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Windows 7's UAC overhaul is purely 'cosmetic'

Microsoft slammed for failure to address flaws

Microsoft's claims that it is overhauling User Account Control in Windows 7 have been met with cynicism, with one developer describing a change to the security feature as nothing more than "lipstick".

BeyondTrust, which touts its Privilege Manager software as a way for enterprises to sidestep intrusive messages from Vista 's User Account Control (UAC) while still locking down PCs, took exception to Microsoft's plans to revamp the feature in its upcoming operating system.

BeyondTrust 's CEO, John Moyer, said UAC modifications "do not solve the major issue for enterprises".

Windows 7 review

Windows 7 review - UAC changes

Instead, he argued that Microsoft hasn't taken UAC's problems head on. "Windows 7 promises cosmetic changes to reduce UAC prompts, but it does nothing to fix the underlying security and usability problems for businesses," he said. "Just like Vista's UAC, Windows 7 keeps end users in charge of the security decision of what applications to run with administrative privileges. That's like hanging out a 'Welcome' sign for malicious users, hackers and malware."

Scott McCarley, the company's director of marketing, expanded on that theme. "The changes [to UAC] didn't fix a lot of the issues that we see with UAC in Vista," he told Computerworld US. "They don't address the usability and security issues."

At the Professional Developers Conference (PDC), Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky , the head of Windows' development, outlined UAC tweaks slated for Windows 7.

After he acknowledged that Microsoft "went a little too far" in displaying pop-up prompts, he said the company would answer critics by letting users and administrators set the warning frequency. "We've actually added a slider that allows you to decide how much of the UAC you want to see on your machine," Sinofsky said during his Windows 7 presentation at PDC on Tuesday.

That's just window dressing, countered BeyondTrust. "The slider control is a cool feature," said McCarley, "but it's designed for administrators [and] is a benefit only to administrators. They've done nothing to improve the standard user experience, they've only improved the messaging of UAC."

It comes as no surprise that Microsoft modified UAC in Windows 7. Earlier this year, the company tagged the feature as one of five it said contributed to Vista's slow adoption. At the time, Microsoft said UAC had received a "bad rap" and was "misunderstood".

See also:

Windows 7 & Windows Azure explained


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