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January 2003

How to harden Windows to improve security

Q: What are the pros and cons of Windows hardening? I want to make my boxes more secure without breaking any apps. -M.N. A: First of all, let's define "hardening." When you harden a box, you're attempting to make it bulletproof. Ideally, you want to be able to leave it exposed to the general public on the Internet without any other form of protection. This isn't a box you'll use for a wide variety of services. A hardened box should serve only one purpose--it's a Web server or DNS or Exchange server, and nothing else. You don't typically harden a file and print server, or a domain controller, or a workstation. These boxes need too many functions to be properly hardened. In general, if you need a hardened box, you shouldn't be looking to Microsoft. It's far easier to harden a Red Hat or FreeBSD box, among others. Not only is there less work, but there's better documentation on how to do it. I've stripped down every Microsoft OS ever produced, and believe me, you'll never get the level of satisfaction you'll get with a hardened ...

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