Windows Vista Security Center Tip, UAC

Sure to be a hot topic for quite some time is the new UAC (User Account Control) – a security measure new with Vista that generates popup security dialogs for actions that may affect system integrity. Put that simply it sounds great, everyone wants a more secure computer.

The price: Program installs and uninstalls need approval. Deleting a shortcut or deleting a file needs approval. Want to do something with the registry, approval. Moving a file from one location to another can take two approvals, one for 'Admin Permission' and one for 'Windows Permission'.

I ran Sysinternals Process Explorer the other day, two approvals needed, one asking "Do you want to run this file?" and the secondating 'A program needs your permission to continue'. Now granted, this simply means clicking on the dialog to 'continue', but depending on how you use your computer, the clicks add up. And, unlike firewalls that remember the permissions granted, UAC requests every time.

Sad to say, I suspect a fair number of users will simply turn UAC off. But here's my first tip on this subject, before you curse UAC and turn it off for good. Look at UAC in the browser context of overall computer security. UAC is one component, the others being a firewall, anti-spyware, anti-virus, automatic updates, and Internet Security Settings.

Each of these items is detailed in the Windows Security Center – green bars indicate proper security measures, while red bars indicate settings need to be checked. If you have your own anti-virus installed, the security center recognizes it and includes it in it's report. Interestingly enough, many users will keep security measures in place simply to have no red bars.

So here's my tip: go to the control panel, classic view, and drag the 'Security Center' and the 'User Accounts' icons to your desktop. This will create shortcuts. You can then re-name the shortcuts to your liking.

Now clicking on the Security Center Shield icon takes you directly to your Security Center where you can monitor all features of your computer security. For instance, you can make sure your firewall and anti-virus are on, and that Windows Update is turned on. You can monitor UAC. Further you can click to learn more about security. And it's all in one neat box.

The 'User Accounts' icon gives you access to the location to turn off UAC, once you turn it off, one of the bars in the Security center will go red, and a button will go active in the Security Center that allows you to turn UAC back on.

I've found that having these two shortcuts on the desktop, so to access these items directly, rather than hunting for them in the control panel, provides a user with quick and full control over security, including UAC. A user who might be inclined to turn UAC off permanently tends instead to turn it off for brief periods. Plus a user will tend to bring his security level up to par in all areas listed in the Security Center.

Good luck and good computing.