Default security settings

Before modifying any security settings, it is important to take into consideration the default settings.

There are three fundamental levels of security granted to users. These are granted to end users through membership in the Users, Power Users, or Administrators groups.

Administrators 

Adding users to the Users group is the most secure option, because the default permissions allotted to this group do not allow members to modify operating system settings or other user's data. However, user level permissions often do not allow the user to successfully run legacy applications. The members of the Users group are only guaranteed to be able to run programs that have been certified for Windows. For more information on the Certified for Windows Program, see the Microsoft Web site. As a result, only trusted personnel should be members of this group.

Ideally, administrative access should only be used to:

Install the operating system and components (such as hardware drivers, system services, and so on).

Install Service Packs and Windows Packs.

Upgrade the operating system.

Repair the operating system.

Configure critical operating system parameters (such as password policy, access control, audit policy, kernel mode driver configuration, and so on).

Take ownership of files that have become inaccessible.

Manage the security and auditing logs.

Back up and restore the system.

In practice, Administrator accounts often must be used to install and run programs written for versions of Windows prior to Windows 2000.

Power Users 

The Power Users group primarily provides backward compatibility for running non-certified applications. The default permissions that are allotted to this group allow this group's members to modify computerwide settings. If non-certified applications must be supported, then end users will need to be part of the Power Users group.

Members of the Power Users group have more permissions than members of the Users group and fewer than members of the Administrators group. Power Users can perform any operating system task except tasks reserved for the Administrators group. The default Windows 2000 and Windows XP Professional security settings for Power Users are very similar to the default security settings for Users in Windows NT 4.0. Any program that a user can run in Windows NT 4.0, a Power User can run in Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional.

Power Users can:

Run legacy applications, in addition to Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional certified applications.

Install programs that do not modify operating system files or install system services.

Customize systemwide resources including printers, date, time, power options, and other Control Panel resources.

Create and manage local user accounts and groups.

Stop and start system services which are not started by default.

Power Users do not have permission to add themselves to the Administrators group. Power Users do not have access to the data of other users on an NTFS volume, unless those users grant them permission.

 Caution

Running legacy programs on Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional often requires you to modify access to certain system settings. The same default permissions that allow Power Users to run legacy programs also make it possible for a Power User to gain additional privileges on the system, even complete administrative control. Therefore, it is important to deploy certified Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional programs in order to achieve maximum security without sacrificing program functionality. Programs that are certified can run successfully under the Secure configuration provided by the Users group. For more information, see the Security page on the Microsoft Web site.

Since Power Users can install or modify programs, running as a Power User when connected to the Internet could make the system vulnerable to Trojan horse programs and other security risks.

Users 

The Users group is the most secure, because the default permissions allotted to this group do not allow members to modify operating system settings or other users' data.

The Users group provides the most secure environment in which to run programs. On a volume formatted with NTFS, the default security settings on a newly installed system (but not on an upgraded system) are designed to prevent members of this group from compromising the integrity of the operating system and installed programs. Users cannot modify systemwide registry settings, operating system files, or program files. Users can shut down workstations, but not servers. Users can create local groups, but can manage only the local groups that they created. They can run certified Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional programs that have been installed or deployed by administrators. Users have Full Control over all of their own data files (%userprofile%) and their own portion of the registry (HKEY_CURRENT_USER).

However, user-level permissions often do not allow the user to successfully run legacy applications. Only the members of the Users group are guaranteed to be able to run Certified for Windows applications. (For more information, see the Certified for Windows Program on the Microsoft Web site.

To secure a Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional system, an administrator should:

Make sure that end users are members of the Users group only.

Deploy programs that members of the Users group can run successfully, such as certified Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional programs.

Users will not be able to run most programs written for versions of Windows prior to Windows 2000, because they did not support file system and registry security (Windows 95 and Windows 98) or shipped with lax default security settings (Windows NT). If you have problems running legacy applications on newly-installed NTFS systems, then do one of the following:

1.

Install new versions of the applications that are certified for Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional.

2.

Move end users from the Users group into the Power Users group.

3.

Decrease the default security permissions for the Users group. This can be accomplished by using the Compatible security template.

Backup Operators 

Members of the Backup Operators group can back up and restore files on the computer, regardless of any permissions that protect those files. They can also log on to the computer and shut it down, but they cannot change security settings.

 Caution

Backing up and restoring data files and system files requires permissions to read and write those files. The same default permissions granted to Backup Operators that allow them to back up and restore files also make it possible for them to use the group's permissions for other purposes, such as reading another user's files or installing Trojan horse programs. Group Policy settings can be used to create an environment in which Backup Operators only can run a backup program. For more information, see the Microsoft Security page on the Microsoft Web site.

Special Groups

Several additional groups are automatically created by Windows 2000 and Windows XP Professional.

When a Windows 2000 system is upgraded to Windows XP Professional, resources with permission entries for the Everyone group (and not explicitly to the Anonymous Logon group) will no longer be available to Anonymous users after the upgrade. In most cases, this is an appropriate restriction on anonymous access. you may need to permit anonymous access in order to support pre-existing applications that require it. If you need to grant access to the Anonymous logon group, you should explicitly add the Anonymous Logon security group and its permissions.

However, in some situations where it might be difficult to determine and modify the permission entries on resources hosted on Windows XP Professional computers, you can change the Network access: Let Everyone permissions apply to anonymous users security setting.

Interactive. This group contains the user who is currently logged on to the computer. During an upgrade to Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional, members of the Interactive group will also be added to the Power Users group, so that legacy applications will continue to function as they did before the upgrade.

Network. This group contains all users who are currently accessing the system over the network.

Terminal Server User. When Terminal Servers are installed in application serving mode, this group contains any users who are currently logged on to the system using Terminal Server. Any program that a user can run in Windows NT 4.0 will run for a Terminal Server User in Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional. The default permissions assigned to the group were chosen to enable a Terminal Server User to run most legacy programs.

 Caution

Running legacy programs in Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional requires permission to modify certain system settings. The same default permissions that allow a Terminal Server User to run legacy programs also make it possible for a Terminal Server User to gain additional privileges on the system, even complete administrative control. Applications that are certified for Windows 2000 or Windows XP Professional can run successfully under the secure configuration provided by the Users group. For more information, see the Microsoft Security page on the Microsoft Web site.

Local accounts created on the local computer are created without passwords and are added to the Administrators group by default. If this is a concern, Security Configuration Manager allows you control membership of the Administrators (or any other group) with Restricted Groups policy. For more information, see Restricted Groups 

When Terminal Server is installed in remote administration mode, users logged on using Terminal Server will not be members of this group.

Difference in default security settings

Groups and default security settings

Predefined security templates



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