When Admin Still Makes

By Ryan Naraine  |  Posted 2005-06-22 Print this article Print

Sense"> One of the biggest hiccups in the evangelization of no-admin is the fact that many software programs are developed to run only as admin. A Microsoft knowledge base article provides a long list of programs that are not compatible with least-privilege accounts. The list includes game titles like "Mary-Kate and Ashleys Dance Party of the Century," "Rugrats Totally Angelica Boredom Buster Program," and "The Wild Thornberrys Rambler," all children programs that should never be admin-only, Howard asserted.
"It may sound cynical, but the moment one application doesnt work properly, the user gets turned off," he added, noting that another problem is the myth that non-admin accounts break every program.
Aaron Margosis, another Microsoft developer participating in the Wiki, has published detailed guidance on least privilege, including information for software developers building applications for Longhorn. The LUA principle will enjoy the spotlight at the upcoming PDC conference, but theres a feeling that Microsoft could have changed the defaults to support least privilege when it shipped the Windows XP Service Pack 2 last summer. Howard, however, defended the decision to save the defaults for Longhorn, arguing that the security enhancements introduced in XP SP2 were meant to address incoming network attacks. "The main goals for SP2 were different. It was primarily to address malicious network worms and thats why we improved the firewall … That was the guiding principle at the time," he said. Howard said it would have been a mistake to change the administrative defaults without giving software developers ample lead time. "Theres a whole ecosystem that needs to be educated and that can take a long time," he added. "There are a lot of games that update themselves online and a lot of them write files into the program files directory. We need to get them to change that, because the program files directory is a protected location and you have to be logged on as admin to drop bits there." "When youre dealing with a product to be used by 100 million customers, you have to give developers lead time. They have to see whats coming down the pike so they can make the appropriate changes." To read about Microsofts plans to provide a "low-rights" IE 7.0, click here. Microsoft has already announced that the Internet Explorer 7.0 refresh will ship with reduced-privilege mode turned on by default. The "low-rights" IE 7.0 will only be available in Longhorn. Check out eWEEK.coms for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis.


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