It will come as no surprise that Windows out of the box isn’t secure. Many of the vulnerabilities that exist within Windows can be addressed through Group Policy Objects (GPOs). Group Policy allows administrators to control the working environment of both user and computer accounts.
If used correctly, GPOs can, for example, allow you to work towards a policy of least privilege where users have permissions based on their job requirements. GPOs can ensure that Local Administrator rights are disabled and enable you to grant administrative privileges to a single user or group depending on the permissions they require to do their job effectively.
There are many things that Group Policy can do to help you increase the security of your environment, ease IT management and meet compliance. Let’s go through some of them now.
Auditing Group Policy to Address Security and Reduce Risk
One of the biggest threats to your IT security is your own employees. Many organizations still operate on a trust-based policy where you assume that your employees would never harm you. This just isn’t the case in the real world. Insider threats, whether malicious or accidental, are commonplace nowadays and can lead to potentially disastrous data breaches.
Auditing changes to Group Policy will enable you to spot whether any changes that are made could potentially lead to over-privileged users or an unsecured environment. If you’re not auditing Group Policy, then any change made will likely not be discovered until the effects of that change have manifested themselves.
Proactively and continuously auditing Group Policy will enable you to predict and react to a change as it happens to help you ensure that you maintain a policy of least privilege and reduce the risk of unwanted changes leading to data breaches.
Auditing Group Policy to Meet Compliance
Your organization more than likely falls under one or more compliance regulations that determine how the security of your environment is set up and what practices you should follow. GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, SOX, PCI and other compliance mandates all have requirements for what should be audited, tracked and recorded. They are, more often than not, focused around personally identifiable information or other forms of sensitive data.
In relation to Group Policy, these regulations set the standards for data security when it comes to user interaction with the environment. Some examples of these standards that can be controlled through Group Policy include password length, complexity, access times, ability to install third-party applications and more.
In order to demonstrate compliance with these regulations, you will be required to produce detailed information on Group Policy changes which will be extremely difficult if you’re not actively auditing and storing this change information. You will need to use a Group Policy Auditing Solution for this, as native auditing will not give you the level of who, what, when and where information that is required to satisfy the auditors.
Auditing Group Policy for Better IT Management
The effects of Group Policy changes can be unpredictable. Even when tested in a lab environment, making changes to Group Policy can produce unexpected results. This makes change auditing absolutely essential to ensure that your environment operates effectively and efficiently.
Making changes to Group Policy is often necessary and is fairly easy to do, which is why the knock-on effects are often underestimated. Being able to dive into the details of changes made and store that information for a long period of time will make investigating changes a much smoother and quicker process.
Having the ability to look back at the effects of Group Policy changes will enable you to operate in a more consistent, reliable and secure environment.