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Debug programs


Applies To: Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows 8

This security policy reference topic for the IT professional describes the best practices, location, values, policy management, and security considerations for this policy setting.


This policy setting determines which users can attach to or open any process, even those they do not own. Developers who are debugging their own applications do not need to be assigned this user right. Developers who are debugging new system components need this user right. This user right provides access to sensitive and critical operating-system components.

This policy setting is supported on versions of Windows that are designated in the Applies To list at the beginning of this topic.

Constant: SeDebugPrivilege

Possible values

  • User-defined list of accounts

  • Not defined

Best practices

  1. Assign this user right only to trusted users to reduce security vulnerabilities.


GPO_name\Computer Configuration\Windows Settings\Security Settings\Local Policies\User Rights Assignment

Default values

By default, members of the Administrators group have this right.

The following table lists the actual and effective default policy values for the most recent supported versions of Windows. Default values are also listed on the policy’s property page.

Server type or GPO

Default value

Default Domain Policy

Not defined

Default Domain Controller Policy


Stand-Alone Server Default Settings


Domain Controller Effective Default Settings


Member Server Effective Default Settings


Client Computer Effective Default Settings


Operating system version differences

There are no differences in the way this policy setting works between the supported versions of Windows that are designated in the Applies To list at the beginning of this topic.

Policy management

This section describes features and tools that are available to help you manage this policy.

A restart of the computer is not required for this policy setting to be effective.

Any change to the user rights assignment for an account becomes effective the next time the owner of the account logs on.

Group Policy

Settings are applied in the following order through a Group Policy Object (GPO), which will overwrite settings on the local computer at the next Group Policy update:

  1. Local policy settings

  2. Site policy settings

  3. Domain policy settings

  4. OU policy settings

When a local setting is greyed out, it indicates that a GPO currently controls that setting.

Security considerations

This section describes how an attacker might exploit a feature or its configuration, how to implement the countermeasure, and the possible negative consequences of countermeasure implementation.


The Debug programs user right can be exploited to capture sensitive computer information from system memory or to access and modify kernel or application structures. Some attack tools exploit this user right to extract hashed passwords and other private security information or to insert rootkit code. By default, the Debug programs user right is assigned only to administrators, which helps mitigate risk from this vulnerability.


Remove the accounts of all users and groups that do not require the Debug programs user right.

Potential impact

If you revoke this user right, no one can debug programs. However, typical circumstances rarely require this capability on production computers. If an issue arises that requires an application to be debugged on a production server, you can move the server to a different organizational unit (OU) temporarily and assign the Debug programs user right to a separate Group Policy for that OU.

See Also

User Rights Assignment