Microsoft Environment Hardening
When you have a Windows Server or a Windows desktop, making sure that it is set up properly is the only way to know that it is keeping your information and systems safe. While there are some basic safety features enabled out of the box, the default settings aren’t super secure and are known to hackers. Configuring the server to be more secure is the only way to be sure it is as safe as possible. Since configuring a Windows Server is so confusing and time-consuming, it is best to leave that responsibility up to your local Los Angeles-based Microsoft Environment Hardening experts. Let the experienced professionals here at Be Structured Technology Group help you. That way, you do not configure something the wrong way and leave your business exposed to cyberattackers.
Microsoft Environment Hardening Basics
In order to get the best visual of server hardening, think of your server as a box. If that box is cardboard, attackers could readily access what is inside. They can get the box wet, slice through the box, or even smash the box to get what is inside. Now, picture that same box made out of Kevlar. It goes from being permeable to impermeable just by hardening the box. The contents do not matter in terms of what the box is made of. What matters is that outer shell. Kevlar is going to be far more protective of the box’s contents than the cardboard could have ever been. Your protection threshold goes from something that nearly any attack would infiltrate to something that is parallel to bulletproof. That is what you are trying to do with your server.
When put in terms of your server, your way of hardening the server is making sure that it is configured properly to keep it as safe as possible. When you get your server, it is a little stronger than cardboard, but not much. It takes you putting all of the pieces together in the right order and enabling or disabling the right aspects of your server to turn it into the Kevlar box you want around the systems and data for your business. That is where turning to a Los Angeles Microsoft Security Consulting company can work to your advantage.
Benefits of Microsoft Environment Hardening
To any business owner that is unfamiliar with the process of environment hardening, it is imperative that you understand the process and its benefits. When you get a Windows Server, you are getting a device that is quite secure in its own right. However, that does not mean that it is totally secure. In order to ensure that you have as much security as possible for your device, you need to go through and configure the settings on that server properly. If you do not take the time to change your settings, you are leaving holes in your server that cyberattackers are aware of and could exploit.
There are several things that can be done to harden, or increase the protection of your Windows Server. If you recently went through and got a new Windows Server, you likely have Windows Server 2019. Each new deployment or update of the server increases the security that the server can provide, helping you to keep your information safe and out of the hands of cyberattackers. The best way to ensure that your servers are as secure as possible is by making sure to follow the guidelines of the CIS, or Center for Internet Security, and of the DISA, or the Defense Information System Agency. The base guidelines are lists of the controls you apply to ensure you have the security you need. Each lists the controls to step up certain aspects of security, such as recommending what should be enabled or disabled or recommending a specific configuration if you find yourself or your business facing specific threats.
It is vital that you only apply what you need to keep your specific server protected, and not try to implement all protections. The best way to keep your server safe is by having it set to protect what types of threats you face. By having everything enabled, you could risk issues with compatibility, or you could have such a wide scope that your server misses more targeted and focused attacks. A base guideline is not going to provide you with information that would tell you if it is not compatible with other settings, or if changing a setting could alter how your server performs. You will have to find out the hard way, unfortunately. That is why it is imperative that you work with an experienced Microsoft Environment Hardening company like Los Angeles based Be Structured Technology Group when setting up your server. We know what works and what doesn’t and can spare you the downtime.
What Does Microsoft Environment Hardening Do?
The goal of hardening your server is to help identify and reduce the likelihood of a vulnerability where a hacker could reach your data. The best way to avoid that is to harden, or secure, your server so that vulnerability no longer exists. This reduces your risks of having any data or system compromised, plus it gives you something proactive you can do to make sure your data never enters the wrong hands.
This is a basic checklist of many things that go into setting up your Microsoft Windows Server to be configured in a way that keeps your data safe. You will see as this list goes on, how exhausting and confusing this process can be. Avoid the headache and turn to your favorite Los Angeles MSSP – Be Structured.
Part One – Securing Your Organization
- Start a record of the baseline configuration that each server has, defining the exact process to make alterations to that server. This is called a build document.
- Make sure to test each change repeatedly so that you can be sure it will not lead to any hardware or software issue, before making any change live.
- Run risk assessments regularly so that you can update plans for your risk management options. Create a list of the servers that prioritizes which need the most attention and focus if something goes wrong.
- Make sure all of your servers stay at identical patch levels.
- Implement Microsoft Local Administrator Policy Service (LAPS) across the domain.
Part Two – Prepare the Windows Server
- Make sure all new machines are kept away from any harmful traffic on your network until you have an operating system installed and it has gone through the hardening process. Make sure any server that is in a DMZ network is also hardened.
- Make sure any administrative logons that are for your recovery console are disabled.
- Configure your preferred boot order, also preventing any type of unauthorized boot from a different type of media or device.
Part Three – Installing the Windows Server
- Watch to make sure no shutdown occurs during the installation process.
- Go to the Security Configuration Wizard upon startup and create your configuration that is based on whatever specific role you need.
- Patch and fix any files or packs that did not install completely or need to update after the basic installation. We use Datto RMM, our remote management and monitoring tool, for this.
- Make sure to turn on the notification settings that alert you when a new patch is available. You should analyze each new patch, test it for compatibility, then apply it to your server.
Part Four – Hardening User Accounts
- Create passwords that are strong enough to withstand outsiders. The password should tie to a specific privileged account, not have any dictionary word in it, be a minimum of 15 characters long, and include special characters, numbers, letters, and invisible characters all through the password.
- Make sure every 60-90 days, all passwords are changed to be totally unique.
- Set up and configure the lockout policy in the event that someone tries to get into your server.
- Disable logging into your secure server from any existing or newly created Microsoft account.
- Make sure guest accounts are disabled.
- Change administrator usernames from their defaults.
- Create group policies for user lockout, password rotation, and other critical Windows services.
- Implement Microsoft Windows Defender firewall and MAPS.
- Disable anonymous users from accessing your server.
- Make all translations from outsiders disabled.
- Make sure any unused user account is immediately disabled, or if possible, deleted.
Part Five – Configuring Network Security
- Make sure the Windows Firewall is enabled in every profile, including the public, private, and domain profiles. Configure the firewall to block all types of inbound traffic as its default.
- Set up port blocking from the network’s setting level. Then, analyze the server to see which ports require being open so you can restrict the access others have to any other port.
- Set restrictions on who can access your computers to only authenticated users.
- Disallow guest accounts to log into your server for any reason.
- Turn off the NetBIOS over your TCP/IP.
- Make sure the setting to send unencrypted passwords to any third-party SMB server is disabled.
- Make sure all anonymous access is disabled.
- Never store your LAN manager hash values on your server.
- Configure more secure NTP, CIFS/SMB, and FIPS complaint encryption services across the domain.
- Refuse any LM or NTLM authentication level, and allow your LAN to only accept NTLMv2.
- Turn off any sharing settings, including print sharing and file sharing. This could allow an outsider to connect to your server, accessing critical systems or data without the requirement of a password or authenticated ID.
Additional Steps of Microsoft Environment Hardening
There are several steps that go on beyond this. You need to configure the registration security settings of your server. Then you need to go through each setting in your general security settings. So many of these settings are enabled that it could leave you open to an attack. From there, you need to audit the current policy settings and create ones that work for your specific situation. If you do not audit these settings to meet with the best practices, your information could be accessed through your event logs. Next, you need to make sure that you go through and add additional levels of security to your server. This includes installing and enabling anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-malware, and more. These are more things that an experienced Los Angeles cybersecurity firm like Be Structured can help with. We can configure your network, plus make sure it is good to go up against the types of threats you are most likely to face.
When all of this is done, it is now time to install your server. You want a copy of your server’s settings, plus you want to go through and enter the license key that came with your server. Put your server into the right domain and then go through and set up your policies from your domain. Once all of these steps are taken, your server will finally be ready to be used.
Window Server Maintenance
Once you go through all of these steps to get your server set up, you need to make sure it is regularly maintained. Security policies and procedures often change over time as the threat landscape changes or previously secure mechanisms are found to be compromised. Many people run their systems with outdated software, which means there are more vulnerabilities than updated software has. If your server were to fall out of date, it would be far more likely to have openings that a cyberattacker could easily see an exploit. Something as simple as patching the server regularly allows your server to keep all of your client data safe while maintaining the server’s uptime. However, there are more precautions to take if you want to keep your protection maximized.
Let Be Structured Technology Group Be Your Los Angeles Microsoft Security Consulting Firm!
The amount of time and attention you must put into your server can go on for as long as there are threats out there. However, by hardening your server, you get the best net of protection against as many of these threats as possible. Turn to the experienced professionals here at Be Structured as your Los Angeles Cybersecurity Firm. We know what goes into keeping your company safe, and we can do each of these steps for you. Let us put that time and attention into keeping your company safe. That way, you can stay focused on growing your company and keeping your customers happy.