When I brought these concerns to our Windows gurus, one bright fellow mentioned that it's possible to restrict service account access using delegation. A consultant who is a Windows expert confirmed that delegating rights in a Windows domain can be done in a way that should allow pretty much all software to work without having full rights. Sounds easy enough, but it isn't. The difficulty is that a delegation model needs to be designed and built into the domain, and that's no small task. In our case, we would need to bring in a consultant with more knowledge and experience in that area than our own administrators have.
Accounts run amok
Built-in administrator accounts are another target of my attention. These accounts, with full privileges on individual servers and workstations, exist by default on every Windows computer. And in my company, the passwords are all the same and haven't been changed in a long time. That means we have many former support staffers who still know our administrator password. There's no easy way to change so many passwords, and since they're used for support, a lot of people need them.
Ideally, we would set a different password on every system, but without some kind of password management system, there's no way that would work.
What we have done is that one of our Windows administrators set up a group policy to change the name of the administrator account, which makes it slightly less easy to break into. And he was able to find a way to change the password as well, so that's a step in the right direction.
It's not good enough yet, though. We need a way to change the built-in administrator account password more frequently and still be able to give our support staff the access they need to perform administration tasks on servers and end-user computers. For now, I'll establish a manual process to change the password the way our Windows administrator did, and enforce it in security policy. But I'd really like to find a better way to manage Windows credentials. They don't make it easy.
This week's journal is written by a real security manager, "J.F. Rice," whose name and employer have been disguised for obvious reasons. Contact him at email@example.com.
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