NIST Site Search
Custom Search
[Official NIST.GOV TIME]
Product Research

Advertise on this site
Hardening Microsoft Windows – STIGS, Baselines, and Compliance
Windows hardening should be considered more of a prerequisite than an endpoint. But if you fall under any of the IT security compliance laws it is a very important prerequisite. As we say on our banner “It's not enough to be secure, you have to prove you're secure.”™ No Longer Supported
Windows hardening is basically locking down and securing the operating system. It involves removing unwanted services, configuring remaining services to operate with the least privilege necessary, disabling legacy support that isn't used, removing unused user accounts, enforcing a certain password complexity, closing unused open network ports, patching all known vulnerabilities, etc. All good stuff. If you fall under any of the various IT security compliance laws then hardening also involves a large degree of consistency and documentation.

Everyone knows Windows isn't very secure out of the box. It could be made far more secure with very little effort on Microsoft's part, these hardening steps are hardly secret. But Microsoft chose to make the operating system as backwards compatible and as user friendly as possible. Some people disagree with that approach but it is the reality that we live with and it is our job is to secure it. Luckily there is a wealth of information out there on how to harden Windows, maybe too much information. How does one know what is good advice and what is witchcraft? Below we'll review several sources of information and products used to scan for vulnerabilities and to verify compliance.

Everyone seems to be an expert in securing Windows. Advice ranges from simply installing a good antivirus program, all the way up to running everything through separate virtual machines and using a new fresh image after every use. But if you work for a U.S. Federal agency, bank, a health care provider or any organization that is covered by IT security compliance laws you know this issue is much more complicated. Even if your company or organization is not covered by compliance law having written baseline hardening requirements is a very good idea. It can help you prove you've taken prudent steps in protecting your customer and employee personal data should there be a compromise of such information.

“Compliance” (see definitions) was created to form a baseline level of security for everyone covered by that particular compliance law. But this baseline is geared more towards outcome than procedures. The law may specify that all personal data be encrypted but it does not say what product to use or the steps necessary to make sure it is done correctly. The law may specify that you have policies, procedures, and guidelines to address those issues but normally doesn't specify exactly how to obtain that goal. Those “hardening” steps are why Security Technical Implementation Guides (STIGS) are very important to providing a baseline level of security that compliance requires. Here are but a few laws that require IT security compliance measures: HIPAA - health industry, Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) – publicly traded companies, Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) – banking, securityies, and insurance companies, Cardholder Information Security Program (CISP) – requirements established by the credit card companies to ensure the security of cardholder information, Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) – U.S. Federal Government agencies. Each of these laws have some measure of IT security compliance measures that require written hardening procedures, reporting, and auditing. See links below for additional information.

If you work for a large corporation or a government agency they may have already established your Windows hardening procedures. But even many government agencies are still working on establishing their policies or rolling them out as mandated procedures. If your organization is still working on your hardening baselines you need not reinvent the wheel. There are plenty of policies, procedures, and guidelines that you can use as your starting point. Many of these are free, those that aren't free are well worth the cost when you consider the amount of time saved. Compliance law is complicated and the bureaucratic nature of it doesn't come naturally to most IT types (or hardly anyone else for that matter).

“The best practices for network security in 2007” – by Gary S. Miliefsky, writing for ComputerWorld
  1. Roll out corporate security policies
  2. Deliver corporate security awareness and training
  3. Run frequent information security self-assessments
  4. Perform regulatory compliance self-assessments
  5. Deploy corporate-wide encryption
  6. Value, protect, track and manage all corporate assets
  7. Test business continuity and disaster recovery planning

See the link above for a complete explanation of each of the 7 points. A must read if you are setting up your own corporate security plan.

If you're looking to develop or update your own Windows hardening STIG (or security baseline) the following list would be a great place to start.
  • DISA - DOD's Defense Information Systems Agency - The largest, and perhaps the best, collection of free STIGS, hardening instructions, checklists, whitepapers, tools, scripts, policies, and other guidelines. A great starting point for any new security program. The “Windows Gold” disk (CD ISO) is now on version 2 (as of January 2007) and was developed “to assist system administrators in securing systems and applications in accordance with the guidance found in the DISA Security Technical Implementation Guides, checklists and applicable Center for Internet Security (CIS) benchmarks.” It covers Windows 2000 (Pro, Member Server, and Domain Controller), Windows XP, Windows 2003 (member server and Domain Controller), IIS 5, IIS 6, Microsoft Office, Netscape Navigator, Internet Explorer, and several antivirus products. Because this was developed by the military (for non-classified systems) the hardening is pretty tight and might break a production server or an important workstation application. It is best to use their templates on non-production machines for testing and remove those settings that cause problems before applying them to production computers. Be sure to document what you remove, add your own mitigation, and get management to accept any residual risk. Doing so will make that particular security baseline near audit proof. An excellent resource. Note: Areas marked as “PKI” or “.gov / .mil” are not open to the public.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) - Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Based off of NSA guidelines, see below. Hardening documents, security checklists, and STIG resources. They also have a “Gold Standard” .inf security template available for download. Though not as up to date as the DISA Gold Standard above it did go through a thorough vetting process among various government agencies. Not as likely to break things but should still be tested first on non-production machines.
  • The Center for Internet Security (CIS) – License fees apply. A “non-profit enterprise whose mission is to help organizations reduce the risk of business and e-commerce disruptions resulting from inadequate technical security controls.” “The practical CIS Benchmarks support available high level standards that deal with the "Why, Who, When, and Where" aspects of IT security by detailing "How" to secure an ever widening array of workstations, servers, network devices, and software applications in terms of technology specific controls.” They have free tools available to help you determine how your systems currently measure up to their industry standard security baselines. If you don't have written benchmarks in place the CIS STIGS are probably what the auditors will judge you by. If you do have your own benchmarks they better measure up to these or have good documentation as to why they don't. Again, if you use these STIGS document any variations, the reason for the variance, mitigation taken, and get management acceptance. This lets auditors know you are following industry standards and that management approved any changes (and residual risk).
  • National Security Agency (NSA) – Central Security Service. “NSA has developed and distributed configuration guidance for a wide variety of software from open source to proprietary software. The objective of the configuration guidance program is to provide NSA's customers with the best possible security options in the most widely used products.” The NIST STIGS use these are starting points. You'll find more STIGS here than at NIST but not as many as at DISA.
  • Control Objectives for Information and related Technology (CobiT) – Think of this as your big umbrella that is above everything else that you do. “COBIT is an IT governance framework and supporting toolset that allows managers to bridge the gap between control requirements, technical issues and business risks. COBIT enables clear policy development and good practice for IT control throughout organizations.” “COBIT has become the integrator for IT best practices and the umbrella framework for IT governance because it is harmonized with other standards and continuously kept up to date.” COBIT is international in scope and can be applied in any environment.
  • Policy and Guidance – Links to various IT Security related policies. A very good starting point for researching IT security regulations that apply to U.S. military and civilian agencies.
  • Compliance definitions and acronyms.

Books at
  • FISMA and generic Policy Books at There aren't many books out that apply specifically to FISMA, but there are a lot that cover the general principals of writing policies, procedures, and guidelines that are required under FISMA. Having a few of these on your shelf certainly won't hurt.
  • HIPAA, SOX, GLBA, CISP, etc. – Books at Several books are available that cover the civilian compliance regulations. You should not rely simply on what you find researching on the internet. Also don't trust everything your hired experts say, the people you're working with may not be as knowledgeable as they claim. Remember there is a lot of money to be made right now bringing companies in to compliance, make sure you ask the right questions.

In addition to “compliance” there is real hardening (which should actually fit in to your compliance security plans). Here are some tools that you can use to check test the security posture of your networked PCs.

  • Nessus – Nessus is owned by Tenable Network Security and is free for anyone to use (including government and commercial). Nessus has been what other vulnerability scanners are judged by for many years and it is still one of the best products out there. Though the product weighs in at 168 megs and contains over 13,500 files it can still be installed and used to scan just one computer. Or use it to scan your entire enterprise if you so wish. The product scales very well and the more hardware you throw at it the faster the scans will complete. Nessus is relatively easy to use but like any scanner interpreting the results, weeding out the false positives, and fixing the issues it finds require IT experience. An amazing product considering the price. Tenable makes their money from training, support, and add-on products. Their “Tenable Security Center” “provides proactive, asset-based security risk management. It unifies the process of asset discovery, vulnerability detection, event management and compliance reporting for small and large enterprises.” In regards to Nessus you will not find a better or more comprehensive free vulnerability scanning product anywhere.
  • Belarc Advisor - The Belarc Advisor “builds a detailed profile of your installed software and hardware, missing Microsoft hotfixes, anti-virus status, CIS (Center for Internet Security) benchmarks, and displays the results in your Web browser.” Free for personal use. Commercial, government, and non-profit organizations should look at their other products which include many more features for managing security on multiple computers.
  • Secunia's Software Inspector – Basic online application vulnerability scanner. Not really in the same category as the other products listed here but it is free and serves an important purpose. Many of the 3rd party applications loaded on PC's need to be patched and can be overlooked by network based scanners if the scanner doesn't have administrator access to those computers. There are certainly more capable products on the market for doing this but they come with a big learning curve and a higher price.
  • Retina Network Security Scanner – by eEye Digital Security. “eEye's integrated suite of vulnerability management solutions enable organizations to manage the entire lifecycle of security threats: before, during, and after attacks. Working in conjunction with popular tools such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems, eEye's products include: Retina® Network Security Scanner, Blink® Professional, REM™ Security Management Console, Iris® Network Traffic Analyzer, and SecureIIS™ Web Server Protection.” eEye's Retina scanner is used widely in the industry even if sometimes people don't know they're using it. eEye often releases a single audit version that scans the network for PC's vulnerable to one particular threat. e.g. Retina MS06-040 NetApi32 Scanner. You can find a complete list of their free single audit scanners here. Eeye is also responsible for the Zero-Day Tracker that appears on the left side of this page. A well respected company that has made a lot of news for discovering new vulnerabilities and releasing free single audit scanners. Be sure to take a close look at all of their products when evaluating what your company will use.
  • StillSecure® VAM™ - “vulnerability management platform identifies, tracks, and manages the repair of network vulnerabilities across the enterprise.” Goes well beyond detecting host vulnerabilities, VAM is a complete vulnerability management system with a database backend for tracking, assigning, and documenting fixes / mitigation steps. VAM does a very good job of detecting vulnerabilities but might be overkill for a small organization. VAM's main claim to fame is its work flow features for repairing and documenting mitigation steps, which are very important under compliance laws.
  • GFI LANguard Network Security Scanner – GFI has several security products including vulnerabilty scanners / management, patch management products, email security products, etc. “GFI LANguard Network Security Scanner (N.S.S.) checks your network for all potential methods that a hacker might use to attack it. By analyzing the operating system and the applications running on your network, GFI LANguard N.S.S. identifies possible security holes.”
  • IBM Internet Security Systems - “provides security products and services that preemptively protect enterprise organizations against Internet threats.” ISS has a broad spectrum of security products, including: IPS, IDS, Anomaly Detection Systems (ADS), vulnerability management, security management systems, etc. ISS has been around since 1994 and is well regarded in the industry. It was purchased by IBM in October of 2006 (for $1.3 Billion) and is quickly reshaping its self as the enterprise-wide solution provider to beat.

Share or Bookmark this Article Using:
| furl | reddit | | magnoliacom | digg | newsvine | stumble it |


Posted by on Friday 09 February 2007 - 04:09:59 | |printer friendly
Translate to: {GOOGLETRANS}
Google Ads


»CVE-2011-3925 (chrome)
Use-after-free vulnerability in the Safe Browsing feature in Google Chrome before 16.0.912.75 allows ...
»CVE-2011-3927 (chrome)
Skia, as used in Google Chrome before 16.0.912.77, does not perform all required initialization of v ...
»CVE-2012-4074 (unified_computing_system)
The Board Management Controller (BMC) in the Serial over LAN (SoL) subsystem in Cisco Unified Comput ...
»CVE-2013-3110 (internet_explorer)
Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 and 9 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a den ...
»CVE-2013-3111 (internet_explorer)
Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 through 10 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause ...
»CVE-2013-3112 (internet_explorer)
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 through 10 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause ...
»CVE-2013-3113 (internet_explorer)
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 through 10 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause ...
»CVE-2013-3114 (internet_explorer)
Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 and 10 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a de ...
»CVE-2014-2146 (ios, ios_xe)
The Zone-Based Firewall (ZBFW) functionality in Cisco IOS, possibly 15.4 and earlier, and IOS XE, po ...
»CVE-2016-0248 (security_guardium)
IBM Security Guardium 9.0 before p700 and 10.0 before p100 allows man-in-the-middle attackers to obt ...
»CVE-2016-0379 (websphere_mq)
IBM WebSphere MQ 7.5 before and 8.0 before mishandles protocol flows, which allows r ...
»CVE-2016-0918 (rsa_identity_management_and_governance, rsa_via_lifecycle_and_governance)
EMC RSA Identity Management and Governance before 6.8.1 P25 and 6.9.x before 6.9.1 P15 and RSA Via L ...
»CVE-2016-2827 (firefox)
The mozilla::net::IsValidReferrerPolicy function in Mozilla Firefox before 49.0 allows remote attack ...
»CVE-2016-2999 (connections)
IBM Connections 4.x through 4.5 CR5, 5.0 before CR4, and 5.5 before CR1 allows remote authenticated ...
»CVE-2016-3000 (connections)
The help service in IBM Connections 4.x through 4.5 CR5, 5.0 before CR4, and 5.5 before CR1 allows r ...

Date published: 2016-09-28T04:50:05Z

»ISC Releases Security Updates for BIND
Original release date: September 27, 2016 The Internet Systems Consortium (ISC) has released ...
»OpenSSL Releases Security Updates
Original release date: September 23, 2016 | Last revised: September 26, 2016 OpenSSL has rele ...
»FTC Releases Data Breach Recovery and Prevention Video
Original release date: September 22, 2016 The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released a s ...
»Drupal Releases Security Advisory
Original release date: September 21, 2016 Drupal has released an advisory to address vulnerab ...
»Cisco Releases Security Updates
Original release date: September 21, 2016 Cisco has released security updates to address vuln ...
»Mozilla Releases Security Updates
Original release date: September 20, 2016 Mozilla has released security updates to address mu ...
»Apple Releases Security Updates
Original release date: September 20, 2016 Apple has released security updates to address vuln ...
»Cisco Releases Security Updates
Original release date: September 16, 2016 Cisco has released security updates to address a vu ...
»VMWare Releases Security Updates
Original release date: September 16, 2016 VMware has released a security update to address vu ...
»Cisco Releases Security Updates
Original release date: September 15, 2016 Cisco has released security updates to address vuln ...

Date published: not known

»“Cybersecurity is, at its core, a people problem,” says VB2016 keynote speaker
An interview with VB2016’s keynote speaker Christine Whalley - Dire ...
»Throwback Thursday: Following the Breadcrumbs
In 1999, Christine Orshesky described how one large organization de ...
»VB2016 preview: Cryptography mistakes in malware
At VB2016, two talks will discuss mistakes made by malware authors ...
»GPS technology is more at risk from cyber attack than ever before, security expert demonstrates at VB2016
Next month at VB2016, HPE Security's Oleg Petrovsky will speak abou ...
»BSides Denver: Join and Support the Security Community
If you are coming to VB2016 in Denver, why not spend an extra day i ...
»VB2016 'Last-Minute' Papers Announced
We are excited to announce the addition of the "last-minute ...
»VB2016 preview: Debugging and Monitoring Malware Network Activities with Haka
In a VB2016 paper, Stormshield researchers Benoit Ancel and Mehdi T ...
»Paper: Behavioural Detection and Prevention of Malware on OS X
In a new paper published through Virus Bulletin, Vincent Van Mieghe ...
»VB2016 preview: Smart Outlets. Why We Need Responsible Disclosure!
At VB2016, four researcher from Bitdefender will present a paper in ...

Date published: not known
Main Menu
· Home
Current Security News
US-CERT Current Activity

» ISC Releases Security Updates for BIND
[27 Sep 2016 02:31pm]

» OpenSSL Releases Security Updates
[23 Sep 2016 01:13pm]

» FTC Releases Data Breach Recovery and Prevention Video
[22 Sep 2016 11:21am]

» Drupal Releases Security Advisory
[21 Sep 2016 06:49pm]

» Cisco Releases Security Updates
[21 Sep 2016 06:36pm]

» Mozilla Releases Security Updates
[20 Sep 2016 03:02pm]

» Apple Releases Security Updates
[20 Sep 2016 01:56pm]

» Cisco Releases Security Updates
[16 Sep 2016 07:31pm]

» VMWare Releases Security Updates
[16 Sep 2016 02:17am]

» Cisco Releases Security Updates
[15 Sep 2016 03:46am]

US-CERT Alerts

» TA16-250A: The Increasing Threat to Network Infrastructure Devices and Recommended Mitigations
[06 Sep 2016 04:29pm]

» TA16-187A: Symantec and Norton Security Products Contain Critical Vulnerabilities
[05 Jul 2016 08:50am]

» TA16-144A: WPAD Name Collision Vulnerability
[23 May 2016 05:38am]

» TA16-132A: Exploitation of SAP Business Applications
[11 May 2016 05:31am]

» TA16-105A: Apple Ends Support for QuickTime for Windows; New Vulnerabilities Announced
[14 Apr 2016 01:48pm]

» TA16-091A: Ransomware and Recent Variants
[31 Mar 2016 04:00pm]

» TA15-337A: Dorkbot
[03 Dec 2015 04:40pm]

» TA15-314A: Compromised Web Servers and Web Shells - Threat Awareness and Guidance
[10 Nov 2015 06:12pm]

» TA15-286A: Dridex P2P Malware
[13 Oct 2015 05:23am]

» TA15-240A: Controlling Outbound DNS Access
[28 Aug 2015 11:31am]

Computerworld Security

» Meet Apache Spot, a new open-source project for cybersecurity
[28 Sep 2016 11:36am]

» Analysts laud and lance new Microsoft browser armor
[27 Sep 2016 02:10pm]

» Six senators demand more details about the Yahoo data breach
[27 Sep 2016 12:45pm]

» Swift CEO details three more failed attacks on banking network
[27 Sep 2016 09:23am]

» Your users have porous passwords? Blame yourself, IT.
[27 Sep 2016 05:00am]

» Yahoo's claim of 'state-sponsored' hackers meets with skepticism
[27 Sep 2016 04:34am]

» 34% off Master Lock Bluetooth Keyless Outdoor Padlock - Deal Alert
[26 Sep 2016 03:05pm]

» New Mac Trojan uses the Russian space program as a front
[26 Sep 2016 02:58pm]

» Va. senator wants SEC probe of massive Yahoo breach
[26 Sep 2016 12:25pm]

» Armies of hacked IoT devices launch unprecedented DDoS attacks
[26 Sep 2016 11:25am]

» iOS 10 backups are easier to crack, but Apple promises to fix security flaw
[26 Sep 2016 10:06am]

» Here's how Microsoft is using containerization to protect Edge users
[26 Sep 2016 07:26am]

» Trump hotel chain fined over data breaches
[26 Sep 2016 05:31am]

» The Social Security website is now secure
[25 Sep 2016 03:56pm]

» Companies say IoT matters but vary on how to secure it
[23 Sep 2016 06:34pm]

Microsoft Security Advisories

» 3174644 - Updated Support for Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange - Version: 1.0
[13 Sep 2016 11:00am]

» 3181759 - Vulnerabilities in ASP.NET Core View Components Could Allow Elevation of Privilege - Version: 1.0
[13 Sep 2016 11:00am]

» 3179528 - Update for Kernel Mode Blacklist - Version: 1.0
[09 Aug 2016 11:00am]

» 2880823 - Deprecation of SHA-1 Hashing Algorithm for Microsoft Root Certificate Program - Version: 2.0
[18 May 2016 11:00am]

» 3155527 - Update to Cipher Suites for FalseStart - Version: 1.0
[10 May 2016 11:00am]

» 3152550 - Update to Improve Wireless Mouse Input Filtering - Version: 1.1
[22 Apr 2016 11:00am]

» 3137909 - Vulnerabilities in ASP.NET Templates Could Allow Tampering - Version: 1.1
[10 Feb 2016 11:00am]

» 2871997 - Update to Improve Credentials Protection and Management - Version: 5.0
[09 Feb 2016 11:00am]

» 3123479 - Deprecation of SHA-1 Hashing Algorithm for Microsoft Root Certificate Program - Version: 1.0
[12 Jan 2016 11:00am]

» 3109853 - Update to Improve TLS Session Resumption Interoperability - Version: 1.0
[12 Jan 2016 11:00am]

» 3118753 - Updates for ActiveX Kill Bits 3118753 - Version: 1.0
[12 Jan 2016 11:00am]

» 2755801 - Update for Vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash Player in Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge - Version: 53.0
[05 Jan 2016 11:00am]

» 3123040 - Inadvertently Disclosed Digital Certificate Could Allow Spoofing - Version: 1.0
[08 Dec 2015 11:00am]

» 3057154 - Update to Harden Use of DES Encryption - Version: 1.1
[08 Dec 2015 11:00am]

» 3119884 - Inadvertently Disclosed Digital Certificates Could Allow Spoofing - Version: 1.0
[30 Nov 2015 11:00am]


» Time to Kill Security Questions—or Answer Them With Lies
[28 Sep 2016 05:00am]

» Tesla Responds to Chinese Hack With a Major Security Upgrade
[27 Sep 2016 05:00am]

» Security News This Week: Hackers Take Control of a Moving Tesla’s Brakes
[24 Sep 2016 05:00am]

» Our Favorite Hacker Moments From Mr. Robot Season 2
[22 Sep 2016 12:18pm]

» Hack Brief: Yahoo Breach Hits Half a Billion Users
[22 Sep 2016 10:15am]

» Officials Are Scrambling to Protect the Election From Hackers
[21 Sep 2016 05:00am]

» Cloudflare Launches a Three-Pronged Attack to Encrypt the Entire Web
[20 Sep 2016 07:43am]

» How Police Trace Cellphones in IEDs Like the Ones in NYC
[19 Sep 2016 01:56pm]

» Inside Google’s Internet Justice League and Its AI-Powered War on Trolls
[19 Sep 2016 04:55am]

» Security News This Week: Congress Celebrates the Snowden Movie by Slamming Snowden
[17 Sep 2016 05:00am]

Network World Security

» Most dangerous cyber celebrities of 2016
[28 Sep 2016 11:40am]

» Meet Apache Spot, a new open source project for cybersecurity
[28 Sep 2016 10:41am]

» Down the rabbit hole, part 2: To ensure security and privacy, open source is required
[28 Sep 2016 09:46am]

» Creepy clowns cause sheriff to consult with FBI and Homeland Security
[28 Sep 2016 09:17am]

» Open source routers deliver low cost, flexibility
[12 Sep 2016 04:00am]

» Review: 5 open source alternatives for routers/firewalls
[12 Sep 2016 04:00am]

» Review: SentinelOne blocks and dissects threats
[31 Aug 2016 05:40am]

» Review: Top tools for preventing data leaks
[29 Aug 2016 04:00am]

» Top tools for preventing data leaks
[29 Aug 2016 04:00am]

» Review: Promisec goes the extra step to secure PCs
[13 Jul 2016 06:21am]

» 4 tools for managing firewall rules
[07 Jul 2016 11:03am]

» 10 advanced endpoint protection tools
[05 Jul 2016 04:00am]

» How to buy endpoint security products
[05 Jul 2016 04:00am]

» Meet Apache Spot, a new open source project for cybersecurity
[28 Sep 2016 10:41am]

» Creepy clowns cause sheriff to consult with FBI and Homeland Security
[28 Sep 2016 09:17am]


More IT Security
News Feeds
More Sponsors

Advertise on this site
RSS Feeds
Our news can be syndicated by using these rss feeds.
rdf is in no way connected to the U.S. government site

This site is © John Herron, CISSP. All Rights Reserved.

Please visit daily to stay up to date on all your IT Security compliance issues. -
Hosted by BlueHost. We've never had a better hosting company.