User Account Control (UAC) is a Windows-based security infrastructure introduced with the release of Windows Vista/Windows Server 2008. The development of UAC was a move by Microsoft intended to introduce the concept of regular user/superuser security structures, common in Unix-like operating systems, to Windows.
Under the UAC system, the user is granted basic privileges upon logging in and, should the need arise during the user’s session, they can be temporarily elevated in status (just like the sudo command in Unix-like systems can temporarily elevate a user). Actions that trigger a UAC prompt in Windows include requesting to run an application with administrative privileges, installing/removing applications, changing user accounts, making system wide changes that would affect other users, and other system activities that could, if used maliciously or unknowingly, cause problems or system instability.
Despite the general consumer backlash against the introduction of the UAC, from a security standpoint the move was commendable. Previous versions of Windows throughout the 1980s and 1990s made no such security distinctions, and as such it was trivially easy for malicious software to make serious changes to Windows.
- By Jason Fitzpatrick on 04/24/13