Vista Designed with Security in Mind

Aug 29, 2005

Steven Warren

Beyond all the glitz and glamour of Vista, what are we really looking for in Microsoft’s new release: security and reliability? These are the two main features I am looking at when I tinker with Windows Vista beta 1 release, formerly code named Longhorn.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the glitz. The new Aero Glass interface is very pleasing to the eye. The new and improved Internet Explorer is a neat fresh look and the way Microsoft has designed the new operating system to organize your data visually will increase productivity and is the perfect eye candy.

But even after looking at all of these new features, I still want a secure, reliable release that allows for easy deployment; I would trade all the eye candy for this.

Let’s talk about the security inroads this new release takes on.

Prior to this version, Microsoft has supported limited user accounts (LUA) but it was very difficult to manage without some tweaks here and there. Some of these tweaks involved snags with running Windows Explorer and system clock.

Overall, they were too difficult to manage and much easier to run with administrator access. With the release of Windows Vista beta 1, we are finally seeing user security in Windows that is similar to Unix.

How does Microsoft’s new approach to security work?

Whether you are a user or an administrator, you will run the operating system with reduced privileges. Don’t choke! Yes, by default you will not have everyone full control. And when a user needs to work in administrator mode, a new protected administrator sets limitations to prevent an application or task from going outside its privileges.

Additionally, if you migrate to this new operating system and you have legacy applications, they will also run with reduced privileges by taking advantage of the virtual registry feature that tricks legacy applications into thinking they have more rights than they truly have.

Furthermore, when a user needs to perform a task that requires administrative privileges, a dialog box will pop-up requesting authentication. This is very similar to Linux when you need root privileges to perform an administrative task.

This new feature is known as user account protection (UAP); formerly known as least-privileged user account (LUA). By turning on this functionality in Vista beta 1, you ensure that all user accounts will be prompted for permission before making any changes that require administrative rights.

As a decision maker, you should recognize that the security enhancements in Window Vista beta 1 warrant a deeper look. I believe many people will flock to this release as the security features implemented into Windows Vista will not be backwards compatible.

So, if you are serious about security and like the new security redesign, the only thing keeping you from moving forward will be the cost and deployment.

In my next column I will discuss some of the system requirements as well as guidelines for purchasing PC’s to support Vista as well as taking advantage of the hardware you already own. It’s a column you will not want to miss. Steven Warren is an IT consultant for the Ultimate Software Groupand a freelance technical writer who has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic, TechProGuild, CNET, ZDNET, and, now, CIO Update. He is the author of "The VMware Workstation 5.0 Handbook" and holds the following certifications: MCDBA, MCSE, MCSA, CCA, CIW-SA, CIW-MA, Network+, and i-Net+.


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