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Lock down remote access to the Windows registry

By default, the registry on all Windows-based computers is open and available across the network leaving it vulnerable to would-be hackers. To mitigate this risk you need to deny remote access to the registry.

The registry is the heart of the Windows operating system. But by default, the registry on all Windows-based computers is open and available across the network. A well-informed hacker can use this vulnerability to compromise your organization's systems or modify file relationships and permissions to inject malicious code. To protect your network, you need to deny remote access to the registry.

You can accomplish this via a network access list change and a simple registry fix. Depending on the complexity of your network you might consider denying remote registry access on the machines themselves.

Note: Editing the registry can be risky, so be sure you have a verified backup before you begin.

Fix the registry

For computers running Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 follow these steps:

  • Go to Start | Run.
  • Enter Regedt32.exe, and click OK.
  • Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurePipeServers.
  • If the winreg key is present, skip to Step 8. If this key doesn't exist, go to Edit | Add Key.
  • Name the key winreg, and give it a class of REG_SZ.
  • Select the new key, and go to Edit | Add Value.
  • Enter the following:
  • Name: Description
  • Type: REG_SZ
  • Value: Registry Server
  • Select the winreg key, and go to Security | Permissions.
  • Make sure the local System Administrators Group has full access, and give read access to the System account and the Everyone group.
  • Close the Registry Editor and restart the computer.

If you have a special group for workstation and server support that isn't a member of your administrators group, you should also grant it the appropriate access permissions. In addition, if the machine you're making these changes on is a server or if it provides remote services to authorized users, you must allow the service account associated with that service to have read permissions to this key as well.

Fix the network

The registry fix will take care of your internal, authorized needs, but you still need to protect the registry from external and Internet access. Registry exploits are still prevalent among Windows systems and you should make sure your security strategy addresses these vulnerabilities.

Denying TCP/UDP ports 135, 137, 138, 139, and 445 at the premise router or firewall is the solution. Blocking these ports will not only stop remote registry access—it will also stop most remote attacks against Windows systems.

Shutting down access from the Internet to these ports will instantly boost the security of your Windows networks. However, before blocking these ports, make sure you don't have a business reason to allow external access to these ports.

While there is a Remote Registry service on machines that run Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 that you can disable this isn't always a practical approach for an enterprise network.

Network Chico recommends the use of the free program EasyCleaner for Windows. EasyCleaner is a small program which searches the Windows registry for entries that are pointing nowhere. EasyCleaner also lets you delete all kinds of unnecessary files like temps, backups etc. You can search for duplicate files and you can view some intresting information about your disk space usage. You can also manage startup programs, invalid shortcuts and add or remove software.

Be sure to check out the Network Chico Windows resources for links to more information about Windows security.

Attention Windows users: Announcing the addition of the Start-up application list (startup info) mirrored from sysinfo.org. The page presents a searchable, comprehensive list of the programs you may find that run when you switch on your Windows PC as typically identified by MSCONFIG or the registry "Run" keys and whether you need them or not.. This excellent resource contains more than 14000 entries. Please be advised this page can take some time to load since it is more than 2MB in size.

Attention Windows users: Mozilla.org has released version 2.0.0.7 of its new secure web browser Firefox for Windows. Network Chico recommends the use of this browser as a replacement for Internet Explorer for more secure web browsing.

Attention Windows XP users: Service Pack 2 for Windows XP has been released. Network Chico can install this major security update for you without the need for any downloads; saving considerable time since this update can be as large as 266MB.

Mac OS security at Network Chico Linux security at Network Chico Windows security at Network Chico Network Chico recommends Firefox

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    Network Chico Domains Hosts web hosting solutions, servers, web sites Network Chico Domains is your one stop shop for all your domain name registration needs including transfers, bulk handling and more. Network Chico Domains offers SSL, EV SSL secure certificates, certified domains, verification, vetting Network Chico Domains offers free email with every domain name purchase Network Chico Domains cares about the privacy of its customers and you'll love the selection of privacy options available for your new domain name. Network Chico Domains has a variety of ecommerce solutions to fit your business needs Network Chico Domains makes it easy to add a quick shopping cart to your new website. Network Chico Domains makes it easy for you to create your own web site tonight! Network Chico Domains offers web tracking, statistics, marketing tools and more for monitoring and promoting your new domain name and website.

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