Best practices for setting NTFS permissions

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New Technology File System(NTFS) permissions determine the level of access users have on files and folders, directly influencing user exposure to unsolicited files. But, excessive privileges, granted accidentally or deliberately, can give users unsolicited access to important organizational files, which could even lead to a data leak. Implement these NTFS file permissions best practices to avoid security vulnerabilities that could be caused by inconsistent or excessive permissions.

  • Associate permissions with roles
  • Segregate share permissions

10 best practices for assigning the right NTFS permissions


Adopt the principle of least privilege (POLP)

Keep the permissions assigned to users to a bare minimum, granting only the privileges needed to fulfill users' roles. For sensitive files, ensure only administrators grant users access, and verify that the files are not publicly accessible.


Follow a hierarchy-based permissions policy

Curtail permissions granted to Domain Users in the root folder. Grant teams and individuals granular permissions down the folder structure.


Implement role-based access control (RBAC)

Create groups based on specific organizational roles, and assign permissions to these groups rather than individual users. Add or remove users from these groups to assign or revoke permissions with ease.


Review roles and permissions periodically

Define regular intervals for systematic review of the permissions assigned to users.


Retain permission inheritance

Let inheritance flow from the root to all child folders. Keep track of inconsistent permissions that circumvent inheritance, and correct them.


Track permission and SACL changes

Keep an eye on all permission and system access-control list (SACL) changes on crucial files. Be on the lookout for unwarranted actions by unauthorized personnel.


Identify overexposed files

Check for files with open access, and set the right permissions to permit only authorized file activity. Prevent misuse of user privileges by curbing open access on files and folders.


Manage orphaned files

Locate and assess files owned by former employees. Revoke permissions for orphaned files, and remove user accounts from the respective security groups so malicious users can't access network resources.


Prepare for exceptions

Plan for situations that require unusual permissions. Set guidelines to be followed when the standard-issue permissions don’t meet the requirements of users or roles.


Designate file server administrators

Create a separate group for administrators to oversee permissions. Give full control over management of file and folder permissions only to this group.

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