Set Windows Firewall Zone to Domain

The Windows native host-based firewall is zone-based. This would be fine if you could set the zone for a given interface, but Microsoft has designed it to automatically determine the zone for a network interface using their Network Location Awareness (NLA) zone-detection feature. If a domain-joined computer cannot reach and authenticate to a domain controller when a network interface comes online, it will choose either public or private zone for the connection (public is default). Unfortunately the public zone is very restrictive and will likely block things like ping (icmp echo), remote desktop (tcp 3389 “rdp”), and file sharing (smb). Without these basic services available, you might need physical console access to a system to restore connectivity or update firewall rules.

Here are some steps to force a modern Windows system to re-identify a connection as a domain network (Server 2012+, Windows 8+, Windows 10). It is assumed that you are logged onto the system using some method either via a physical console, virtual console, or remotely managing if firewall allows.

  • Set the connection-specific dns suffix in the “Advanced” network settings for the interface to MATCH the fully qualified DNS domain the computer is a member of.
    • The Get-DnsClient and Set-DnsClient cmdlets in PowerShell can be used to view and set the ConnectionSpecificSuffix from command-line.
  • Open an elevated (run-as-administrator) PowerShell and use get-netadapter and restart-netadapter commands to find and disable-enable (cycle) the interface for re-identification by Windows.

Using these simple steps you should be able to help Windows correctly identify a Domain network interface – assuming a domain controller is available for authentication through that connection. If you have critical network services on your system and you know for a fact that all of the system interfaces will never be off of your domain network – you can add or update firewall rules on the “Advanced” tab to belong to “All” zones (Domain + Private + Public). If a rule is enabled for All zones, then even when Windows mis-identifiec a network interface – the traffic will still be allowed.

Thanks to Evan Barr for his blog article “Windows Server – Force Your Network Connection to Where it Belongs.” This post was inspired by his informative and helpful post on the topic. Good luck with your Windows Firewall tasking!


About notesbytom

Keeping technology notes on to free up my mind to solve new problems rather than figuring out the same ones repeatedly :-).
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