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How to Monitor and Audit Your Windows Server for Security Events. In the dynamic landscape of IT infrastructure, safeguarding the integrity and Security of our Windows Server environment is paramount. Effective monitoring and auditing are not just proactive measures. They are the vigilant guardians that ensure the resilience of our system against potential threats and unauthorized access. This article explores the essential elements of monitoring and auditing in Windows Server, offering valuable insights into the necessary tools and practices for recognizing and addressing security events. In doing so, it strengthens the digital defenses of our server environment.

How to Monitor and Audit Your Windows Server for Security Events

Every system in an organization’s network generates log files of some type. Managing and monitoring these log data is crucial to spotting issues that occur within the network. The logs serve as a preliminary source of forensic evidence in case of a mishap. Besides this, monitoring logs also help fulfill compliance requirements. Active Directory (AD), most enterprises’ identity access management and governance platform, must be monitored regularly. The events that occur in an AD environment (Windows platform) are classified and logged under three main categories:

Security logs include details about events like user account logons and logoffs, modifications to privileged groups, creating, deleting, or modifying scheduled tasks, etc. These logs are one of the first forensic evidence we inspect in case of a mishap to make a timeline and trace the attack path. Consistently monitoring security events and analysing logs helps network administrators to gain insights about potential attacks that threaten the organization’s IT infrastructure and improve the security posture.

In digital security, understanding the nuances of various event logs is paramount. This segment delves into the categories—from authentication to audit logs—essential for monitoring and safeguarding system integrity. Explore how each log type contributes to a comprehensive view of the security landscape and reinforces your cyber security strategy. For this article, we are focusing more on Security Logs. The following events are some of the essential security events that we start monitoring in our environment:

User Logon Events

Monitoring user logon events is essential to determine which users were active at any given time. In the event of a breach, identifying specific users accessing network resources are a great place to begin an investigation. Below are some of the Windows event log IDs related to user logon events:

User Attribute Changes

It is vital to keep a check on changes made to user attributes. Unauthorized changes to user properties could be a precursor to account compromise or insider attacks. Below are some of the event IDs associated with critical change events:

    • User changed the password – Event ID 4723
    • User account was changed – Event ID 4738

Account Lockout Events

Solving employees’ account lockout issues is one of the everyday tasks IT administrators perform. Auditing account lockout events help to identify the reason for lockouts and help in swiftly resolving the issue. Below are some of the event IDs associated with account lockout events:

    • User Account Locked OutEvent ID 4740
    • User Account Unlocked – Event ID 4767

Group Management Events

Tracking Active Directory group membership changes is crucial to identify unauthorized access to resources and privilege escalations. Malicious changes made to groups disrupt the functioning of an organization as users might lose access to the resources they require to work efficiently. Below are some of the event IDs associated with critical group change events:

    • User Added to a Privileged Group – Event ID 4728, 4732, 4756
    • Member added to a standard group – Event ID 4728, 4732, 4756, 4761, 4746, 4751
    • Member removed from the group – Event ID 4729, 4733, 4757, 4762, 4747, 4752

Group Policy Object Changes

Group Policy Object (GPO) provides an integrated platform for configuring and managing user settings, applications, and operating systems in an Active Directory environment. Keeping a close eye on critical policy changes like account lockout and password policy changes is essential to instantly detect and respond to malicious activities. Below are some of the event IDs associated with critical GPO change events:

    • Group Policy changes – Event ID 5136
    • Creation of GPOs – Event ID 5137
    • GPO deletions – Event ID 5141

Privileged User Activities

Monitoring privileged users’ activities may enable an organization to protect critical assets, spot anomalous activities, and mitigate external and insider threats. Below are some of the event IDs associated with critical privileged user activity events:

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Viewing Events Using Windows Event Viewer

After enabling auditing, we  use Event Viewer to see the logs and investigate events by following the below-mentioned steps:

  • Click on Start ➔ Administrative Tools ➔ Event Viewer
  • Click Windows Logs and select Security. We see all the events logged in security logs.
  • Search the desired Event ID using the Find option or create a custom view to find the event logs we seek.

Windows, being the predominant platform in most enterprise networks, the security logs generated by these are voluminous. Doing each recorded security event manually to identify anomalous activities is practically impossible.

Windows Security Event Log Best Practices

Without planning, our Windows audit policies generate high volumes of overwhelming data. We should follow some basic strategies to use Windows security event logs for Security and compliance effectively. At the highest level, we must understand the logical grouping of resources and activities that require auditing.

Windows Log Management

  1. Enable Relevant Audit Policies: Ensure key audit policies, including account logon/logoff, privilege use, object access, policy change, and system events, are activated based on organizational security needs.
  2. Regular Log Review and Clearance: Conduct periodic reviews and clear event logs to prevent capacity issues. Implement automated log rotation and archival processes for efficient log management.
  3. Centralized Logging: Utilize tools like Windows Event Forwarding or third-party solutions to centralize logs, providing a unified view for analysis and alerting.
  4. Event Log Retention Policy: Establish a clear event log retention policy following regulatory requirements and organizational security standards.
  5. Real-time Monitoring and Alerts: Implement real-time monitoring for critical security events and configure alerts for specific event IDs or patterns to facilitate proactive threat detection.
  6. Secure Access Control: Restrict access to event logs to authorized personnel, following the principle of least privilege to prevent unauthorized tampering.
  7. Event Log Backups: Regularly back up security event logs to preserve data in case of system failures or security incidents. Backups are essential for forensic analysis.
  8. Keep System Updated: Microsoft regularly updates the Windows operating system and security software with the latest patches to address known vulnerabilities.
  9. Personnel Training: Provide training to IT personnel responsible for monitoring and managing security event logs. Equip them with knowledge about everyday security events and appropriate response measures.
  10. Integration with SIEM Solutions: If relevant, incorporate event registers into Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) solutions to enhance analysis, correlation, and reporting capabilities.

Thank you for your time. We conclude the article How to Monitor and Audit Your Windows Server for Security Events.. 

How to Monitor and Audit Your Windows Server for Security Events Conclusion

In conclusion, the meticulous orchestration of Windows Server monitoring and auditing is not just a best practice; it’s a strategic imperative in cybersecurity. By implementing robust monitoring tools and proactive auditing practices, organizations create a resilient defence against potential security threats, ensuring the continuous integrity of their server environment. As the digital landscape evolves, the commitment to vigilance through monitoring and auditing becomes a safeguard and a cornerstone in fortifying the foundations of a secure and reliable Windows Server infrastructure.


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Marion Mendoza

Marion Mendoza

Windows Server and VMware SME. Powershell Guru. Currently working with Fortune 500 companies responsible for participating in 3rd level systems support across the enterprise. Acting as a Windows Server engineer and VMware Specialist.

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