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Thursday, 02 March 2017 11:07

Why doesn't Microsoft insist on ordinary user accounts?


Windows has been around for more than two decades, but there is still no insistence by Microsoft that an ordinary user account be created before one begins using the system.

One brings this up in the light of the recent study by Avecto which found that the harm caused by malicious code on Windows systems could be largely mitigated by operating as an ordinary user.

Avecto found that 94% of 530 vulnerabilities listed by Microsoft itself could be mitigated by removing admin rights.

One answer as to why Microsoft does not insist on creation of a user account in order to use Windows is the fact that for many long-time users, the ability to do everything from one account has become a habit. Security and convenience are enemies.

Any time a familiar feature has been removed from Windows - like the start menu which disappeared in Windows 8 and was then brought back - there are loud complaints.

And when about 92% of the world's desktop users are running one version of Windows or the other, that's a lot of complaints.

But these days, given that one can authenticate as administrator from within a user account when needed, perhaps Microsoft should have given some thought to at least making an user account compulsory on Windows 10.

Apple's macOS and the older OS X are grounded in UNIX and use the sudo system where the user has to authenticate every time an administrative function needs to be performed.

On a Linux system, one cannot start using the system unless one creates an user account. Assuming administrative rights is simple; more hard-core users do it from the command line but most other applications bring up a dialog box when admin rights are needed to do something.

The danger of running any computer, no matter the operating system, as an administrator is that any file created or downloaded has the same rights on the system as the user who downloaded or created it. And it is very easy to hose an entire system.

If Microsoft did decide to bring in compulsory user account creation, that would affect companies that sell anti-virus and anti-malware products. This is a multi-billion-dollar industry that lives almost exclusively off Windows.

Avecto's findings should make people sit up and take notice. Along with using an ordinary user account, there are several finely-grained settings on a Windows system that make it so much safer to use.

Perhaps Microsoft should launch some kind of education campaign in this direction.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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