Early adopters of Windows Server 2003 will get an added bonus: They will find significantly more settings possible in the security templates, thanks in large part to the 220-plus new security-related objects that Windows Server 2003 can recognize and manage in this context.
To respond first to the most common question about security templates -- namely, "What kinds of settings can you define within a security template?" -- here's the scoop (in alphabetical order):
Account Policies: This is where you can manage settings for Password Policy, Account Lockout Policy and Kerberos Policy.
Event Log: This is where you can manage controls for the three primary event logs: Application, System and Security Event.
File System: Use this to manage file and folder permissions.
Local Policies: Use this to manage Audit Policy, User Rights Assignment and Security Options on a per-machine basis.
Registry: Helps you manage permissions for Registry keys.
Restricted Groups: Helps you manage memberships in security-related groups.
System Services: Helps you manage startup and permissions for system services.
The next big question is: "What exactly is a security template?" Simply stated, a security template is a plain-text file that takes an .inf extension. This means it's possible to copy, edit and manipulate security templates using nothing more than a text editor. In fact, you could build security templates from scratch but because the format -- similar to an .ini file in syntax and format, for those with long Windows histories or memories -- is both painstaking and somewhat verbose, you're better off working from existing template files. So always begin working on security templates by opening an existing template, then using the Save As... command to save it under a new name. Sure, you could alter a default template and just use the Save command, but then to restore the default later you'd have to find and copy it from the Windows distribution media. It's much easier to get in the habit of saving first, then changing second to keep working templates working and to leave default templates in a pristine, unchanged state.
One more thing: Because members of the Administrators group are the only ones with permissions to change the default security template folder (%SYSTEMROOT%SecurityTemplates), only individuals who belong to that group can edit or apply security templates on a Windows 2000, XP or 2003 Server computer.
In my next tip, I'll explain what's going on with the default templates that reside in the default security template folder and give you some ideas of what these defaults are good for.
Thomas Alexander Lancaster IV is a consultant and author with over ten years experience in the networking industry, focused on Internet infrastructure.