Execution policy and code signing in Visual Basic .NET

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14.3 Execution policy and code signing
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The first security measure PowerShell includes is an execution policy. This is a machinewide setting that governs the scripts that PowerShell will execute. As I stated before, the intent of this setting is to help prevent users from being tricked into running a script. The default setting, in fact, is Restricted, which prevents scripts from being executed at all. That s right: by default, PowerShell can be used to interactively run commands, but it can t be used to run scripts. If you try, you ll get this error message:
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File C:\test.ps1 cannot be loaded because the execution of scripts is disa bled on this system. Please see "get-help about_signing" for more details. At line:1 char:7 + ./test <<<< + CategoryInfo : NotSpecified: (:) [], PSSecurityException + FullyQualifiedErrorId : RuntimeException
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14.3.1 Execution policy settings
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You can view the current execution policy by running Get-ExecutionPolicy. The execution policy can be changed in one of three ways:
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By running the Set-ExecutionPolicy command. This changes the setting in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE portion of the Windows registry, and so must usually be run by an Administrator, because normal users don t have permission to write to that portion of the registry. By using a Group Policy object. Windows Server 2008 R2 comes with the Windows PowerShell--related settings built right in; for older domain controllers you
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Finding the Windows PowerShell settings in a Group Policy object
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can download an ADM template to extend Group Policy. You ll find it at http:// mng.bz/U6tJ. You can also just visit http://download.microsoft.com and punch in PowerShell ADM as a search term. The PowerShell settings are located under Computer Configuration\Policies\ Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows PowerShell as shown in Figure 14.1. Figure 14.2 shows the policy setting enabled. When configured via a Group Policy object, the setting in the Group Policy will override any local setting. In fact, if you try to run Set-ExecutionPolicy, it will work, but a warning message will tell you that your new setting had no effect due to a Group Policy override.
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By manually running PowerShell.exe and using its -ExecutionPolicy command-line switch. When run in this fashion, the specified execution policy will override any local setting as well as any Group Policy defined setting.
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The execution policy can be set to one of five settings (note that the Group Policy object only provides access to the middle three):
Restricted This is the default, and scripts aren t executed. The only excep-
tions are a few Microsoft-supplied scripts that set up PowerShell s default configuration settings. Those scripts carry a Microsoft digital signature and won t execute if modified.
Security alert!
Figure 14.2 Changing the Windows PowerShell execution policy in a Group Policy object
AllSigned PowerShell will execute any script that has been digitally signed by
using a code-signing certificate that was issued by a trusted Certification Authority (CA). RemoteSigned PowerShell will execute any local script, and will execute remote scripts if they have been digitally signed by using a code-signing certificate that was issued by a trusted CA. Remote scripts are those that exist on a remote computer, usually accessed by a Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path. Scripts marked as having come from the internet are also considered remote ; Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Outlook all mark downloads as having come from the internet. Some versions of Windows can distinguish between internet paths and UNC paths; in those cases, UNC paths on the local network aren t considered remote. Unrestricted All scripts will run. I don t like or recommend this setting, because it provides too little protection. Bypass This is a special setting that s intended to be used by application developers who are embedding PowerShell within their application. This setting bypasses the configured execution policy and should be used only when the hosting application is providing its own layer of script security.
Execution policy and code signing
Microsoft recommends that RemoteSigned be used when you want to run scripts, and that it be used only on computers where scripts must be executed. All other computers should be left at Restricted. RemoteSigned is felt to provide a good balance between security and convenience; AllSigned is stricter but does require that all of your scripts be digitally signed. Which means we should probably discuss what digital signing is all about.
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