Feeds

Windows security begins at the desktop

Beware malware and careless users

3 Big data security analytics techniques

The risks of desktop computing are now well known. They stem from the growth in financially motivated malware, which aims to steal from the user or from the user's employer.

Malware does this through viruses, worms and Trojans carried by emails, infected websites and so on. However, the tools to combat such attacks are now mature and malware is not a very profitable route into companies savvy enough to have deployed modern security systems and to keep their systems patched and updated.

Assume the worst

An alternative method is to hoodwink users into providing information, in effect working round the technological barriers.

It exploits the assumption made by many corporations that behind the firewall, the actions of employees are benign, or at least unlikely to be malicious. That is an unwise assumption.

Malicious intent can't always be discounted

Apart from the disgruntled employee, there is also the one who inadvertently inserts an infected USB memory device, perhaps aiming to capture passwords, into a PC and spreads the contagion to others on the network, compromising the entire company. Even here, malicious intent can't always be discounted.

Locking down the desktop is essential so that unencrypted USB devices – which includes smartphones – cannot be read.

Windows offers plenty of other ways in the local and group policy editors to prohibit users from performing potentially dangerous tasks such as installing software.

Strong and very long

Passwords are the first line of defence against outsiders. They are not the best way of securing the desktop, so they need to be strong, changed regularly but not too frequently, unique and at least eight characters long.

Note that passwords don't have to be so obscure that the user has to write them down. They just need to be not easily susceptible to automated dictionary hacks. Think of them as pass phrases rather than words.

You should consider implementing a form of two-factor authentication. Devices can include tokens or smart cards, or even users' mobile phones. There are plenty of third-party products out there to supplement Windows' in-built security.

Hard disks should be encrypted using Windows 7's BitLocker technology, which protects against the operating system being bypassed and data being read directly off the drive.

BitLocker also does integrity checking of early boot components to help ensure that the system has not been tampered with. If the machine is TPM 1.2-compliant, that is all you need to do. A USB key can store the BitLocker key on machines that are not TPM-compliant.

Patches and other updates need to be centrally managed and pushed out regularly to users.

For machines that are members of a domain, most of the above can be enforced fairly simply using the group policy editor.

USB ports can be locked down using an administrative template that contains a group policy template, although you should also create a local security policy which applies when the machine is off the network.

Digging deep

Get hold of Microsoft SysInternals too. They are powerful, invaluable tools for digging around in desktop systems, especially for security purposes.

Finally, you need to document your desktop security policies and who is responsible for what. Easy to forget perhaps, but you also need to inform users about what the policies are, why they are is there and how to comply with them.

Then they can mostly manage their own passwords and system security, lifting the burden from IT.

Maintaining security is a huge and never-ending task so this has necessarily been a very short tour of the highlights. Remember that everything is easier with user buy-in. ®

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
Microsoft lobs pre-release Windows Phone 8.1 at devs who dare
App makers can load it before anyone else, but if they do they're stuck with it
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Oh no, Joe: WinPhone users already griping over 8.1 mega-update
Hang on. Which bit of Developer Preview don't you understand?
Internet-of-stuff startup dumps NoSQL for ... SQL?
NoSQL taste great at first but lacks proper nutrients, says startup cloud whiz
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
Red Hat to ship RHEL 7 release candidate with a taste of container tech
Grab 'near-final' version of next Enterprise Linux next week
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.