Command Prompts and other security nightmares

The topic of the AT command and the command prompt came up on an internal list I am on with Microsoft the jist of which was, “How do I securely turn this junk off”.

The answer is that to some degree the command prompt and especially when coupled with the Task Scheduler is a security hole that is closable, but not trivially.  You can patch it using things like this
and you if you really want to wipe out the user’s option you should reset the task scheduler service to use a low / no priv account and disable it (I am paranoid, but I have my reasons). The problem is that the perspective of most that come up against this is that you shouldn’t have to do this, but the reality is that you do.

For a scary look at why simply taking the RUN command off the Start menu is not enough try the following:
Open up “Help and Support” from the Start menu and seach for “command”. 
Select the entry that describes how to “Test a TCP/IP configuration using the ping command”
You will see that there is a link that will open up a command prompt (it doesn’t run as System, but it runs). 
That is the XP version. 

The Windows 2003 Server one takes more searching, but it is there.

The issue is not that the functionality exists, we all want functionality.  The problem is when it is hard (or impossible) to shut something off effectively it is maddening and often leaves people dismayed.

Time for an analogy:
I have doors on my house that I leave unlocked all the time.  The dogs and other things in the house keep it secure (if you know me then you know what I mean), but if I wanted to secure those doors and found that I could lock them, but the manufacturer set them up so that the hinges were on the outside and manipulatable by an intruder then I would be unhappy.  Most security outrage and dismay comes from features that just didn’t take security into consideration for the times when I don’t want the user to do anything except what the user is told they can do.
This will always be an arms race.  If one of our professional security gurus such as Duane Laflotte wants to get in and has physical access to a workstation or server then he can get in, but there is a point where I will say, yes I accept that there are some things I can’t defend against.  If you use a tank to blow in my front door, I won’t moan to the manufacturer about them not being tank proof, that is what the mines are for ;)
Is Vista the solution to all security problems?  I doubt it.  I expect that there will be improvement based on features I already know are in the most recent builds, but I won’t judge the security of Vista until after it ships (and won’t pay all that much attention to it until then either) since the devil is in the details and the truth is in the final bits.  Submarines either leak or they don’t.  The OS will be judged in much the same way in regards to security.

Ultimately information is power.  Nowhere is that more true than in the realm of security.  I suggest that you learn all you can and I will do what I can to help.

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