Windows 10: We can’t add this account

A colleague recently started seeing an issue when attempting to add their work account to a Windows 10 device. Following a device re-image (this, as we’ll see becomes important…), a colleague saw the following error reported when attempting to add their work account:

Windows 10 we can't add this account

The full text of the error reads

We can’t add this account. Your organisation’s IT department has a policy that prevents us from adding this work or school account to Windows.

Initially we looked at whether recent policy changes had in fact impacted the ability to add a work account to a Windows 10 device, but were not seeing anything that appeared to impact this. We had other users who were receiving new PCs that were unaffected and had the same policies applied to them. In addition, nothing was showing up in the event viewer folder for Workplace Join on their machine when attempting to add the account.

Realising that the machine had just been reimaged, we checked in Azure AD to view the list of devices. The following is a screen shot for a different device ID, however this was similar to what we saw:

Device list in Azure AD

As can be seen, there are multiple instances of the ‘same’ machine. In each case, the machine has been reimaged and then had the work account added. In each case, Azure AD has obviously assigned a new device ID, hence what appears to be multiple copies of the same machine registered.

Once we’d deleted a few of the ‘old’ machines from the list, the user was able to successfully add their work account to the device.

There are a couple of potential solutions in our scenario:

  1. Periodically check the number of devices registered and trim as appropriate.
  2. Raise the limit of the number of devices that can be registered, either to a larger number, or to ‘unlimited’ in the device settings area of Azure AD.

Azure AD Device Settings

System Center Data Protection Manager 2016 Delegated Administrator

I recently had a requirement to add a delegated administrator to DPM 2016. While it’s possible to configure self-service recovery, there doesn’t appear to be any way that I can configure another user to perform the delegated admin role as there is in some other System Center products.

It is possible to configure another user to be a delegated DPM admin if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get a little grubby with the config however! Note that I’m fairly sure that doing this will impact support, but it’s easy to undo if required.

The problem:

  1. There’s nothing in the DPM interface that appears to allow configuration of a delegated admin.
  2. Adding a user as a local admin of the DPM server still doesn’t allow the user concerned to administer DPM. When trying to launch the DPM console, the following error is shown:
    Unable to connect to DPM server error
  3. Granting the user logon locally permissions still requires that the user elevates when launching the DPM console, so realistically they should be made a local admin on the DPM server.

The solution:

  1. Grant the user local admin rights on the DPM server. I’d strongly suggest creating a dedicated admin account for the user rather than using their day-to-day account for this purpose.
  2. On the SQL instance that DPM uses, configure the following:
    1. Create a new login for the account that will be used as a delegated admin.
    2. Right-click the new account and select ‘Properties’.
    3. Select the DPM database and in the database role membership section of the dialog, select the appropriate DPM-related permissions for the user. To give the user full admin permissions on DPM, select all of the ‘MSDPM…’ role checkboxes:
      DPM delegated admin SQL rights
    4. Click OK to close the dialog.
    5. Check that the user can a) log onto the DPM server and b) successfully launch the DPM admin console and administer the service.

Azure AD Self-Service Password Reset Issues

We recently saw an issue with Azure AD self-service password reset (SSPR). It’s been working fine for us for ages, ever since we first configured it using DirSync, but recently users started seeing the following message:

Please Contact Your Admin

Get back into your account

Please contact your admin

We’ve detected that your user account password is not managed by Microsoft. As a result, we are unable to automatically reset your password.

You will need to contact your admin or helpdesk for any further assistance.

As we’d made no changes, we were obviously concerned!

Initially I took the following steps to try and resolve the issue:

  1. Ensured that the OS patch levels of the servers (Azure AD Connect, ADFS, WAP) were up-to-date, which they were.
  2. Upgraded Azure AD Connect to the most recent version. The version we were running was a little behind, but not significantly so. During the upgrade process, the wizard takes you through what you’d normally see if you reconfigure Azure AD Connect and select the ‘customize synchronization options’ task. The optional features selected were still the same as we’d picked the previous time we’d upgraded, and included ‘password writeback’.

Unfortunately none of the steps taken above made any difference.

Looking in the configuration page for Azure AD in the old portal, I noticed that the ‘Password write back service status’ was still set to ‘Not configured’:

Password Write Back Service Status Not Configured

Which, bearing in mind I’d just upgraded Azure AD Connect and been through the configuration wizard and seen that this option was ticked, should not as far as I was concerned be the case.

To correct the issue therefore, I took the following steps:

  1. Launched the configuration of Azure AD Connect and selected the ‘customize synchronization options’ task.
  2. When presented with the optional features configuration page of the wizard, unticked the ‘password writeback’ option and then completed the configuration.
  3. Repeated the above steps, but this time ensured that the ‘password writeback’ option was ticked:
    Azure AD Connect Password Writeback Config Option

Checking the configuration page in the old Azure Portal again, the status of the ‘Password write back service’ is now ‘Configured’ and the correct SSPR prompts are again being displayed to users.

Book Review: Windows Virus and Malware Troubleshooting by Andrew Bettany and Mike Halsey

Summary: A very useful volume that discusses what malware is, how to defend against it and how to remove it. Clear and simple instructions are given on ways to improve security on your PC, as well as how to deal with malware that may end up on your PC. Recommended.

Presented in a very easy to read writing style, this book immediately appeals due to the clear, concise and no-nonsense approach taken when discussing malware, what it is, how it can attack and affect your PC, how to defend against it and what to do if the worst should happen and your PC gets infected.

The first chapter provides a nice potted history of viruses and malware on PCs, discussing the various types and how both the proliferation and seriousness of infections has risen from the very first, typically benign examples to the modern day infections such as ransomware that has been in the news so much recently.

Chapter 2 deals with prevention and defence, and introduces the many security features that are built into modern versions of Microsoft Windows to help stop the initial infection. There’s a clear progression in security features as newer versions of Windows have been introduced, and it’s interesting to compare the versions of Windows that were most susceptible to the recent ‘WannaCry’ ransomware attack. Looking at the features discussed (and having been to a few presentations on the subject), this provides an excellent set of reasons for an upgrade to Windows 10 if you’ve not already done so!

Chapter 3 discusses defence in depth and includes information on firewalls, including the Windows firewall, as well as organisational firewalls (I.e. hardware firewalls and appliances) and how to generate a multi-layer defence. While at first glance this section appears to be more targeted at the organisational user, it’s actually also targeted at the home user with a hardware router/firewall combination, and some clarification that this is the case would, I feel, have been useful here. This chapter also bizarrely includes a section on keylogging software, which I feel would have been more useful in the first chapter

This chapter also provides some information on blacklists and whitelists (I.e. internet filtering) and the Internet of Things (IoT). For both of these sections I feel that there’s perhaps been a bit of a lost opportunity, for example a brief discussion of the filtering options available might have been helpful for home users (e.g. my Netgear router at home comes complete with an OpenDNS-based filtering option that can be enabled and configured quickly and easily and seems to provide reasonable protection) and further information on IoT security recommendations, particularly changing the default username and password on devices would be beneficial here.

Chapter 4 deals with identifying attacks starting with how malware infects a PC and providing pointers on how to identify both internal and external attacks. I was very pleased in this section to see information on social engineering and the role that this plays in malware infections.

Chapter 5 provides a very useful list of external resources that can be utilised to help protect your PC and clean a malware infection, including the Microsoft Malware Protection Center, a great location for finding updates, additional security recommendations and products etc. This chapter also provides some limited information on third-party tools that are available. Again, I would have liked to see a more expansive list here, and it’s worth mentioning that many anti-virus vendors provide a free option of their products.

Chapter 6 deals with manually removing malware, and for me this was probably the most useful part of this book. What do you do when malware has ended up on your PC despite your best efforts and you’re now having issues running the automated tools to get rid if it? This chapter helps in this scenario, and provides some steps to take to identify what’s running on the PC, suspend and/or kill the process and remove the infection. In particular I’m pleased to see the Microsoft Sysinternals tools discussed (albeit briefly) as they are my ‘go to’ toolset when dealing with an infection on a PC. If you’re interested in these and how they can be used, it’s worth looking at some of Mark Russinovich’sCase of the Unexplained’ videos as Mark goes through the use of these tools in more detail.

There are one or two downsides; the book is only a slim volume. This has both plusses and minuses insofar as being slim, more people are likely to read it end-to-end and therefore benefit the most from it, however in one or two areas a few more details might be appreciated. For such a slim volume, it’s also more expensive than I would hope for at an RRP of £14.99, which may limit its take-up.

All in all however this is a very easily accessible book that provides great guidance on how to secure your PC, what to watch out for and how to deal with a malware infection. I’ll be encouraging a few people I know to buy a copy and read it!

Title: Windows Virus and Malware Troubleshooting
Author(s): Andrew Bettany, MVP and Mike Halsey, MVP
Publisher: Apress
ISBN-13: 978-1-4842-2606-3