Note that Windows Server version 1903 is Server Core only and does not offer a Desktop Experience (a.k.a., “full”) server installation option. In the past we have published baselines only for “full” server releases – Windows Server 2016 and 2019. Beginning with this release we intend to publish baselines for Core-only Windows Server versions as well. However, we do not intend at this time to distinguish settings in the baseline that apply only to Desktop Experience. When applied to Server Core, those settings are inert for all intents and purposes.
This new Windows Feature Update brings very few new Group Policy settings, which we list in the accompanying documentation. This baseline recommends configuring only two of those. However, we have made several changes to existing settings, including some changes since the draft version of this baseline that we published last month.
The changes from the Windows 10 v1809 and Windows Server 2019 baselines include:
- Enabling the new “Enable svchost.exe mitigation options” policy, which enforces stricter security on Windows services hosted in svchost.exe, including that all binaries loaded by svchost.exe must be signed by Microsoft, and that dynamically-generated code is disallowed. Please pay special attention to this one as it might cause compatibility problems with third-party code that tries to use the svchost.exe hosting process, including third-party smart-card plugins.
- Configuring the new App Privacy setting, “Let Windows apps activate with voice while the system is locked,” so that users cannot interact with applications using speech while the system is locked.
- Disabling multicast name resolution (LLMNR) to mitigate server spoofing threats.
- Restricting the NetBT NodeType to P-node, disallowing the use of broadcast to register or resolve names, also to mitigate server spoofing threats. We have added a setting to the custom “MS Security Guide” ADMX to enable managing this configuration setting through Group Policy.
- Correcting an oversight in the Domain Controller baseline by adding recommended auditing settings for Kerberos authentication service.
- Dropping the password-expiration policies that require periodic password changes. This change is discussed in further detail below.
- Dropping the specific BitLocker drive encryption method and cipher strength settings. The baseline has been requiring the strongest available BitLocker encryption. We are removing that item for a few reasons. The default is 128-bit encryption, and our crypto experts tell us that there is no known danger of its being broken in the foreseeable future. On some hardware there can be noticeable performance degradation going from 128- to 256-bit. And finally, many devices such as those in the Microsoft Surface line turn on BitLocker by default and use the default algorithms. Converting those to use 256-bit requires first decrypting the volumes and then re-encrypting, which creates temporary security exposure as well as user impact.
- Dropping the File Explorer “Turn off Data Execution Prevention for Explorer” and “Turn off heap termination on corruption” settings, as it turns out they merely enforce default behavior, as Raymond Chen describes here.
Additional changes that we have adopted since publishing the draft version of this baseline include:
- Dropping the enforcement of the default behavior of disabling the built-in Administrator and Guest accounts. We had floated this proposal at the time of the draft baseline, and have since decided to accept it. The change is discussed in more detail below.
- Dropped a Windows Defender Antivirus setting that applies only to legacy email file formats.
- Changed the Windows Defender Exploit Protection XML configuration to allow Groove.exe (OneDrive for Business) to launch child processes, particularly MsoSync.exe which is necessary for file synchronization.
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