A lot of people don’t realize this, but when you make a new user when configuring your new PC, that user has full administrator privileges by default. Something else that most people don’t realize are the hidden dangers that this poses. Running with full administrator privileges puts you at greater risk for all sorts of malware. And the problem with malware is that you don’t know you have it 90% of the time due to its nature of self-preservation.
What can I do?
Microsoft realizes that most things on a new computer, such as an important task of installing new drivers and such, require administrative rights, so they make all new accounts this way by default. But the company wised up by implementing UAC (User Account Control), which makes it harder for other software to install without your knowledge. But even this is not perfect due to the nature of most malware to go on undetected. So the best way to protect yourself in this instance is to have two lines of defense: UAC and standard user privileges. A standard user does not possess the right to change critical files (such as those outside of user files), change security settings, or install or uninstall software without administrative permission given in the form of the administrative password prompt when trying to perform an administrative action.
How can I change my current account?
First you have to create a new account in the User Accounts area of the Control Panel (Win7: User Accounts and Family Safety) and give it a strong password. While setting up this new account, give it Administrative privileges. When you’re done creating that new account you will then edit your current account settings (and ADD A PASSWORD if you haven’t already done so). Change your account type and make sure the radio button is set for Standard User. Apply all the new settings and you should be well on your way to a far more secure computer. All these steps do not reqiure restarting in Windows 7 RC.
What’s it all mean?
When you go to make major changes to the operating system directory: modify, install, or uninstall a program; change security features; or change something for another user, Windows will stop you and ask you to give the password to the Administrative account. This is a very important detail. It is asking for your Administrative account’s password, not your current account’s password. After a set amount of attempts to log in, you will become locked out from the account for a certain period of time, so it is very important that you remember the password and use the right one to give administrative rights for that current action.
All of these things should lead you to a much safer computing experience in the end. So, when that other less tech-savvy family member comes around and wants to play on your computer and the Internet, you can rest assured that he or she will not be able to compromise the security of your computer without your express permission (unless they are a really good guesser)!
Don’t forget to back up and update!
Darrell Moore is a guy excited and on fire about technology in general. He’s studying to become a desktop technician, and he is intrigued by the nitty-gritty details behind how technology works, but strives to put it in user-friendly terms for the rest of the world to understand.