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NIST SP 800-69 (draft) Guidance for Securing Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
A NIST Security Configuration Checklist
on Monday 14 August 2006 print the content item {PDF=create pdf file of the content item^plugin:content.58}
in NIST.gov Publications > Special Publications - SP 800 series

SP 800-69 should be considered essential reading for all Windows XP Home Edition users. It does a very good job of summarizing the various threats facing home computer users and lists simple ways for users to mitigate them without having to be technically proficient.

You can download the NIST Special Publication 800-69 from NIST.gov

This document should be considered essential reading for all Windows XP Home Edition users. But that is asking a lot, the SP 800-69 document is 169 pages. However it does a very good job of summarizing the various threats facing home computer users and lists simple ways for users to mitigate them without having to be technically proficient. Surprisingly the document also goes out on a limb in a few places such as listing services that users can disable. It won't make anyone a security expert but it will give the average computer user a much better understanding of the threats they face every time they use their computer online. It even covers wireless networking, re-installation of the operating system, backups, and step-by-step instructions on how configure many of the security features that are built-in to Windows XP Home Edition.


(The below is a short description of SP 800-69 from NIST.gov, edited)

The draft SP 800-69 provides a checklist and guidance to home users, such as telecommuting Federal employees, on improving the security of their home computers that run Windows XP Home Edition. These computers face many threats from people wanting to cause mischief and disruption, commit fraud, and perform identity theft. The publication explains the need to use a combination of security protections to achieve a defense in depth. Thee protections include such as: antivirus software, antispyware software, a personal firewall, limited user accounts, and automatic software updates, to secure a computer against threats and maintain its security. It also emphasizes the importance of performing regular backups to ensure that user data is available after an adverse event such as an attack against the computer, a hardware failure, or human error. The publication contains a detailed step-by-step directions for securing Windows XP Home Edition computers that can be performed by experienced Windows XP Home Edition users.

Users of Windows XP Home Edition need to be aware of the threats that their computers face and the security protections available to protect their computers so that they can operate their computers more securely. Security protections are measures used to thwart threats.

Summary:

One of the most important parts of securing a Windows XP Home Edition computer is eliminating known weaknesses, because attackers could attempt to take advantage of them. Five categories of methods for eliminating weaknesses are as follows:
  • Limiting access to the computer through separate password-protected user accounts for each person, with different accounts for administrative and daily tasks (a limited user account)
  • Applying software updates to the computer on a regular basis, including Windows XP Home Edition and software applications
  • Limiting network access by disabling unneeded networking features, limiting the use of remote access utilities and Internet Connection Sharing, and configuring wireless networking securely
  • Modifying default file associations and the display of default file extensions
  • Disabling services that are not needed.


The five most important protections that should be used for Windows XP Home Edition computers connecting to the Internet are as follows:
  • Using a personal firewall that is configured to restrict incoming network activity to only that which is required
  • Using a limited user account for typical daily use of the computer
  • Running up-to-date antivirus software and antispyware software that is configured to monitor the computer and applications often used to spread malware (e.g., e-mail, Web) and to quarantine or delete any identified malware
  • Applying updates to the operating system and major applications (e.g., e-mail clients, Web browsers) regularly, preferably through automated means that check for updates frequently
  • Performing regular backups so that data can be restored in case an adverse event occurs.


---
The SP 800-69 document was created by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and is public domain (not subject to copyright).


NIST Special Publication # 800-69


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