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HomeCIS ControlsCIS Control 3: Secure Configurations for Hardware and Software on Mobile Devices, Laptops, Workstations, and Servers
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CIS Control 3

Secure Configurations for Hardware and Software on Mobile Devices, Laptops, Workstations, and Servers

Key Principle:

Establish, implement, and actively manage (track, report on, correct) the security configuration of laptops, servers, and workstations using a rigorous configuration management and change control process in order to prevent attackers from exploiting vulnerable services and settings.

Why is this CIS Control critical?

As delivered by manufacturers and resellers, the default configurations for operating systems and applications are normally geared to ease-of-deployment and ease-of-use – not security. Basic controls, open services and ports, default accounts or passwords, older
(vulnerable) protocols, pre-installation of unneeded software; all can be exploitable in their default state.

Developing configuration settings with good security properties is a complex task beyond the ability of individual users, requiring analysis of potentially hundreds or thousands of options in order to make good choices (the Procedures and Tool section below provides resources for secure configurations). Even if a strong initial configuration is developed and installed, it must be continually managed to avoid security “decay” as software is updated or patched, new security vulnerabilities are reported, and configurations are “tweaked” to allow the installation of new software or support new operational requirements. If not, attackers will find opportunities to exploit both network-accessible services and client software.

Main Points:
  • Establish standard secure configurations of operating systems and software applications. Standardized images should represent hardened versions of the underlying operating system and the applications installed on the system. These images should be validated and refreshed on a regular basis to update their security configuration in light of recent vulnerabilities and attack vectors.
  • Follow strict configuration management, building a secure image that is used to build all new systems that are deployed in the enterprise. Any existing system that becomes compromised should be re-imaged with the secure build. Regular updates or exceptions to this image should be integrated into the organization’s change management processes. Images should be created for workstations, servers, and other system types used by the organization.

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Information Hub: Secure Configurations for Hardware and Software on Mobile Devices, Laptops, Workstations, and Servers