One of the first things new users to Windows Vista notice is the (annoying) window that pops up every now and again asking for permission to carry out some action or other, this is User Account Control (UAC).
The concept behind UAC is sound and simple enough to understand – all users run with only the standard level of security access, and if you attempt to do something that could potentially damage your system such as editing the registry, you will be asked to confirm that you really want to perform the action in question.
However there are also many seemingly innocuous actions that can trigger a UAC alert, initially this may seem a little over protective, and many users very quickly turn it off, but we would urge them to think again as UAC does provide two very useful security benefits:
UAC monitors the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE SOFTWARE Microsoft Windows Current Version run
Most (but not all) spyware will attempt to modify this area of the registry so that it will be loaded each time Windows starts, so any attempt by malware to install itself using this method will trigger a warning to the user.
This is not a full proof method of malware protection, but then no other method is either – we prefer to think of security implementation like an onion, something that needs to be implemented in layers, and UAC is just another one of those layers along with anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware etc.
The second reason for NOT disabling UAC is its effect on Internet Explorer. With UAC active, Internet Explorer runs in a ‘Protected Mode’ which keeps many internet borne nasties at bay without any need for prompts or permission seeking.
Many people subscribe to the theory that because of the amount of alerts that UAC throws of the user in the early days of an installation its effectiveness is diminished as many people just blindly click ‘Continue’ without thinking about what they are agreeing to, but with perseverance the alerts do reduce over time, and with normal use, become inconsequential quite quickly.
Returning to the question at the top of the page – Friend or Foe? We say ‘Friend’ and for that reason we won’t be showing you how to switch it off. (But there are plenty of places that will, so if you really want it off then a Google search will turn something up for you).