Defender for Endpoint device execution restrictions

This is a video run through of the recent articles I wrote:

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint device isolation

Microsoft Defender for Endpoint restrict app execution

This video will show you how to both isolate a device and restrict app execution on a device. Both of these are great ways to respond to a suspected device security threat and limit security breeches while still allowing remote troubleshooting.

Offboarding Windows 10 devices from Microsoft Defender for Business

In a recent article I covered off how to:

Onboard Windows 10 devices to Microsoft Defender for Business

Two easy methods of onboarding Windows 10 devices to Defender for Business

Now we need to know how to offboard Windows 10 devices from Microsoft Defender for Business.

The first place to start is to review this article from Microsoft:

Offboard devices from the Microsoft Defender for Endpoint service

It details the following points:

– The status of a device will be switched to Inactive 7 days after offboarding.

– Offboarded devices’ data (such as Timeline, Alerts, Vulnerabilities, etc.) will remain in the portal until the configured retention period expires.

– The device’s profile (without data) will remain in the Devices List for no longer than 180 days.

– In addition, devices that are not active in the last 30 days are not factored in on the data that reflects your organization’s threat and vulnerability management exposure score and Microsoft Secure Score for Devices.

– To view only active devices, you can filter by health state, device tags or machine groups.

In essence what this means is that although you offboard a device a lot of information about that device will remain in the portal. Also, even after offboarding a device, if you look in the Endpoint portal, at first glance the device still appears to be there. The reality is that offboarding a device doesn’t make it ‘disappear’ from the portal immediately. This means we’ll need to use another method to verify that the device has actually been offboarded.


The easiest way is to look in the following registry key on the machine:

HKLM:\Software\Microsoft\Windows Advanced Threat Protection\Status

and examine the value of the key:


If that is set to 1, as shown above, then the device is still considered connected to Microsoft Defender fo Endpoint. Thus, to confirm the device has been offboarded, we need to check that this value is 0.

You’ll also need to have a license for Intune/Endpoint Manager to enable this process from a centralised location.

Although not completely necessary it is best practice to have the integration between Microsoft Endpoint Manager portal and Defender for Endpoint enabled. Visit:


As shown above, here, navigate to Endpoint Security, then Microsoft Defender for Endpoint. Ensure that the option Connection status is enabled. If it isn’t then take a look at my previous onboarding article that shows you how to enable this.

Next, navigate to:


You should see the screen above. Scroll down this page.


Select Settings as shown above and then Endpoints from the options that appear on the right.


From the menu on left scroll down and select Offboarding. On the right then select Windows 10 and 11 as the operating system. Then select Mobile Device Management / Microsoft Intune. With these selections made a Download package button should appear. Select this to download a zip file that contains a file called WindowsDefenderATP_valid_until_YYYY-MM-DD.offboarding

For security reasons, the package used to Offboard devices will expire 30 days after the date it was downloaded. Expired offboarding packages sent to a device will be rejected. That expiry date will be contained in the filename.


Navigate back to Microsoft Endpoint Manager and select Devices | Configuration profiles, then Create Profile.


Select Windows 10 and later for the Platform and Templates from the Profile type.


Select Custom from the list and then Create.


Give the policy a name and description and select Next to continue.


Select the Add button.


Enter the following details into the fields that appear on the right as shown above:

Name = <unique name>

OMA-URI = ./Device/Vendor/MSFT/WindowsAdvancedThreatProtection/Offboarding

Data type = String

Value = <contents of the unzipped file WindowsDefenderATP_valid_until_YYYY-MM-DD.offboarding downloaded from Defender for Endpoint portal>


The WindowsDefenderATP_valid_until_YYYY-MM-DD.offboarding file can be opened with Notepad and should look like the above.

Press the Save button to continue.


The Configuration settings page should now look like the above with the single entry you just configured.

Press the Next button to continue.


You now need to select which items this policy will apply to. In general, you are not going to be offboard all your devices at the same time from Defender for Endpoint. What we need to do then is target a specific group of devices.

A good approach to achieving this is to create a dedicated device group, with only the devices you wish to offboard with this policy. I detailed how to create such a group in Azure AD here:

Create a dynamic group in Azure AD

In this case, the dynamic group is called To be retired and I will assign it to the Intune policy as shown above.

Continue to select Next and then Create to complete the policy creation process.


If you select the Device status option as shown above, you’ll see whether the policy has been successfully applied to the devices. How long this takes will depend on when the devices ‘check in’ to get the policy.

As mentioned initially, there is no easy way to confirm that the device has successfully been offboarded unless you look at the registry key:

HKLM:\Software\Microsoft\Windows Advanced Threat Protection\Status\OnboardingState

and ensure that it is equal to 0. To assist with this I have created this free PowerShell script:


That will show you the onboarding status as shown above.

Also, remember that the device will continue to be displayed in the Defender for Endpoint unless you use a display filter. Offboarding causes the device to stop sending sensor data to the portal but data from the device, including reference to any alerts it has had will be retained for up to 6 months.

If you want to offboard more devices you simply need to add them to the group you configured the offboarding Intune policy is assigned to. Remember, that after 30 days you’ll need to go and download a new offboarding package from the Defender for Endpoint console and upload the contents of the new WindowsDefenderATP_valid_until_YYYY-MM-DD.offboarding file to the offboarding Intune policy to allow devices to be successfully offboarded going forward. However, you can leave the policy in place and simply update it as and when needed.

Basics of deploying AppLocker using Intune

One of the great things about deploying Windows AppLocker via Microsoft Intune is that it supports both Windows 10 Enterprise and Professional. It is also quite straight forward to deploy as I hope the video conveys.

Once you have your base policies, you create a custom Windows 10 device Configuration policy with Intune and deploy it to your device fleet. Once that process is complete you’ll have the same application control you had on a single device but now across as many machines as you wish.

Remember, that Windows AppLocker is free with Windows 10 and easily deployed to machined from the cloud using Microsoft Intune.

Windows Defender Application Control (WDAC) basics

Windows Defender Application Control, like Windows AppLocker is a way to control what executes on your Windows 10 Professional and Enterprise workstation. For more information have a look at this article from Microsoft:

Windows Defender Application Control and AppLocker Overview

You can easily configure WDAC using PowerShell and Microsoft provides a number of example policies that you can use to get started. This video will demonstrate that process on a stand alone Windows 10 Enterprise workstation:

Both WDAC and AppLocker can be used together but the recommendation is use WDAC as it is a more modern approach to whitelisting and has greater security controls and enforcements.

You can also deploy WDAC using Intune and Endpoint Manager which I’ll look to demonstrate in an upcoming article.

So, much like AppLocker, you can use WDAC to prevent executables on your Windows 10 environment. This is a great way to minimise the risk of ransomware and should be part of your defence in depth strategy.

Windows 10 in cloud configuration

Microsoft has released a handy guide called

Windows 10 in cloud configuration

that walks you through a recommended best practice configuration of you Windows 10 devices using Endpoint Manager. what they are now doing, as highlighted by my video, is begin to roll this into a wizard inside the Endpoint Manager portal, allowing you to quickly and easily create and apply policies to protection your Windows 10 machines.

I believe this in only the beginning of what Microsoft plans to roll out and I expect to see lots more configuration coming very soon, not only for Windows 10 but also iOS and Android.

Watch this space.

Attack surface reduction for Windows 10

You may not be aware, but Microsoft has a number of ways that you can implement Attack Surface Reduction (ASR) settings in your Windows 10 environment. You read about these here:

Reduce attack surfaces with attack surface reduction rules

In essence, these rules reduce the items that maybe exploited by attacks on Windows 10 desktops. In reality, they are a good thing to enable if you want to be more secure.

Microsoft has a number of ways you can implement these.


The preferred option is to use Microsoft EndPoint Manager as shown above. To do this navigate to:

Select Endpoint security on the left, then Attack surface reduction and create a new policy on the right.


You can then enable all the settings you wish such as:

Block executable content from email client and webmail

Once you save the policy, it can be deployed to the devices configured in Microsoft EndPoint Manager. This will typically mean those devices have a license for Intune and use that or Configuration manager to deploy such policies. However, it will also support others forms of basic MDM that you may have (like the basic Device management that comes with most Microsoft 365 plans)


You can also deploy these using the EndPoint protection configuration policies for Intune as shown above. You’ll find the ASR items under the Microsoft Defender Exploit Guard area in the policy.

Group policy setting showing a blank attack surface reduction rule ID and value of 1

You can also use Group policy as seen above.

And of course you can also do it via PowerShell. if you do elect to use PowerShell, which is great for a stand alone machine, there is a handy tool you can use here:

which, when run, looks like:


All you then need to do is select your options and save them to update the policies on the local machine.

The options above, plus more are detailed here:

Enable attack surface reduction rules

and I encourage you to visit the page and implement the option that works for you and your environment. For me, using Microsoft EndPoint Manager is the quickest and easiest method to deploy it across my devices. However, you can use PowerShell to quickly and easily implement it for a single device. Using ASR will make your Windows 10 devices more secure, and we all want that, so what are you waiting for?

Windows 10 mobile hot spotting

Annoyingly, I currently have an issues with my ADSL on my phone line. I am getting about a 25% packet loss, which effectively makes the connection unusable. I’ve done everything at my end to troubleshoot the issue and now it is up to the ISP to hopefully resolve the issue.

The problem is that I need internet to work! Luckily, I have a 4G mobile plan that includes unlimited (yes, I said unlimited data). I can easily turn my phone into a hot spot and connect my devices. Problem, is I then I can’t access my local resources and easily share between machines.


The solution I found is to turn my phone into a hot spot as normal and connect one of my devices that is on my internal network to it. I then share that device connection out using the hot spotting capabilities built into Windows as shown above.


On the other machines, I connect to the Windows 10 hotspot to gain Internet connectivity but I also go into these connections and change the option Set as metered connection to Off as shown above. This means the other Windows devices will see this Windows 10 hotspot like a LAN connection, thus giving it a higher priority for data than a ‘metered connection’.

Just to be 100% sure I have turned off the modem to my problem ADSL connection to ensure that traffic doesn’t try and head that way.

Now all my machines can work together as normal on the LAN but also be connected to the Internet via their own WiFi to the Windows hot spotted machine that is ‘sharing’ my 4G mobile connection.

In many ways, it is better that what I had with ADSL!

All the Defenders


Microsoft unfortunately has quite a few products under the ‘Defender’ banner that I see causing confusion out there. Most believe that ‘Defender’ is only an anti-virus solution, but that could not be further from the case. Hopefully, I can show you here how broad the ‘Defender’ brand is here and hopefully give you a basic idea of what each ‘Defender’ product is.

To start off with there are products that are considered ‘Window Defender’ products, although I see the Windows and Microsoft brand intermingled regularly. Here is a list of specific ‘Windows Defender’ products:

Windows Defender Application Control – WDAC was introduced with Windows 10 and allows organizations to control what drivers and applications are allowed to run on their Windows 10 clients.

Windows Defender Firewall – By providing host-based, two-way network traffic filtering for a device, Windows Defender Firewall blocks unauthorized network traffic flowing into or out of the local device.

Windows Defender Exploit Guard – Exploit protection automatically applies a number of exploit mitigation techniques to operating system processes and apps.

Windows Defender Credential Guard –  Windows Defender Credential Guard uses virtualization-based security to isolate secrets so that only privileged system software can access them.

In contrast, here are the ‘Microsoft Defender’ products :

Microsoft Defender Smart screen – Microsoft Defender SmartScreen protects against phishing or malware websites and applications, and the downloading of potentially malicious files.

Microsoft Defender Antivirus – Brings together machine learning, big-data analysis, in-depth threat resistance research, and the Microsoft cloud infrastructure to protect devices in your organization.

Microsoft Defender Application Guard – helps to isolate enterprise-defined untrusted sites, protecting your company while your employees browse the Internet.

Microsoft Defender Security Center – is the portal where you can access Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection capabilities. It gives enterprise security operations teams a single pane of glass experience to help secure networks.

Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection – is an enterprise endpoint security platform designed to help enterprise networks prevent, detect, investigate, and respond to advanced threats.

Microsoft Defender Browser Protection –  a non Microsoft browser extension helps protect you against online threats, such as links in phishing emails and websites designed to trick you into downloading and installing malicious software that can harm your computer.

So, as you can see, there are quite a lot of ‘Defender’ products out there from Microsoft. How and when you get each of these varies greatly as well as their capabilities, since most will integrate together. That however, is beyond the scope of this article but maybe something I explore in upcoming articles.

For now, just be careful to investigate what is actually meant when it says ‘Defender’ in the Microsoft space!