Caught this over at Mary Jo Foleys All About Microsoft Blog. It seems that Microsoft has gotten a mouthful on the security feature UAC in Vista (which actually had a lot of good intentions). So the folks on the Windows Team are working to make it a more palatable experience in the next release, Windows 7. The focus is to make it more informative and less repetitive. I think these are good points, because a lot of prompts don’t give a clear understanding why a location requires permission before proceeding. The concept of UAC is that when an Application triggers it, that means it wants access to critical part of the system that needs to be written to. Here is a quote from my ActiveWin.com Windows Vista Review:
“The new account setup only allows users with Administrative privileges or a limited account to all operate as a Standard user with a set of specific requirements and a deeper awareness of the actions a user takes while performing task throughout the operating system, Microsoft recommends this account for daily use “finally”! You might wonder what the deeper awareness is; well it’s a new improvement to the security model in Windows known as User Access Control, borrowing from other operating systems such as UNIX, Mac OS X and Linux, the aim is to essentially provide a secured environment from top to bottom. A bit intrusive, the essential purpose of UAC from the get-go is to enable a lock on certain administrative privileges throughout the OS, making it more difficult for users to expose areas of the operating system that are most vulnerable to attack or user accidents. So far, the status from the public on UAC is, it seems like a highly annoying feature, trust me, it is at times, no matter how much the Windows Team say they have improved the experience. A shield attached to an icon or beside a link can easily identify components within the OS that require UAC permission. When such a link or icon is clicked a dialog will pop up freezing the current user session asking for permission before continuing or executing the action.”
So, from early on, UAC was set out to cause some upset among users. Even a Microsoft Exec pointed out that UAC was designed to annoy users, so was actually doing its job. Based on the leaked previews of Windows 7, build 6780, we can see small improvements like:
“User Account Control has been aerozied and seems to not black out the screen to get the users attention, as can be seen on the THINKNEXT website, since you cannot take a ALT-PRT Screen of it today in Vista. Nice, but something like that should be provided as improved functionality through a service pack.” Windows 7 Preview Teching It Easy
I believe UAC in Windows 7 will continue to be over protective. It still does not protect the areas of the OS that should be protected the most. For instance, a friend of mine running Vista Home Premium ’64-Bit’ had UAC disabled through an attack and also disabled all Administrative Privileges: Command Prompt, MSCONFIG, Task Manager and Shutdown options were all killed. Why wasn’t UAC instrumental in protecting all these critical areas of the system? Not even traditional areas like System Properties could be accessed or certain Control Panel items. So there is indeed some work that needs to be done, it needs to be effective that users are seeing results. I personally want an option to check off areas of the system I deem to be safe so I don’t see the prompt anymore. Of course, I do consider myself to be a power user. I personally have not encountered any malicious attacks on my system running Vista since RTM, but I have seen friends who have and never disabled UAC. What I had to do to save that system from a format was to boot into Safe Mode and run System Restore to an earlier point before the attack had occurred.
Mary Jo points out that persons reception to UAC in Vista is one thats distasteful, and the Google results are there to prove it:
“UAC seems to be one of the most hated features of Vista. (Just do a Web search for “how can I disable UAC” for unofficial proof of that contention.)”