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Microsoft Dirsync

Online password synchronization.

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Productivity

Enable users to have a single password for the local network and the cloud.

Economical

Nomical cost setup and monthly charge for monitoring and support.

Effectiveness

Gain experience with proven return and limited risk for infrastructure in the cloud

What is Password Sync

Password Sync is a feature of the Windows Azure Active Directory Sync tool that synchronizes user passwords from your on-premises Active Directory to Windows Azure Active Directory (“Azure AD”). This feature enables your users to log into their Azure Active Directory services (such as Office 365, InTune, CRM Online, etc.) using the same password as they use to log into your on-premises network. It is important to note that this feature does not provide a Single Sign-On (SSO) solution because there is no token sharing / exchange in the Password Sync based process.

How Password Sync Works

Password Sync is an extension to the directory synchronization feature implemented by the Directory Sync tool. As a consequence of this, this feature requires directory synchronization between your on-premise and your Windows Azure Active Directory to be configured.

The Active Directory Domain Service stores passwords in form of a hash value representation of the actual user password. The Password hash cannot be used to login to your on-premises network. It is also designed so that it cannot be reversed in order to gain access to the user’s plaintext password. To synchronize a password, the Directory Sync tool extracts the user password hash from the on-premises Active Directory. Additional security processing is applied to the password hash before it is synchronized to the Azure Active Directory Authentication service. The actual data flow of the password synchronization process is similar to the synchronization of user data such as DisplayName or Email Addresses.

Passwords are synchronized more frequently than the standard Directory Sync window for other attributes. Passwords are synchronized on a per-user basis and are generally synchronized in chronological order. When a user’s password is synchronized from the on-premises AD to the cloud, the existing cloud password will be overwritten.

When you first enable the Password Sync feature in your DirSync tool, it will perform an initial synchronization of the passwords of all in-scope users from your on-premises Active Directory to Azure Active Directory. You cannot explicitly define the set of users that will have their passwords synchronized to the cloud. Subsequently, when an on-premises user changes their password, the Password Sync feature will detect and synchronize the changed password, most often in a matter of minutes. The Password Sync feature will automatically retry failed user password syncs. If an error occurs during an attempt to synchronize a password the error is logged in your event viewer.

The synchronization of a password has no impact on currently logged on users. If a user that is logged into a cloud service also changes their on-premise password, the cloud service session will continue uninterrupted. However, as soon as the cloud service attempts requires the user to re-authenticate, the new password needs to be provided. At this point, the user is required to provide the new password – the password that has been recently synchronized from the on-premise Active Directory to the cloud.

Security Considerations

When synchronizing passwords using the password sync feature, the plain text version of a user’s password is neither exposed to the password sync tool nor to Azure AD or any of the associated services. Additionally, there is no requirement on the on-premises Active Directory to store the password in a reversibly encrypted format. A digest of the Windows Active Directory password hash is used for the transmission between the on-premises AD and Azure Active Directory. The digest of the password hash cannot be used to access resources in the customer's on-premises environment.

Password Complexity

When you enable password sync, the password complexity policies configured in the on-premises Active Directory override any complexity policies that may be defined in the cloud for synchronized users. This means any password that is valid in the customer's on-premises Active Directory environment can be used for accessing Azure AD services. Note: Passwords for users that are created directly in the cloud are still subject to password policies as defined in the cloud.

Password Expiration Policy

If a user is in the scope of the password sync feature, the cloud account password is set to "Never Expire". This means that it is possible for a user's password to expire in the on-premises environment, but they can continue to log into cloud services using this expired password. Note: The cloud password will be updated the next time the user changes the password in the on-premises environment.