Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 31st Mar 2010 14:41 UTC
Windows As geeks, we're well aware of the importance of running as a normal user instead of as root (UNIX/Linux/BSD) or administrator (Windows). However, while this should be common knowledge to anyone reading OSNews, it's often hard to illustrate just how important it is - until now, that is. A report by BeyondTrust looked at how many security bulletins issused by Microsoft are mitigated by simply... Not running as administrator.
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Not entirely...
by TemporalBeing on Wed 31st Mar 2010 15:34 UTC
TemporalBeing
Member since:
2007-08-22

Honestly, most Linux distro's enact the first user as the 'root' user too. That's not the problem.

Instead, Microsoft should force the creation of the admin password AND a normal user during installation.

Additionally, Vista + Win7 shed light on the software requiring admin rights to run issue, and has helped to resolve software that is being updated and maintained. However, there is still a vast amount of software out there that businesses use that is not being upgraded or maintained for numerous reasons; software that still requires admin rights to run.

So as another said - it's not so simple.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Not entirely...
by mtzmtulivu on Wed 31st Mar 2010 15:47 in reply to "Not entirely..."
mtzmtulivu Member since:
2006-11-14


Instead, Microsoft should force the creation of the admin password AND a normal user during installation.


Most window users do not install heir own operating systems. OEM ship computers with windows setup with a user with administrative privileges because they do not want to get support calls asking why they are prevented from doing A or installing application B.

Windows 2000 shipped with three users,winxp shipped with two, normal and admin. Microsoft gave people options and OEM passed on a bad choice to their consumers to reduce their costs and consumers did change the bad option and the bad option stuck as default and expected option.

It is required in new york to take couple of hours of road safety lectures and workshops before a drivers license is issued. Should computers users be required to do the same?

Reply Parent Score: 6

RE[2]: Not entirely...
by iaefai on Wed 31st Mar 2010 22:29 in reply to "RE: Not entirely..."
iaefai Member since:
2009-12-14

I would point out that microsoft called their 'normal' user 'limited' which also doesn't endear itself to people.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE: Not entirely...
by WereCatf on Wed 31st Mar 2010 16:15 in reply to "Not entirely..."
WereCatf Member since:
2006-02-15

Honestly, most Linux distro's enact the first user as the 'root' user too.

I am not aware of any such distro. I don't use that many distros though, but atleast the one I use a lot, Mandriva, does NOT enact the first user as root. No, you always have to enter root password separately if you wish to install applications or do other similar system administration tasks, just as it should be.

Could you now then elaborate which distros actually do enact the first user as root?

Reply Parent Score: 6

RE[2]: Not entirely...
by darknexus on Wed 31st Mar 2010 16:30 in reply to "RE: Not entirely..."
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

Actually, I suspect what the OP meant is that all Linux and UNIX systems have the root user as the first user. It's always there, it has uid 0. That is the first user, there's no arguing that.
That being said, there's a critical difference between what XP and older did for admin versus what *NIX systems do. In the case of XP, any user marked as admin has *full* access to everything just as the first user, which is administrator, does. In *NIX, while the root user is the first user, the installers typically do one of two things. First, they disable the root user and the first account created has sudo privileges (e.g. Ubuntu and Mac OS X), or they make you set a root password and create a user without sudo privileges (e.g. OpenSUSE). Both of these have their advantages and disadvantages, but they do accomplish one thing evenly. That password prompt makes you stop and consciously decide to continue, rather than just letting your user do anything root could do.
With Vista and 7 the situation is slightly better, but only slightly. Administrator accounts do get prompted by UAC but, unlike limited user accounts, they do not get asked for a password. This means that there's no conscious decisions involved, the click-through habit takes over and most users just click continue to get the dialog out of the way. If Microsoft revised UAC to always prompt for a password, we'd probably see a drastic drop in the number of stupid infections. It won't kill infections completely, but even just that split second is often enough to tell you that something's wrong and that greeting card you clicked on shouldn't be asking for your system password.

Reply Parent Score: 4

RE[2]: Not entirely...
by SlackerJack on Wed 31st Mar 2010 16:57 in reply to "RE: Not entirely..."
SlackerJack Member since:
2005-11-12

He/she probably means distros like Slackware, Gentoo and ArchLinux which require the user to make a user account manually, since by default they use is root.

I've always said that Windows users right from XP should have been tutored into creating passwords and one for administrator from the installation.

All OEM machines should have been set-up so that the user would need to set both passwords or some sudo equivalent, like Ubuntu has for example.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Not entirely...
by TemporalBeing on Wed 31st Mar 2010 17:06 in reply to "RE: Not entirely..."
TemporalBeing Member since:
2007-08-22

Honestly, most Linux distro's enact the first user as the 'root' user too.

I am not aware of any such distro. I don't use that many distros though, but atleast the one I use a lot, Mandriva, does NOT enact the first user as root. No, you always have to enter root password separately if you wish to install applications or do other similar system administration tasks, just as it should be.

Could you now then elaborate which distros actually do enact the first user as root?


Being the OP...

Distro installers always ask you to enact a password for root. That is the first user enacted during the installation.

After that, you can then add a normal user to use.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Not entirely...
by umccullough on Wed 31st Mar 2010 18:08 in reply to "RE: Not entirely..."
umccullough Member since:
2006-01-26

Could you now then elaborate which distros actually do enact the first user as root?


Debian does... (at least, it does with Debian 5.0 and earlier)

During install, it first prompts you for the root password, and then prompts you for the "first" (second) user and that user's password.

Edit: Oh, you mean that it creates only *one* user at all... nah, dunno.

Edited 2010-03-31 18:10 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Not entirely...
by google_ninja on Wed 31st Mar 2010 18:03 in reply to "Not entirely..."
google_ninja Member since:
2006-02-05

It is the problem though, if you give someone broad sudo priviledges, all it takes is a sudo bug and you effectively have full control. If you do not run as the user with full privileges, it takes a lot more effort. With linux its a fairly moot point though, because the people interested in hacking it are only targeting environments that would never run that way.

Exact same principal for windows. First windows user is in the "administrators" group, but they still need to go through a dialog for something to execute with admin rights. Proper way to do it is not run daily stuff under an admin account, and run things as the admin account as needed.

The problem is that people are so irritated with having to hit "Ok" to run something as admin, they would be even MORE irritated if it required a username/password.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Not entirely...
by TemporalBeing on Wed 31st Mar 2010 21:54 in reply to "RE: Not entirely..."
TemporalBeing Member since:
2007-08-22

It is the problem though, if you give someone broad sudo priviledges, all it takes is a sudo bug and you effectively have full control. If you do not run as the user with full privileges, it takes a lot more effort. With linux its a fairly moot point though, because the people interested in hacking it are only targeting environments that would never run that way.


Users must be part of the 'wheel' group AND be added to /etc/sudousers in order to have access to sudo. Additionally, to use sudo you have to enter your own password. It's not specifically allowed. Once you use it successfully it will let you continue issuing additional commands via more calls to sudo without a password but only for a given amount of time between calls.

'su' doesn't require any group - just that you know the password for that user, root or otherwise.

Exact same principal for windows. First windows user is in the "administrators" group, but they still need to go through a dialog for something to execute with admin rights.


Not quite.

On Linux/Unix there is typically only one administrator user - root. Rarely do you ever add another user to the 'root' group. Instead, you give people the privilege to switch user to the root user using su or sudo. See above.

On Windows you actually add users to the Administrators group. To properly do it the UNIX/Linux way you would not do that, but use the 'runas' command instead. It can be successfully done - I've done it before - but it is a major PITA as Windows is not designed to work that way.

Proper way to do it is not run daily stuff under an admin account, and run things as the admin account as needed.


Under UNIX/Linux, this is how all software is designed to run.

However, Microsoft has historically contributed to pushing for users to need Admin rights in order to use their daily software. Until Office 2002/2003, Office required Admin rights to run. Only recently (VS2005/2008/2010?, not sure which) did Visual Studios drop the requirement for developers to need admin rights in order to debug software.

It's not that administrators did not want to force people to not have admin rights to use their computer. It's that the software available for Windows - even software from Microsoft - required it!

The problem is that people are so irritated with having to hit "Ok" to run something as admin, they would be even MORE irritated if it required a username/password.


It's only a problem so long as software is designed to require admin rights to function.

Vista and Win7 are making a big show of it. You don't see so many issues now with it because either the vendors got smart and updated their software to not need it (which has happened), or (where that was not possible, or available yet to the user) people turned it off; and with Win7 the default level was toned down.

Reply Parent Score: 3