Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Late last month, Microsoft announced a major update to Windows 10 would be made available on August 9th.

In a post on the Windows Experience Blog, Microsoft revealed a list of new features and security upgrades, improvements to Cortana and a set of features aimed at making the Windows 10 experience better on smartphones and tablets.

This news arrives almost exactly a yeat to the day of the consumer launch of Windows 10. The new operating system has seen massive adoption by both business and consumers users in the past year, and Microsoft hope these upgrades spur further adoption by any stragglers.


  • Windows Hello will now have integration with biometrics.  This will allow users to embrace security without compromising convenience.
  • Improvements to Windows Defender (MS Antimalware software)
    • Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection — cloud based antimalware software for enterprise
  • Windows Information Protection (more information here)


This update will include updates to Cortana, the Microsoft virtual assistant, to hopefully make her more useful. The assistant is now available to take commands on users’ lock screens, so they can do things like ask questions and play music without having to unlock their devices.  Cortana can also remember things for users, such as their shopping lists or important to do item so that people do not have to refer to other platforms to retrieve them.

Windows Ink

Microsoft is also introducing new tools that make it easier to jot down notes using a touchscreen-enabled tablet or laptop. The Windows Ink features give users a virtual notepad to doodle, sketch or scribble down notes without having to wait for an app to launch.  Furthermore, key apps have new ink-specific features, like using handwriting in Office, ink annotations in Microsoft Edge or drawing custom routes in Maps.

Thats only to touch on a few of the key items in the update, there will be further secuirty enhancements and improved xbox integration. Microsoft Edge also received a handful of updates, including support for browser extensions which should make it more of a credible alternative to Chrome or Firefox.

Edge Browser

  • Battery usage efficiency gains — up to 3 hours compared to Google Chrome
  • Extensions available
  • Accessibility with HTML5, CSS3, Aria

Application Whitelisting Using Software Restriction Policies

Software Restriction Policies (SRP) allows administrators to manage what applications are permitted to run on Microsoft Windows. SRP is a Windows feature that can be configured as a local computer policy or as a domain policy through Group Policy with Windows Server 2003 domains and above. The use of SRP as a white-listing technique will increase the security feature of the domain by preventing malicious programs from running since the administrators can manage which software or applications are allowed to run on client PCs.

Blacklisting is a reactive technique that does not extend well to the increasing number and variety of malware. There have been many attacks that cannot be blocked by the blacklisting techniques since it uses undiscovered vulnerabilities known as zero-day vulnerabilities.

On the other hand, Application white-listing is a practical technique where only a limited number of programs are allowed to run and the rest of the programs are blocked by default. It makes it hard for attackers to get in to the network since it needs to exploit one of the allowed programs on the user’s computer or get around the white-listing mechanism to make a successful attack. This approach should not be seen as replacement standard security software such as anti virus or firewalls – it is best used in conjunction with these.

Since Microsoft Windows operating systems have SRP functionality built in, administrators can readily configure an application white-listing solution that only allows specific executable files to be run. Service Restriction Policies can also restrict which application libraries are permitted to be used by executable’s.

There are certain recommended SRP settings by NSA Information Assurance Directorate’s (IAD) Systems and Network Analysis Center (SNAC). It is advised to test any configuration changes on a test network or on a small set of test computers to make sure that the settings are correct before implementing the change on the whole domain.

There is known issues on certain Windows versions to consider: for example minor usability issue such as when double-clicking a document, it may not open the associated document viewer application, another is the software update method that allows users to manually apply patches may not function well once SRP is enforced. We may see these issues addressed with a hotfix provided by Microsoft. Automatic updates are not affected by SRP white-listing and will still function correctly. SRP settings should be tested thoroughly due to issues like this to prevent causing a widespread problem in your production environment.

The use of path-based SRP rules are recommended since it has shown unnoticeable performance impact on host after a good deal of testing. Other rules may provide greater security benefits than path-based rules but it has an increased impact on host performance. Other rules like file hash rules are more difficult to manage and needs constant updates each time any files are installed or updated, another is the certificate rules which is somehow limited since not all the applications’ files are digitally signed by their software publishers.

There are certain steps to follow in implementing SRP in Active Directory domain which can be done through the steps below:

1. Review the domain to find out which applications are operating on domain computers.

2. Configure SRP to work in white-listing approach.

3. Choose which applications must be permitted to run and make extra SRP rules as required.

4. Test the SRP rules and form additional rules as needed.

5. Install SRP to sequentially larger Organizational Units until SRP is functional to the entire network.

6. Observe SRP continuously and adjust the rules when needed.

SRP configuration as described above can drastically increase security stance of a domain while continuously letting users to run the applications they need to remain productive for their work.

Security Awareness: A Tale of Two Challenges

SANS Institute has recently releases their findings from a survey ‘Securing The Human 2016’ about Security Awareness that led them to uncover two key findings: First, the security awareness team are not getting enough support they need and second, the experts in the field of security awareness lack soft skills to get the knowledge they have distributed properly.

This is the second annual security awareness report released and its main goal is to allow security awareness officers to make knowledgeable decisions on how to make their security programs better and to let them compare their organizations program to other programs in their industry.

SANS Institute provides information security training all over the world. For over 25 years of experience they are considered as the most trusted and the principal source of information security training. SANS : Securing The Human is an institute division that gives complete and comprehensive security awareness solution to organizations which can help them to effectively manage their human cyber security risk.

Report Summary

This years’ approach tells a story through data, compared to last year where the data and results were presented in the order the survey was taken. The data tells a story about the tale of two challenges which they began to see as they worked through the data.

They conducted a survey on what are the biggest challenges that security officers encountered and the results were tremendous giving them over a 100 different topics. The responses were categorized into 12 categories by Ingolf Becker, from University College of London. The seven problem categories include: resources, adoption, support from management, end user support, finding time to take part, content and not enough staff awareness. They have focused on the first seven on the list which fell into two general groups: lack of resources, time, support and/or not having an impact. The people are either limited on their ability to execute (46%) and/or fails to deliver the needed impact (47%). This starts the tale of two challenges and this report is focused on understanding these challenges and identifying possible solutions.

e Programs Awareness Challenge Biggest o

Categorization of Biggest Challenge Awareness Programs Face


Similar to last year’s report, the data showed that a lot of awareness staff has insufficient resources, time and support to get the work completed.

Resources, as defined by Ingolf, are about the shortage of money or technical resources. Budget wise more than 50% of respondents stated that they either have a budget of $5,000 or less or they are not aware if they do have a budget and only 25% reported a budget of $25,000 or more.

Estimated Budget for 2016

Less than 15% of the respondents work full-time in awareness which is an improvement from last year’s 10% it is still considerably low. While there is an improvement only 65% says that they only spend 25% or less of their time on awareness.

Even if the people are getting support for security awareness they do not have or there is only a few metrics considered that demonstrates the human problem, impact or awareness. Most are focused on phishing which is a common top human risk, which is good but this is only one of the many organizational human risk to deal with.

Communication was identified to be the number one blocker in the program. This is more evident in larger organizations where they have 1,000 employees or more. Highly technical people reports to the highly technical department have communications as their biggest blocker even if their main job is to communicate to the organization.


As a recommendation they proposed that communications as one of the most critical soft skills needs to be addressed by training; place someone from the communications department into the awareness team or hire someone with the soft skills they need. As for the engagement, people needs to know why they should care about security awareness and target them at an emotional level rather than giving them statistics and numbers.

Patch Management

Patch Management – Best Practices

Why Does Patch Management Matter?

Simply put, patching is important because of IT governance. As a corporate IT department, you’re held responsible when viruses affect users or applications stop working. It becomes your problem to solve. Securing your organization’s end points against intrusion is your first line of defense. With an increasing number of users working while mobile, simply securing your network through firewalls doesn’t account for company data that’s been taken outside your network perimeter. Proper patching is the best start to securing those devices. Most IT professionals pay attention to security and patching their users’ systems, but how many have a well-honed patch management policy? Patch management is often seen as a trivial task by end users—simply click ‘update’. For administrators, there’s a lot more to it, and a proper policy is certainly not overkill. But what should a patch management policy include apart from deploying patches? Read on to learn how to implement patch management policies, processes and persistence.

1 – Policy

The first step in developing a patch management strategy is to develop a policy that outlines the who, what, how and when of patching your systems. This up-front planning enables you to be proactive instead of reactive. Proactive management anticipates problems in advance and develops policies to deal with them; reactive management adds layer upon layer of hastily thought-up solutions that get cobbled together using bits of string and glue. It’s easy to see which approach will unravel in the event of a crisis. The goal of patch management policy is to effectively identify and fix vulnerabilities. Once you’re notified of a critical weakness, you should immediately know who will deal with it, how it will deployed and how quickly it will be fixed. For example, a simple element of a patch management policy might be that critical or important patches should be applied first.

2 – Discovery

Information comes to you about a newly released patch meant to address a product defect or vulnerability. These notifications can originate from a number of places—LabTech, Automatic Updates, Microsoft’s Security Notification Service. It all depends on which tools you use to monitor and keep your systems up-to-date. In this chapter, we’ll talk about a number of 2 proven tools you can use to manage patching notifications.

3 – Persistence

Policies are useless and processes are futile unless you persist in applying them consistently. Network security requires constant vigilance, not only because new vulnerabilities and patches appear almost daily, but because new processes and tools are constantly being developed to handle the growing problem of keeping systems patched. Effective patch management has become a necessity in today’s information technology environments.

Reasons for this necessity are:

• The ongoing discovery of vulnerabilities in existing operating systems and applications

• The continuing threat of hackers developing applications that exploit those vulnerabilities

• Vendor requirements to patch vulnerabilities via the release of patches.

These points illustrate the need to constantly apply patches to your IT environments. Such a large task is best accomplished following a series of repeatable, automated best practices. Therefore, it’s important to look at patch management as a closed-loop process. It is a series of best practices that have to be repeated regularly on your networks to ensure protection from exposed vulnerabilities.

Patch Management requires:

– Regular rediscovery of systems that may potentially be affected

– Scanning those systems for vulnerabilities

– Downloading patches and patch definition databases

– Deploying patches to systems that need them

4 – Patching Resources

Microsoft updates arrive predictably on Patch Tuesday (the second Tuesday of every month), which means you can plan ahead for testing and deployment. You can get advance notice by subscribing to the security bulletin, which comes out three business days before the release and includes details of the updates. The following is a list of currently available resources you can use when augmenting your patch process, as well as some that can keep you informed of patch-related updates that fall outside the scope of Microsoft updates.

Microsoft Security TechCenter –

SearchSecurity Patch News

Oracle Critical Patch Updates and Security Alerts (Patch Mailing List)

Patch My PC (third-party, free patching)

5 – Patching Tools

Client Management Platform Approving and deploying patches on individual machines is simply not scalable. As your organization grows, it is important to utilize a tool that can automate your patch management process, so your technicians aren’t bogged down with the mundane task of individually patching each machine. A client management platform with built-in patch management capabilities can help. When searching for the right tool, remember to look for one that enables you to:

-Identify, approve, update or ignore patches and hotfixes for one or multiple devices at a group level

-Define patch install windows for an individual device or a group of devices

-Schedule patch installation times and patch reboot times

-Create tickets for all successful patch install jobs

-Provide detailed reports of patch install jobs to your management team


Third-Party Patching Tools

It is important to ensure timely installation of patches, so security holes remain closed not only in the Windows operating system, but also in software products that are used on desktops and servers. A third-party patching tool such as App-Care or Ninite can be used for obtaining, testing and deploying updates to third-party applications. Be sure to look for a third-party patching tool that integrates seamlessly with your client management platform for increased automation and efficiency.



Patch management is a critical process in protecting your systems from known vulnerabilities and exploits that could result in your organization’s systems being compromised. Viruses and malware are just two examples of aggressors that take advantage of these weaknesses and can be especially destructive and difficult to correct. Patches correct bugs, flaws and provide enhancements, which can prevent potential user impact, improve user experience and save your technicians time researching and repairing issues that could have already been resolved or prevented with an existing update. Users generally understand that their systems need to be patched, but they often do not have the expertise to comfortably approve and install patches without help. Developing best practices to manage the risks associated with the approval and deployment of patches is critical to your IT department’s service offering.


This article was provided by our partner Labtech