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Why Less is More with Admin Rights

Posted August 16, 2011    Peter McCalister

A recent blog post at Microsoft Malware Protection Center warns that disabling the User Account Control (UAC) tool increases the likelihood of malware threats. According to Microsoft’s Joe Faulhaber who published the entry, the Sality virus family, Alureon rootkits, Rogue antivirus like FakePAV, Autorun worms, and the Bancos banking Trojans all have variants for turning UAC off.

Earlier this year we released our investigative report examining all of the vulnerabilities Microsoft published in more than 100 Security Bulletins in 2010, documenting and providing patches for 256 vulnerabilities. The key findings from the report show that configuring users to operate without administrator rights will better protect companies from the exploitation of:

-75 percent of Critical Windows 7 vulnerabilities reported by Microsoft to date

-100 percent of Microsoft Office vulnerabilities reported in 2010

-100 percent of Internet Explorer and IE 8 vulnerabilities in 2010

-64 percent of all Microsoft vulnerabilities reported in 2010

Because vulnerabilities take time to identify and patches can take even longer to deploy, attackers are provided a specific window of opportunity to infiltrate networks and exploit undiscovered weaknesses. However, by configuring users to operate without administrator rights, organizations can effectively immunize themselves from many of these zero-day threats.
With the introduction of UAC in Windows Vista, Microsoft brought the topic of least privilege to the forefront. By removing administrative privileges and implementing the security best practice of least privilege, viruses, malware and malicious users can be avoided and network security increased. Implementation of a privilege identity management solution enables desktop users to continue to access the applications required to do their jobs effectively, without unnecessarily putting the organization at added risk.

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