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 Windows Vista: Secure Or Just Frustrating? 
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Post Windows Vista: Secure Or Just Frustrating?
Windows Vista: Secure Or Just Frustrating?
by: Christopher N. Goebel

Modern operating systems such as Mac OS X operate under a security model where even administrative users don't get full access to certain features unless they provide an in-place logon before performing any task that might harm the system. This security setup protects users from themselves, and it is something that Microsoft should have added to Windows several years ago.

Here's the good news. In Windows Vista, Microsoft is indeed moving to this kind of security model. The feature is called User Account Protection (UAP) and, as you might expect, it prevents even administrative users from performing potentially dangerous tasks without first providing security credentials. Sounds good, right? Before you agree, remember this is Microsoft we’re talking about. They made a royal mess of UAP.

The bad news, then, is that UAP is a sad, sad joke. It's the most annoying feature that Microsoft has ever added to any software product, and yes, that includes that ridiculous paperclip character from older Office versions. The problem with UAP is that it generates an unbelievable number of warning pop-ups for even the simplest of tasks. The frequency with which these warnings pop-up for the same action would be comical if it weren't so amazingly frustrating. One could almost laugh thinking of the millions of people rushing into computers stores to purchase a new PC preloaded with Vista, completely unaware of what they are getting themselves into. It’s almost criminal in its insidiousness.

To fully appreciate just how frustrating Vista’s implementation of UAP truly is, we’ll look at a simple example. One of the first things I do whenever I install a new Windows version is download and install Mozilla Firefox. Overlooking, for a moment, the number of warnings during the download/install process still leaves us with one glaring issue. Once Firefox is installed, there are two icons on my Desktop I'd like to remove: The Setup application itself and a shortcut to Firefox. I simply select both icons and drag them to the Recycle Bin. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. Here's what you have to go through to actually delete those files in Windows Vista. First, you get a File Access Denied dialog explaining that you don't, in fact, have permission to delete a ... shortcut?? To an application you just installed! Seriously? OK, fine. You can click a Continue button to "complete this operation." But that doesn't complete anything. It just clears the desktop for the next dialog, which is a Windows Security window. Here, you need to give your permission to continue something opaquely called a "File Operation." Click Allow, and you're done. Hey, that's not too bad, right? What's the big deal?

What if you're doing something a bit more complicated? Well, lucky you, the dialogs stack right up, one after the other, in a seemingly never-ending display of stupidity. Indeed, sometimes you'll find yourself unable to do certain things for no good reason, and you click Allow buttons until you're blue in the face. It will never stop bothering you, until you agree to give up and leave that file on the desktop where it belongs. This will happen to you, and you will hate it.

The problem with Vista’s security implementation is that lots of warning dialog boxes don't provide security. Users get frustrated and eventually stop reading them altogether. They think of them as annoyances, an extra click required to get a feature to work. Is Windows Vista really more secure than the operating systems that preceded it, or simply more frustrating? Since Microsoft left us with no choice but to buy a PC with Vista pre-installed, we’re inevitably stuck with it. Let the frustration begin.

About The Author

Christopher Goebel served in the United States Navy for four years during which he built a substantial I.T. knowledge base. He currently maintains a blog dedicated to Windows Vista security and virus protection found at or accessed from the link here.

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This article was posted by permission.

Wed Aug 01, 2007 3:51 pm
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