Stem the Flood of User Account Control Popups

If there's one feature in Windows Vista that's almost universally reviled, it's User Account Control, or UAC. But help may be on the way in the form of BeyondTrust Privilege Manager 3.5.

UAC is great in theory; by forcing users to run at lower privilege levels, it greatly enhances Vista's security. In real-world usage, however, UAC normally results in a nonstop stream of pop-ups that ask the user to allow or deny certain tasks. It's annoying enough that many users and IT administrators simply turn it off -- removing the benefit of increased security.

That's where Privilege Manager 3.5 comes in. It allows admins to centrally control UAC, eliminating a high percentage of the hated prompts. "Everyone's aware of this; it's a huge problem out there," said BeyondTrust CEO John Moyer.

BeyondTrust started working on the Privilege Manager upgrade because of feedback from the IT community, Moyer said. They were "Hearing everything from 'It's a nuisance' to 'It's greatly increasing help-desk calls'. It's been called a 'non-starter'. Some [admins are] saying they're going to turn it off."

Privilege Manager 3.5 is transparent to the user. If UAC is enabled, an application's security policies are set and applied before the dialogue box pops up, eliminating the need for it. Those policies are normally managed through Microsoft Group Policy.

Peter Beauregard, BeyondTrust senior sales engineer, said Privilege Manager 3.5 is the first product on the market to effectively manage the UAC problem.

Microsoft is also recommending Privilege Manager 3.5. "The combination of elevating approved applications transparently with Privilege Manager and running UAC in no prompt mode with Internet Explorer in protected mode provides a best of breed solution to the least privilege problem," said Microsoft's Austin Wilson, director, Windows Client Security Product Management, in a BeyondTrust press release.

Omar Ghneim, a network admin for energy company EXCO Resources, is looking forward to UAC control. "One of the things worrying us with Vista was all those popups." Ghneim started testing Vista, and after several days of UAC prompts, he said, "I was ready to kill myself."

Ghneim has used Privilege Manager for years, and is excited about the upgrade that adds UAC control. "It works exactly how you would want it to." It's an annoyance-reducer and time-saver for Ghneim. "Every time I run a command-line, I don't have to kill three or four popups."

In fact, having Privilege Manager 3.5 might even speed up his company's Vista deployment. "It's a big deal," Ghneim said, because it means fewer hassles and help-desk work. "The fewer calls I get frees up my day for things that are important to the network."

BeyondTrust Privilege Manager 3.5 is available now. Pricing starts at $30 per seat.

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.