Remote Desktop Users and Least User Rights


T

Thomas M.

We have undertaken a project to switch all of our users to standard user
accounts (no administrative rights on the local machine). We have many
users that are setup so that they can access their computers from home.
We've noticed that when the user is removed from the Administrators
group, the list of authorized remote users (My Computer > Properties >
Remote tab > Select Remote Users) gets wiped out. An administrator then
has to log on to the machine and add the user back to the list.

I can see why this would happen, but it does present something of a
problem for us. I would prefer not to have to manually fix this problem on
hundreds of machines. Is there a way that we can retain the list of
authorized remote users when we remove the employees administrative
rights on the machine? Also, is there some way--perhaps a script--that
we can identify the machines were remote users have been setup?

--Tom
 
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L

Lanwench [MVP - Exchange]

Thomas M. said:
We have undertaken a project to switch all of our users to standard
user accounts (no administrative rights on the local machine). We
have many users that are setup so that they can access their
computers from home. We've noticed that when the user is removed from
the Administrators group, the list of authorized remote users (My Computer
Remote tab > Select Remote Users) gets wiped out. An administrator
then has to log on to the machine and add the user back to the list.

I can see why this would happen, but it does present something of a
problem for us. I would prefer not to have to manually fix this
problem on hundreds of machines. Is there a way that we can retain
the list of authorized remote users when we remove the employees
administrative rights on the machine? Also, is there some way--perhaps a
script--that we can identify the machines were remote users have been
setup?

--Tom

Do you use AD? I'd surely hope so, if you have hundreds of machines.

If so, you have several options - you could use Restricted Groups (via group
policy) to add an AD group to each local workstation's RemoteDesktop group,
or you could create a simple startup script assigned via GPO to add them.
Restricted groups can be handy, but they can also be a bit of a PITA as they
will always replace the entire local group membership with whatever you
defined (rather than merely adding). So, I tend to use the startup script
method.

Also, I personally don't set up a one-to-one relationship between a domain
user & his/her workstation; if that PC isn't working, I want them to be able
to connect to another that is. Hence, I don't add only Joe to Joe's computer
"Remote Desktop Users" group.

E.g., you could set up AD security groups called LocalAdmins,
LocalPowerUsers, LocalRDUsers.

The batch file would have this:
.........
net localgroup administrators DOMAIN\localadmins /add
net localgroup power users DOMAIN\localpowerusers /add
net localgroup remote desktop users DOMAIN\LocalRDUsers /add
.........

You can create/link a new GPO at the appropriate OU where your computers
live (if you haven't created custom ones, you'll need to - unless you're
using SBS, which creates its own hierarchy).

Edit the GPO - go to Computer Configuration \ Windows Settings \ Scripts
(startup/shutdown)
Double-click Startup, click Add
Copy the batch file you created to the clipboard, then paste it in the
window here
Exit/apply/ok/finish whatever

All the computers in this OU should have the startup script applied when
they restart, and you can now control all this centrally, while sitting
comfortably at your desk eating bon-bons. Add whomever you like (whether
individual users, or other AD security groups) to the LocalRDUsers group and
they'll have access.

Kudos on the plan to secure your workstations - users shouldn't run w/admin
rights.
 
T

Thomas M.

"Lanwench [MVP - Exchange]"
Do you use AD? I'd surely hope so, if you have hundreds of machines.

If so, you have several options - you could use Restricted Groups (via
group policy) to add an AD group to each local workstation's RemoteDesktop
group, or you could create a simple startup script assigned via GPO to add
them. Restricted groups can be handy, but they can also be a bit of a PITA
as they will always replace the entire local group membership with
whatever you defined (rather than merely adding). So, I tend to use the
startup script method.

Also, I personally don't set up a one-to-one relationship between a domain
user & his/her workstation; if that PC isn't working, I want them to be
able to connect to another that is. Hence, I don't add only Joe to Joe's
computer "Remote Desktop Users" group.

E.g., you could set up AD security groups called LocalAdmins,
LocalPowerUsers, LocalRDUsers.

The batch file would have this:
........
net localgroup administrators DOMAIN\localadmins /add
net localgroup power users DOMAIN\localpowerusers /add
net localgroup remote desktop users DOMAIN\LocalRDUsers /add
........

You can create/link a new GPO at the appropriate OU where your computers
live (if you haven't created custom ones, you'll need to - unless you're
using SBS, which creates its own hierarchy).

Edit the GPO - go to Computer Configuration \ Windows Settings \ Scripts
(startup/shutdown)
Double-click Startup, click Add
Copy the batch file you created to the clipboard, then paste it in the
window here
Exit/apply/ok/finish whatever

All the computers in this OU should have the startup script applied when
they restart, and you can now control all this centrally, while sitting
comfortably at your desk eating bon-bons. Add whomever you like (whether
individual users, or other AD security groups) to the LocalRDUsers group
and they'll have access.

Kudos on the plan to secure your workstations - users shouldn't run
w/admin rights.

Thanks for the information.

We do run AD, but I currently don't have the rights for doing group
policies. Before I'm given those rights I need to jump through a few hoops
by taking a group policy class and basically proving that I'm not a total
chowder head. I think they call it quality control! :)

That being said, I am planning on using the Restricted Groups policy to
accomplish some of our goals. I'm told that the Restricted Groups policy
alone does not get us all the way there in terms of restricting user rights,
and that it does, as you point out, come with it's own bag of issues. Guess
I'll have to take the class to get more information on that. In the mean
time, I'll run your ideas by someone who does have the permissions to work
with our group policies and we'll test them out.

I'm not sure why the users with remote access were setup the way they were.
That was all done before I was hired. We do have a Citrix farm with a
couple of Citrix admins. It seems to me that we could just setup access
through our Citrix portal to whatever applications people need to use from
remote locations and avoid the issue on the desktop entirely.

--Tom
 
L

Lanwench [MVP - Exchange]

Thomas M. said:
"Lanwench [MVP - Exchange]"
Do you use AD? I'd surely hope so, if you have hundreds of machines.

If so, you have several options - you could use Restricted Groups
(via group policy) to add an AD group to each local workstation's
RemoteDesktop group, or you could create a simple startup script
assigned via GPO to add them. Restricted groups can be handy, but
they can also be a bit of a PITA as they will always replace the
entire local group membership with whatever you defined (rather than
merely adding). So, I tend to use the startup script method.

Also, I personally don't set up a one-to-one relationship between a
domain user & his/her workstation; if that PC isn't working, I want
them to be able to connect to another that is. Hence, I don't add
only Joe to Joe's computer "Remote Desktop Users" group.

E.g., you could set up AD security groups called LocalAdmins,
LocalPowerUsers, LocalRDUsers.

The batch file would have this:
........
net localgroup administrators DOMAIN\localadmins /add
net localgroup power users DOMAIN\localpowerusers /add
net localgroup remote desktop users DOMAIN\LocalRDUsers /add
........

You can create/link a new GPO at the appropriate OU where your
computers live (if you haven't created custom ones, you'll need to -
unless you're using SBS, which creates its own hierarchy).

Edit the GPO - go to Computer Configuration \ Windows Settings \
Scripts (startup/shutdown)
Double-click Startup, click Add
Copy the batch file you created to the clipboard, then paste it in
the window here
Exit/apply/ok/finish whatever

All the computers in this OU should have the startup script applied
when they restart, and you can now control all this centrally, while
sitting comfortably at your desk eating bon-bons. Add whomever you
like (whether individual users, or other AD security groups) to the
LocalRDUsers group and they'll have access.

Kudos on the plan to secure your workstations - users shouldn't run
w/admin rights.

Thanks for the information.

We do run AD, but I currently don't have the rights for doing group
policies. Before I'm given those rights I need to jump through a few
hoops by taking a group policy class and basically proving that I'm
not a total chowder head. I think they call it quality control! :)

That being said, I am planning on using the Restricted Groups policy
to accomplish some of our goals. I'm told that the Restricted Groups
policy alone does not get us all the way there in terms of
restricting user rights, and that it does, as you point out, come
with it's own bag of issues. Guess I'll have to take the class to
get more information on that. In the mean time, I'll run your ideas
by someone who does have the permissions to work with our group
policies and we'll test them out.

Sure thing - it's good to do research first. You might consider setting up a
lab environment (even using virtual servers/PCs) to play with this. The
Group Policy Management Console is a must (you need W2003 servers to run
this on, although you could install/run it on a WinXP box too - just not
W2k) . You can use modeling/etc to test stuff before you implement it. Very
handy. Try subscribing to microsoft.public.windows.group_policy & lurk there
for a while.
I'm not sure why the users with remote access were setup the way they
were. That was all done before I was hired.

This is a common occurrence....and it's a good one to address.
We do have a Citrix farm
with a couple of Citrix admins. It seems to me that we could just
setup access through our Citrix portal to whatever applications
people need to use from remote locations and avoid the issue on the
desktop entirely.

Yes, that's also true - and you'd have an easier time with central
administration of your apps/data that way, plus easier centralized
security/access.
 
T

Thomas M.

"Lanwench [MVP - Exchange]"
Thomas M. said:
"Lanwench [MVP - Exchange]"
We have undertaken a project to switch all of our users to standard
user accounts (no administrative rights on the local machine). We
have many users that are setup so that they can access their
computers from home. We've noticed that when the user is removed
from the Administrators group, the list of authorized remote users
(My Computer > Properties >
Remote tab > Select Remote Users) gets wiped out. An administrator
then has to log on to the machine and add the user back to the list.

I can see why this would happen, but it does present something of a
problem for us. I would prefer not to have to manually fix this
problem on hundreds of machines. Is there a way that we can retain
the list of authorized remote users when we remove the employees
administrative rights on the machine? Also, is there some
way--perhaps a script--that we can identify the machines were
remote users have been setup?

--Tom

Do you use AD? I'd surely hope so, if you have hundreds of machines.

If so, you have several options - you could use Restricted Groups
(via group policy) to add an AD group to each local workstation's
RemoteDesktop group, or you could create a simple startup script
assigned via GPO to add them. Restricted groups can be handy, but
they can also be a bit of a PITA as they will always replace the
entire local group membership with whatever you defined (rather than
merely adding). So, I tend to use the startup script method.

Also, I personally don't set up a one-to-one relationship between a
domain user & his/her workstation; if that PC isn't working, I want
them to be able to connect to another that is. Hence, I don't add
only Joe to Joe's computer "Remote Desktop Users" group.

E.g., you could set up AD security groups called LocalAdmins,
LocalPowerUsers, LocalRDUsers.

The batch file would have this:
........
net localgroup administrators DOMAIN\localadmins /add
net localgroup power users DOMAIN\localpowerusers /add
net localgroup remote desktop users DOMAIN\LocalRDUsers /add
........

You can create/link a new GPO at the appropriate OU where your
computers live (if you haven't created custom ones, you'll need to -
unless you're using SBS, which creates its own hierarchy).

Edit the GPO - go to Computer Configuration \ Windows Settings \
Scripts (startup/shutdown)
Double-click Startup, click Add
Copy the batch file you created to the clipboard, then paste it in
the window here
Exit/apply/ok/finish whatever

All the computers in this OU should have the startup script applied
when they restart, and you can now control all this centrally, while
sitting comfortably at your desk eating bon-bons. Add whomever you
like (whether individual users, or other AD security groups) to the
LocalRDUsers group and they'll have access.

Kudos on the plan to secure your workstations - users shouldn't run
w/admin rights.

Thanks for the information.

We do run AD, but I currently don't have the rights for doing group
policies. Before I'm given those rights I need to jump through a few
hoops by taking a group policy class and basically proving that I'm
not a total chowder head. I think they call it quality control! :)

That being said, I am planning on using the Restricted Groups policy
to accomplish some of our goals. I'm told that the Restricted Groups
policy alone does not get us all the way there in terms of
restricting user rights, and that it does, as you point out, come
with it's own bag of issues. Guess I'll have to take the class to
get more information on that. In the mean time, I'll run your ideas
by someone who does have the permissions to work with our group
policies and we'll test them out.

Sure thing - it's good to do research first. You might consider setting up
a lab environment (even using virtual servers/PCs) to play with this. The
Group Policy Management Console is a must (you need W2003 servers to run
this on, although you could install/run it on a WinXP box too - just not
W2k) . You can use modeling/etc to test stuff before you implement it.
Very handy. Try subscribing to microsoft.public.windows.group_policy &
lurk there for a while.
I'm not sure why the users with remote access were setup the way they
were. That was all done before I was hired.

This is a common occurrence....and it's a good one to address.
We do have a Citrix farm
with a couple of Citrix admins. It seems to me that we could just
setup access through our Citrix portal to whatever applications
people need to use from remote locations and avoid the issue on the
desktop entirely.

Yes, that's also true - and you'd have an easier time with central
administration of your apps/data that way, plus easier centralized
security/access.

In response to a couple of items from your last post...

We do have a test bench setup and I'm using that to do our testing. I would
like to go the virtual lab route at some point, but at the moment I am not
quite familiar enough with VMware to setup a virtual network, but that is
one of my weekend research projects.

You recommended subscribing to Microsoft.public.windows.group_policy. After
reading that I looked more closely at my list of subscribed groups and found
that I'm already subscribed to that one. GAHHH! I should have posted this
question to that forum. Oh well.

As for the setup of the remote users, my guess is that it's a legacy
configuration that no one ever bothered to go back and address after the
Citrix farm was created. I think that our project to convert our users to
accounts with limited rights will be a way for us to address that issue.

Thanks for the help!

--Tom
 
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L

Lanwench [MVP - Exchange]

In response to a couple of items from your last post...

We do have a test bench setup and I'm using that to do our testing. I
would like to go the virtual lab route at some point, but at the
moment I am not quite familiar enough with VMware to setup a virtual
network, but that is one of my weekend research projects.

It's fun. Well, it's fun if you're geeky. I think it's fun.
You recommended subscribing to Microsoft.public.windows.group_policy.
After reading that I looked more closely at my list of subscribed
groups and found that I'm already subscribed to that one. GAHHH! I
should have posted this question to that forum. Oh well.

No biggie :)
As for the setup of the remote users, my guess is that it's a legacy
configuration that no one ever bothered to go back and address after
the Citrix farm was created. I think that our project to convert our
users to accounts with limited rights will be a way for us to address
that issue.
Thanks for the help!

--Tom

You're most welcome, and best o'luck. Remember - the nice thing about group
policy is that you can set it up & test it before actually deploying
it....use the GPMC and check out the modeling wizards.
 
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