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Bringing you news and commentary on solutions and strategies for protecting critical IT infrastructure in the context of your business.

Automating Configuration Auditing

Posted March 15, 2011    Morey Haber

????????I want to discuss a rather simple use case with my readers that until recently, had a rather complex solution. Consider you are a major airline, corporation, or even a local government with thousands of systems that should be identical from a configuration perspective. These could be airline check-in kiosks, a call center handling support calls, or a state or local government agency with a standard image for desktops and laptops. How do (or did) you verify the configuration of these assets on a regular basis?

While the concept may sound simple, checking all of these systems manually is completely unfeasible and using agent-based technology or dedicated configuration compliance scanning appliances were the only choices for verifying individual system settings on a regular basis. These solutions were traditionally very expensive and could be labor intensive to install, configure, and maintain. A rather simple problem for configuration assessment became a complex problem to implement.

Recently, Microsoft released the Security Compliance Manager (SCM) {2010} which allows you to import Security Configuration Benchmarks from Microsoft’s own Best Practice Guidelines (or other third-party solutions) and review them using an interactive user interface shown below:

 

The SCM interface allows you to highlight an operating system or application and review individual recommended security configurations settings by system role. A user can go into any of the settings as illustrated below and change the settings to meet their corporate policy. While this procedure may sound tedious, a user only needs to do it once for each configuration template they need to follow. For the most part, corporate policies match these settings and are similar to standards published by CIS, DISA (in terms of STIGS), and USGCB. Only minor modifications are normally needed for your organization and if you are unsure of which settings to choose, Microsoft has given clear guidance into each value in order for you to make an intelligent decision regarding the proper default value.

Once you have completed all of the edits, you are now only a few mouse clicks away from using an agentless network scanner technology for performing a configuration compliance assessment. Something that had not been possible before. Microsoft has added to SCM that ability to export all of the settings to a certified SCAP OVAL CAB file. The screen illustrates this using the Action menu on the left hand side. After you save the file, you are almost ready to perform an automated configuration assessment.

Retina CS contains a certified SCAP scanning engine. Within the management console, a user can import a third-party CAB file from other sources like SCM. The screenshot below illustrates how to import the newly created corporate policy file for a Windows 7 Desktop asset. In addition, Retina CS ships with 50 default templates from FDCC, USGCB, Microsoft, and DISA to enable rapid configuration assessment using already established configuration benchmark guidelines.

Once the file is imported, it is registered and available just like any other SCAP template for a Configuration Compliance Benchmark scan. Retina will scan all the targets in the range using this benchmark and provide a SCAP compliant report and XCCDF files, for review and integration into other SCAP compliant products. Retina has taken the complex problem of configuration compliance benchmark assessment from the realm of costly agents and appliances to a single solution that can be managed via a network vulnerability assessment scanner. Organizations no longer need to deploy and architect complex monitoring systems for this simple task. Retina can do it for you. For more information on Retina CS and automating Configuration Compliance Benchmarks, please click here.

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