Planning Settings for a Basic Firewall Policy

Applies To: Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2

After you have identified your requirements, and have the information about the network layout and computers available, you can begin to design the GPO settings and rules that will enable you to enforce your requirements on the computers.

The following is a list of the firewall settings that you might consider for inclusion in a basic firewall design, together with recommendations to serve as a starting point for your analysis:

  • Profile selection. The firewall rules can be configured for any of the network location profiles that you see in the Network and Sharing Center: Domain, Public, and Private (on Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2008) or Domain and Standard (on Windows XP or Windows Server 2003). Most settings are enforced in the Domain profile, without an option for the user to change them. However, you might want to leave the profile settings configurable by the user on computers that can be taken from the organization's physical network and joined to a public or home network. If you lock down the public and private profiles, you might prevent a user from accessing a required network program or service. Because they are not on the organization's network, you cannot fix a connectivity problem by deploying rule changes in a GPO. For each section that follows, consider each profile and apply the rules to those profiles that make sense for your organization.


By default, a new network adapter installed in a computer is set as a public network connection and, if not configured for a different profile, might automatically switch the computer to public profile. We recommend that on server computers that you set all rules for all profiles to prevent any unexpected profile switch from disrupting network connectivity. You might consider a similar practice for your desktop computers, and only support different profiles on portable computers.

  • Firewall state: On. We recommend that you turn the firewall on, and prevent the user from turning it off.

  • Default behavior for Inbound connections: Block. We recommend that you enforce the default behavior of blocking unsolicited inbound connections. To allow network traffic for a specific program, create an inbound rule that serves as an exception to this default behavior.

  • Default behavior for Outbound connections: Allow. We recommend that you enforce the default behavior of allowing outbound connections. Create outbound block rules to prevent the traffic that you know must be blocked.

  • Display a notification: Yes (for client computers), No (for server computers). We recommend that you allow the client computers to display a message to the user when the firewall blocks a program. This enables the user to select whether to allow the program to listen. If the user allows the program, then Windows automatically creates a new inbound rule for the program. The user can do this only if the user's account is a member of the Administrators group, or if the user can supply administrator account credentials to the User Account Control dialog box.

    If set to No, you must ensure that all programs required by the computer can successfully communicate on the network as needed, either by using the default firewall behavior, or by creating an inbound firewall rule for the program.

    On servers, we recommend that you turn the notification off, because typically no administrators are waiting to respond if a notification is displayed. In addition, the server roles included with Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008 create and enable appropriate rules when you install the role. For example, if you install the Active Directory Domain Controller role, a variety of rules to allow inbound network traffic for Active Directory services are created and enabled for all network location profiles.

    When this setting is set to No, then the Apply local firewall rules setting is typically set to No also.

  • Allow unicast response: Yes. We recommend that you use the default setting of Yes unless you have specific requirements to do otherwise.

  • Apply local firewall rules: Yes. We recommend that you allow users to create and use local firewall rules. If you set this to No, then when a user clicks Allow on the notification message to allow traffic for a new program, Windows does not create a new firewall rule and the traffic remains blocked.

    If you and the IT staff can create and maintain the list of firewall rules for all permitted applications and deploy them by using GPOs then you can set this value to No.

  • Apply local connection security rules: No. We recommend that you prevent users from creating and using their own connection security rules. Connection failures caused by conflicting rules can be difficult to troubleshoot.

  • Logging. We recommend that you enable logging to a file on the local hard disk. Be sure to limit the size, such as 4096 KB, to avoid causing performance problems by filling the user's hard disk. Be sure to specify a folder to which the Windows Firewall service account has write permissions.

  • Inbound rules. Create inbound rules for programs that must be able to receive unsolicited inbound network packets from another computer on the network. Make the rules as specific as possible to reduce the risk of malicious programs exploiting the rules. For example, specify both program and port numbers. Specifying a program ensures that the rule is only active when the program is actually running, and specifying the port number ensures that the program cannot receive unexpected traffic on a different port.

    Inbound rules are common on servers, because they host services to which client computers connect. When you install programs and services on a server, the installation program typically creates and enables the rules for you. Examine the rules to ensure that they do not open up more ports than are required.


If you create inbound rules that permit RPC network traffic by using the RPC Endpoint Mapper and Dynamic RPC rule options, then all inbound RPC network traffic is permitted because the firewall cannot filter network traffic based on the UUID of the destination application.

  • Outbound rules. Only create outbound rules to block network traffic that must be prevented in all cases. If your organization prohibits the use of certain network programs, you can support that policy by blocking the known network traffic used by the program. Be sure to test the restrictions before you deploy them to avoid interfering with traffic for needed and authorized programs.

Next: Planning Domain Isolation Zones