Security Experts:

Microsoft Removes Password-Expiration Policy in Windows 10

Microsoft this week announced a series of changes to the security baseline in Windows 10, including the removal of the password-expiration policy from the platform. 

Set to come into effect with the next Windows 10 feature update (Windows 10 version 1903, a.k.a. “19H1”) and Windows Server version 1903, the change is expected to have no impact on the security of the operating system. 

Password expiration policies, Microsoft says, are only effective in the event a password is stolen during the validity interval and is used by an unauthorized party. However, if a password is never stolen, setting an expiration date for it makes no sense. 

“And if you have evidence that a password has been stolen, you would presumably act immediately rather than wait for expiration to fix the problem,” Microsoft’s Aaron Margosis points out

The baselines, he points out, are intended for use with “minimal if any modification by most well-managed, security-conscious enterprises. They are also intended to serve as guidance for auditors.”

Thus, an organization can choose other security policies to protect against stolen passwords instead of setting an expiration period, including banned-password lists, multi-factor authentication, detection of password-guessing attacks, and detection of anomalous logon attempts. 

“Periodic password expiration is an ancient and obsolete mitigation of very low value, and we don’t believe it’s worthwhile for our baseline to enforce any specific value. By removing it from our baseline rather than recommending a particular value or no expiration, organizations can choose whatever best suits their perceived needs without contradicting our guidance,” Margosis says. 

The proposed baselines (a draft is now available for download) also bring a change related to the built-in Administrator and Guest accounts. Up until now, these accounts have been disabled by default, but Microsoft is now removing this requirement from the security baselines. 

“Note that removing these settings from the baseline would not mean that we recommend that these accounts be enabled, nor would removing these settings mean that the accounts will be enabled. Removing the settings from the baselines would simply mean that administrators could now choose to enable these accounts as needed,” Margosis explains. 

The new baselines recommend having any administrative local accounts enabled, but only one of them should be in use and should have a strong password. The account can also be renamed, yet that doesn’t necessarily improve security. 

Other changes Microsoft has announced include the enabling of a new “Enable svchost.exe mitigation options” policy to enforce stricter security on services hosted in svchost.exe; configuring the new App Privacy setting, “Let Windows apps activate with voice while the system is locked;” and disabling multicast name resolution (LLMNR) to mitigate server spoofing threats.

Other policies are meant to restrict the NetBT NodeType to P-node, disallowing the use of broadcast to register or resolve names; adding recommended auditing settings for Kerberos authentication service; dropping the specific BitLocker drive encryption method and cipher strength settings, and dropping the File Explorer “Turn off Data Execution Prevention for Explorer” and “Turn off heap termination on corruption” settings. 

Related: Microsoft Announces New Windows Platform Security Technology

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