Key Principles of Security

OK, so today's isn't really something "Performance" related, but nevertheless, I think we can all safely agree that this is something that all administrators should be aware of.  During our Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 posts we've been talking about "reducing the attack surface" and other security enhancements.  So today we're going to go […]

OK, so today's isn't really something "Performance" related, but nevertheless, I think we can all safely agree that this is something that all administrators should be aware of.  During our Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008 posts we've been talking about "reducing the attack surface" and other security enhancements.  So today we're going to go over some security concepts at a very high level.  If you have read through the Windows 2003 Resource Kit or the Windows Security Resource Kit, then this information will be quite familiar to you.

The basic skill in securing your environment is to understand the big picture.  In other words, not only how to secure your computers and networks, but also what your limitations might be.  We've all heard of the principle of least privilege.  If an application or user has privileges beyond what they really require to perform their tasks, then the potential exists for an attacker to take advantage of that fact to compromise your environment.  In the past, many domain administrators only had one account that they used for everything - reading email, administering the domain, writing documentation etc.  So if that administrator's account was somehow used to launch an attack, the attack was carried out with all of the domain administrator's privileges - often to devastating effect.  Many environments now separate the accounts based on the work being done.  For reading email etc, a domain administrator would have a normal user account.  However they would have a second account that they would use for administrative tasks.  By separating the roles, the you reduce the risks of widespread compromise.

Another key phrase that we're used to hearing is "Defense in Depth".  What does this mean?  If you use the analogy of the onion, then each layer that you peel away gets you closer to your critical asset(s).  At each layer you should protect your assets as if that was the outermost layer.  The net result is an aggregated security model.  The most common example of this is when dealing with email - incoming mail is filtered by the server for spam and malware, as well as on the client when email attachments are scanned before they are opened.

Full Article

Additional Resources:

Windows, Security, Knowledgebase