Microsoft Windows Hardening

Securing every vulnerability of your organization’s network.

At Be Structured, we continually refine your cybersecurity strategies by staying ahead of the latest industry advancements. Microsoft Windows Hardening is the term used for making Windows as difficult to hack or otherwise damage as possible. It involves configuring Windows so that it is as secure as it can be, regularly applying all updates to it, and creating specific policies to help protect your network. It also involves implementing some Microsoft best practices such as enforcing Windows Defenders and Microsoft Active Protection Service (MAPS), installing Local Administrator Password Service (LAPS), and more. Hardening can also include removing bloatware and other software applications or services that you don’t need so as to minimize the number of ways malware and threats can infiltrate your system. The ultimate goal of Microsoft Windows Hardening is to mitigate as much risk as you can at the machine level.

Hardening on its own may help protect a single computer, but its real strength comes when it’s used in coordination with network security and other forms of protection. Hardening Microsoft Windows, using updated antivirus and antimalware programs, and implementing security measures such as two-factor authentication all help keep your sensitive data secure and prevent network breaches.

Microsoft Windows Defender For Environment Hardening

The team at Be Structured has the skills and experience to ensure you’re getting maximum protection from the built-in Windows Defender platform. While Windows Defender simplifies updating and security enhancements, it’s crucial to have a team of security experts making sure your network is operating as intended. With integrated antivirus, Windows Defender delivers a robust platform for securing all of your organization’s computers. One of the great benefits of Windows Defender is that it comes installed with Windows. You don’t need to download or install any additional programs. However, it is important that Defender is configured properly. Some users aren’t even aware of this program. Configuring Defender correctly is something the experts here at Be Structured handle for our clients.

Some people may feel like using Windows Defender isn’t the best option, and that may have been true at one point. Windows Defender was first released in 2006, and while it was a good attempt at integrating virus and malware protection, it wasn’t exactly at the top of its game. Microsoft’s experience in this area was behind other antivirus companies, and it has taken some time for them to catch up. The original Windows XP version of Defender had to be downloaded and installed, and it was mainly an anti-spyware program. It later evolved into an integrated part of both Windows Vista and Windows 7. With Windows 8, Defender gained antivirus scanning capabilities and replaced the older Security Essentials application. As of November 2019, Windows Defender is now properly named Microsoft Defender, though most people still refer to it by its older name.

 

Microsoft Defender For Environment Hardening

Microsoft has invested a good amount of work into upgrading Windows Defender over the years. Today, it is actually quite strong and can provide the protection your computer needs as long as it’s configured correctly and is turned on. This is the foundation for Microsoft Windows Hardening. Testing has shown that Defender can hold its own with a number of the top programs in the security industry. A study done in 2018 showed that Defender blocked 99.9% of the malware used in the test, a higher percentage than a number of other recognized brands in the detection industry. It has earned a rating of AAA from SE Labs and received a total of 18 points (a perfect score) in tests by the AV-Test Institute. The defender’s wide range of different security features and the fact that it’s a part of Windows has given it an edge over some of the other options. At Be Structured we use Windows Defender in conjunction with another top tier anti-virus and anti-malware application to provide a layered security approach.

Microsoft Hardening for Windows Integration

With Windows Defender, there’s nothing to install. Windows Defender delivers complete, ongoing network protection without requiring any additional hardware or software. Defender makes it easier and more intuitive than ever to protect all of the computers on your network. This means that there’s no worry that another antivirus program will have conflicts with Windows or not fully integrate with your operating system. Windows Defender is a core part of the operating system, so there’s no need to worry about vulnerabilities or conflicts.

Microsoft Hardening for Cloud Protection

Windows Defender automatically updates with the latest threat definitions from the cloud. At the same time, you have access to cutting-edge threat behavior detection from the cloud, so you’re alerted about any suspicious activity on your devices. Thanks to the automatic updates, you never have to worry about manually downloading and installing new versions of Defender or new virus definitions. Everything is done by Windows behind the scenes.  In addition, Microsoft Active Protection Service (MAPS) provides real-time telemetry data to Microsoft about threats and can help stop globally coordinated attacks.

Microsoft Windows Hardening Allows Real-Time Updates

Windows Defender updates in real-time while scanning and protecting your device, minimizing potential network loopholes cybercriminals can exploit. Making use of new service packs, patches, and updates is a vital part of operating system hardening. While Windows and other applications are put through rigorous testing before they’re released, it’s difficult to simulate every single potential action a user can take. Some loopholes and other issues aren’t discovered until millions of users have used the software. Patching and updating is vital to ensure that these found vulnerabilities are addressed. Defender will update as needed with information about these loopholes so your system is protected.

At the same time, you can review computer scans with a few clicks to see how Defender is protecting your devices. While the average employee may not find these reports very useful, your IT department will. We may also need to see your Defender scan results so we can help advise you on new ways of protecting your system. These logs are absolutely vital in determining where your system’s weak points are so they can be upgraded. Even scan reports that show very little information can be helpful—they indicate that what you’re doing for security is working!

Windows Defender Has Built-In Ransomware Protection

Ransomware can lock down your files or your entire computer, encrypting everything so that you cannot access it unless you pay a fee to the ransomware creator. Even then, there’s no guarantee you’ll gain access to your files. With ransomware attacks becoming increasingly prevalent, Windows Defender keeps you protected with controlled folder access to protect mission-critical data. This setting blocks applications from creating new files within certain folders, but like other features of Windows Defenders, it must be active to actually provide protection. Many users don’t realize these features aren’t automatically enabled, leaving their system open to attack.

Microsoft Hardening Allows Block at First Sight Through Windows Defender

Windows Defender includes what Microsoft calls the Block at First Sight ability. This feature scans files that it believes may be suspicious and sends a message to the cloud protection system for information on the file. The cloud backend runs the file analysis through a number of algorithms to determine if it’s a threat or not. If it is, Defender blocks the file and alerts the user. As new malicious programs are found, Block at First Sight analyzes what makes them malicious and adds this information to its learning algorithm, allowing it to more accurately predict if a file is truly harmful or not. This helps Defender block attacks from brand new threats that haven’t even been fully identified yet as long as they have some things in common with older malware or viruses.

Microsoft Defender Web Protection

Defender will scan websites as you open them to determine if there’s an existing threat or not. If there is, it will block the website and alert the user that they are visiting a potentially dangerous URL. This will protect users from phishing websites, websites with malware, and other sites that may be untrusted. Users can also add websites to Defender’s block list. The program is integrated with both Internet Explorer and the newer Microsoft Edge browser and will scan files as they’re downloaded for viruses and other malware. It also scans files downloaded with other browsers such as Chrome or Firefox before they’re opened, but it doesn’t connect with them in the same way. However, it still provides protection from suspicious files since they are checked by Defender before they’re fully opened.

Microsoft Windows Hardening with Automatic and On-Demand Scanning

While Windows Defender is always running in the background protecting you from viruses and other malicious programs, you also have the option to scan on demand. While most employees won’t need to do this, it can be helpful on occasion if you believe a computer has been infected. It’s possible to scan the entire hard drive, selected folders, or specific files. This is often the first step to take when a computer has a problem simply to rule out the possibility that it has been infected. Normally, these viruses are caught by Defender’s continuous scans, so if one did get through and is caught later, it’s often a very new type of malware.

Microsoft Windows Hardening With Defender’s Firewall

Windows Defender includes a firewall to help prevent malicious programs from coming in and from apps sending information out. You can block an app from communicating with the internet completely, so it cannot send anything or request any data. This is one area where you will want an expert to look at all of the potential settings and create custom firewall rules for your apps since you may need some programs to be able to get data from the internet, but you’ll want to block others. You always want to be running a firewall on your computer and on your network to prevent unwanted files from being installed on your system. We use the Windows Defender firewall as well as a network firewall appliance to once again provide a layered security approach.

 

The latest Microsoft Windows Hardening protection for your devices.

Be Structured stays ahead of the latest cybersecurity threats to keep you protected. By making use of Windows Defender and other security applications, we will make certain your network and each individual computer is as protected as they can be. Our custom security platforms are built to harden Windows, maximize how effective Windows Defender is at protecting your equipment, and lock down your most sensitive data.

 

Active Directory Hardening for Microsoft Windows

Active Directory is a Microsoft directory service that facilitates user, application, and data management on your network. When using Active Directory, it’s critical to take additional steps to protect user credentials, network data, software, and resources from unauthorized access. Be Structured specializes in solidifying your Active Directory security strategies to ensure private data remains protected.

When you partner with Be Structured, we’ll oversee your Active Directory framework. From ensuring users have appropriate administrative access to refining your security settings, the experts at Be Structured take a comprehensive approach to your Active Directory security strategies.

With our Active Directory Hardening solutions, we incorporate the following strategies:

  •  Reviewing and refining your domain security policies, such as password complexity and reset times
  •  Implementing access permissions
  • Implementing group policies to harden Windows across the entire network
  • Deploying applications to users
  • Centralizing and automating processes such as mapped drives and printers

With these strategies in place, we’re able to develop and deploy a comprehensive Active Directory Hardening platform that protects your network and users at every level.

Removing Unused Applications

Another part of Microsoft Windows Hardening is to go through your applications and remove any of them that you aren’t actively using. These applications represent a potential way into your network, especially older applications that haven’t been updated or that have known security vulnerabilities. If you still have some of these programs on your computers, they need to be removed. While Windows Defender does have an Exploit Protection feature that will help block some of the most common ways attackers get into your system, it’s much safer to simply remove these access routes completely.

Overall, Windows Defender does provide some good protection against viruses and other malware, but it also requires some experience in configuring the application to get the most out of it. For example, there are some features that can be very helpful, but by default, they’re not enabled. This is one of the areas where we can step in and make certain Defender is truly providing all of the defense and security solutions that it needs to be.

Los Angeles IT Support For Microsoft Windows Hardening

Want to learn more about how we can elevate your organization’s cybersecurity strategies to the next level? Get in touch with the security experts at Be Structured today. We’ll work with you to pinpoint your specific network threats and deploy solutions that keep you protected today while preparing your team for the challenges of tomorrow.

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