Monitoring System Account Access

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If you’re planning to take the Security+ exam, you should have a basic understanding of account management. This includes creation, management, disabling, and termination of account access.

For example, can you answer this question?

Q. You need to create an account for a contractor who will be working at your company for 90 days. Which of the following is the BEST security step to take when creating this account?

A. Configure history on the account.

B. Configure a password expiration date on the account.

C. Configure an expiration date on the account.

D. Configure complexity.

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation is available at the end of this post.

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Expiring Accounts

It’s possible to set user accounts to expire automatically. When the account expires, the system disables it, and the user is no longer able to log on using the account.

The following figure shows the properties of an account. The Account Expires section is at the bottom of the page, and the account is set to expire on September 1. When September 1 arrives, the account is automatically disabled and the user will no longer be able to log on.

Implementing System Account Access

It’s common to configure temporary accounts to expire. For example, an organization may hire contractors for a 90-day period to perform a specific job. An administrator creates accounts for the contractors and sets them to expire in 90 days. This automatically disables the accounts at the end of the contract. If the organization extends the contract, it’s a simple matter to change the expiration date and enable the account.

Remember this

Account expiration dates automatically disable accounts on the expiration date. This is useful for temporary accounts such as temporary contractors.

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Reviewing Account Access

Configuring logging of logon attempts is an important security step for system monitoring. After configuring logging, a system records the time and date when users log on, and when they access systems within a network. When users first log on to their account, it’s recorded as a logon action. Additionally, when users access a resource over the network (such as a file server), it is also recorded as a logon action. Many systems utilize single sign-on, so users don’t have to provide their credentials again. However, their access is still recorded as a logon action.

You can identify if someone is trying to hack into an account by monitoring failed logon attempts. If a log shows 50 failed logon attempts followed by a success, it indicates someone successfully guessed the password for an account.

Chapter 1 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide presents information related to account lockout policies where a system locks out an account after so many failed logon attempts. However, the administrator account cannot be locked out. If the name of the administrator account is not changed (a standard security practice) and someone tries to hack into it, an account logon audit will capture the details.

As a brief introduction, security logs will record who took an action, what action they took, where they took it, and when they took it. In other words, if users access a file server over a network, the audit log entries show the user identities, when they accessed the server, what server they accessed, and what computer they used to access the server. Users would not be able to refute the recorded action because auditing provides non-repudiation.

Remember this

You can identify when a user logs on to a local system and when a user accesses a remote system by monitoring account logon events. Configuring account logon monitoring is an important security step for system monitoring.

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Credential Management

A credential is a collection of information that provides an identity (such as a username) and proves that identity (such as with a password). Over time, users often have multiple credentials that they need to remember, especially when they access many web sites. Credential management systems help users store these credentials securely. The goal is to simplify credential management for users, while also ensuring that unauthorized personnel do not have access to the users’ credentials.

As an example of a credential management system, Windows 7 includes the Credential Manager, accessible from Control Panel. Users are able to add credentials into the Credential Manager, which stores them securely in special folders called vaults. Then when users access web sites needing credentials, the system automatically retrieves the credentials from the vault and submits them to the web site.


 

Q. You need to create an account for a contractor who will be working at your company for 90 days. Which of the following is the BEST security step to take when creating this account?

A. Configure history on the account.

B. Configure a password expiration date on the account.

C. Configure an expiration date on the account.

D. Configure complexity.

Answer is C. When creating temporary accounts, it’s best to configure expiration dates so that the system will automatically disable the accounts on the specified date.

History, password expiration, and complexity all refer to password policy settings.

However, it’s rare to configure a specific password policy on a single account.

See Chapter 2 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-401 Study Guide for more information logical access controls.

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