Managing Windows Server Core Firewall with Group Policy

As I’m migrating Domain Controllers over to Server Core one of the major issues I’ve run into is managing the Windows Firewall Rules. On a GUI version of Windows Server it is very easy to see what firewall rules are applied, in core… not so much, especially if you are pushing them with GPO (Group Policy).

All of the PowerShell cmdlets and netsh advfirewall commands all seem to return the local firewall rules and not any of the Group Policy pushed firewall rules. Moreover I could not find an easy way to see what the current firewall rules are that are applied via GPO.

As I have disabled all of the built-in firewall rules as to lock down the Domain Controller Firewall Rules as tightly as possible, even with RPC open and the dynamic RPC range locked to specific ports but open the Windows Firewall MMC would not open. I was seeing no blocked traffic in the Windows Firewall Logs.

I received the following error message:

“There was an error opening the Windows Firewall with Advanced Security snap-in”

“The specified computer could not be remotely managed. Ensure that you are not trying to connect to a remote computer with an earlier version of Windows…..”

My solution to this problem was to enable the built-in Firewall Rules for Remote Firewall Management so you can use MMC console:

Windows Firewall Remote Management (RPC)
Windows Firewall Remote Management (RPC-EPMAP)

These firewall rules seem to have some special magic to them that I haven’t put my finger on yet that allow the Remote MMC Firewall snap-in to work. You can of course lock these rules down to remote IPs as well.