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3/29/2010
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Windows 7 Less Vulnerable Without Admin Rights

Most Windows 7 vulnerabilities can be mitigated by administrative rights limitations, report from BeyondTrust finds

Taking away the administrative rights from Microsoft Windows 7 users will lessen the risk posed by 90 percent of the critical Windows 7 vulnerabilities reported to date and 100 percent of the Microsoft Office vulnerabilities reported last year.

It will also mitigate the risk of 94 percent of vulnerabilities reported in all versions of Internet Explorer in 2009 and 100 percent of the vulnerabilities reported in Internet Explorer 8 during the same time period.

Finally, it will reduce the danger posed by 64 percent of all Microsoft vulnerabilities reported last year.

These findings come from a study conducted by BeyondTrust, which perhaps unsurprisingly sells software that restricts administrative privileges. The company argues that companies need its software to protect themselves, particularly during the time between Microsoft's publication of vulnerability information and the application of Microsoft's fixes.

"Enterprises continue to face imminent danger from zero-day attacks as new vulnerabilities are exploited before patches can ever be developed and deployed," said BeyondTrust EVP of corporate development Steve Kelley in a statement. "Our findings reflect the critical role that restricting administrator rights plays in protecting against these types of threats."

The risks poses by unchecked administrative rights aren't exactly new.

Here's what Microsoft had to say about such privileges in 1999: "Unauthorized or unknowledgeable people who have administrator privileges can maliciously or accidentally damage your organization if they copy or delete confidential data, spread viruses, or disable your network. It is vitally important to properly manage the users and groups that have administrative control over the servers and domain controllers in your network."

More than a decade later, that point evidently bears repeating. Indeed, BeyondTrust was saying as much a year ago.

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