Windows 7 UAC Security Vulnerable, Monitor UAC Changes with WinPatrol v16
Article by George Norman
On 02 Feb 2009
UAC (User Account Control) is one feature that Microsoft introduced in Windows Vista in order to make the operating system a lot safer, and it was immediately dismissed by the users for being much too complicated to use and annoyingly intrusive. With Windows 7, Microsoft is trying to address all the issues that did not make Vista a big hit, and one of those issues is a less intrusive UAC. The thing is that improved usability and an enhanced user experience equals less security protection.

According to security researcher Long Zheng, a person with malicious intent could impersonate the user and modify the UAC settings – even disable it altogether. With UAC turned off the attacker could then install malware on the targeted machine, or gain access to the data stored on said machine.

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“By default, Windows 7’s UAC setting is set to “Notify me only when programs try to make changes to my computer” and “Don’t notify me when I make changes to Windows settings”. How it distinguishes between a (third party) program and Windows settings is with a security certificate. The applications/applets which manage Windows settings are signed with a special Microsoft Windows 7 certificate. As such, control panel items are signed with this certificate so they don’t prompt UAC if you change any system settings. The Achilles’ heel of this system is that changing UAC is also considered a “change to Windows settings”, coupled with the new default UAC security level, would not prompt you if changed,” says Long Zheng.

In order to prove Long Zheng’s findings Rafael Rivera wrote a VBScript code that actually disables UAC, leaving the system vulnerable. What does Microsoft have to say about all this? Well, the company says that UAC is designed to do this, and that it does not consider the findings as a “security vulnerability” and consequently the issue will not be addressed in the final version of Windows 7. On the other hand though, Zheng admits that fixing the problem is as simple as setting UAC to “Always notify”.

With WinPatrol v16, it does not matter at what level of security you set UAC, because the software automatically detects any and all changes and prompts you to either “Click Yes to restore your original User Account Control setting” or “Click No if you approve this change”.



Tags: Microsoft, Windows 7, UAC, WinPatrol
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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