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Implementing Web security with IIS

This tip was originally posted on our sister site, searchWebManagement.

IIS allows you to control access to your Web site, helping you to safeguard your software and data. When IIS is installed, it creates two user accounts,

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assigns them specific user rights, and places them in specific user groups. These two accounts are IUSR_computername and IWAM_computername. The IUSR_computername account is used by IIS to grant anonymous access to Web resources. IWAM_computername is the account used by Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) and various IIS entities to provide programmatic and transactional functions.

IIS can work on both NTFS and FAT but the NTFS file system is better because:

  • Unlike FAT, NTFS is not visible to DOS. This makes your resources more secure from attacks using DOS commands.
  • NTFS allows you to configure the Access Control List (ACL) to grant or deny various forms of access to user and group accounts.
  • The NTFS file system is more efficient with hard drive space.

You can use the Guest account to allow anonymous access to your web sites. You use User Manager to set basic or advanced user rights. You can control which users have read only access and which users have read and write access. This allows you to safeguard your data from unauthorized users. You should make sure that passwords are changed regularly and are not easily guessed. Ideally a password should have numbers, letters and at least one special character so that it is not easily broken. You can disable users' accounts in User Manager if you wish to lock them out of the system.

You can also set up three methods of user authentication: Anonymous Access, Basic Authentication, and NT Challenge/response.

Basic authentication transmits the user name and password over the wire with Base64 encoding.

Windows NT Challenge/Response authentication uses Windows NT user accounts directly, and does not transmit logon information in clear text, such as the user name and password, over the network. This is very important if you want to safeguard the user names and passwords of your clients. Also, because this type of authentication uses individual user accounts, you can have a great deal of flexibility over the access level of those clients.

You can also control access by users' IP addresses. IIS allows you to either permit or deny access to specific IP addresses, groups of computers, or whole domains.


This was first published in June 2001

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