Azure Active Directory Pass-Through Authentication

In my previous post, I talked about Password Hash Sync, in this post I’ll be discussing Azure Active Directory Pass-Through Authentication.

Pass-Through Authentication

What is the need of pass-through authentication?

  • If an organization is hesitant to share or expose the password outside their on-premise AD environment, then they should use pass-through authentication instead of password hash synchronization. Passwords are never stored in Azure AD in any form
  • Authentication happens in an on-premise AD environment as Azure AD now talks Kerberos
  • If an organization wants to enforce its on-premise AD security and password policies
  • User can sign into cloud bases and on-premise applications using the same password
  • Unlike ADFS, there is no additional configuration setting, infrastructure or maintenance is required. So, it is cost-effective as well.
  • No additional ports need to be open in the on-premise environment; only port 443 and 80 is used.
  • Provides single seamless sign-on feature for domain-joined machines

How does pass-through authentication work?

  • Firstly, we need to install an authentication agent on the server where ADA Connect is installed.
  • Whenever a user tries to sign in to Azure AD, Azure AD encrypts the password using a public key and place it in the queue
  • On-premise authentication already has a pre=established connection with Azure AD, so the agent makes an outbound call to retrieve the username and password.
  • Authentication agent decrypts the password using a private key
  • After decrypting the password, authentication agent validates username and password from DC using standard Windows APIs mechanism which similar to the mechanism used by ADFS
  • Domain Controller then evaluates the request and returns its response to the authentication agent, and then the authentication agent forwards that response to Azure AD.
  • Azure AD performs its checks if Azure AD finds out that user has MFA enabled then it challenges for MFA and if MFA is not enabled then user authenticates

One of the main features, pass-through authentications, provides a seamless-single sign-on. So, how does Seamless SSO works in case of pass-through authentication?

  • At the AAD Connect configuration, AAD connect creates a computer account that represents Azure AD in on-premise AD.
  • When a user tries to sign in to Azure AD from a domain-joined machine, JavaScript is used to request Kerberos ticket for the computer account
  • As the machine is domain joined which means it has a direct line of sight with Domain Controller, it can acquire a Kerberos ticket
  • That Kerberos will include the identity of the user, which will be forwarded to the Azure AD and Azure AD lets the user sign in silently.

Things to remember:

  • In order to allow Azure Ad to receive the Kerberos ticket, there are 2 URLs that needs to add to the user’s internet setting using GPO       
URL Value 1 1
  • Microsoft recommends installing multiple authentication agent in an on-premise environment for high availability as authentication agent is set to auto-update so while installing updates users might not be able to authenticate if there is only one authentication agent installed.
  • Pass-through authentication creates below types of the log, which may contain personal data:
  • Azure AD Connect trace log files.
  • Authentication Agent trace log files.
  • Windows Event Log files.

It is essential to do clean up the logs in every 48 hours. In order to automate it, a scheduled task can be created in the task scheduler to run every 48 hours. Below are the 2 PS scripts which can be used:

  1. $Files = ((Get-Item -Path “$env:programdata\aadconnect\trace-*.log”).VersionInfo).FileName Foreach ($file in $Files) {

    {Remove-Item -Path $File -Force}


  • $Files = ((Get-childitem -Path “$env:programdata\microsoft\azure ad connect authentication agent\trace” -Recurse).VersionInfo).FileName

Foreach ($file in $files) {

    {Remove-Item -Path $File -Force}


  • Pass-through authentication is not integrated with Azure AD Connect Health.

Troubleshooting on pass-through authentication issues is error and event-specific, here is a pretty good article from Microsoft for reference:

About the Author Tezinder Singh