Server 2008 : Hardening Server Security

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Previous versions of Windows Server required a great deal of configuration after installation to “harden” the security of the server and ensure that viruses and exploits would not overwhelm or disable the server. The good news with Windows Server 2008 R2 is that, by default, many less commonly used services are turned off. In fact, a fresh installation of Windows Server 2008 R2 only has those services enabled that are vital for the OS to run properly, and everything else must be enabled by running Server Manager. In addition, by default an intelligent firewall is enabled, and only those services that absolutely need to run are allowed through the firewall.

Subsequently, in Windows Server 2008 R2, it is important to first define which roles a server will utilize and then to turn on only those services that are necessary, with the use of Server Manager, which automates the deployment of server roles.

Defining Server Roles

Depending on the size of an organization, a server might be designated for one or multiple network roles. In an ideal world, a separate server or servers would be designated to handle a single role, such as DHCP server or DNS server. Even smaller organizations can take advantage of virtualization technology such as Windows Server 2008 R2’s Hyper-V server virtualization platform to provision multiple dedicated guests on a smaller number of physical hosts.

Because any service that is activated increases the overall risk, it is important to fully define which roles a server will take on so that those services can be properly configured. Although these components can be set up manually, the process of turning on these services is streamlined through the use of the Configure Your Server Wizard.

Securing a Server Using Server Manager

With the list of roles that a server will perform in hand, the ideal utility for turning on these roles and securing them is the newly renovated Server Manager. By default, if a server is a DNS server but does not do file and print services, Server Manager not only opens the ports required for DNS, but also blocks any file and print access to the server.

Windows Server 2008 R2 Server Manager, shown in Figure 1, allows for individual roles to be enabled on a server. After being enabled, those roles are turned on and the proper ports to run those roles are opened on the server.

Figure 1. Viewing Server Manager.

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