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What are the recommended Audit Policy settings for Windows when implementing logging for the PCI DSS or other security standard?

To enable logging of all relevant Windows security events to underpin your security policy, it is necessary to configure the Local Security Policy for the Server/Workstation. This can be done either directly using the Local Security Policy console or applied globally using Group Policy.

 Note: This article serves as a Quick Start Guide and is relevant for older Windows Operating Systems (Pre-Vista/2008). For a more comprehensive guide that makes full use of the Windows Advanced Audit Policy see this article HERE

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The recommended Windows Audit Policy is as follows

  • Account Logon Events – Success and Failure
  • Account Management Events – Success and Failure
  • Directory Service Access Events – Failure *
  • Logon Events – Success and Failure
  • Object Access Events – Success and Failure **
  • Policy Change Events – Success and Failure
  • Privilege Use Events - Failure
  • Process Tracking – No Auditing ***
  • System Events – Success and Failure ****

* Directory Service Access Events available on a Domain Controller only

** Object Access – Used in conjunction with Folder and File Auditing. Auditing Failures reveals attempted access to forbidden secure objects which may be an attempted security breach. Auditing Success is used to provide an Audit Trail of all access to secured date, for example, card data in a settlement/transaction file/folder.

Note: when using Server 2008/Win7 or later, there is an ‘Advanced Audit Policy Configuration’ option available which allows more precise application of auditing of Object Access events and is useful in eliminating unwanted events. If available, enable the ‘Audit File System’ option only for Success, and optionally Failure, but leave other settings as ‘Not Configured’

*** Process Tracking – not recommended as this will generate a large number of events. Better to use a specialized whitelisting/blacklisting technology such as NNT Remote Angel

**** System Events – Not required for PCI DSS compliance but often used to provided additional ‘added value’ from a PCI DSS initiative, providing early warning signs of problems with hardware and so pre-empt system failures

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