What's New in Recommended Security Baseline Settings for Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2, and Internet Explorer 11

The attachment on this post describes what's new in the security baseline recommendations for Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Internet Explorer 11, relative to the baselines published for Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 and Internet Explorer 10.  It is included as a Word document in the download from yesterday's announcement blog post.  We are posting the document here for easier access.  I tried to post the full document content, but the tables it contains are too wide for this blog's layout, so I'm just posting the background/summary and table of contents.

[2 September 2014: document updated for v1.1 with change to "Deny access to this computer from the network" for the Member Server baseline.]

Background and Summary

This document outlines recommended security configuration settings for Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Internet Explorer 11, using the previously-published baselines for Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 and Internet Explorer 10 as the starting point. These guidelines are intended for well-managed enterprises.

Some of the more interesting changes from the Windows 8/2012/IE10 baselines:

  • Use of new and existing settings to help block some Pass the Hash attack vectors

  • Blocking the use of web browsers on domain controllers

  • Incorporation of the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) into the standard baselines

  • Removal of almost all service startup settings, and all server role baselines that contain only service startup settings

  • Removal of the recommendation to enable “FIPS mode”


Background and Summary

Settings New to Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2

Settings New to Internet Explorer 11

Changes to Settings Inherited from Existing Baselines

    Changes to all Windows Server product baselines

    Pass the Hash

    Blocking the use of Web Browsers on Domain Controllers


    Updated Guidance

    Advanced Auditing

    Removed Windows Recommendations

    Removed Internet Explorer Recommendations



[download the attachment for the rest...]

Recommended Security Baseline Settings.docx

Comments (1)
  1. If anyone is looking for a good reference on how to get started with the Microsoft Security Baselines, I put together a presentation on the topic: http://www.slideshare.net/franklesniak/securing-your-windows-network-with-the-microsoft-security-baselines

    [Aaron Margosis] This looks very good! Thanks! A few comments:

    • Windows 10 is (obviously) still pre-release and has been going through too many changes to publish a security guide for it yet.
    • Application whitelisting with AppLocker is a very good idea. E.g., don't allow standard users to execute anything that's in a user-writable directory. However, the app-compat impact for most organizations is probably too large for us to include that as part of a generic "go do this now" kind of baseline, which is the intent of these baselines.
    • Adding web sites to the Trusted Sites zone is generally not a good idea. Most web app incompatibility (at least for public web sites) is not because of zone permissions.

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