Wednesday, July 31, 2013

7:18 AM

Section 2 – Expanded Descriptions of Security Modifications

1 Service Packs and Security Updates

Microsoft periodically distributes large updates to its operating systems in the form of
Service Packs, as often as once every few months, or less frequently. Service Packs include
all major and minor fixes up to the date of the service pack, and are extensively tested by
Microsoft prior to release. In light of the vast number of applications available, it is entirely
possible that a bug in a Service Pack may not be discovered, and may slip through this
engineering analysis process. Service Packs should be used in a test environment before
being pushed into production. If a test system is not available, wait a week or two after the
release of a Service Pack, and pay attention to the Microsoft web site for potential bug
reports. Additional mailing list and Internet resources are listed in the appendices of this
It is important to be aware that Service Packs and Security Updates are not just
applicable to operating systems. Individual applications have their own Service Pack
and Security Update requirements. A Windows system that is completely current on
Windows Security Updates and Service Packs also needs to be kept current with Service
Packs and Security Updates for Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office. The total security of
the system requires attention to both Operating System and application levels.
In addition to Service Packs, Microsoft issues many other software updates. For
example, non-security bugs are corrected with a hotfix, and new features are released with a
feature pack. Microsoft issues security updates when a vulnerability is identified in one of
their products. If a number of hotfixes, security updates and other code updates are available
for a product, Microsoft may choose to bundle all these software updates together in an
update rollup.
Security updates can be released within hours of discovery of any particular bug or
vulnerability, because they address a single problem. Since they may be released quickly,
they do not pass the rigorous regression testing involved with Service Packs. They should be
used with caution at first, even more so than Service Packs. Each security update includes a
description of the issue it resolves.
1.1 Major Service Pack and Security Update Requirements
1.1.1 Current Service Pack installed
At the time of this writing, Windows XP Service Pack 2 is available.
WARNING: Although Service Packs are generally reliable and go through extensive
testing, it is possible that it is not compatible with every software product on the market. If
possible, test service packs in a test environment, or at least wait until it has been released for
a short while before installing it, and watch for industry feedback on the compatibility of that
service pack.
1.2 Minor Service Pack and Security Update Requirements
1.2.1 All Critical and Important Security Updates available to date have been installed.
WARNING: Although security updates are generally reliable and go through some
testing, it is significantly possible that a security update addressing a single problem is not
compatible with every software product on the market, and may cause other problems. If
possible, test security updates in a test environment, or at least wait until they have been
released for a short while before installation, and watch for industry feedback on the
compatibility of those security updates.
2 Auditing and Account Policies
2.1 Major Auditing and Account Policies Requirements
2.1.1 Password Length
In general, password length and password complexity requirements are used to protect
against password guessing attacks. These attacks are relatively unsophisticated: the crack is
simply to make repeated guesses to see if the correct password has been chosen. The attack
is usually performed in a manner to circumvent account lockout policies. The attempts are
typically systematic and can be broken into two categories:
• Dictionary attacks start with a list of common words that may be used to form
passwords. The words may be combined, broken down or sent through a variety
of “morphing” algorithms to improve effectiveness.
• Brute force attacks walk through all the possible character combinations. First
“AAAA1” is tried, then “AAAA2”, then “AAAA3”, and so on. Once all the five
character passwords have been tried, the search begins anew with six character
Password length significantly increases resistance to brute force attacks. A single extra
character makes a large difference: even if passwords are case insensitive and alphanumeric,
one extra password means the typical brute force attack will take 36 times as long (10 digits
plus 26 letters) to complete.
In addition to password guessing attacks, some legacy Microsoft protocols suffer from a
limitation which makes an eight character password particularly important. These protocols
effectively break down passwords into seven character “chunks”. This creates two significant
• First, passwords with seven or fewer characters are quickly identified.
• Second, since a fourteen character password effectively becomes two seven
character passwords, it is actually only twice as secure as a seven character
In order to protect against the first vulnerability, the general consensus requires
passwords to be eight characters or more.
Protection against the second vulnerability, however, can only be provided through the
use of stronger authentication protocols. In particular, LAN Manager (LANMan) and NTLM
authentication contains this limitation; however, NTLMv2 and Kerberos are not affected by
this. See, which discuss how to require NTLMv2 or Kerberos authentication, and
how to disable storage of LANMan password hashes.
2.1.2 Password Age
All passwords must be changed regularly to ensure they are known only by individuals
authorized to use the account.
In addition to limiting user accounts to a single user, this also controls the use of “role”
accounts. Role accounts typically may be shared among users for maintenance and
troubleshooting, or they may be required for various system services and applications, and are
assigned privileges based on their specific purpose. Over time, role account passwords
become well-known and an easy route to access resources. Since the accounts are shared by
multiple individuals, it becomes very difficult to assign accountability when they are
misused. The local administrator and various service accounts are often overlooked, and may
have stale passwords which are well known by support personnel.
The requirement to change passwords also provides a practical defense against brute
force password attacks. Given the nature of the brute force attack, it will always succeed if
there is enough time to eventually guess the password. On a typical computer, it may take
weeks or even months to guess a long alphanumeric password. However, if the password
expired and was changed since during this period, the attack will fail. Therefore the
maximum password length is also driven by the capacity of the most common password
crack software.
2.2 Minor Auditing and Account Policies Requirements
2.2.1 Audit Policy (minimums)
Audit Policy defines the significant events which a computer should log. The log entries,
or events, perform two important roles: they provide a means for near-real-time monitoring
of the system, and they allow investigation of actions which occurred in the past.
When considering system security, audit events will often identify unauthorized attempts
to access resources. The events can be generated from interactive user sessions, or from
automated system processes and services. Default installations of Windows XP have security
event logging disabled.
Security event logging is easily enabled. From the Windows Start menu, select Settings |
Control panel. Under “Administrative Tools”, select “Local Security Policy”. In the console
windows that appears, navigate down the tree to Security Settings | Local Policies | Audit
Policy. To make changes, double-click one of the items, select the appropriate settings in the
dialog box that appears, and select “OK”. Settings will take affect when the Local Security
Settings window is closed. Audit Account Logon Events
Audit logon events track all attempts to access the workstation. These may come from a
local interactive logon, a network logon, a batch process, or even a service. Failed account
logon may show a trend for password attacks; successful logon events are important to
identify which user was logged on to the workstation at a given time.
“Account Logon” events are generated from the use of domain accounts; this differs from
“Logon Events” ( which are generated by the use of local accounts. Audit Account Management
In order to track successful and failed attempts to create new users or groups, rename
users or groups, enable or disable users, or change accounts’ passwords, enable auditing for
Account Management events. Successful account management events are also generated
when an account is locked out, so these events become important in determining the cause of
an account lockout. Audit Directory Service AccessNo auditing of Directory Service Access is required on Windows XP Professional
because Directory Service Access can only be audited on Windows 2000 (or later) domain
controllers. Audit Logon Events
Similar to above, Logon Events will identify which accounts are accessing
resources on the workstation. These events are generated only when local machine
credentials are used. Even if a workstation is domain member, it is still possible to log on to
the workstation using a local account. Audit Object Access
It is possible to track when specific users access specific files. This option only produces
events when one or more objects are actively being audited.
In order to track user access to specific files or directories, navigate to the file or folder,
edit the security properties for that object, and enable auditing the object. Audit Policy Change
When the “Audit Policy Change” option is set, changes to User Rights, Audit Policies, or
Trust Policies will produce events in the Security Event Log. Audit Privilege Use
Auditing privilege use enables auditing for any operation that would require a user
account to make use of extra privileges that it has already been assigned. If this is enabled,
Events will be generated in the Security Event Log if a user or process attempts to bypass
traverse checking, debug programs, create a token object, replace a process level token, or
generate security audits.
If security credentials are used to backup or restore files or directories using the “Backup
or Restore” user right, and if this setting is set, security events will be generated.
Privilege Use is used by all user accounts on a regular basis. If success and failure events
are audited, there will be a great many events in the event log reflecting such use. Audit Process Tracking
When this option is enabled, an event is generated each time an application or a user
starts, stops, or otherwise changes a process. This creates a very large event log very quickly,
and the information is not normally exceptionally useful, unless you are tracking a very
specific behavior. As such, auditing process tracking is not required, and is only
recommended when absolutely necessary. Audit System Events
Auditing System events is very important. System events include starting or shutting
down the computer, full event logs, or other security related events that have impact across
the entire system. Auditing of Success and Failure events should be enabled.
2.2.2 Account Policy
When applying the settings below, it is important to consider exactly where these settings
must be applied to affect different account types:
• If the workstation is not a member of a domain, these policies can be applied
locally and will be consistently applied to all local accounts.
• If the workstation belongs to a domain, any settings applied here will not impact
domain accounts. In fact, the account policy for domain accounts can only
specified in the default domain policy. The account used by the workstation to
log on to the domain is a domain account.
• If the workstation belongs to a domain, and is placed in a specific Organizational
Unit (OU), machine account policy can be placed on that OU. The OU policy will
apply to all local accounts on the workstation, and will override the local security
See Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 255550 for more information. Minimum Password Age
The recommended password policy requires users to change passwords regularly, and
requires the password to be different from those cached in history. When the minimum
password age is set to 0, a user can change passwords repeatedly. It is possible for the user to
continue changing passwords until yesterday’s password is flushed from the cache, and then
re-use the old password. This activity is prevented by limiting password changes to once a
day. Maximum Password Age
See section 2.1.2 for a discussion on Maximum Password Age.
Maximum and minimum password age requirements are enforced by the logon process.
If an account never logs off, it will continue to gain access to resources until the system
reboots. Minimum Password Length
See section 2.1.1 for a discussion in Minimum Password Length. Password Complexity
Section 2.1.2 introduced the brute force password attack. Complex passwords further
mitigate the risk of a brute force password attack by significantly increasing the set of all
possible passwords. This is done by requiring passwords to include a combination of upper
and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols (special characters) in the password.
Windows XP does not provide any granularity in password complexity requirements—it
is either on or off. When complex passwords are required, each password must contain
characters from three of the following four sets of characters:
• Uppercase letters
• Lowercase letters
• Numbers
• Special characters (non alphanumeric symbols)
Enabling this setting provides outstanding resistance to brute force password attacks, and
should be set whenever possible, but may occasionally be difficult to implement. End-user
education is a must, as the warning messages for weak passwords are cryptic and likely to be
of little help to most users. Also, consider the impact to other non-Microsoft systems which
integrate with the Microsoft authentication scheme, and make sure they support complex
passwords as well.
If you are unable to require complex passwords, consider lengthening the minimum
password length. Often a long alphabetic passphrase can be more resistant to a brute force
attack than a short complex passphrase. Password History
Passwords should be changed on a regular basis. By that same rule, users should not be
permitted to use the same few passwords over and over again. The Enforce Password History
setting determines how many previous passwords are stored to ensure that users do NOT
cycle through regular passwords. The NSA requirement of 24 passwords remembered should
be viable for public use as well.
When determining your overall account configuration, consider the combined effect of
password history and maximum password age settings, and prevent repetitive patterns. For
example, if your password age is 30 days and password history is 12 or less, many users will
likely to set passwords to a variation of the current month (January1, February1, etc.). Store Passwords using Reversible Encryption
The Windows authentication model allows storage of a password hash rather than the
actual password. A password hash can not be decoded to regain the original password.
Rather, to authenticate, the password must be hashed exactly the same way and compared
with the original stored hash. If the values match, the correct password was presented, and
access is granted.
In order to support some applications and their authentication, Microsoft permits the
ability to store passwords using reversible encryption. If at all possible, this should be
avoided. This option is disabled by default, and should remain so. Any application that
requires reversible encryption for passwords is purposely putting systems at risk.
2.2.3 Account Lockout Policy
Many of the settings above protect against brute force and dictionary password attacks.
Typically these attacks gather information (such as password hashes) and perform the attack
offline. However, some password guessing attacks still occur interactively.
In order to protect against online password attacks, enforce an account lockout policy.
Three settings comprise the account lockout policy: duration, threshold and reset. Account Lockout Duration
Once the criteria for a lockout are met, the account becomes locked. However, the
account will automatically become re-enabled once again after the duration specified in the
“Account Lockout Duration.” Specify 0 minutes to have the account lockout until an
administrator manually resets the account. Account Lockout Threshold
The user is given a number of attempts to enter the wrong password before their account
becomes locked. The “Account Lockout Threshold” defines this limit. Reset Account Lockout After
Following a bad logon, the system increments the count of invalid attempts for this
account. This counter continues to increment until the lockout threshold is reached, or the
counter is reset. The “Reset Account Lockout After” setting defines how often the counter is
reset. This setting must be less than or equal to the “Account Lockout Duration”,
2.2.4 Event Log Settings – Application, Security, and System Logs
All system events are collected into event logs. All Windows XP systems contain three
sets of logs: Application, System and Security. Application logs entries typically come from
installed software; for example, anti-virus software will cut an event when virus scans
complete, or when it detects a virus. The System log collects events generated by the
operating system, such as system reboots and a startup or shutdown of event logs. The
security log collects security audit information as defined by group policy. All three logs
may contain useful information about a security incident.
The default size of each event log is 512k. This has been standard since the days of
Windows NT 3.5, when hard drives were typically under 2 Gigabytes (GB) in size. However,
recent hardware capacity improvements should leave ample storage space for an 80Mb event
Two additional settings control system behavior when the event log is full. Essentially
there are two possibilities:
• Continue logging events as they come but risk overwriting important events
• Stop logging events
Obviously, it is preferable to continue logging events so that useful information is not
lost. However, consider the attacker that kicks off a fake event generator as the last step of
the attack (for example, it might try to log in with the guest account hundreds of times a
second knowing the guest account is disabled). If all events continue to be logged, the events
from the actual attack will soon be overwritten. In this case, it would be preferable to stop
logging events when the log fills.
The Audit policy setting for “Log Retention Method” provides control over how the
system reacts to a full log:
• Overwrite Events as Needed continues logging all events, overwriting older
event whenever necessary.
• Overwrite by Days allows overwriting some events, but not all. Events older
that a specific number of days can be cleared out. Once all the older events are
overwritten, no new events are logged.
• Do not overwrite (Clear logs manually) prevents overwriting events, and new
events are lost when the event log fills. The event log must be cleared manually
by the system administrator or an automated log management application.
Setting the “Log Retention Method” to “Overwrite by Days” enables the “Log Retention”
option. This specifies the number of days of event logs the system will preserve.
It may seem advisable to make the event logs as large as possible. However, due to
constraints in how the operating system handles the logs, all three log files must be mapped to
memory during normal system operation. An excessively large setting may cause unexpected
results as the logs grow beyond the ability for the operating system to load the file in
memory. Therefore, this guide recommended combined size of all three log files is limited to
120Mb, although a combined size of up to 300Mb seems to work well. A Microsoft
Knowledgebase article describing this behavior was under development at the time this
document was published. Application Log Maximum Event Log Size Restrict Guest Access to Logs Log Retention Method Log Retention Security Log Maximum Event Log Size Restrict Guest Access to Logs Log Retention Method: If set to “Do Not Overwrite,” see Log Retention System Log Maximum Event Log Size Restrict Guest Access to Logs Log Retention Method Log Retention
3 Security Settings
Security settings outline many very specific options which can improve a system’s
security by protecting against a specific threat.
To edit security settings, select Start | Settings | Control Panel. Double-click
“Administrative Tools,” and select “Local Security Policy”. In the window that appears,
expand Local Policies, and click Security Options. To make changes, double-click one of the
settings in the right pane, make the appropriate changes, and click OK to save the settings.
If the workstation is not a member of a domain, the change will become effective
immediately, even though it won’t show up in the Local Security Policy editor until it is
closed. If the workstation belongs to a domain, local changes will only become effective
domain policy does not override the settings.
3.1 Major Security Settings
Microsoft operating systems typically support a legacy anonymous login known as a
“null session”. The null session is actually a login session where both the user id and the
password are blank. Although the operating system places many restrictions on a null
session, and it can never be used for an interactive logon, it may still be possible to gather
significant information through this special anonymous account.
Null sessions can usually be safely disabled since they are a legacy feature. However,
some legacy applications may cease to function properly after disabling null sessions, so
testing is a must. The settings below outline controls available within Windows XP to limit
exactly what information can be obtained through the null session. Note that these settings
affect local workstation accounts and resources only, but not domain accounts and shares.
Note that Windows 2000 manages this setting differently, although the net effect remains
the same. In Windows 2000, these options correspond to “Additional Restrictions for
Anonymous Connections.” Other minor differences in Windows 2000 and Windows XP
policies as well, and Windows 2000 tools should not be used when setting policy for
Windows XP machines.
3.1.1 Network Access: Allow anonymous SID/Name translation
Each object within Active Directory obtains a unique binary security identifier (SID).
The operating system controls access to resources by their SID. SID formatting is well
known, and some SIDs (e.g., local administrator and local guest) have properties which
divulge the actual purpose of the account.
Disable this option to prevent the null user from translating the binary SID into the actual
account name.
3.1.2 Network Access: Do not allow anonymous enumeration of SAM accounts
By default, the null session login can list all the accounts within its domain. This
presents a significant security risk, particularly if strong passwords are not required. Should
an attacker be able to anonymously gather all available accounts, they can then try some basic
guessing to quickly locate accounts with blank or very weak passwords.
SAM stands for the Security Account Manager. The SAM database holds all account
information including passwords, access rights and special privileges. Local account
information resides in the local SAM database, a file on the workstation. Domain account
information resides in the SAM database on the domain controller.
Beware of the syntax for this option: Enabled means only truly authenticated logins may
enumerate other accounts; Disabled means all accounts can be gathered through the null
3.1.3 Network Access: Do not allow anonymous enumeration of SAM accounts and shares
See 3.1.2 above. In addition to protecting the list of user accounts, it also controls the list
of network file shares established on the workstation. Documentation does not describe
behavior if this setting conflicts with 3.1.2; however, if this setting is enabled, 3.1.2 should be
enabled as well.
Beware of the syntax for this option: Enabled means only truly authenticated logins may
enumerate accounts and shares; Disabled means all accounts and file shares can be gathered
through the null session.
3.1.4 Data Execution Protection (SP 2 only)
Data Execution Protection (DEP) provides protection against buffer overflow attacks.
The protection is implemented through either hardware or software, depending on the system
configuration. By default, data execution protection is enabled for all applications compiled
with specific options to protect against buffer overflows.
DEP can be disabled system-wide, or for specific applications. In fact, Microsoft also
offers recommendations on how to deploy specific DEP settings through scripts. However,
the most common way to access DEP settings is through the control panel. Select the
“System” icon, and under the Advanced tab select Performance -> Settings. In the window
that opens, click the Data Execution Prevention tab. In this window, you can disable DEP
completely, or turn it on for specific applications only. Different options are available if your
system supports hardware-based DEP.
Because of the significance of buffer overflow attacks, and because applications have to
be specifically compiled to enforce software-based DEP, it is a major security requirement to
enable DEP for all applications.
3.2 Minor Security Settings
3.2.1 Security Options Accounts: Administrator Account Status
Each Windows XP installation creates an “Administrator” account that has the highest
access to the system. The account has the highest possible access and can bypass most
security controls local to the machine; it is comparable to the “root” account in Unix. Many
system maintenance features require use of the Administrator account. However, in some
environments, the existence of this account can present a security risk. By setting the
“Administrator Account Status” to disabled, the account becomes unavailable.
Regardless of this setting, the administrator account remains enabled when booting in
“safe mode.” Accounts: Guest Account Status
The Guest account can provide some regulation to unauthenticated users. Disabling this
account will prevent unknown users being authenticated as Guests. This default installation
disables this account, and it should remain disabled. is disabled by default, and should remain
so. Accounts: Limit local account use of blank passwords to console logon only
Windows divides computer logons into two main types: console or local logons and
remote logons. In a console logon, the physically logs on to the device with the attached
keyboard. Remote logons are performed across the network using various protocols such as
telnet, FTP and remote desktop.
When this setting is enabled, the computer refuses remote logons if the user attempts to
use a blank password, even if the blank password is valid for that account. Passwords should
never be left blank. Accounts: Rename Administrator Account
See Often disabling the Administrator account is not practical. However, simply
knowing the name of an account on a machine can be valuable information to an attacker. In
an attempt to hide the account, best practices recommend renaming the account to something
unique for your implementation.
If the account is renamed, anonymous Security Identifier (SID) / Name translation should
also be disabled (3.1.1). This prevents an attacker from locating the renamed account by its
SID. Accounts: Rename Guest Account
See Similar to the Administrator account, the Guest account should be renamed
even if it is disabled. The operating system places additional safeguards on the Guest
account, and it is less of a target than the Administrator account, but it still deserves
significant attention warrant changing the account name. Audit: Audit the access of global system objects
Global system objects typically only provide interesting audit information to developers.
Some examples of these kernel objects include mutexes, semaphores and DOS devices.
Normal system operation does not require auditing to this level of detail.
“Audit Object Access (” must be enabled before this setting will generate log
entries. Audit: Audit the use of backup and restore privilege
When enabled, this setting will generate a log entry for every file which is backed up or
restored using the “Backup or Restore” privilege. During normal operations, this will
generate a large amount of event entries, and is typically not required.
Various attacks are possible using backup or restore privileges. For example, an attacker
may back up sensitive information to an unauthorized location. Or, the attacker may restore
an invalid file—possibly a hacktool—from a tampered backup tape. In circumstances where
the risk of improper backups and restores exists, this option should be considered. However,
event logs must be sized appropriately (see 2.2.4).
“Audit Privilege Use (” must be enabled before this setting will generate log
entries. Audit: Shut Down system immediately if unable to log security alerts
See 2.2.4. A system administrator may choose not to overwrite events when the event
log is full. Assuming that logs are sized appropriately, routinely backed up and cleared, this
could indicate a security incident. In the specialized security environment, the inability to log
events may be just cause to halt the server.
If the server is unable to log events and this setting is enabled, a Stop error occurs. To
recover, the local Administrator must log on to the computer and manually clear the event log
or change this setting.
Security Log Retention Method ( must be set to “Do Not Overwrite Events” or
“Overwrite Events by Days” for this setting to be effective. DCOM: Machine Access Restrictions (SP2 only)
With Service Pack 2 for Windows XP, Microsoft introduced significant changes in the
Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) security model. DCOM provides computing
services on non-standard TCP ports which can be accessed locally or remotely. These new
restrictions are important in protecting against DCOM exploits. Since many services can be
published through the DCOM interface, the machine administrator retains little or no control
over authentication settings. The new options allow the administrator to place system-wide
restrictions on all DCOM services: All DCOM requests must first be authenticated, and then
the provided credentials are matched against this ACL to determine if access is granted. Note
that many DCOM applications will provide more granular security controls for a specific
published service.
With this setting, you can define the accounts that are allowed to access existing DCOM
services. The default setting allows anonymous access to access DCOM services from the
local machine only, but everyone is allowed remote access.
The setting is specified in Security Descriptor Definition Language (SDDL). Although
you can define this manually, it is often best to use the Group Policy Editor interface to create
the SDDL string. DCOM: Machine Launch Restrictions (SP2 only)
Additional restrictions can be placed on which accounts are allowed to activate or launch
DCOM services. Launch permissions are required to start a COM server when it is activated.
Activation is the process of getting a COM interface proxy, and sometimes requires the COM
server to be launched.
By default, only administrators can remotely activate or launch DCOM service. The
“everyone” group is allowed to launch or activate only from the local machine. Devices: Allow undock without having to log on
Can’t a laptop always be undocked simply by lifting it off the dock? Surprisingly, the
answer is no. Some laptop docking stations have a hardware eject button that can actually be
locked by software on the laptop. Setting this option to disabled provides greater security;
however, without proper training a user may physically damage the hardware.
Beware of the syntax for this option: Disabled means a user must log in to the laptop and
request to undock it; Enabled means the laptop can be unlocked at any time Devices: Allowed to format and eject removable media
This setting governs the type of users which have authority to remove NTFS formatted
media from the computer. The available choices (listed from most to least restrictive) are
Administrators, Administrators and Power Users, or Administrators and Interactive Users. Devices: Prevent users from installing printer drivers
Users typically need the ability to install and configure their own printers. However,
printer driver installation loads code directly into the privileged space of the operating system
kernel. The malicious user could choose to install an invalid or trojaned print driver to gain
control on the system.
Preventing users from installing printer drivers may lead to unwanted support calls. If
users must be given the right to install printer drivers, consider requiring that the driver be
digitally signed before it can be installed (see
Beware of the syntax for this option: Enabled means the users will not be able to install
printer drivers and may prevent proper setup of printers; Disabled allows the user to fully
manage their own printers. Restrict CD-ROM Access to Locally Logged-On User Only
With sufficient privileges, users can create network shares from any folder on a Windows
XP workstation. This extends to sharing a CD-ROM drive externally. This setting would
restrict use of the shared CD-ROM drive to the local interactive logon. Since different CDs
can be inserted, the user may forget or be unaware that the information on the CD becomes
remotely accessible. Also, unlike typical file shares, access control lists can not be placed on
files and directories to control access and auditing.
Generally, users and processes should not need to remotely access a workstation CDROM
drive; however, enabling this setting could cause problems with some software
installation packages. When users install software from a CD-ROM drive, and the
installation package uses the Microsoft Installer (.msi packages), the Windows Installer
service actually performs the installation. The install will fail, since the service account does
not If this setting is enabled, such software installation will not be able to proceed, because
of this restriction. The setting must be changed long enough to install the software, or the
package must be copied to a local or network drive for the installation procedure to succeed.
Beware of the syntax for this option: Enabled means users will not be able to access CDROM
shares. Disabled allows access to shared CD-ROMs (share-level access permissions
still apply). Devices: Restrict Floppy Access to Locally Logged-On User Only
Similar to a CD-ROM drive ( above), the floppy drive can be shared to network
users. Again, the user may not remember that the information on all inserted floppies
becomes exposed.
Beware of the syntax for this option: Enabled means users will not be able to access
shared floppy drives. Disabled allows access to shared floppy drives, but share-level access
permissions still apply. Devices: Unsigned Driver Installation Behavior .
Drivers interact with the kernel and hardware at a low level; improper drivers can open
the system to low level hardware and kernel problems. Additionally, trojaned drivers can
open the system to compromise. Microsoft generally ships drivers with a digital signature,
expressing that Microsoft itself has certified the drivers through their Windows Hardware
Quality Lab. Unfortunately, not all drivers (even from Microsoft) have digital signatures.
Options for this setting are “Silently succeed,” “Warn but allow installation,” and “Do
not allow installation.” The user should be notified if drivers are not signed; however, some
end-user training may be required. However, the “Silently succeed” option may be required
in managed environments where unattended software installations are commonplace. Domain Controller: Allow Server Operators to Schedule Tasks
This setting applies only to Windows 2000 Server Domain Controllers. It has no effect
on Windows XP workstations. Domain Controller: LDAP Server Signing Requirements
This setting is not currently enforced, and must be set at the LDAP server (domain
controller). This setting is disabled on Windows XP workstations, which has the same effect
as “None”: data signing can optionally be negotiated by the client and server. Domain Controller: Refuse machine account password changes
This setting only applies to domain controllers. See for the corresponding client
workstation setting. Domain Member: Digitally Encrypt or Sign Secure Channel Data (Always)
When a domain workstation boots up, it creates an encrypted tunnel with a domain
controller to pass sensitive information. For example, management of the workstation’s
computer account password, user account password changes, and the exchange of private
keys with Active Directory all occur through this NetLogon secure RPC channel.
With this setting enabled, all packets sent from the client will be signed. The client will
also encrypt the packets if the server supports it. A signed packet can not be spoofed or
tampered; however, the payload remains untouched and could possibly be deciphered should
it be intercepted. Encrypted packets can only be decrypted by the server.
This setting can only be safely enabled when all domain controllers are Windows 2000,
or Windows NT SP 4 or later. Domain Member: Digitally Encrypt Secure Channel Data (When Possible)
See above. This setting provides greater compatibility than requiring encryption
or signing. Domain Member: Digitally Sign Secure Channel Data (When Possible)
See above. This setting also provides compatibility with legacy equipment. It
prevents replay and man-in-the middle attacks when domain controllers support signing.
However, by itself, this setting will not protect against packet sniffing to gather potentially
sensitive information. Domain Member: Disable Machine Account Password Changes
If a computer is a member of a domain, it has an account within the domain. During the
boot up process, the computer logs in to the domain and establishes a secure channel for the
exchange of sensitive information (see Although the account can not be used for
interactive logons, it can be used to authenticate to domain resources. This setting only
impacts workstations which have joined a domain.
Like any other account, the computer account has a name and password. The computer
manages its own password and changes it to a strong password regularly. This setting can be
used to prevent the machine from managing its own password. Should the machine’s local
copy of the password falls out of synch with the domain controller’s copy, the machine can
not access domain resources, and the machine must be re-joined to the domain.
Beware of the syntax for this option: Disabled means the workstation will change its
password; Enabled means workstation passwords are never changed. Domain Member: Maximum Machine Account Password Age
See above. This setting determines how often the computer resets its password.
Remember that machine password changes do not visibly impact the end user, and they
should be consistent with corporate policy for account management. Domain Member: Require Strong (Windows 2000 or later) Session Key
This setting applies specifically to the NetLogon secure channel established between
workstations and domain controllers (see This setting only impacts workstations
which have joined a domain.
By default, workstations will accept a weak 64-bit session key to encrypt the secure
channel. However, this setting allows the workstation to require a strong 128-bit session key
for the secure channel.
Only enable this setting if all domain controllers support a 128-bit encrypted secure
channel. This is not supported on NT4 domain controllers; Windows 2000 domain controllers
require Service Pack 2 or later.
This option is enabled by default, and it should remain so. Interactive Logon: Do Not Display Last User Name
Anyone attempting to log into a computer may see the name of the last valid user who
logged on to that system. This does not prevent displaying the currently logged on user when
unlocking a workstation. This information may seem trivial, but it helps an attacker tie a
workstation to a particular individual, or may help an attacker gain access to a stolen mobile
Educate users before enabling this setting in a domain environment. Some users may not
know their logon, particularly when it differs from the e-mail address or other accounts.
Beware of the syntax for this option: Enabled means the user must type in their user id
on every logon; Disabled means the last logged on user appears in the login dialog. Interactive Logon: Do not require CTRL+ALT+DEL
The Windows operating system treats the CTRL+ALT+Delete key different from any
other. Operating system design prevents any application from intercepting and responding
when these keys are pressed. When you type CTRL+ALT+Delete, you are guaranteed that
the operating system authentication process will handle the request.
With the CTRL+ALT+Delete requirement lifted, the user could actually be typing their
password into a trojaned application, rather than the operating system authentication process.
Remember, the trojaned application would not be able to respond had the user pressed
When a workstation does not require CTRL+ALT+Delete to log on, users will not see the
dialog “Press CTRL+ALT+Delete To Log On.” Rather, the workstation simply presents the
standard logon dialog.
Beware of the syntax for this option: Disabled means the user must press
CTRL+ALT+Delete before every non-smartcard logon; Enabled will present the logon dialog
without requiring CTRL+ALT+Delete. Interactive Logon: Message Text for Users Attempting to Log On
In general, legal requirements dictate that users must be notified of security practices
when logging on to a system. The users should agree to acceptable usage policies, and be
notified that the system may be monitored. The message is commonly referred to as a “logon
The sample banner provided below has been approved by the United States Department
of Justice. The United States government deems it suitable for use. For corporate networks
and workstations, defer the actual text to your legal counsel, perhaps using this message as a
This system is for the use of authorized users only. Individuals using this computer system without
authority, or in excess of their authority, are subject to having all of their activities on this system
monitored and recorded by system personnel. In the course of monitoring individuals improperly
using this system, or in the course of system maintenance, the activities of authorized users may
also be monitored. Anyone using this system expressly consents to such monitoring and is
advised that if such monitoring reveals possible evidence of criminal activity, system personnel
may provide the evidence of such monitoring to law enforcement officials. Interactive Logon: Message Title for Users Attempting to Log On
The message title acts as part of the logon banner discussed above. The workstation
places this text as the title for the logon banner window. The text should be either neutral or
a warning. Avoid inviting titles such as “Welcome”. Interactive Logon: Number of Previous Logons to Cache
When a workstation belongs to a domain, users can log on to it using domain credentials.
The domain credentials can be cached in the local workstation’s Security Accounts Manager
(SAM) database. On next logon, should no domain controller be available, the user can still
log on locally by authenticating against the cached account information.
When logging on using cached credentials, some account properties will not be enforced,
since the domain controller maintains responsibility for enforcing account policy. The local
SAM database does not “own” the account, so cached account passwords do not expire, and
domain accounts can not be locked out when the domain is unavailable.
When establishing corporate policy for cached accounts, consider the remote user. They
commonly log on with cached credentials from a laptop. To access corporate resources, the
user establishes a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection to the corporate network. Since
logon occurs before the domain is available—the VPN has not yet been established—the user
will never be prompted to change the password on the cached account.
This setting only affects workstations joined to a domain, and only impacts interactive
logons with domain accounts. The workstation will not cache non-interactive log on
information. Change this setting to zero to disable the caching of domain accounts in the
local SAM database. Interactive Logon: Prompt User to Change Password Before Expiration
Should a user’s password be near its expiration date, the logon process warns the user and
asks if they would like to change the password. Once the password has expired, the user will
be required to change the password to complete the logon. This setting governs the window
of convenience between the time when the system offers the user to change the password, and
the time when they are required to change the password. Interactive Logon: Require Domain Controller authentication to unlock
This setting results from a feature in Windows domain authentication; a further
understanding of the behavior will help you determine the setting applicable to your
organization. This setting does not affect standalone workstations.
The typical sequence for failure to unlock a workstation flows something like this:
1. The user repeatedly types in the wrong password.
2. For each password attempted, the workstation first compares the password to the
cached password hash used for the original logon. If they do not match, it
contacts the domain controller and attempts to log on.
3. After a predefined number of attempts, the domain controller locks out the
account, and the workstation reports the account lockout.
At this point, most users will contact the system administrator and have the account
lockout and perhaps the password reset. However, consider the persistent user that continues
attempting to logon:
4. The user continues attempting to logon. Each time a bad password is entered, the
workstation still compares it to the local cache; when the comparison fails, it
contacts the domain controller, which also denies the logon.
5. Finally, the user enters the correct password. The workstation comparison to the
local cache succeeds.
If this setting is disabled, the user then successfully unlocks the workstation. Even with a
locked account, the user can then continue to access network resources for connections which
were established and authenticated before the machine was locked—mail servers and file
servers in particular.
Enabling this setting, however, adds an additional step after every successful workstation
comparison with the local cache:
6. The workstation presents the credentials to the domain controller. Only if the
domain controller authentication succeeds will the workstation be unlocked.
Enabling this setting to protect against brute force password attacks through the screen
saver. However, enabling it will hinder the user who locks and hibernates their workstation,
and then attempts to resume when the domain controller is unavailable. Disabling this setting
(or leaving it undefined) minimizes domain controller traffic.
For more information, see Microsoft Knowledge Base Articles 188700, “Screensaver
Password Works Even If Account Is Locked Out” and 281250, “Information About
Unlocking a Workstation” Interactive Logon: Smart Card Removal Behavior.
When users authenticate with smart cards, the system can be set to lock or log out the
user when the smart card is removed. Any setting other than “No Action” is acceptable.
In an environment that does not use Smart Cards, this setting has no effect. Microsoft Network Client: Digitally sign communications (always)
This setting applies specifically to communications using the Server Message Block
(SMB) protocol. When enabled, the client will negotiate signed communications with any
SMB server. If the server can not support SMB signing (typically servers prior to Windows
2000), communications will fail.
When possible, digitally sign client communication to protect against man-in-the-middle
attacks, as it supports mutual authentication and protection against packet tampering.
SMB signing does not impact network bandwidth; however, CPU resources will be used
in generating and verifying SMB signatures. Microsoft Network Client: Digitally sign communications (if server agrees)
This setting applies specifically to communications using the Server Message Block
(SMB) protocol. When enabled, the client will negotiate signed communications with any
server supporting SMB signing (typically Windows 2000 and later). Unsigned
communications will still succeed with servers that do not support message signing. Microsoft Network Client: Send Unencrypted Password to Connect to Third-Party
SMB Server
Would you like your Windows XP computer to send your password in clear text to
another computer that requests authentication? The setting is disabled by default, and should
remain so.
If you find an application that requires this setting to be enabled, please first send
feedback to so we can document it and contact the
manufacturer. We will request a product redesign with better security, which will not require
this behavior.
When users authenticate with smart cards, the system can be set to lock or log out the
user when the smart card is removed. Any setting other than “No Action” is acceptable.
In an environment that does not use Smart Cards, this setting has no effect. Microsoft Network Client: Digitally sign communications (always)
This setting applies specifically to communications using the Server Message Block
(SMB) protocol. When enabled, the client will negotiate signed communications with any
SMB server. If the server can not support SMB signing (typically servers prior to Windows
2000), communications will fail.
When possible, digitally sign client communication to protect against man-in-the-middle
attacks, as it supports mutual authentication and protection against packet tampering.
SMB signing does not impact network bandwidth; however, CPU resources will be used
in generating and verifying SMB signatures. Microsoft Network Client: Digitally sign communications (if server agrees)
This setting applies specifically to communications using the Server Message Block
(SMB) protocol. When enabled, the client will negotiate signed communications with any
server supporting SMB signing (typically Windows 2000 and later). Unsigned
communications will still succeed with servers that do not support message signing. Microsoft Network Client: Send Unencrypted Password to Connect to Third-Party
SMB Server
Would you like your Windows XP computer to send your password in clear text to
another computer that requests authentication? The setting is disabled by default, and should
remain so.
If you find an application that requires this setting to be enabled, please first send
feedback to so we can document it and contact the
manufacturer. We will request a product redesign with better security, which will not require
this behavior. Microsoft Network Server: Amount of Idle Time Required Before Disconnecting
This setting applies specifically to communications using the SMB protocol. When a
client establishes a connection with an SMB server, they exchange credentials, perform
authentication, and set aside resources to manage the connection. After a period of inactivity,
the client or server may close the connection to conserve resources. When the client again
attempts to use the SMB server, it reestablishes the connection without interaction with the
user. The reconnection typically happens fast enough to hide the activity from the user.
Computers that do not share resources with other Windows computers are not affected by
this setting. Microsoft Network Server: Digitally sign communications (always)
Similar to, the workstation may require all SMB traffic to be digitally signed.
Workstations act as servers when remote devices connect to published shares; many
workstation management systems also use SMB protocols.
This setting will likely have less impact to the workstation than, since remote
connections to workstations are typically well understood. Microsoft Network Server: Digitally sign communications (if client agrees)
Similar to, the workstation should request signed communications wherever
possible. This option is enabled by default, and should remain enabled. Microsoft Network Server: Disconnect clients when logon hours expire
This setting only applies to workstations joined to a domain, as logon hours can not be set
for local accounts. Additionally, this applies only to network connections established with
the SMB protocol.
Domain accounts may be limited to specific hours when they may be used. By default,
the domain controller only enforces these settings upon logon, but not after the session is
established. With this setting enabled, should a user remotely log in to this workstation (the
workstation acts as a server), the user’s network connections will be closed when their
allotted time has been reached. Network Access: Do not allow storage of credentials or .NET passports for
network authentication
This setting controls behavior of the “Stored User Names and Passwords” feature of
Windows XP. This feature stores NTLM, Kerberos, Passport and SSL authentication; it
should not be confused with the Internet Explorer authentication cache, since it is managed
separately. Some documents refer to this setting as “Network Access: Do not allow Stored
User Names and Passwords to safe passwords or credentials for domain authentication”.
Beware of the syntax for this option: Enabled keeps credentials out of the cache;
Disabled allows storing user names and passwords. Network Access: Let Everyone permissions apply to anonymous users
Many resources across the network are accessible to the “Everyone” group. This special
group contains all accounts; however, it does not contain the anonymous user (null session,
see section 3.1). Enabling this option adds the “null user” to the “Everyone” group,
escalating privileges of this account. The “Everyone” group is assigned to many network
resources by default.
This option is disabled by default and should remain disabled. Network Access: Named pipes that can be accessed anonymously
Named Pipes are communications channels between two processes. The process may or
may not be located on the same computer, and communications are peer-to-peer rather than
client-to-server. Each pipe is assigned an access control list.
This setting defines which pipes can be accessed remotely without authentication, and
should be left blank. Network Access: Remotely accessible registry paths
This setting defines the registry paths which can be accessed from another computer.
Remote registry access depends on the remote registry service and requires authentication. Network Access: Shares that can be accessed anonymously
Access Control Lists restrict access to published network shares hosted by a workstation.
Shares can be published to the “Everyone” group, but this does not include the
unauthenticated null user. Adding specific shares to this list grants access to the
unauthenticated user. Note that NTFS permissions on the share still apply. Network Access: Sharing and security model for local accounts
Remote users often must present logon credentials to the workstation to gain access.
Occasionally, they may present credentials for a local account on the workstation. In the
“Classic” security model, even though a remote user is using local credentials, they still gain
access based on restrictions for the local account. However, the “Guest Only” model remaps
the remote user to the guest account, so they will only be able to access resources available to
guests. Network Security: Do not store LAN Manager password hash value on next
password change
The SAM database typically stores a LANManager (LM) hash of account passwords.
The SAM database should be secure on the workstation; however, if it is captured, the LM
hash can be retrieved. Many vulnerabilities exist with the LM authentication model, and
brute force attacks usually succeed with ease. Removing the LM hash from the SAM
database helps protect the local account passwords. However, most Windows 9x clients only
support LM authentication.
Beware of the syntax for this option: Enable this setting to keep the password secure;
Disable this setting to weaken the password database and allow Windows 9x clients to log in
remotely to the workstation. Network Security: Force logoff when logon hours expire
This setting is similar to, but reflects the client-side settings. This setting only
applies to workstations joined to a domain, as logon hours can not be set for local accounts.
The setting deals exclusively with connections using the SMB protocol, and not with the
interactive logon session.
Enabling this feature will disconnect all client connections when logon time limits are
reached. By default, the workstation only enforces logon hours during session setup, and not
afterwards. Network Security: LAN Manager Authentication Level
Windows network authentication has changed considerably as various security
vulnerabilities have been identified and fixed. The original LAN Manager (or LM) password
hash is considered very weak, but is still used by most Windows 9x clients. Using
commercially available software, and off-the-shelf computers, most LM password hashes can
be used to reveal the actual password in a matter of days, or hours.
With the release of Windows NT 4.0, Microsoft developed NTLM authentication.
Serious vulnerabilities made NTLM almost as easy to crack as LM, so NTLM version 2
(NTLMv2) was introduced. NTLMv2 provides significant improvements to security; when
combined with strong password policy, accounts are well protected against brute force
attacks. All of these authentication methods are incorporated into Windows 2000.
All authentication models work with a hash of the password, not the password itself.
This presents challenges with down-level compatibility between operating systems. In order
to smooth the transition, when one computer attempts to authenticate with another, the default
behavior is to send the basic LM hash along with the more secure NTLM hash. This setting
improves control over the response to an authentication challenge:
Send LM & NTLM responses
Send LM & NTLM, Use NTLMv2 session security if negotiated
Send NTLM response only
Send NTLMv2 response only
Send NTLMv2 response only\refuse LM
Send NTLMv2 response only\refuse LM & NTLM
The default, and weakest option, is the first: send LM & NTLM responses. As a result,
using NTLM is ineffective because both protocols are sent together. In order to take a much
more effective stand to protect network authentication, set LAN Manager Authentication
Level to “Send NTLMv2 response only\refuse LM & NTLM”.
Enabling this setting may have adverse effects on your ability to communicate with other
Windows machines unless the change is made network-wide. If you find that you are unable
to require a certain level of LM Authentication, back down to “Send LM & NTLM – Use
NTLMv2 session security if negotiated” and try your network authentication again.
Communication with Windows 9x/Me machines requires the DSCLIENT.EXE utility from
the Windows 2000 installation CD. Network Security: LDAP client signing requirements
Similar to the SMB protocol, the LDAP protocol supports signing. LDAP, “Lightweight
Directory Access Protocol,” provides one means for the client to talk to active directory.
LDAP protocol is text-based, but supports authentication to gain access to sensitive sections
of the directory. Require signing to provide the assurance of mutual authentication for this
communications channel. Network Security: Minimum session security for NTLM SSP based (including
secure RPC) clients
NTLM authentication can provide a security service to manage connection between
various clients and servers, including through the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) service.
Windows 2000 improved the security model for secure, authenticated client-server
communications; this setting manages the new features for communications established by
this workstation. Network Security: Minimum session security for NTLM SSP based (including
secure RPC) servers
Similar to, this setting manages features for communication services provided by
this workstation to other computers. Recovery Console: Allow Automatic Administrative Logon
The Recovery Console, new to Windows 2000 and XP, provides a limited command-line
access to an otherwise unbootable operating system.
The console allows access to the NTFS file system, which does not natively allow access
when the operating system becomes unbootable. Other third-party applications have been
developed to perform this action as well, but the Recovery Console is part of the operating
system. It can be installed from the Windows 2000 CD with the “d:\i386\winnt32.exe
/cmdcons” command. It can also be run directly from the Windows 2000 installation CD.
The Recovery Console does not grant full and unrestricted access to the operating system
by default. It does require that you log on using the password of the default Administrator
account. Keep in mind that this must be the local administrator account, not just a member of
the local administrators group. Also, the policy for renaming the administrator account does
not apply to the recovery console, and that password must be used.
If configured, a boot to the recovery console could result in automatic logon, and bypass
the need for the password of the administrator account. Since this gives administrator access
to anyone who can reboot the computer, the setting is generally disabled. Recovery Console: Allow Floppy Copy and Access to All Drives and All Folders
By default, the Recovery Console only allows access to the root folder of each drive, and
the operating system folder (typically C:\Windows). The console also prevents copying files
from the hard drive onto removable media. Although this protection can be bypassed by
enabling floppy copy and drive access, the setting is enabled by default and should remain
disabled. Shutdown: Allow System to be Shut Down Without Having to Log On
Some systems run critical processes and should only be shut down by authorized users.
Occasionally, special processes could be evoked during system startup, sometimes even
trojaned processes. In environments where abnormal system reboots could cause problems,
require a logon prior to reboot. Shutdown: Clear Virtual Memory Pagefile
Virtual memory extends the physical memory available to the CPU. As data and
applications fill the available physical memory, the operating system writes less-frequently
used pages of memory out to disk, into the virtual memory pagefile. This greatly extends the
amount of “virtual” memory available to the computer.
Since the pagefile contains information that was in memory, it potentially holds a great
deal of information useful for an attacker. Digging through the pagefile can reveal SSL web
pages, queries set from the client to databases, sometimes even user ids and passwords from
poorly written applications.
The workstation does not clean this information from the pagefile on shutdown.
Although the file can not be accessed when booted in Windows, anyone booting the
workstation to an alternate operating system (e.g., from a boot CD) may access the page file.
Enabling this options provides greater security by erasing the data during normal
operations; however, this may also significantly increase the time required to shut down the
computer. When enabled, the hibernation file (hiberfil.sys) is also cleaned on shutdown. System Cryptography: Use FIPS compliant algorithms for encryption, hashing,
and signing
FIPS stands for “Federal Information Processing Standards”. The National Institute of
Standards and Technology (NIST) maintains the standards, available online at Although the operating system can support a
variety of hashing and encryption algorithms, only the following are FIPS compliant:
• Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA-1) for hashing
• Triple Data Encryption Standard (DES) for encryption
• RSA for key exchange and authentication.
Only these algorithms are used when the workstation requires FIPS compliant algorithms.
With this setting enabled, the encrypting file system (EFS) will use triple DES rather than the
default DESX.
NOTE: Enabling the requirement for FIPS compliant system cryptography will limit the
workstation’s ability to interact with SSL encrypted web sites that do not support these
encryption mechanisms. This will likely have an effect on most non-IIS served web sites. System objects: Default owner for objects created by members of the
Administrators group
When an Administrator creates an object (file, directory, account, or any object which
obtains and ACL from the operating system), an owner will be assigned. Normally, the
account which created the object is assigned as the owner; however, changing this option
allows assignment to the “Administrators Group” rather than an individual account. System objects: Require case insensitivity for non-Windows subsystems
The Windows operating systems ignore case when accessing resources; for example,
“C:\Windows”, “C:\WINDOWS” and “c:\windows” all refer to the same directory.
However, the Windows kernel allows interfaces with other case-sensitive operating systems
(e.g., Unix). Enabling this setting causes the interoperability features to be case-insensitive as
This setting has no effect when the workstation communicates only with other Windows
systems. System objects: Strengthen default permissions of internal system objects
This setting actually digs deep into the operating system behavior and should be left at
the default setting (Enabled) unless explicitly required.
“Internal system objects” are shared physical and logical resources such as semaphores
and DOS device name; the objects all are created with access control lists (ACLs). When
enabled, the ACL allows other non-administrative system processes to query internal system
objects, but will not allow them to modify them.
3.2.2 Additional Registry Settings
The following paragraphs describe individual security settings that can be applied in a
variety of ways – using REGEDIT.EXE, REGEDT32.EXE, Local Group Policy, or Domain
Group Policy. For more information on applying changes directly to a Windows XP
Professional registry, please consult the Microsoft TechNet Internet site at Some other helpful registry information is available at;en-us;Q256986 and
WARNING: Editing the registry can make a system unbootable and unusable if done
improperly. If you are not familiar with editing the registry, please take a few minutes and
follow the links to Microsoft’s TechNet resources, and learn about some of the precautions
you should take before editing the registry. Suppress Dr. Watson Crash Dumps
Dr. Watson is one of Microsoft’s utilities that handles errors in applications. If an
application produces an error that Dr. Watson can manage, it will dump the contents of
memory for that application to a file for future analysis.
In the process of writing the contents of memory to disk, it is entirely possible that
password information could be written to disk as well, and later exploited. Set this value to
zero to prevent Dr. Watson from writing crash dumps to disk. Disable Automatic Execution of the System Debugger
If an application is executed in non-privileged memory, and the system debugger is
started, it is possible for that application to execute code in privileged memory space. Set this
value to zero to prevent the system debugger from executing automatically. Disable autoplay from any disk type, regardless of application
Although it is convenient for applications to automatically run when Windows Explorer
opens up, it can also cause applications to be executed against the wishes of an administrative
user, and exploiting that privilege. Set this value to 255 to prevent any type of drive from
automatically launching an application from Windows Explorer. Disable autoplay for the current user
Note: Due to the inability to manage registry entries for each local user via Security
Templates, this setting is recommended, but not required or measured. Disable autoplay for new users by default
Similar to the autoplay settings above, this enforces the policy for any new profiles
created on the workstation. Disable Automatic Logon
Windows also has the ability to automatically log a user on every time that machine starts
up. Some users may prefer this as a feature. Some server based applications may require that
a user log in before they can execute, so they require this activity as well.
The problem with this “feature” is that in order for it to work, it stores the username and
password for that user in plaintext in the registry. Set this value to zero to prevent any user
from automatically logging in when the computer starts up. Disable automatic reboots after a Blue Screen of Death
If someone manages to get enough control of your computer that they can plant an
application there, the next step is to force your computer to restart to register that app. One
easy way to accomplish this task is to programmatically force an error that causes the
computer to crash, or “Blue Screen” which will reboot the machine by default. Set this Value
to zero to prevent this behavior from happening, and at least alert the user that something is
wrong. Disable CD Autorun
If malicious software is written to a CD, it can be executed by Windows Explorer just by
putting the CD in the drive. Set this value to zero to prevent any applications from
automatically launching from the CD-ROM drive. Remove administrative shares on workstation (Professional)
Every Windows NT/2000 computer automatically has “Administrative Shares” installed
by default. These are restricted to use by Administrators, but they expose each volume root,
and the %systemroot% folder to the network as Admin$, C$, etc. These make remote
administration convenient, but they also present a risk if someone manages to guess the
password to an administrative account.
WARNING: If you use administrative shares on your network for remote backups,
antivirus support, or general remote administration, this will break your applications. Please
ask your software vendors to design around this requirement in future versions of their
applications. Protect against Computer Browser Spoofing Attacks
Although this standard advises end-users to shut down their Computer Browser service, it
is also likely that not everyone will be able or willing to do so. This registry setting provides
protection against a vulnerability that allows the Computer Browse to be shut down. Set this
value, to protect against this specific vulnerability. If you are not running the Computer
Browser service, this setting will have no effect. More information is available at;EN-US;q262694. Protect against source-routing spoofing
If a Windows computer has two valid networking devices installed, it can be configured
to act as a router or a firewall, and pass network traffic from one interface to another.
Whether this is the intended purpose or not, it can be done on any Windows computer.
“Source Routing” traffic that passes through such a router can bypass certain routing rules by
“spoofing” the device to think malicious network activity came from the protected side. Set
this value to 2 in order to drop all source routed packets. Protect the Default Gateway network setting
When one TCP/IP Default Gateway fails, it is possible to force one computer to use a
second default gateway to complete the route path. In most cases, computers are not set up
with multiple default gateways, relying on redundant routers instead.
If an attacker can manipulate your default gateway, and this setting is not set to zero, he
could route your network traffic to an alternate address. Set this value to zero to protect
against this kind of attack. Ensure ICMP Routing via shortest path first
In order to prevent network ICMP traffic from being redirected from one computer to
another, set the EnableICMPRedirect value to zero. There is some confusion as to whether or
not the value name is pluralized. For more information, please refer to the Microsoft article
at;EN-US;q293626. Help protect against packet fragmentation
When data is transferred across a network, the data is broken down into packets. These
packets are not always a uniform size. When these packets are broken down into smaller
sizes, they are supposed to be reassembled at the other end of a network route in the same
order. This does not always go as planned, and can used in some network attacks.
Set this value to 0 to force Windows to use a consistent 576 byte packet. More details are
available at Manage Keep-alive times
The KeepAliveTime determines how often the network subsystem attempts to verify that
a TCP session is still active. The setting of 300,000 works out to one request every five
minutes. Protect Against Malicious Name-Release Attacks
By default, a computer running NetBIOS will release its name upon request. In order to
protect against malicious name-release attacks, set this value to 1. Microsoft also references
in at least one place that this is for Windows 2000 Service Pack 2 or greater. Ensure Router Discovery is Disabled
This setting prohibits the workstation from caching router advertisements. Since router
advertisements propagate through UDP, they can easily be spoofed. Protect against SYN Flood attacks
One of the first methods of launching Denial of Service attacks was to send a flood of
incomplete 3-way handshake requests. Each time the incomplete request was received by the
target, a small portion of the target’s resources were set aside, waiting for the request to
finish. When all of the resources were set aside, the target machine was no longer able to
serve any more requests, and further service was denied.
In order to prevent the success of this attack, set the SynAttackProtect value to 2, which
allows the operating system to limit the amount of resources that are set aside until the 3-way
handshake is completed. Setting SynAttackProtect to 1 provides minimal security, but for
maximum protection, set it to 2.
The next few settings also provide a measure of protection against Denial of Service or
Distributed Denial of Service attacks. SYN Attack protection – Manage TCP Maximum half-open sockets
This value determines how many incomplete handshake requests the network will allow
at one time. This provides protection if SynAttackProtect is set to 1. 100 is the default value
on Windows XP Professional. SYN Attack protection – Manage TCP Maximum half-open retired sockets
This value indicates how many retransmitted SYN sessions are permitted. The Default
value is 80 for Windows XP Professional. Enable IPSec to protect Kerberos RSVP Traffic
When Kerberos authentication information is transferred between domain controllers, or
between domain controllers and member servers or workstations, it is not secured by default.
Even when IPSec is used to encrypt that traffic, the Kerberos information is considered
“exempt”. Set this value to 1 to ensure that all traffic, including Kerberos information is
protected by IPSec. Hide workstation from Network Browser listing
If the Computer Browser service is disabled, or if this computer is not part of a domain,
this setting has no effect. Otherwise, it will prevent the computer from announcing itself to
the browser services of other computers, and only act as a “listener” on domain browse lists.
WARNING: This setting will remove your computer from the list of available computers
in your domain in Network Neighborhood. This should already be done by disabling the
Computer Browser service, but this setting will perform the same function. Enable Safe DLL Search Mode
This setting modifies the way in which Windows locates driver files (.dlls). A value of 0
forces the operating system to search the current directory first; when set to 1, the system
searches the windows system directory first. Disable WebDAV basic authentication (SP 2 only)
The WebDAV (distributed authoring and versioning) service allows an XP client to
manage documents using the HTTP protocol. Since documents can be modified, locked and
deleted through this protocol, the server typically requires the client to authenticate, which is
also done through the HTTP protocol.
The HTTP client and server must negotiate an acceptable authentication protocol. Valid
options include Kerberos, NTLM and Basic authentication. Basic authentication is often the
easiest to implement, but it requires transmitting the username and password over the
network in clear text.
In order to prevent the WebDAV service from negotiating basic authentication, set this
option to a non-zero value. If the registry key does not exist (default value), WebDAV basic
authentication is disabled. Disable basic authentication over a clear channel (SP 2 only)
HTTP basic authentication transmits the user name and password over the network in
clear text. The only way to properly secure basic authentication would be to use a secure
channel (SSL, or HTTPS). With this setting enabled, basic authentication will only succeed
if the client and server are communicating over a secure channel.
By default, basic authentication is allowed over a clear channel. Setting this value to 1
requires the client and server to exchange basic authentication information over an encrypted
Enabling this setting may prevent access to some web sites. USB Block Storage Device Policy (SP2 only)
Most USB storage devices can be connected to a Windows workstation to provide extra
storage capacity, or to move files between work and home. However, corporate policy may
forbid moving sensitive files off of network storage and onto a removable device. The
“Storage Device Policy” helps control use of these devices.
When enabled, the USB Block Storage Device Policy causes any USB mass storage
devices to be mounted read-only, and files can not be saved to the device.
NOTE: At the time of this writing, this functionality was very limited, and applies only
to devices using the standard Microsoft USB driver. Custom USB drivers are not affected by
this policy. DTC Access (SP2 only)
The Distributed Access Coordinator (DTC) service allows transactions to be coordinated
and processed by multiple resources. The transactions may be all handled locally, or may be
distributed across multiple machines.
With Service Pack 2, Windows now blocks all external DTC operations by default.
However, additional registry settings are available should DTC transactions be required by an
individual workstation. For more information on these registry settings, see Part 7 of the
Changes to Functionality in Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2 document from
Microsoft at
4 Additional Security Protection
Many of the previous security related settings fell neatly into categories that were well
defined, easy to implement, and easy to find. Beyond that, there are other requirements that
do not fit into every mold – these are the things that make every computer unique. These
may present the greatest challenge to securing a computer because these are more open-ended
in nature. For lack of a better description, the pages that follow describe the realm that would
fall into the category “other”.
4.1 Available Services
Every piece of code that executes on a computer exists in a process. Many of these
processes begin as “Services”. You can view a list of processes by right-clicking “My
Computer”, and click “Manage”. Expand “Services and Applications” and click “Services”.
These services are scheduled to start either at boot time ,as  normal Automatic or Manual
startup, or disabled to not start at all.
The services listed below should be disabled to protect your computer against certain
vulnerabilities. These services may also restrict certain functionality that you are accustomed
to, but we have tried to maintain a reasonable level of functionality where possible.
Permissions on services listed here: Administrators: Full Control; System: Read,
Start, Stop, and Pause. Permissions on services should be set using the Security template
that accompanies the CIS Windows Scoring Tool.
4.1.1 Alerter
The alerter service is normally used to send messages between processes on one
computer “alerting” the status of certain functions to the user’s console, including the
execution of print jobs. It also works in conjunction with the Messenger service to send these
same messages between computers on a network.
The Alerter service is disabled by default with Windows XP Service Pack 2.
4.1.2 Automatic Updates
The Automatic Updates service was first published with Windows XP. It regularly
checks the Microsoft web site in the background, and initiates the download of any new
Critical Updates as they become available. It is designed to NOT use excessive network
bandwidth. This service does not install anything itself, it makes updates ready to install.
NOTE: The Automatic Updates service and the Background Intelligent Transfer Service
work together to help keep computers up to date with the latest critical patches.
Organizations which have a separate patch management strategy should disable these services
to prevent unmanaged system patching. Other organizations or individual users that do not
have another method of patching should leave these services enabled and make use of this
gift from Microsoft to keep patches up to date.
4.1.3 Background Intelligent Transfer Service (a.k.a. BITS)
The BITS service works in conjunction with the Automatic Updates service to download
Critical Updates from Microsoft’s Internet site, and make them available for installation. The
service runs in the background, and makes use of unused and available bandwidth.
4.1.4 Clipbook
The Clipbook service is used to share clipboard information between computers on a
network. In most cases, users don’t want to share that information with other computers.
4.1.5 Computer Browser
The Computer Browser (not to be confused with Internet browsers, such as Internet
Explorer or Netscape) keeps track of the computers on a network within a domain. It allows
users to “browse” through Network Neighborhood to find the shared resources they need
without knowing the exact name of that resource.
Unfortunately, it allows anyone to browse to those resources before checking any sort of
authentication or authorization.
Disabling this service will require users to know the resources they are looking for, by
name, and may result in an increased number of help desk calls.
4.1.6 Fax Service
The fax service is used for the unattended reception of incoming faxes. It is not required
for the sending, or manual reception of faxes. It does require that a computer be left running
all the time, and have the modem set to auto-answer.
Generally speaking, with the low cost of dedicated fax machines, the secure answer to
most faxing needs would be to have a dedicated fax machine to receive faxes, while still
using the computer to manually send faxes when appropriate.
4.1.7 FTP Publishing Service
The FTP Publishing Service is part of the Internet Information Server suite of Internet
applications. It is not installed by default. It is used for making files on your local machine
available to other users on your network or the Internet.
Generally speaking, workstations do not share files with other computers. This service
should be disabled, or removed. If it is going to be installed, it should be properly
maintained, which is a subject beyond the scope of this benchmark.
4.1.8 IIS Admin Service
Also part of the IIS suite of services, the IIS Admin Service manages the other IIS
services. If this service is not running, the other services that are part of the IIS suite will not
function either. Disable this service. If possible, this should be removed from workstations.
4.1.9 Indexing Service
This service indexes files on the system in an attempt to improve search performance.
However, the service may occasionally consume excessive resources when compared to its
4.1.10 Messenger
The Messenger service works in tandem with the Alerter service. It allows Alerter
services of multiple computers to send alerts to each other over a network. Most users can
live without the messenger and alerter services and still accomplish the tasks they need to do
in the course of a normal day.
On October 15, 2003, Microsoft released Security Bulletin 03-043. This bulletin is an
advisory of a vulnerability in the Messenger service that allows an attacker to execute
application code of his or her choice. Disable this service to prevent this, or as-yet unknown
similar vulnerabilities from affecting a system.
4.1.11 Net Logon
The Net Logon service establishes the NetLogon secure channel with a domain
controller. See above.
4.1.12 NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing
Microsoft has made one of the better collaboration tools that is available on the market
today, but at the same time they took that tool – NetMeeting – and tried to make it into a
remote control utility for help desk personnel to take control of your computer in time of
need. In a world of hacker attacks and buffer overflows, it seems like only a matter of time
before an exploit is discovered, or it is just abused. If you don’t have a dedicated help desk,
or your help desk doesn’t use NetMeeting Remote Desktop Sharing, disable this service. If
your organization requires this service, it should understand that there may be a risk involved.
4.1.13 Remote Desktop Help Session Manager
This service supports the Remote Assistance functionality. Disable the service to
prohibit the use of Remote Assistance.
4.1.14 Remote Registry Service
The Windows Registry is essentially a database of settings and configuration options that
affect almost every function of a Windows XP computer. It determines how everything
behaves at startup, shutdown, and everything in between. The purpose of the Remote
Registry Services is to expose that database to the rest of the network through a NetBIOS
As frightening as that sounds, this service is enabled by default on every Windows
computer deployed since the advent of Windows 95. A majority of remote administration
tools have been written to take advantage of the Remote Registry Service to perform
functions that would normally require a portion of their application to be installed locally.
Because of its widespread distribution, and its initial purpose, and the fact that it is still
only protected by a username and password, the Remote Registry Service is responsible for
opening the doors to uninvited guests as well as the remote management utilities it is used to
support. Disable this service to prevent remote access to the system registry.
WARNING: By disabling this service, you are cutting any ability for support personnel
or domain administrators to remotely manage your computer unless there is another
application already installed on your computer to allow those functions. Be wary that this
can break a large number of enterprise-wide applications.
4.1.15 Routing and Remote Access
The Routing and Remote Access service is normally used either to facilitate servers are
Remote Access Servers, or to allow computers from one network to interact with computers
on another.
RRAS is not fully implemented on Windows XP Professional like it is in the server
operating systems. Users generally don’t need RRAS on workstations. If this service can not
be disabled, it should be locked down as much as possible. More information is available at
4.1.16 Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)
Workstations are not normally used as SMTP mail servers. This service is installed as
part of the IIS suite of applications. It should be disabled or removed entirely.
4.1.17 Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) Service
The Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) has long been the accepted standard
for remote management through all network devices – routers, hubs, Unix, and Windows
alike. It was recently discovered that SNMP has been proliferating a dangerously exploitable
flaw for the past ten years or so. If you do not have a system actively using SNMP for remote
management, disable it or remove it from the system.
4.1.18 Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) Trap
Another part of the SNMP protocol is the SNMP Trap service. Just like its counterpart, it
should be disabled and/or removed.
4.1.19 Task Scheduler
The Task Scheduler service supports queuing batch programs for future execution. This
could include virus scans, backups, or other system maintenance functions. With Windows
XP, the task can run under alternate credentials, and does not necessarily have to run under
the local system account.
4.1.20 Telnet
The Telnet service is not often installed on workstations. It is used for remote
management of network devices, and offers a command-shell based form of network access
to a computer. This is all well and good, but the traffic transferred by Telnet is not protected
or encrypted in any way. If this is a requirement, take the time to look into a Secure Shell
(SSH) remote management solution to fulfill your needs in a more secure manner. It is well
worth the time and expense.
4.1.21 Terminal Services
Terminal services allow a remote graphical interface to the workstation. Similar to
pcAnywhere or Virtual Network Client (VNC) software packages, Terminal Services share
using the Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Normal use of the terminal service on a
workstation terminates the existing interactive logon session; however, if remote assistance is
enabled, any existing session can be shared between two computers.
4.1.22 Universal Plug and Play Device Host
Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) devices can be added to the network, and broadcast their
availability for management. UPnP should not be confused with the more common Plug and
Play (PnP) features useful for hardware management. UPnP finds devices on the network;
PnP finds devices physically installed into the computer. Few devices on the market
currently require UPnP, and this service should be disabled unless explicitly required.
4.1.23 World Wide Web Publishing Services
The grand-daddy of all exploitable services is Microsoft’s World Wide Web service. It is
the most often attacked web-server platform on the Internet today. As a result, it has had the
most bugs found, and the most flaws exploited. This server is not installed by default, but
should not exist on your average workstation. If it is not going to be properly maintained by
personnel with an education in IIS security, it should be disabled or removed.
4.2 User Rights
In conjunction with many of the privileged groups in Windows XP, there are a number of
individual rights that can be assigned to users or groups to grant them abilities that would be
beyond the reach of normal users. Not all of these rights apply to Windows XP Professional,
but many do.
4.2.1 Access this computer from the network
The ability to access a computer from the network is a user right that can be granted or
revoked on any machine as appropriate. If this list is left empty, no user accounts can be used
to gain access to the resources of this computer from the network.
4.2.2 Act as part of the operating system
The operating system works in a special security context called “LocalSystem”. This
security context has the ability to do things that normal users and administrative users can
not. Granting this user right to users or groups will give them the ability to exceed normal
privilege, regardless of their group membership.
4.2.3 Add workstations to domain
This user right only applies to domain controllers, and has no effect on Windows XP
4.2.4 Adjust memory quotas for a process
This policy setting defines the accounts which can adjust the maximum amount of
memory assigned to a process.
4.2.5 Allow logon through terminal services
If terminal services are enabled, use this setting to explicitly control which users are
allowed to remotely access the workstation.
4.2.6 Back up files and directories
This user right grants a user or group the ability to circumvent normal Windows file
security for the purposes of backing up files and folders. It should be restricted when
4.2.7 Bypass traverse checking
The Bypassing Traverse Checking user right allows access to files or folders regardless
of the user’s permissions to the parent folder. In other words, prevents the inheritance of
permissions. Unfortunately, it is necessary to grant this right to users to allow normal
operation of applications on a workstation.
4.2.8 Change the system time
Changing the system time on Windows XP computers is especially important to restrict
in a domain environment because of the role that time synchronization plays in Kerberos
authentication. This should not be configurable to anyone except Administrators.
4.2.9 Create a pagefile
In order to protect the potentially sensitive information that can be stored in a pagefile,
the creation of pagefiles should be restricted to Administrators.
4.2.10 Create a token object
Allows the creation of a security access token. This right should never be given to any
4.2.11 Create permanent shared objects
The right to create permanent shared objects should only be used by applications in the
Windows kernel. The kernel already has the right to create such objects, so no users should
ever be granted this right.
4.2.12 Debug Programs
Any user can debug his or her programs, but this right allows a user to debug other
processes on a machine. Users should not be granted this right except in an isolated
development environment where possible.
Microsoft is soon to release new hot patching application technology that will require this
right to apply patches. It promises fewer reboots for patches that need to be applied. In this
light, Administrators still need this right to do their jobs. Hopefully, this will not be a
permanent requirement, and can be eliminated in the future.
4.2.13 Deny access to this computer from the network
The “Deny Access” user rights always supercede the “Allow Access” user rights, so that
if a user is listed under both user rights, that user will be denied access. If there are no users
who should be allowed access to a computer from the network, the Everyone group should be
listed in the “Deny Access to this computer from the network” user right.
4.2.14 Deny logon as a batch job
Just like the other “Deny…” user rights, a user listed here will be denied access to logon
as a batch job, even if he has been explicitly granted that right.
4.2.15 Deny logon as a service
Just like the other “Deny…” user rights, a user listed here will be denied access to logon
as a service, even if he has been explicitly granted that right.
4.2.16 Deny logon locally
Just like the other “Deny…” user rights, a user listed here will be denied access to logon
to the console, even if he has been explicitly granted that right.
4.2.17 Deny logon through Terminal Service
Similar to the other “Deny…” rights, groups and accounts in this list will not be able to
connect to the workstation using terminal services.
4.2.18 Enable computer and user accounts to be trusted for delegation
This user right only applies to Domain Controllers. It has no effect on Windows XP
4.2.19 Force shutdown from a remote system
This grants a user the right to shut down a computer from the network. It should only be
granted to Administrators, and may be restricted to no users or groups at all.
4.2.20 Generate security audits
This user right allows a user or process to generate events to be added to the Windows
Security Event Log.
4.2.21 Increase scheduling priority
The scheduling priority is one of the settings that can be altered as needed for
performance tuning, but normal users should not have the ability to change the priority of
other processes.
4.2.22 Load and unload device drivers
Device drivers execute as highly privileged applications on a Windows computer because
they directly interface the hardware with the operating system. These drivers can be the
source of “Trojan Horse” applications, and should be restricted where possible. This setting
actually applies to the installation of Plug and Play device drivers.
4.2.23 Lock pages in memory
The right to lock pages in memory is the ability to force data in physical memory to
remain in physical memory, and not be paged to disk, which can seriously degrade system
performance. This user right is obsolete, and should remain empty.
4.2.24 Log on as a batch job
The right to log on as a batch job means that the listed user has the ability to log on using
the batch queue facility. By default, Administrators have this right, but very rarely use it.
Remove all users and groups from this right.
4.2.25 Log on as a service
Most applications that do not directly interact with the logged on user (and many that do)
actually operate as a service. These services almost always execute under the LocalSystem
security credentials. If a service needs to be executed in a user context, that user would have
to be listed here.
4.2.26 Log on locally
Anyone who logs on locally to a computer must be listed here, either by individual user
names, or by the “users” group.
4.2.27 Manage auditing and security log
The ability to manage the security event log is the equivalent to the ability for an intruder
to cover his tracks and destroy evidence of what has been done to a computer system. This
user right should be highly restricted, possibly even to only a subset of system administrators.
4.2.28 Modify firmware environment values
Individual users have the ability to change their own environment variables, but only
Administrators and accounts that hold this right can change the environment variables of
other users on a system.
4.2.29 Perform volume maintenance tasks
The most common volume maintenance tasks are “defrag” and “chkdsk”. In addition to
the potential performance impact, this right could also allow low-level access to files
bypassing standard permission constraints.
4.2.30 Profile single process
This user right grants the ability for one user to monitor the performance of another user
or non-system process.
4.2.31 Profile system performance
The Profile system performance user right allows a user or group of users to monitor
system performance, including system processes.
4.2.32 Remove computer from docking station
This user right is just what you’d expect.
4.2.33 Replace a process level token
The ability to replace a process level token essentially means that a process can change
the authentication authority of its own child-processes.
4.2.34 Restore files and directories
In conjunction with the “Backup files and directories” user right, this can be very
dangerous if a user backs up certain security related information, alters it, and restores it back
to the same place. It should be restricted to Administrators.
4.2.35 Shut down the system
Users granted this right have the ability to shut down the computer. This only takes
effect if users are required to log on to shut down a system.
4.2.36 Synchronize directory service data
This user right has no effect on Windows XP Professional.
4.2.37 Take ownership of file or other objects
A user who “owns” a file has greater authority over that file than even the permissions
would suggest. The right to take ownership of a file is equivalent to the ability to
compromise an entire file system.
4.3 Other System Requirements
4.3.1 Ensure all disk volumes are using the NTFS file system
Warning: Do not do this if your system is a dual-boot system with Windows 95/98/Me.
The alternate operating system will cease to function, and can not be recovered.
Since the early days of DOS, files have been stored on floppy disks. These disks break
up data into blocks, and those blocks are written to similar blocks on a physical disk. The
“map” describing which blocks are holding which files is stored on part of the disk called the
“File Allocation Table” or FAT. When DOS moved to Hard Disks, the same FAT style of
disk allocation was used. FAT filesystems had some good points – most of all, it’s pretty
simple. Any system could read the disks, and if there was a problem, the data could have
been restored. When disks began to grow beyond the size of FAT’s capabilities, it was
expanded to FAT32, allowing for larger disks. However, FAT and FAT32 do not offer any
NTFS interoperability has come a long way since its initial introduction. It can be
bypassed if the system can be rebooted, but it is the ONLY way that any file-level security
can be enforced while system is operating.
To determine if a disk volume is NTFS, double click “My Computer” on the desktop.
Right-click the C drive (C:) and click Properties. The properties pane for that disk will
describe the “File System” as either FAT or NTFS.
In order to make a FAT disk into an NTFS disk, open a Command Prompt (Click Start -
> Programs -> Accessories -> Command Prompt) and type “Convert C: /fs:ntfs”. The system
will probably be required to restart to perform this task. Take the same action with the D:
drive and any others that show up as FAT disks.
Once the disks have been converted to the NTFS file system, default security must be
applied to the boot drive (C:). Open a command prompt (click Start, Programs, Accessories,
and Command Prompt) and type the following command for workstations:
“secedit /configure /db default.sdb /cfg %windir%\inf\defltwk.inf /areas filestore”
or the following command for servers:
“secedit /configure /db default.sdb /cfg %windir%\inf\defltsv.inf /areas filestore”
and press enter. The /db parameter is required, even though the database does not exist until
after the command is run. Type “secedit /?” for more information on this command.
Other applications will have the ability to use these security features. Most users never
need to update these file permissions, while system administrators of all levels will need to do
so from time to time. In fact, it is possible to cripple a system by incorrectly modifying that
security. It is important to keep in mind that this is still a step up from a FAT filesystem with
NO security.
4.3.2 NetBIOS on all network devices
By default, the XP workstation will use both NetBIOS and DNS transports in attempting
to locate shared resources such as files and printers. However, Windows 2000 introduced the
ability to eliminate NetBIOS and WINS for locating resources, in favor of a direct TCP
connection through DNS.
Disabling NetBIOS reduces the services running on the workstation. The NetBIOS name
service runs on TCP and UDP port 137, the datagram service listens on UDP port 138 and the
session service listens on TCP port 139. All SMB resource sharing applications will use TCP
and UDP port 445, and ports 137, 138 and 139 can be firewalled.
NetBIOS can only effectively be disabled if all shared resources on the client network run
on Windows 2000 or later.
See Microsoft Knowledge Base article 299977 for additional items to consider when
disabling NetBIOS. Also see Knowledge Base article 315267 for information on how to
disable NetBIOS on Windows XP.
Warning: Disabling NetBIOS is NOT supported by Microsoft and can result in loss of
functionality and unstable/unpredictable system behavior. Proper testing should be
conducted on non-production systems to determine the impact of disabling NetBIOS on
your systems/networks.
4.3.3 Enable the Windows Firewall on all network devices.
In general, the Windows Firewall is available only when you are connected directly to the
Internet, but not for Local Area Network (LAN) connections. The firewall is also enabled on
dial-up internet connections and shared internet connections.
When enabled, the Windows Firewall blocks inbound traffic to your workstation unless a
port is explicitly opened. The Windows Firewall typically is not necessary on internal
networks where a firewall already exists between the client and the untrusted network. The
Windows Firewall also supports activity logging.
For more information about the Windows Firewall on Windows XP, see Microsoft
Knowledge Base Article 320855.
4.3.4 Restricted Groups
With Restricted Groups enabled, the operating system will evaluate local group
membership on boot and when group policy refreshes. Members in the “Restricted Groups”
policy are compared against the actual, current group membership. If the accounts listed in
the policy are not in the group, they are added. Conversely, if an account is in the group but
not in the policy, it is removed. Remote Desktop Users
Use this policy to explicitly control which users are allowed to use the remote desktop
service (Terminal Services).
4.4 File and Registry Permissions
Once a volume has been converted to NTFS, and once the basic file security settings have
been applied, additional settings should be applied. Most known operating system and
application exploits exist because of multiple factors. First, there is an application that has a
flaw that opens a low-privileged door into an operating system. And second, that open door
allows a knowledgeable intruder to elevate his privilege and take over the system. The
permissions listed below will help to make an operating system “resistant” to privilege
elevation, even to potential software vulnerabilities that have not yet been discovered.
WARNING: It is possible that the permissions applied here can take away some sort of
application functionality that you are accustomed to. If that happens and you need to back off
to a previously known state, use the same instructions that were used to apply the basic
permissions to a freshly converted NTFS file system to “undo” most of the settings you see
4.4.1 File Permissions
* Unless stated otherwise, Administrators or System Full Control is full control for the
designated folder and all contents. Creator Owner Full Control is for subfolders and
files only. Users permissions are for current folder, subfolders, and files. Files listed
with an “a.k.a.” may be listed on “%SystemDrive%” or on “C:\”, so both entries are
included in the accompanying template. %SystemRoot%\system32\at.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\attrib.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\cacls.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\debug.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\drwatson.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\drwtsn32.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\edlin.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators, INTERACTIVE %SystemRoot%\system32\eventcreate.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\eventtriggers.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\ftp.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators, INTERACTIVE %SystemRoot%\system32\net.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators, INTERACTIVE %SystemRoot%\system32\net1.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators, INTERACTIVE %SystemRoot%\system32\netsh.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\rcp.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\reg.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\regedit.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\regedt32.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\regsvr32.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\rexec.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\rsh.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\runas.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators, INTERACTIVE %SystemRoot%\system32\sc.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\subst.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators %SystemRoot%\system32\telnet.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators,
INTERACTIVE %SystemRoot%\system32\tftp.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators, INTERACTIVE %SystemRoot%\system32\tlntsvr.exe – SYSTEM, Administrators
5 Administrative Templates
5.1 System
5.1.1 Remote Procedure Call
The Remote Procedure Call (RPC) security model has been enhanced for Windows XP
service pack 2. RPC is used to publish services on non-standard TCP ports. A client locates
services by connecting to the RPC endpoint mapper (which runs on a standard port) and
querying the server for a specific service.
Service pack 2 allows the administrator to require authentication to connect to the
endpoint mapper. Additionally, the administrator can specify global authentication
requirements which must be met before connecting to any RPC service.
Important: The NetSchedule legacy interface uses RPC to communicate with the
Scheduler service This interface is most commonly used by AT.EXE or other legacy
scheduling applications, and does not support authentication. AT.EXE will no longer work
when RPC authentication is required through policy. RPC Enpoint Mapper Client Authentication (SP2 only)
By default in Service Pack 2, the RPC endpoint mapper can not be accessed by
anonymous clients. It may be necessary to set this to “disabled” for RPC applications
which do not support authentication. Restrictions for Unauthenticated RPC clients (SP2 only)
By default in Service Pack 2, all RPC services require authentication in order to
connect, and all anonymous calls are rejected. Authentication can be disabled through
Some applications could be written to explicitly invoke RPC callbacks without
authentication, and bypass these new restrictions (the
RPC_IF_ALLOW_CALLBACKS_WITH_NO_AUTH flag). This is a new option, and
does not apply to legacy applications. By default, applications registered this way will
bypass authentication even when “Restrictions for Unauthenticated RPC clients” is enabled.
However the administrator may choose to require even these services to be authenticated
using the setting “Authenticated without exceptions.”
5.2 Network
5.2.1 Network Connections Windows Firewall
Windows XP Service Pack 2 contains significant improvements to the Windows
Firewall. The firewall supports remote management, and a wide array of configuration
options through group policy.
The Windows Firewall blocks inbound traffic only. Except for ICMP traffic, no
configuration or filter options are provided for controlling outbound packets.
IPv6 support is included in the Windows Firewall by default.
Note that the Windows Firewall may defeat the remote operation of many
Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-ins, including Computer Management,
Disk Management, Event Viewer, Resultant Set of Policy, Services, and many others.
For more information, see Microsoft Knowledgebase Article 840634,;en-us;840634.
WARNING: Firewall settings, even more than most of the other security settings in this
guide, must be tailored to your site. Testing is critical before deploying a firewall
configuration for your site. Improper firewall settings could block critical applications such
as anti-virus or desktop management agents. In some instances, improper firewall settings
could even block Active Directory and group policy management of the machine, leaving no
easy way to undo changes. Domain Profile
The firewall supports two separate profiles. The domain profile applies only to
computers which are joined to a domain, and has no effect on workgroup machines.
When a domain computer is connected to the corporate network, typically a less strict
policy can be applied. Protect all network connections (SP2 only)
By default, all network interfaces are protected by the Windows Firewall
service. If this setting is disabled, the setting specified in the administrative
template Network\Network Connections\Prohibit use of Internet Connection
Firewall” takes effect. Do not allow exceptions (SP2 only)
The firewall policy gives the administrator fine-grained control over allowed
and prohibited network traffic. However, when “Do not allow exceptions” is
enabled, the firewall blocks all traffic, and ignores exceptions defined below. Allow local program exceptions
When a program is defined as an exception, it can receive unsolicited network
traffic on any port it requests the firewall to open. Windows supports two program
exception lists: one defined in group policy, and another defined locally through the
machine’s control panel.
Enabling this setting allows the system administrator to specify programs which
may receive incoming network traffic, and bypass Windows Firewall restrictions. Allow remote administration exception
In a corporate environment, various systems may be used to query and manage
workstations. These systems might remotely connect to the registry to read patch
information, connect to the file system to retrieve logs, or use Windows
Management Instrumentation (WMI) to read various system parameters.
When remote administration is enabled, the Windows Firewall service opens
TCP ports 135 and 445. It also allows SVCHOST.EXE and LSASS.EXE to receive
incoming traffic on dynamic ports.
This setting can be opened to all hosts, to the local subnet, or to a specific IP
address range. Allow file and printer sharing exception (SP2 only)
In order for a workstation to share files or locally connected printers, this setting
must be enabled. This does not need to be enabled for the client to connect to files
on another machine, or to access a remote printer.
When enabled, this setting allows inbound traffic on UDP ports 137 and 138,
and TCP ports 139 and 445. Allow ICMP exceptions (SP2 only)
Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) traffic is used to respond to nontransient
network problems. ICMP traffic differs from TCP and UDP traffic, and is
used primarily to manage the network itself, and not to send application data.
However, malicious applications have been known to use ICMP traffic as a data
The windows firewall provides granular control over exactly which ICMP
messages are accepted and sent. For more information on specific ICMP messages,
refer to RFC 792, “Internet Control Message Protocol.” Allow Remote Desktop exception (SP2 only)
The remote desktop protocol gives a remote administrator full access to the
workstation’s graphical interface. It can be through a separate session, or they can
share the session with a logged on user. This feature is often useful for
troubleshooting, and is used by the Remote Assistance service.
When Remote Desktop is allowed, the Windows Firewall allows inbound
connections on port 3389. Like other network settings, this can be granted all users,
to the local subnet, or to a specific IP subnet. Allow UPnP framework exception (SP2 only)
When Universal Plug-n-Play (UPnP) is enabled, the computer can receive
unsolicited PnP messages. By enabling this policy, you open TCP port 2869 and
UDP port 1900 on the Windows firewall. Prohibit notifications
Typically, when an application attempts to open up a network port to listen for
unsolicited traffic, the user is notified, and given the option of whether or not to
allow this behavior. If this option is disabled through policy, the display is
prohibited and the connection is blocked.
If this policy is not configured, an administrator can access the Windows
Firewall through the control panel and enable this notification. Allow logging (SP2 only)
When logging is enabled, the Windows firewall writes information about
network connection to a log file. The size of the file is controlled by policy. You
have the option of logging all connection information, or just information about
dropped connections. Prohibit unicast response to multicast or broadcast (SP2 only)
Often traffic can be sent to a broadcast address. Hosts may choose to respond to
broadcast traffic; if so, a single incoming broadcast packet can generate a large
number of unicast reply packets to the sender. This can result in a denial-of-service
Configure this setting to disable responses to multicast or broadcast packets.
If muticast networking is supported in your environment, this setting should be
enabled. Define port exceptions (SP2 only)
You may choose to open specific ports for your entire domain environment.
For example, your anti-virus or patch management agents may listen for incoming
connections on a specific port. If so, you can configure all clients to leave this port
open through group policy by defining it as a port exception. Allow local port exceptions (SP2 only)
Port exceptions can also be made on a per-machine basis. If this setting is
enabled, an administrator can open specific ports (e.g., HTTP on port 80) for
individual specific machines through the Windows Firewall settings in the control
panel. Standard Profile
The Windows Firewall also uses a “Standard” profile, which offers the same settings as
the Domain profile. However, the standard profile is applied to domain workstations when
a domain controller is not available. This becomes particularly useful for corporate laptops,
and allows the administrator to enforce a stricter security policy when the device is
connected to a non-secured network.
Computers that are members of a workgroup (i.e., not joined to a domain) always use
the Standard profile.
Warning: The “Standard Profile” firewall settings defined in this guide assumes that the
computer belongs to a domain. These settings are probably not appropriate for a small
office, home office or workgroup machine. They also may not be appropriate for large
corporations with machines that regularly move between domains. Rather, they are
designed to protect a device such as a mobile laptop that moves off the trusted corporate
network and onto an untrusted public network. The standard profile outlined in this policy
will protect the computer when it is on the untrusted network.
5.3 Windows Components
5.3.1 Security Center Turn on Security Center (Domain PCs only) (SP2 only)
The Security Center is useful for displaying significant alerts to the user. By default,
the security center is enabled, and will alter the user when the computer has a degraded
security posture. The Security Center monitors three critical items:
 Anti-virus software is running, and signatures are up-to-date. This feature can be
disabled by setting the registry key HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Security
Center\AntiVirusDisableNotify to 1.
 The windows firewall is running. This feature can be disabled by setting the
registry key HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Security Center\FirewallDisableNotify
to 1.
 The Windows Update Service is running, and all current updates have been applied.
This feature can be disabled by setting the registry key
HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Security Center\UpdatesDisableNotify to 1.


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