A SearchWindowsSecurity.com reader recently asked: How can we prevent junior administrators from granting themselves permissions to certain restricted documents?
The classic "who will watch the watcher" question. There is not necessarily a simple answer here. I would first state that you have to be mindful of who you are making administrators in a Windows network. By definition, these are the most powerful users of a system. If you can't trust them with the data, then I really have to question why they are administrators in the first place. Additionally, you really have to be careful trying to address non-technical problems with technical solutions. Again, if you can't trust your administrators, they shouldn't be administrators.
A better option that won't prevent someone from making the change, but will inform you if a change is made, is to implement auditing on the directories and files in question. In conjunction with third party security management tools such as NetIQ Security Manager, Tripwire or McAfee Host Intrusion Prevention this will allow you to proactively monitor and generate alerts of someone attempts to change the permissions on the files in question. While this won't prevent such changes, if the alerts are configured to page your security administrators, it will certainly limit the impact, in addition to letting you know exactly who made the changes (and thus needs to be dismissed).
This was first published in February 2007