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Managing User Accounts
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The 32-bit Windows client OSs (Windows 9x and Windows NT) allow for the implementation of certain policies and profiles that, when used properly, give users enough freedom to do their jobs without allowing them to delete files to which they should not have access. Users who are network/systems administrators should be given two user accounts. The first should be their main user account under which they will log in for all normal tasks. A second Administrator account should be used only when necessary. For example, a network administrator named Jane Doe would have two user accounts: Jdoe and Jdoe-Admin.
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Account Policies
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The default account policies used by Windows NT are created for convenience. For example, a user may use a blank password and may choose a password of any length. In the real world, such account policies increase the likelihood of hack attempts, and should be changed in all but the least secure environments. Figure 3-1 shows the various options available; to access them, select Account | Policy from within User Manager. The Account Policy features are listed and described in Table 3-1.
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Figure 3-1.
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Setting account policy options in User Manager
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Feature Minimum Password Age
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Recommended Setting 3 days. (Allow changes immediately if Password Uniqueness is enforced.) Allow changes in 5 days
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Function Prevents users from immediately changing their passwords back to the original settings. Prevents someone from logging on with a generic password and then changing it immediately. Makes passwords more difficult to guess. Prevents users from reusing the same passwords. Prevents password-guessing hack attempts. Prevents password-guessing hack attempts by forcing users to wait until retrying. Prevents violation of shift-work or no-overtime policies. Prevents users from renewing passwords that have expired.
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Minimum Password Age
Minimum Password Length Password Uniqueness Account Lockout Lockout Duration
6 to 8 characters 5 passwords After 5 attempts; reset after 30 minutes 30 minutes
Forcible disconnection of remote users when logon hours expire Specifying that users must log on in order to change passwords
Enabled if using logon hour restrictions
Disabled (to prevent Administrative work)
Table 3-1.
Recommended Windows NT Account Policy Settings
Accounts cannot be locked by an Administrator (though they can be disabled). An Administrator can, however, unlock an account that has been locked (by a specific number of bad logon attempts, for example). Note that the built-in Administrator account itself cannot be locked out, regardless of policy settings. This prevents individuals from accidentally being locked out of their servers entirely. Therefore, the Administrator password should be made especially difficult to guess.
Password Policies
In several ways, the idea of network security goes hand in hand with the ideas discussed in earlier chapters. No matter how strong your router security is or how restrictive your Internet firewall is, the weakest point in your defenses is in the password policy. A very
3:
Data Protection in Windows NT/2000
easy way for anyone to gain access to a system is to call a user and simply ask for their password information by claiming to be from the IT department. Instruct users that they should never give out their passwords. Even if network administrators require this information, they have specific methods of gaining access to a resource that do not require asking users for their passwords. One good way to enforce strong password policies is to instruct users to choose personal or secret information about themselves this will make them think twice before divulging the password to others.
Using the Password Filter DLL file, you can force the use of stronger passwords. Passwords will be required to have at least one character from among three of the following categories: w s s v Lowercase characters Uppercase characters Numbers
Symbols (such as ! @ # $ % ^ & * )
How does this increase security A typical hack method for cracking passwords is to use a dictionary of common passwords. The common passwords include first and last names, common English words, and so forth. It is important that IT find a way to hold users responsible for hacks under their accounts. If an employee absently left a key near the company safe, he or she would be accountable for anyone s entry into that area. Though the passfilt.dll file is included with Windows NT Server Packs, it is not enabled by default.
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