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SECURITY

Managing Connection and Proxy Settings

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Internet connection settings and proxies can be two of the biggest problems for administrators. When you deploy new computers, you must configure the connection and proxy settings manually or rely on an image build of a machine that might not be up to date. When you make changes to the network, you might need to update the connection settings as well. Performing these procedures manually takes a lot of time that can be better spent performing other tasks. Fortunately, Group Policy provides a better way to manage connection and proxy settings, and the related techniques are examined in this section.

Managing Connection Settings Through Group Policy

Connection settings for dial-up, broadband, and virtual private network (VPN) access can be managed through Group Policy. You can use Group Policy to deploy new configurations, to update existing configurations when you need to make changes, and to delete existing configurations and replace them with new ones. Local area network (LAN) settings for automatic detection and proxy servers are also imported with the connection configuration settings. The address for automatic configuration scripts is not imported, however. These settings are managed with the Automatic Browser Configuration policy.


Real World 

Whenever you manage connection settings through Group Policy, you should create the necessary connections on a test system following the techniques "Managing Mobile Networking and Remote Access," and then check the connections by dialing in to the network, connecting through broadband, or using VPN as necessary. Then import the settings into the Connection Settings policy from the test system. Be sure to import settings at the appropriate level in Group Policy. In most cases, you won't want to roll these settings out to the entire domain and instead will want to apply these settings only to the appropriate Microsoft Active Directory directory service organizational units.

To import connection settings into Group Policy, follow these steps:

  1. Log on to the system where you created the connection settings that you want to use.

  2. Access the Group Policy object you want to work with following the techniques discussed in the "Group Policy Essentials" , "Configuring User and Computer Policies," and then access User Configuration\Windows Settings\Internet Explorer Maintenance\Connection in Group Policy.

  3. Double-click Connection Settings in the right pane. This displays the Connection Settings dialog box.

  4. Select Import The Current Connection Settings From This Machine. To view or modify the settings that will be imported, click Modify Settings and then use the Connections tab of the Internet Properties dialog box to work with the settings as necessary. The options available are the same as those for the Connections tab of the Internet Properties dialog box.


    Note 

    Existing connections with the same names as the imported connections are updated with the new settings, so you don't need to delete the existing settings to make these updates. You need to delete existing settings only if you are concerned that users or other administrators have created connections that might no longer be valid and you want to ensure they are removed to prevent connectivity problems.

  5. If you are replacing previously configured connections, you might want to specify that existing connections should be deleted. To do this, in the Connection Settings dialog box, select Delete Existing Dial-Up Connection Settings.


    Caution 

    All previously configured connections are deleted if you elect to delete existing connection settings. This means that previous connections created by both administrators and users are permanently removed.

  6. Click OK.

Enabling and Configuring Proxy Settings

When you enable proxy settings, Internet Explorer acts as a Web proxy client. In this configuration, Internet Explorer requests can be directed to a proxy service to determine whether access to this protocol is allowed. If the protocol is allowed, the proxy server sends the request on behalf of the client and returns the results to the client securely. Because the proxy server uses network address translation (NAT) or a similar protocol, the actual Internet Protocol (IP) address of the client making the request isn't revealed to the target server. You can configure proxy servers for Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), File Transfer Protocol (FTP), Gopher, and Socks (the Microsoft proxy service protocol).

You can manage settings for proxy servers in several different ways. One of those ways is to use the Local Area Network (LAN) Settings dialog box, which is accessible in the Internet Properties dialog box. On the Connections tab, click LAN Settings to access the dialog box. When you want to use Group Policy, the preferred technique is to configure standard proxy servers using the Proxy Settings policy. Using this policy, you can configure unique proxy servers for each Web service (HTTP, SSL, FTP, Gopher, and Socks) or you can use one or more proxy servers to handle all types of requests. You can also configure exceptions so that a proxy isn't used for specific servers, IP address ranges, and the local network.

To configure proxy settings through Group Policy, follow these steps:

  1. Access User Configuration\Windows Settings\Internet Explorer Maintenance\Connection in Group Policy and then double-click Proxy Settings in the right pane.

  2. In the Proxy Settings dialog box, shown in Figure 1, select Enable Proxy Settings.

    Image from book
    Figure 1: If your organization has proxy servers, you can configure Internet Explorer proxy settings using the Proxy Settings policy.

  3. Set the IP address for proxies using the text boxes on the Proxy Servers panel. You'll find two columns of text boxes:

    • q Address Of Proxy Sets the IP address of the related proxy server or servers. Type the IP address for each service. If multiple proxies are configured for a particular service, type the IP addresses for each proxy server in the order in which you want the Web client to attempt to use them. Each address must be separated by a semicolon. If a proxy isn't configured for a service, don't fill in the related field.

    • q Port Sets the port number on which the proxy server responds to requests. Most proxies respond to port 80 for all requests. That said, however, the standard ports are port 80 for HTTP, port 443 for SSL (listed as Secure), port 21 for FTP, port 70 for Gopher, and port 1081 for Socks. Check with your organization's Web administrator for the proper settings.

  4. The Use The Same Proxy Server For All Addresses check box is selected by default. This setting enables you to use the same IP address and port settings for the HTTP, SSL, FTP, Gopher, and Socks services. You have two options:

    • q If your organization has proxy servers that handle all requests, select Use The Same Proxy Server For All Addresses and then type the IP address or addresses that you want to use as well as the port number on which the server or servers respond.

    • q If you want to use a unique proxy server or servers for each type of service, clear the Use The Same Proxy Server For All Addresses check box and type the necessary IP addresses and port numbers in the text boxes provided.

  5. The Do Not Use Proxy Server For Local (Intranet) Addresses check box is selected by default. The default value is a good setting, in most cases, because you won't want to use a proxy for requests made to servers on the same network segment. However, this setting doesn't work well when your internal network uses multiple network segments. In this case, you'll need to specify the IP address range for each network segment on the exception list. An example is shown in Figure 1. Here you don't want a proxy to be used when accessing servers on the same network segments as the proxy servers, so you configure the IP addresses on these network segments as exceptions.

  6. If your network has multiple segments or if specific address ranges shouldn't be proxied when accessed, enter the appropriate IP addresses or IP address ranges in the Exceptions list. Each entry must be separated with a semicolon. The asterisk (*) character can be used as a wildcard character to specify an address range of 0 through 255, such as 192.*.*.*, 192.158.*.*, or 192.158.10.*.

  7. Click OK.

To ensure that proxy settings are applied uniformly to all users of a particular computer, you can set an additional policy that assigns proxy settings per machine rather than per user. When you enable this policy, proxy settings apply to all users of the same computer and users cannot set their own proxy settings. This prevents users from overriding the standard proxy settings for the organization. You can make proxy settings per machine by following these steps:

  1. Access Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Internet Explorer in Group Policy and then double-click Make Proxy Settings Per-Machine (Rather Than Per-User) in the right pane.

  2. Select Enabled and then click OK. The affected computer or computers need to be rebooted for this policy to be applied.


    Note 

    If you disable or do not configure this policy, users of the same computer can set their own proxy settings. These settings might override those set through Group Policy.

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