues through an interactive topology. The AD and Entra ID (formerly Azure AD) protection tool also tops ease of use with flexible software-as-a-service (SaaS), local, or even Tenable One platform deployment options.


  • Doesn’t use installed agents
  • Checks for password strength and other issues
  • One tool and one dashboard for all AD needs


  • No pricing transparency
  • Doesn’t automatically block attacks
  • Doesn’t perform AD backup and recovery
  • Tenable Identity Exposure: Licensed per user, contact for quote
  • Tenable One: Licensed per asset, contact sales for pricing
  • Customer support: Standard, Advanced, Premier, and Elite; contact sales for price
  • Free trial: 7 days for Tenable One, available for Identity Exposure, but no term listed
  • Free demo: Contact to schedule
  • Full-range protection: Provides investigation and real time threat detection capabilities in addition to auditing and monitoring capabilities.
  • Attack path visualization: Displays potential attack paths and actual AD change history through intuitive graphic displays for faster comprehension, analysis, and action.
  • Alert integration: Connects to security information and event monitoring (SIEM) and security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) tools.
  • Interactive topology: Uses a color-coded and interactive graphic topology to display user and group access to illuminate exposures and risky relationships.
  • Threat detection: Implements a robust range of indicators of exposure (IoE) and indicators of attack (IoA) to provide alerts prioritized by asset criticality.

Tenable Identity Exposure provides a full spectrum of Active Directory defense, but depends upon SOAR for automated response to attacks. For similar capabilities and fully automated defense, consider Varonis for Active Directory.

Varonis Data Security Platform Best for Integrated Data Discovery

Overall Rating: 4.3/5

  • Audit and harden features: 4.7/5
  • Monitoring, response, and recovery features: 4.6/5
  • Ease of use: 4.2/5
  • Price and value: 3.5/5
  • Support availability: 3.2/5

The cloud-native Varonis for Active Directory not only provides a full range of identity threat detection and response (ITDR) features; the platform also finds, classifies, and labels sensitive data to define the most critical assets to protect. In addition to protecting identity, Varonis integrates advanced user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) capabilities and data protection capabilities to provide holistic user and data tracking, monitoring, and protection.


  • No agent required for installation
  • Provides APIs for SIEM and other integrations
  • Includes least privilege automation


  • Only available as a SaaS solution
  • Doesn’t check password strength or compromise
  • No pricing transparency
  • Varonis Data Security Platform: Licensed per user, contact for quote
  • Customer support: Standard business hours or premium 24/7 support levels
  • Free trial: 30 days
  • Free demo: Contact to schedule
  • Analyzed data: Discovers and classifies data types across local and cloud resources to detect sensitive data locations, access, and users.
  • Automated actions: Enables pre-set alerts and actions to automatically react and block various AD attacks, such as: Kerberoasting, DCSync or DCShadow.
  • Extensive Logs: Tracks all changes performed in AD with who, what, and when details and alerts on changes outside of change control windows and other critical issues.
  • Live updates: Constantly adds threat models to the SaaS tool based on active threats observed to protect all customers against the latest attacks.
  • Prioritized alerts: Ranks users, assets, and threat models to enable efficient analysis of alerts based on threat levels to priority assets and protected data.

The Varonis Data Security Platform provides powerful capabilities, but only as a SaaS provider that tracks and receives all access information. For similar capabilities and options for a fully-on-site installation, consider Tenable Identity Exposure.

CrowdStrike Falcon Identity Protection Best for Integrated EDR

Overall Rating: 4.1/5

  • Audit and harden features: 4.7/5
  • Monitoring, response, and recovery features: 4.5/5
  • Ease of use: 3.4/5
  • Price and value: 3.7/5
  • Support availability: 2.9/5

The CrowdStrike Falcon Identity Protection provides good auditing and stellar AD threat detection and active protection. Some customers will purchase the tool separately, but many will opt to add Identity Protection through existing endpoint detection and response (EDR) or extended detection and response (XDR) agents. Once combined, Crowdstrike provides unified endpoint and ITDR protection.


  • Monitors AD, Entra AD, Okta, and more.
  • AI-enhanced attack detection
  • Offers free identity security risk review


  • Only available as SaaS
  • Requires an installed agent
  • Attack path analysis may require other licenses
  • Falcon Identity Protection: $61+ per user, some connectors extra
  • Customer support: Standard, Express, Essential, and Elite support levels available
  • Free trial: 15 days
  • Free demo: Tuesdays or on-demand
  • Dynamic MFA: Enforces multi-factor authentication (MFA) conditionally depending upon risk factors such as asset value and potential compromise.
  • Guided onboarding: Provides premium support customers with onboarding webinars, kick-off calls, and up to 90 days of support for installation, configuration, and integration.
  • Password protection: Inspects password hashes for strength and potential compromise; compromised passwords can be automatically reset.
  • Real-time alerts: Dynamically detects changes and potential compromise of AD and the endpoint to send rapid alerts for automatic action or prompt investigation.
  • Unified action: Enables coordinated endpoint and AD actions to quickly detect lateral movement and block access to both identity resources as well as the endpoint device.

CrowdStrike’s integrated network security solution might be less attractive for customers that use non-CrowdStrike solutions for endpoint protection. For a local-installation option without endpoint security conflicts, consider Semperis Directory Services Protector.

SolarWinds ARM Best for Integrated AD Operations

Overall Rating: 4.1/5

  • Audit and harden features: 4.6/5
  • Monitoring, response, and recovery features: 3.9/5
  • Ease of use: 3.8/5
  • Price and value: 4.0/5
  • Support availability: 3.6/5

SolarWind Access Rights Manager (ARM) combines Active Directory auditing and AD operations. This allows IT teams to save time by automating password reset and delegating rights management to group managers. The tool also scored highest for both support availability and price and licensing information, thanks to clear pricing, 24/7 phone support, onboarding support options, and robust self-help documentation.


  • Can fully provision or deprovision users.
  • Role-specific templates
  • Clear pricing options and an extended free trial


  • Weak threat detection capabilities
  • Reports don’t support investigation well
  • No real-time alerts on changes
  • SolarWinds Access Rights Manager: $2,083+ depending upon purchase option (perpetual license + annual maintenance, annual subscription, multi-year sub, etc.)
  • SolarWinds ARM Audit Edition: Includes permissions analysis, auditing, monitoring, risk analysis overview, and Windows distributed file systems scans
  • SolarWinds ARM Full Edition: Adds risk management, user provisioning, delegation of access rights management, self-service permissions, and remediation options
  • Purchase options: Perpetual license with annual maintenance, subscription
  • Customer support: Premium support is available, contact sales for more information
  • Free trial: 30 days
  • Free demo: Contact to schedule
  • Accelerated management: Combines operations and security auditing for faster, more accurate management of user provisioning, password resets, and access control.
  • Expanded support: Extends typical AD and Entra AD support to include access provisioning and auditing for EMC, SAP, Sharepoint, OneDrive, and more.
  • Reduced bandwidth: Reduces network bandwidth requirements through optional ARM collectors installed in geographically remote locations.
  • Robust reporting: Provides customizable report templates for a variety of AD change, security risk, and compliance reports (GDPR, HIPAA, etc.).
  • Self-service portal: Eliminates management overhead with a web-based self-service permissions portal so users can request access rights directly.

SolarWinds provides an effective blend of AD operations and auditing, but lacks threat detection and forensic investigation features. For a more full-range, on-site tool with robust compliance reporting capabilities, consider Netwrix Auditor.

Netwrix Auditor Best for Compliance Reporting

Overall Rating: 4/5

  • Audit and harden features: 4.7/5
  • Monitoring, response, and recovery features: 5.0/5
  • Ease of use: 3.2/5
  • Price and value: 2.9/5
  • Support availability: 2.5/5

Netwrix Auditor anchors the Netwrix suite of AD tools and provides the templated and customizable reports. Automated report options and on-demand customization will satisfy broad compliance requirements by documenting user access to regulated data in detail and as needed. These tools combine to earn the top score for monitoring, response and recovery features to provide strong overall security for AD as well.


  • All data stays local
  • Optional AD backup and recovery tool
  • Real-time alerts and


  • Requires multiple licenses to fully secure AD
  • Unclear licensing and pricing requirements
  • Requires multiple dashboards to operate
  • Free Auditor Community Edition: One AD domain, most features and limited support
  • Auditor Business Essentials: Full support, more features, 250 users, contact for quote
  • Auditor Enterprise Advanced: Full audit features, contact for quote
  • GroupID: Formerly Imanami GroupID, contact for quote
  • Threat Manager: Formerly StealthDEFEND, contact for quote
  • Recovery of Active Directory: Formerly StealthRECOVER, contact for quote
  • Customer support: All paid customers enjoy the same level of tech support
  • Free trial: 20 days
  • Free demo: Contact Netwrix for a one-to-one demo or launch the in-browser demo
  • Robust compliance: Provides customizable report templates for extensive compliance standards such as HIPAA, ISO/IEC 27001, PCI DSS v3.2, FERPA, SOX, and more.
  • Anomaly detection: Creates benchmark activity profiles, provides adjusted risk profiles, and issues alerts based on anomalous user behavior.
  • Broad automation: Schedule compliance reports to send automatically, enable user self-service, and trigger automated remediation tasks based on events.
  • Integrated operations: Automates password reset, enables delegation of rights management, and takes operations burdens off of the help desk team.
  • Wide support: Extends capabilities beyond AD to encompass access monitoring for Microsoft 365, Exchange, Sharepoint, NetApp, SQL Server, VMware, and more.

While a robust network security solution for AD protection, some buyers will balk at the number of tools to purchase and operations teams may prefer a single management console. For a consolidated security and operations tool, consider SolarWinds Access Rights Manager (ARM).

Semperis Directory Services Protector Best for Free Tool Options

Overall Rating: 4/5

  • Audit and harden features: 4.8/5
  • Monitoring, response, and recovery features: 4.9/5
  • Ease of use: 3.5/5
  • Price and value: 2.0/5
  • Support availability: 3.4/5

Semperis Directory Services Protector (DSP) delivers the core of the Semperis Identity Resilience Platform complimented by two powerful free tools: Purple Knight and Forest Druid. Many teams start with Purple Knights user auditing or Forest Druid’s attack path mapping for initial security and then graduate to DSP or other Semperis modules as needs and sophistication grow. The light free software requires no integration and has low system requirements.


  • Many components run without installation
  • 24/7 phone support for paid customers
  • Real-time notifications


  • Uses many tools and dashboards to protect AD
  • Opaque pricing and licensing options
  • Doesn’t check for weak or breached passwords
  • Purple Knight: Free AD assessment tool
  • Forest Druid: Free AD forest attack patch discovery tool
  • Contact for quote: Directory Service Protector, Active Directory Forest Recovery (ADFR), Disaster Recovery for Entra Tenant, Migrator for Active Directory
  • Customer support: All paid customers enjoy the same level of tech support.
  • Free trial: Doesn’t offer a free trial, has free tools
  • Free demo: Contact to schedule
  • Assisted investigation: Enables forensic and incident investigation of AD changes and potential attacks with detailed records and even optional investigation consulting.
  • Free tools: Provide even the smallest business with resources to perform AD assessments (Purple Knight) or inspect AD forests (Forest Druid).
  • Fully local: Software installs on local servers to assess data and store information locally, with no shared data sent back to Sempris or cloud servers.
  • Interactive discovery: Offers fully interactive attack path discovery through Forest Druid with a graphically intuitive mapping of user and group access.
  • Resilient recovery: Backs up AD and Entra data and configurations for faster recovery from small and large changes, including complete failure.

Semperis focuses on providing modular on-site flexibility, but some organizations prefer to outsource the infrastructure and management of AD security. Such organizations may prefer to consider an integrated SaaS provider, such as CrowdStrike Falcon Identity Protection.

Top 5 Features of Active Directory Security

The top five features of Active Directory security harden, monitor, and enable quick reactions to attacks through examination of connections, integrating with existing security infrastructure, change monitoring, rapid alerts, and inspection of user and group permissions.

AD Forest Inspection

AD Forest inspection examines the connections between assets (data, devices, etc.), users (individuals, system functions, APIs, etc.), and groups (authorization categories). The examination focuses on Tier0 assets that can directly control the most secure levels of Active Directory and checks for excessive permissions and dangerous attack paths.

Alert & Log Integration

Security professionals require alerts and logs from AD security to integrate with existing SIEM, SOAR, and other network security tools. The sheer volume of information coming from security infrastructure will quickly overwhelm a team if they need to implement, learn, and monitor separate processes just for Active Directory.

AD Changes Auditing

AD security tools monitor and record details related to changes to active directory and permit change auditing to verify authenticity. All tools need to record changes, better tools enable roll-back of unauthorized changes, and the best tools can automatically detect and reverse unapproved changes.

Real-Time Alerts

Real-time alerts enable security teams to capture information on potential threats promptly and react quickly. In an environment of continuous attacks, security teams can no longer wait to check log files individually and require systems to identify, prioritize, and rapidly bring potential threats to the forefront.

User & Group Access Auditing

User and group access auditing inspects access rights for individuals and the user group classifications used to manage group permissions. AD provides manual functionality, but effective AD security tools enable users to quickly expose potentially dangerous issues such as excessive administrator rights, weak passwords, non-expiring passwords, and continuing access for terminated employees.

How I Evaluated the Best Active Directory Security Tools

The evaluation of the AD security tools weighed five different criteria, with the most emphasis placed on overall features. Each category contained a number of sub-criteria with their own weights that helped produce a five-point rating for each category and in total. After determining the top six tools based on their overall score, I considered the tools’ pros, cons, and features to identify strong use cases for each solution.

Evaluation Criteria

To evaluate the tools, I focused primarily on the breadth of features needed for active directory security. Next, I considered usability, support availability, and price and licensing information.

  • Audit and harden features (30%): Assesses tool capabilities to check accounts for vulnerabilities, identify attack paths, harden security, and manage rights effectively.
  • Monitoring, response, and recovery features (30%): Examines tool capabilities to monitor changes, issue alerts, aid investigations, and provide compliance reports.
  • Ease of use (15%): Considers the number of installations, dashboards, and agents to provide AD security, other identities managed (Okta, 365, etc.), and installation options.
  • Price and licensing info (15%): Bases evaluations on price and licensing information transparency, the number of licenses required, and free tools and trials available.
  • Support availability (10%): Considers the different support options for everyday use and initial installation, support hours, and premium support options.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Are AD Security Tools Helpful?

AD security tools help manage Active Directory more intuitively, rapidly, and comprehensively to tighten control over the critical functions that AD delivers. They also analyze existing identities for potential issues, track changes for signs of malicious activity, and provide alerts for any detected attacks.

What Is the Difference Between AD Security & ITDR?

AD security secures the lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP) functions delivered by AD and similar tools. Identity threat detection and response (ITDR) expands the scope to include integration with MFA, SOAR, identity and access management (IAM), privilege access management (PAM), and other tools for a more comprehensive overview and integration into the security stack.

How Does AD Security Satisfy Compliance Requirements?

AD security adds controls to protect the access management required by all major cybersecurity compliance standards. AD security tool reports should directly provide information that proves user activity and data access fall within specific compliance requirements to avoid additional efforts to meet regular compliance requirements.

Bottom Line: AD Security Provides Fundamental Protection

Active directory stores access permissions and authorization throughout a network and literally defines who holds the keys to the kingdom. Make sure to implement effective AD security to provide this critical component with the protection and monitoring necessary to provide a foundation for the rest of an organization’s security stack. Start by selecting the most promising option and experience a demo or try out the free version.

This article explains how to secure AD against future attacks, but to determine if past attacks have been successful, read about how to tell if Active Directory is compromised.

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