Overview of Active Directory Certificate Services & Its Functions [MiniTool Wiki]

What Is Active Directory Certificate Services?

Active Directory Certificate Services (AD CS) is a type of Microsoft product, a “server role that enables you to construct public key infrastructure (PKI) and gives open key cryptography, computerized authentication, and advanced mark abilities for your association.”

In another saying, Microsoft Active Directory Certificate Services is a Windows server designed to issue digital certificates. Certificates have proven to be more secure and easier to use than passwords. When Microsoft recognizes that, it developed AD CS to help Microsoft environments make use of certificate benefits. 

What Is Active Directory Certificate Services Used For?

AD CS is used to conduct PKI functions, support personalities, as well as offer other security actions in the Windows environment. It creates, validates, and revokes public key certificates for internal uses of an organization.

Those certificates can be applied to encrypt files (when used with Encryption File System), emails (per S/MIME standard), as well as network traffic (when used by a secure wireless network, virtual private networks, Transport Layer Security protocol, or IPSec protocol), network access protection (NAP), smart card logon, and so on.

Also read: What Is Active Directory Users and Computers and How to Install?

The following are the features of Windows Active Directory Certificate Services.

  • Certificate authority (CA) including enterprise CA and stand-alone CA.
  • Certification authority web enrollment.
  • Network device enrollment service.
  • Certificate enrollment web service.
  • Certificate enrollment policy web service.
  • Online responder.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Active Directory Certificate Services

Now, let’s have a look at the benefits and drawbacks of the AD CS service.

Pros of Active Directory Certificate Services

  • Enhance security by binding the identity of a person, device, or service to a corresponding private key.
  • Enable enterprises to manage the distribution and use of certificates.
  • Enable organization with the PKI to secure web servers, authentication, digital signatures, encrypted emails, etc.
  • Pull from active directory.
  • Leverage existing group policy.
  • Automate certificate provisioning and lifecycle management.
  • Silent installation.

Cons of Active Directory Certificate Services

  • Difficult to use.
  • The binding issue with macOS devices.
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks.
  • Occupy hardware resources.
  • Long time to maintain and validate.

AD CS predates Windows Server 2008 but its name was simply Certificate Services. It requires an AD DS infrastructure.

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Active Directory Certificate Services Best Practices

For instance, the IT administrator takes advantage of Microsoft Active Directory Certificate Services to handle all things from desktop authentication to file encryption using their own certificate authority.

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