I am sick and tired of small business IT professionals complaining that Microsoft needs to provide them tools for automating security in a workgroup -- and I am sick and tired of hearing consultants respond, "Move to a domain and use Group Policy." Both parties need to do their research. Microsoft consultants hear this: Many small businesses can not and will not spend the money to purchase a Windows server license and more hardware so they can create a domain just because you say so. They need solutions for their collection of current computers. Small business owners listen up: Native Microsoft tools already exist to automate security in a workgroup environment.
In a workgroup environment, you may use security templates, Local Group Policy, the Security Configuration and Analysis tool and the secedit command to automate security for a single computer or many computers. This checklist explains how to use the Security Templates and Security Configuration and Analysis snap-ins to automate security configuration and refresh one computer at a time. The next checklist will provide secedit steps to help you automate security for multiple Windows systems. (These tools are available for Windows 2000, Windows XP Professional and Windows Server 2003.)
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|Checklist: Automate security administration for standalone computers|
|Step 1: Load the Security Templates snap-in in a Microsoft Management Console (MMC)|
|To open the MMC, click the Start button, then Run, enter MMC and click OK. Next, from the File menu, select "Add/Remove snap-in", then click Add and select Security Templates|
|from the list. Click Add, then Close and then click OK to open the snap-in in the MMC.|
|Step 2: Study security settings to understand what they can do|
|The Security Templates snap-in provides a number of templates, each with its own security settings. Each template includes security setting configuration details, including|
|password length, disabled services, event log management and set security for files and registry keys. Spend some time reviewing these options. To understand their meanings,|
|download Microsoft's Threats and Countermeasures, which talks about settings in the Windows server/domain arena. Most of the same settings are available for configuring|
|security on a standalone computer.|
|Step 3: Determine which settings should be enabled to fulfill your small business security policy|
|There are many security templates, each with different security settings. Which one is right for you? There is no easy answer. Security should be managed, but the correct choices for|
|one company are not necessarily the correct choices for another. The templates are only meant as samples. You must determine what is best for your organization and create|
|a template that fulfills that policy.|
|Step 4: Create your own custom security template and back it up|
|Once you know the level of security you wish to apply, create your own template and make sure the settings reflect your decisions. To create a template, go to the Security Templates|
|console you created, right click one of the existing templates and select "Save as". Then enter a name for your template and click "Save". It will be saved to the|
|<system root >\security\templates folder by default. Your template should appear in the console. Open the template and change the settings to those desired. Changing settings|
|does not apply the settings. You must complete step 5 and then 6 below in order to do so. To backup your template, save it again after configuring it, copy the file to a CD-ROM or|
|floppy disk and store in a safe place.|
|Step 5: Load the Security Configuration and Analysis snap-in|
|Using the MMC console you created for Security Templates, from the File menu, add the Security Configuration and Analysis snap-in. Use this tool to apply a Security Template.|
|Step 6: Apply your security template to configure security for the computer|
|Right click the Security Configuration and Analysis node and select Open Database. Enter a name for the database and then click OK. Select your security template and then click Open.|
|This step adds your template to the database. The computer's security configuration is not changed by this step.|
|Right click on Security Configuration and Analysis and select "Configure computer now". The settings in the Security Template will be applied to the computer.|
|You can copy your template to another computer and use step 5 and 6 to load and apply the template. Make sure you use a template created on Windows XP to update Windows XP,|
|and one created on Windows 2000 to update Windows 2000, and so on. You can also use Security Configuration and Analysis to determine if security settings have been changed.|
|To do so, use the "analyze" command instead of the "configure" step. To automatically apply security, you'll need to use the secedit command -- the topic of our next checklist.|
Windows Security Checklists offer you step-by-step advice for planning, setting up and hardening your Windows security infrastructure.
E-mail the editor to suggest additional checklist topics.
More checklists by Roberta Bragg
- Lock down PCs, workgroups and AD domains
- How to configure the audit policy
- Windows services you should disable today
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Go back to Checklists Roberta Bragg is author of "Hardening Windows systems" and a SearchWindowsSecurity.com resident expert. She is an MCSE, CISSP and Microsoft MVP, and a well-known information systems security consultant, columnist and speaker.