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My Users Can Create Distribution Lists?

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Theresa Miller
Distribution List Creation Questions

In Exchange 2010 users can create distribution lists that are visible to the whole organization through Outlook Web App in the user Options.  By default these are created in the Users OU in Active Directory.

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It is likely that if your users have figured out how to use this feature they may not understand that they are creating groups that everyone can see. If they do understand that everyone can see their newly created list, it is likely its naming convention doesn’t satisfy your corporate naming standards.  So what are your administrative options for remediating this issue?

Remediation Options

Option 1:

First take some time to review the following TechNet article. This article discusses and demonstrates what it takes to “Turn Off User’s Ability to Create Distribution Groups” in Exchange 2010, because not all organizations want their users creating distribution lists. According to this article you have two choices on how to approach this.

  • First you could create an assignment policy and assign it to the users who shouldn't be allowed to create or manage distribution groups.  When testing this option I found that this process works very well.   Something I would like to point out though is that this likely means that you are assigning the newly created policy to the majority of your users only leaving a few people with the Default Policy.  For any organization, my only caution would be that as you upgrade to newer versions of Exchange it will be important to validate that the new role assignment policy properly upgrades and the anticipated functionality still exists.  
  • The second option is to remove My Distribution Groups and the My Distribution Group Membership Policy from the Default Role Assignment Policy.  The advantage to implementing this strategy is that it will prevent all of your users from creating distribution lists anytime.  While testing this option it was learned that even people who are distribution list owners lose their ability to manage their distribution lists.  Again, whether or not to move forward with this option will greatly depend on the needs and expectations of the users in your organization.

Option 2: 

This option uses a PowerShell script to check the users OU in Active Directory and email notifies the appropriate administrator(s) to review the distribution list.  By email notifying the administrator through a scheduled task about newly created distribution lists it empowers the administrator by double-checking what the users are creating, but also empowers the user by allowing them to create their own lists.

This option does not involve modifying your Default Role Assignment policy or creating an additional role assignment policy.   It assumes that you do not store your production distribution lists in your Users OU in Active Directory.  It also assumes that if you do keep your distribution lists in the Users OU that you will move them to a new container before implementing. To implement use the following steps.

Create the .ps1 PowerShell script:

1. Copy the following data into notepad and then save as a .ps1 file.
$emailserver = ""
$msgfrom = ""
$msgTo = ","
$msgsubject = "Distribution Lists in the Users OU"
$message = New-Object System.Net.Mail.MailMessage $msgfrom, $msgto
$message.subject = $msgsubject
$message.IsBodyHTML = $true
$message.Body = Get-DistributionGroup -OrganizationalUnit "CN=Users,DC=domain,DC=com" | select-object name,displayname | ConvertTo-Html
$smtp = New-Object Net.Mail.SmtpClient($emailserver)

2. Modify the following variables and settings as they apply to your environment $emailserver, $msgfrom, $msgto, $msgsubject and the OrganizationalUnit information.

3. Re-save the File.

Create a scheduled task to execute the newly created .ps1 PowerShell script:

1. Request or create a service account to run the scheduled task.  This account will need administrator access to Exchange and should not be used for anything else.

2. Sign into a server that has the Exchange Management Tools and Exchange Management Shell installed.

3. Open Task Scheduler through the server Control Panel.

4. In the Task Scheduler console expand the tree on the left hand side until you see Microsoft.  From there, right-click on Microsoft and choose “Create Task.


5. Give your scheduled task a name and then check the radio button marked to “Run whether user is logged on or not”.


6. On the Triggers Tab, in the bottom left corner click the “New” button and create an appropriate schedule for your task.

Note: This frequency should be determined by how often you want to check for newly created distribution lists.


>7. Click on the Actions Tab and then in the bottom left hand corner click the “New” button.



8. Fill in the Program/Script and Add Arguments Fields.  See below for the syntax for each field and adjust accordingly for your environment.

Program/Scripts: C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe

Add Arguments: -command ". 'C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\V14\bin\RemoteExchange.ps1'; Connect-ExchangeServer -auto; 'c:\FilePathtoPS1\filename.ps1'

9. Skip the conditions Tab.>

10. Click on the settings tab and adjust to your preferences; however, please note that the default settings are typically ok.


11. Click Ok.

12. You will be prompted to enter the password for the account used for the scheduled task.

Upon completion of this series of steps the appropriate people will be email notified if there are distribution lists in the Users OU in Active Directory.


Regardless of the method you choose for managing your user created distribution lists, this article should help you make the right decision for your organization.

If you found this article interesting, you may want to read our other blogs regarding Active Directory.

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