Putting limits on users' privileges

Windows UAC and least-privilege products aim to ensure that users have no more permissions than necessary to do their jobs

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Some computer security experts don't trust least-privilege products for a variety of reasons. Their most important worry is that rogue users or determined hackers can misuse the products to grant themselves unauthorized escalated privileges. This is a true security risk. More than likely, least-privilege products contain unknown or unpublished security vulnerabilities that could be found and abused. That's the risk of any software product, including Windows and UAC.

The question, though, is whether you're at greater risk from deploying a least-privilege product or from using nothing at all? In many cases, I've had clients who would not have upgraded Windows XP (to one of the more secure Windows versions) or would have completely disabled UAC because of the operational requirements of their environments. Using least-privilege products allowed them enough granularity to utilize vastly more secure operating system versions or to keep UAC enabled.

It's with that in mind that I highly recommend that readers consider one of these least-privilege products if it can help them bridge the gap between less secure operating system implementations and the higher security models that are available today.

It's always best to tell users to only log on as a standard user when performing non-elevated tasks or to use Microsoft's built-in UAC, but if you're in the large bucket of enterprises that absolutely needs to allow their users to function as their own local administrators with more granularity, today you have options. 

This story, "Putting limits on users' privileges," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in security and read more of Roger Grimes's Security Adviser blog at InfoWorld.com.

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