The introduction to Group Policy
- by Susith Nonis
- in Server
Group Policy is a feature by Windows that comes equipped with a variety of advanced settings which is particularly for network administrators. However the local Group Policy can be used to adjust settings on a single machine.
Note that Group Policy isn’t designed for Windows Home and only available for Windows Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise versions.
It is a centralized place for administrators to manage and configure operating systems, applications and user settings. When used correctly, group policies can increase the security of user’s computers and help defend against internal and external threats.
What is Group Policy Object (GPO)?
A GPO is a group of settings that are created by using Microsoft Management Console (MMC) Group Policy Editor. GPOs can be associated with a single or numerous Active Directory containers, including sites, domains, or organizational units (OUs).
The MMC allows users to create GPOs that define registry-based policies, security options, software installation and much more. Active Directory applies GPOs in the same, logical order; local policies, site policies, domain policies and OU policies.
Local Group Policy
Group policy is not limited to managing networks of computers in businesses and schools. If your using Windows (not the home edition), you can use the Group Policy Editor to change Group Policy settings.
With the Group Policy you will have access to change some Windows settings which are normally not available from the graphical interface. For example if you want a custom login screen to appear you can use the Registry Editor or the Group Policy Editor (PS it’s easier in the Group Policy Editor).
If you want to hide the notification area (System tray), you can do it through the Group Policy Editor.
It can also be used to lock down a computer just like you can do it on an enterprise network. This is useful if your computer is being used by multiple people. If your child is using you PC you can:
- Allow only specific programs to work
- Restrict access to specific drives
- Enforce user account password requirements (like setting a minimum length for a password)
Is it worth using Group Policy?
If you’re looking to secure your data and to set up your IT infrastructure in a secure way, then you should definitely should know how to properly use Group Policy.
Windows is pretty secure but there are some places that should be layered up. There are numerous gaps which can be fixed with the use of GPOs. Without filling these gaps can result in quite a number of security threats.
One of the main uses of Group Policy is the implementation of a policy of least privilege for the users. This provides the least amount of permissions/privileges to carry out a required task. This is pretty easy to do also.
By disabling the Local Administrator rights globally in the network and granting the admin privileges to selected individuals or groups of people based on their roles.
Another application of Group policy is to disable the outdated protocols, preventing users from making certain changes in the system and so on.
Group Policy is not only limited to security. There are many advantages but here’s three that are worth mentioning:
Regular Updates: GPOs can be used to deploy software updates and system patches to ensure you have a healthy and up to date system with the latest security patches.
System Management: GPOs can simplify tasks. You can save hours of time configuring system environments of new computers joining your domain by using a GPO to apply standardized system.
Setting up password policies: With the GPOs you can set up minimum password lengths, password complexity and other requirements to keep the systems safe. Passwords that are too simple, common phrases or related to an individual then it’s easier to hack using brute force attacks.
Here’s how to access Local Group Policy
To access the local Group Policy Editor on your Windows computer:
- Click on the Start menu
- type msc
- select gpedit.msc
Another method of getting access to the local group policy is by:
- Click Start + r
- On the appeared window type in msc
While Group Policy is really useful you shouldn’t go around changing settings. This is one of the main control panels which controls how the things work in your operating system.
However if you see an article on the web recommending you to change a Group Policy setting to achieve a specific goal, this is where you can do it.
Let us know what you think in the comments below.