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Free Solution Brief: Security Protection Strategies for NT4 Devices
1. In Focus: Passphrases vs. Passwords
2. Security News and Features
- Recent Security Vulnerabilities
- Using WMI Filters with GPOs
- Windows XP Pro x64 Data Protection Features
3. Security Matters Blog
- Malware for Macs
- MSDN Magazine: Coding Your Way to Better Security
4. Security Toolkit
- Security Forum Featured Thread
5. New and Improved
- Lock Out Unwanted USB and Other Devices
- Help Users Self-Manage Passwords
==== Sponsor: St. Bernard Software ====
Free Patch Management White Paper from St. Bernard Software
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==== 1. In Focus: Passphrases vs. Passwords ====
by Mark Joseph Edwards, News Editor, mark at ntsecurity / net
For a long time, people have argued the need for longer and more complex passwords. The idea behind the argument is that short, simple passwords are far easier to crack than long, complex passwords. Some people even prefer randomly generated passwords, which can be even more difficult to crack because they typically aren't based on some alteration of a known word in a given language.
You might already know that Windows 2000 and later allow for a maximum password length of 127 characters. The allowed characters include punctuation, special characters, and even Unicode characters. The reason for the 127-character limit is that the password character array is a set of 256 bytes. Because Unicode characters require two bytes to represent one character, the maximum number of characters that can be stored in the array is 127, or half the size of the array itself.
The ability to use 127 characters allows far more complex passwords or passphrases than many of us use. I suppose the only real difference between a password and a passphrase is that a passphrase is a series of words with a space between them, and passphrases might tend to be longer than passwords.
Some of you might know of Robert Hensing, who works as a member of Microsoft's Security Incident Response Team. Hensing has a blog (syndicated at the first URL below, unsyndicated at the second URL below), and back in July, he wrote an interesting blog article (at the third URL below) that argues for the use of passphrases instead of passwords.
In his article, Hensing explains why he thinks longer passphrases are superior. Essentially, it's because they take longer to crack. One can precompute a huge set of possible password hashes, then use these to minimize the time necessary to crack a given password. So shorter, single-word passwords are less secure because people can crack them really fast with precomputed hashes and other password-cracking tools. But the hashes of longer passphrases that include a series of words or random character combinations are far more difficult to crack because they require far more time. One premise behind password security is that a password should probably have a life span that's shorter than the time necessary to crack it. That way, the password will have been changed to something else before someone can crack it.
Granted, an entity that really wants to know your password can use certain methods, such as distributed computing and super-fast computers, to crack it much faster than the average intruder could, no matter the length. But most intruders probably aren't capable of attaining such resources, so passphrases and short passphrase life spans could keep a large percentage of intruders completely at bay. Thus, they're worth considering.
To enforce the use of passphrases, you can establish policies that require a certain minimum number of characters. For example, if you require at least two dozen characters in a password, your computer users might be inclined to think of a phrase, which is of course easier to remember than a long string of characters. If you're interested in the concept, read Hensing's blog article and consider the comments from various readers.
==== Sponsor: eEye Digital Security====
Free Solution Brief: Security Protection Strategies for NT4 Devices
Do you have legacy applications running on NT4? Did you know that Microsoft will no longer support the platform with security hot-fixes leaving many organizations without a credible protection strategy? Enterprises worldwide are frequently faced with the task of migrating their critical digital assets to newer, more advanced, platforms as vendors 'sunset' or 'end of life' older platforms and versions. Unfortunately, this upgrade is not always an option for certain market verticals or types of assets within the enterprise. Download this free white paper to learn how to protect the Windows platform without relying on patching.
==== 2. Security News and Features ====
Recent Security Vulnerabilities
If you subscribe to this newsletter, you also receive Security Alerts, which inform you about recently discovered security vulnerabilities. You can also find information about these discoveries at
Using WMI Filters with GPOs
Most IT pros are familiar with the two most common methods for applying Group Policy: directly on the container (e.g., site, domain, organizational unit--OU, local object) and indirectly through security permission restrictions. In Windows Server 2003, Microsoft added Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI)-filtering capabilities to let you further hone the scope of a Group Policy Object (GPO). WMI filters let you apply a GPO to only certain members of a container that satisfy the criteria that the filter specifies. Jeff Fellinge explains how WMI works in this article on our Web site.
Windows XP Pro x64 Data Protection Features
Due in the first half of 2005, Windows XP Professional x64 Edition will include virtually all the features from the 32-bit Windows XP Professional except for the 16-bit subsystem that enables DOS application compatibility and various legacy protocols such as Apple Computer's AppleTalk and NetBEUI. In this article, Paul Thurrott takes a look at the data-protection features in XP Pro x64.
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Come and join us for this free event and find out how a more strategic and holistic approach to IT planning helps organizations increase operational efficiency and facilitate the implementation of new technology. Sign up today. Space is limited.
==== 3. Security Matters Blog ====
by Mark Joseph Edwards, http://www.windowsitpro.com/securitymatters
Check out these recent entries in the Security Matters blog:
Malware for Macs
If you use Macintosh systems on your Windows networks, be aware that a group of people have been developing a "rootkit" for Mac OS X. The kit performs a variety of actions you might want to try to prevent.
MSDN Magazine: Coding Your Way to Better Security
The new issue of MSDN Magazine has been released. This month's content focuses almost entirely on security concerns as they pertain to developers.
==== 4. Security Toolkit ====
by John Savill, http://www.windowsitpro.com/windowsnt20002003faq
Q: How do I set a domain to interim mode?
Find the answer at
Security Forum Featured Thread
A forum participant has a problem when moving files and folders from an area that has write access to an area on the same shared drive that has read-only access. The files and folders are maintaining their original write permissions even though they were moved to a read-only area. He wants to know how he can make sure that the moved files and folders have read-only access. Join the discussion at
==== Events Central ====
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There is a silent killer stalking Exchange Servers in the form of "directory harvest attacks" that steal email directory names and quickly strangle server performance. In this free Web seminar, learn how to stop this "Exchange Strangler" before it can pilfer your email directory names and bring your email system to its knees. Register now!
==== 5. New and Improved ====
by Renee Munshi, email@example.com
Lock Out Unwanted USB and Other Devices
SmartLine offers DeviceLock 5.62, which controls which users or groups can access USB and FireWire devices, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices, CD-ROMs, floppy disks, and other removable devices. You can control access to devices depending on the time of day and day of the week and create a white list of USB devices that won't be locked regardless of any other settings. New in DeviceLock 5.62, you can use Group Policy to install the DeviceLock Service on target computers in an Active Directory (AD) domain. DeviceLock runs on Windows 2003/XP/2000/NT 4.0 computers. A single license is $35, and discounts are available for multiple licenses. For more information, go to
Help Users Self-Manage Passwords
ANIXIS has released ANIXIS Password Reset 1.1, which lets users reset their own passwords without having to contact the Help desk or a network administrator. Users who've forgotten their passwords can use a standard Web browser to access Password Reset, which asks them to answer questions about themselves. Password Reset doesn't store the users' passwords or the answers to their password-verification questions; it stores the hashes of these answers. Password Reset uses the RSA and AES (Rijndael) encryption algorithms and runs on Windows Server 2003/2000/NT 4.0. Multi-user and enterprise-level licenses are available, with prices beginning at $360 for a 50-user license. You can download a free, fully functional evaluation version from
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