The UAC Conundrum: How to Manage Admin Privilege Without Frustrating Users

For many IT administrators and end-point users, administrative privilege has become a source of friction. Security best practices recommend protecting your privileged accounts by limiting administrative privilege to reduce your attack surface, activating user account control (UAC), and implementing strong password policies and controls. However, these practices aren’t always easy to enforce without negatively impacting the user experience.

A quick Google search of “UAC and admin privilege,”, yields not only information about the feature itself, but also results like “how to disable UAC” or “how to force a program to run without admin privileges.” The frustration users feel when their work is disrupted by UAC protocols often prompts them to look for ways around the system – and may end up compromising security in the process.

To keep organizational processes streamlined and secure, MSPs need a solution that will control access to administrative privilege while also limiting disruptions to productivity and workflows.

But how would a solution like that work? First, let’s take a look at how UAC keeps your accounts safe.

What Is UAC?

UAC, or User Account Control, is a Microsoft security construct designed to prevent malware and unauthorized activity from compromising your system. UAC manages user privilege by limiting access to administrative accounts without explicit authorization. All users receive permissions associated with standard user accounts, which means they cannot install new software, make configuration changes, run scripts, or do other administrative-level tasks. If a user needs to perform any of these tasks, they get a UAC prompt which requires an administrative login.

Essentially, UAC serves as a gatekeeper to protect your system from inadvertent security risks. It accomplishes this by:

  • Limiting access to privileged accounts
  • Requiring administrative approval for elevated access
  • Capturing all UAC requests for monitoring and visibility

But it’s not without drawbacks.

Why UAC Frustrates Users

The vast majority of security breaches are related to improper credential use and user error. UAC seeks to limit those kinds of events by running all applications as a standard user by default. If a user needs elevated access, a UAC prompt will pop up requiring administrative approval.

Unfortunately, this case-by-case approval requirement means UAC can cause friction points that impact productivity and user experience:

Repetitive Disruption

Every administrative action triggers a separate UAC event and requires specific authorization. This means users may be interrupted by UAC prompts many times during the workday, even if they have been given prior approval. This repetitive disruption impacts both standard users who need access and the administrative users who must approve each request individually.

Unauthorized Workarounds

Frustrated users and technicians may look for workarounds to reduce disruptions, inadvertently compromising the security of your system in the process. For example, they may share administrative credentials, create unnecessary administrative accounts, or disable UAC altogether. All of these workarounds increase your security risk exponentially, especially for large organizations with hundreds or thousands of users.

Both of these problems can create risk in your organization. Repetitive disruption leads to poor employee experience and justifiable frustration, but unauthorized workarounds open you up to security vulnerabilities.

So what’s the answer?

AutoElevate: Automating Privileged Management with UAC

To solve the problems of disruption and unauthorized workarounds, CyberFox created AutoElevate. This solution empowers administrators to manage local admin rights and privileges without frustrating users.

AutoElevate works within the context of Microsoft’s UAC model, while also streamlining the user experience and automating the administrative approval process. It provides simple endpoint privileged management so administrators can enable and remove admin rights efficiently, create rules for privileged access, and improve productivity.

Using the principle of Least Privilege, AutoElevate enhances security by granting only the level of access necessary to perform a given task. Once the task is completed, administrative privilege is automatically removed. This model allows companies to:

  • Grant admin privilege only when necessary
  • Create custom rules for automated privilege access
  • Minimize the number of administrative accounts
  • Meet security and compliance goals
  • Increase visibility for security audits and remediation

Why is this so important? One study by Avecto found that 94% of critical Windows vulnerabilities could be mitigated simply by removing admin rights. AutoElevate automates that process so technicians can handle requests that would otherwise eat up a significant portion of their day in just minutes.

If your IT department is feeling the frustration of manual privileged management, AutoElevate helps you solve those challenges without compromising security. It allows you to lock down access without creating huge volumes of work for your IT technicians, increasing the speed and efficiency of privileged management across your organization.

Ready to learn more? Contact us to see how AutoElevate can transform your approach to privileged access management!

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