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Security UPDATE--Limit Your Exposure: Don't Use Administrative Accounts--March 2, 2005

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1. In Focus: Limit Your Exposure: Don't Use Administrative Accounts

2. Security News and Features

- Recent Security Vulnerabilities

- Numerous Security Flaws in Web Browsers Remain Unpatched

- Microsoft Adds Security Guidance Center for Small Businesses

3. Security Toolkit

- Security Matters Blog


- Security Forum Featured Thread

4. New and Improved

- 256-Bit SSL Certificates


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==== 1. In Focus: Limit Your Exposure: Don't Use Administrative Accounts ====

by Mark Joseph Edwards, News Editor, mark at ntsecurity / net

You're probably well aware that running your desktop while logged on as an administrator can be risky. The reason of course is that administrators have full authority on the system, so any program that launches under an administrative account can perform almost any action you can think of.

As you'll learn if you read the Security Matters blog item "Windows Firewall: Another Good Reason Not to Login as Administrator" ( ), spyware peddlers have already developed a way of adding their programs to the Windows Firewall's list of trusted applications. The spyware application simply adds a registry subkey that references the application under the subkey that stores trusted applications. Any trusted application is allowed to send traffic out of the computer. However, adding a subkey to the list of trusted applications works only if the user is logged on with administrative authority. So now you know one more reason why administrative accounts should be used sparingly.

Mark Minasi recently wrote an interesting editorial in Windows IT Pro UPDATE--Special Edition titled "Follow-Up: Why Microsoft Can't Stop Root Kits." Minasi pointed out that the primary leverage an intruder has is a user logged on with an administrative account.

In a message posted to the Bugtraq mailing list, Chris Wyposal pointed out that "The security problem that has created the spyware malaise on Windows is the default Windows installation for home users, which creates the user's named account in the Administrators group. When this account is used to browse the Internet there is no protection to prevent spyware/malware from bypassing security mechanisms, such as the XP SP2 firewall, by exploiting vulnerabilities or tricking the user."

Wyposal's statement is true. The same thing goes for corporate users who use an administrative account primarily for visiting networks external to their company network. Wyposal also made the interesting prediction that due to the problem of spyware and malicious software, Microsoft will eventually change the Windows installation process so that at least two accounts are created: one for administrative use and another with limited permissions for everyday and Internet use.

Any of you who've used a Unix-based or Linux-based system know that this sort of dual-account use is standard practice. You log on with a regular user account, and when you need administrative privileges, you can use the "su" (super user) command to temporarily elevate your privileges, log out and log back in as "root" or some other administrative account, or create another logon session on your desktop.

Windows also lets users elevate their privileges, but this capability isn't used nearly as often as it should be. You probably know this already, but I'll point it out in case any readers are unaware: A simple way to elevate your privileges for specific application use in Windows is to use the RunAs feature, which lets you run programs under any account context provided that you supply the corresponding account password. This feature works great even for desktop systems on which some applications might not work correctly except under an account with some level of administrative authority. If you need help figuring out how to use RunAs, then check the articles at Microsoft's Web site.


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==== 2. Security News and Features ====

Recent Security Vulnerabilities

If you subscribe to this newsletter, you also receive Security Alerts, which inform you about recently discovered security vulnerabilities. You can also find information about these discoveries at

Numerous Security Flaws in Web Browsers Remain Unpatched

Dozens of security-related problems remain unpatched in the Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), Mozilla Firefox, and Opera Web browsers. According to security solution provider Secunia, which tracks vulnerabilities in more than 4000 products, some of the unpatched browser vulnerabilities are considered to be either moderately or highly critical.

Microsoft Adds Security Guidance Center for Small Businesses

Microsoft added a new Security Guidance Center to its Small Business Center Web site. The new content provides security information and advice to help businesses create a safer network environment.


==== Resources and Events ====

Keeping Critical Applications Running in a Distributed Environment

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==== 3. Security Toolkit ====

Security Matters Blog

by Mark Joseph Edwards,

Windows Firewall: Another Good Reason Not to Login as Administrator

Administrator rights are dangerous enough already. Combine them with Windows Firewall protecting a system, and somebody from outside your network might be able to bypass the firewall.


by John Savill,

Q. How can I configure Group Policy-based scripts to display when they're executed?

Find the answer at

Security Forum Featured Thread: Annoying Files That Continually Reappear

A forum participant is wondering about two files on his system, wkwgww.exe and hnhihh.exe. He thinks the files are related due to the file names. He has the latest updates for his antivirus and antispyware scanners, but those tools don't detect anything suspicious about the two files. When he deletes the files, they reappear on the system. Join the discussion at


==== Announcements ====

(from Windows IT Pro and its partners)

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==== 4. New and Improved ====

by Renee Munshi, [email protected]

256-Bit SSL Certificates

XRamp Technologies announced that it's now issuing 256-bit digital Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates. The certificates work with all browsers and servers that support the 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and are backward-compatible for browsers and servers that can handle only 128-bit or 40-bit encryption. Microsoft hasn't yet implemented 256-bit capability into its servers and browser, but 256-bit AES encryption is available with Linux Web servers, and the free Mozilla Firefox Web browser supports 256-bit AES. A 1-year 256-bit SSL certificate from XRamp costs $128. Multiyear certificates are available at discounted prices. For more information, go to

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Editor's note: Share Your Security Discoveries and Get $100

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