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Managing Rules the Easy Way with PowerBroker for Windows Collections

Posted April 25, 2014    Morey Haber

One of the least-known secrets about PowerBroker for Windows is the ability to create logical groups of rules, or “collections.” Rules automate the actions taken by PowerBroker to enforce system and application access policies on Windows servers and desktops. In addition to making it easy to manage rules, collections enable you to enforce parent rules and take actions across all child rules within the collection.

Leveraging collections is a best practice that allows you to organize rules based on almost any criteria and treat multiple rules as a single entity. This comes in handy when:

  • Organizing rules into physical groupings for ease of maintenance or review
  • Creating rule groups based on abstract variables like department, application, or even denied applications or websites
  • Applying umbrella rules and actions across groups of rules
  • Storing obsolete or temporary rules
  • Testing rules before inserting them into production (best for Item-Level Targeting)
  • Managing rules requiring common Item-Level Targeting


Example Collections Use Cases

The below screenshot depicts some example collections commonly deployed by PowerBroker for Windows customers:

PBW-cricklewood sample RCS

Collections represented in the screenshot include:

  • Operating System Elevations for managing tasks inherent to the OS. Sample rules in this group apply to tasks such as modifying the system clock, running defrag.exe, or even adding an ODBC driver.
  • Website Explicit Deny rules are for creating Internet Explorer policies that block specific websites. In this example, rules block websites that are against corporate policy. These rules would be processed regardless of whether the user is on the corporate network or logging on remotely.
  • The Engineering Department Allowed Collection utilizes Item-Level Targeting to allow applications like VMware workstation or AutoCAD to operate correctly for specific subnets.
  • Discovery is a sample collection with passive rules designed to discover applications that are being executed with administrative privileges.


Best Practices for Ordering Collections and Rules

The order of collections and the rules they contain is equally as important as the rules themselves. The order number for each rule and collection is displayed in the Order column of the PowerBroker snap-in user interface. They dictate the sequence in which the rules will process, much as with firewall rules.

The following best practices govern rule-processing order for collections and rules:

  • Within each Group Policy Object (GPO), rules are processed sequentially from highest order number to lowest, and only the first rule that targets an application takes effect.
  • When a rule and a collection have the same order number, the individual rule is processed before the collection.
  • When a rule collection contains a sub-collection, rules in the parent collection are processed first, and then rules in the sub-collection are processed.
  • Rule collections are automatically assigned an order number when they are created. You can change the order number of a collection by selecting the collection in the Group Policy Management Editor and clicking the Move the selected item up or Move the selected item down arrow buttons in the menu bar.

It’s important to note that a collection and a rule can have the same order number since rules are children of collections. No two collections can have the same order number nor can any two rules within any collection.

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