How the Active Directory Expiring Links Feature Really Works
One of the new features in Windows Server 2016 will be the Active Directory Expiring Links feature, which enables time-bound group membership, expressed by a time-to-live (TTL) value. Here is how it works:
Enabling the Expiring Links Feature
The Expiring Links feature had been a standalone feature in early Windows Server 2016 builds, but as of TP4, it is a part of the broader Privileged Access Management (PAM) feature. It is disabled by default, because it requires Windows Server 2016 forest functional level. One of the ways to enable the PAM feature is running this PowerShell cmdlet:
Enable-ADOptionalFeature -Identity 'Privileged Access Management Feature' -Target (Get-ADForest) -Scope ForestOrConfigurationSet
Note that once this feature is enabled in a forest, it can never be disabled again.
Creating Expiring Links using PowerShell
Unfortunately, this feature is not exposed in any GUI (yet), so you cannot create expiring links, nor can you tell the difference between a regular link and an expiring one. We will therefore use PowerShell to do the job:
# Add user PatColeman to the Domain Admins group for the next 2 hours $ttl = New-TimeSpan -Hours 2 Add-ADGroupMember -Identity 'Domain Admins' -Members PatColeman -MemberTimeToLive $ttl # Show group membership with TTL Get-ADGroup -Identity 'Domain Admins' -ShowMemberTimeToLive -Properties member | Select-Object -ExpandProperty member <# Output: <TTL=6987>,CN=PatColeman,CN=Users,DC=adatum,DC=com CN=Administrator,CN=Users,DC=adatum,DC=com #>
As we can see, the TTL value in the output is in seconds (2h = 7200s). As soon as the TTL expires, the DCs will automatically remove user PatColeman from the Domain Admins group and his current Kerberos tickets will also expire.
Creating Expiring Links using LDAP
PowerShell is great, but what if we needed to stick with pure LDAP? Well, if you want to add a user into a group for a limited amount of time, you do it exactly as you are used to, but you have to specify his distinguished name (DN) in the new TTL-DN form: <TTL=TimeToLive,DN>. In our sample case, it would look like this:
To view the group membership with TTLs, the corresponding LDAP search operation has to contain the LDAP_SERVER_LINK_TTL extended control (OID = 1.2.840.1135220.127.116.119). Here is a screenshot from the ldp.exe tool with this control enabled:
Implementation Details (Very Advanced Stuff)
I was also quite interested in how this feature is implemented in the ntds.dit file. I have found out that as soon as you enable the PAM feature, the DCs automatically extend their database schemas in the following way:
- The expiration_time_col column is added to the link_table table. It contains timestamps (in the UTC FILETIME / 107 format), after which the links get deactivated. This is yet another reason for the time to be in sync between DCs.
- The link_expiration_time_index index is added to the link_table table. It is created over these columns: expiration_time_col, link_DNT, backlink_DNT. Thanks to this index, DCs can find expired links very quickly.