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May 8th, 2012

Software Licensing for Virtual Desktop Infrastructures and Terminal Servers

Many organizations waste thousands every year on unused software licences. This occurs for a number of reasons, but not least due to the complexity of Microsoft licensing programmes and the need to track license usage across an ever changing IT infrastructure. With the growing popularization of virtual desktop infrastructures (VDIs), monitoring license usage has become more challenging as virtual machines (VMs) can be dynamically created for one-off applications, and software installed on-demand from app stores.

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Turning Concern into Action

Edward Snowden’s data leakage at the NSA has certainly caused a ripple effect across the entire IT landscape, forcing organizations across all industries to take a closer look at their current security defenses. At the McAfee FOCUS conference in October this year, we conducted a survey to examine just how closely security professionals were rethinking their approaches to security as a result of the NSA incident. And just as important – if not more – was determining how many of those professionals were actually converting these attitudes to action.

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The Rise and Rise of ‘Standard’ Mode

User Account Control was a great idea but it has taken privilege management to fulfill its potential

How did computer security get into such a troubled and confused state? It’s a question security professionals must ask themselves on a daily basis as they face demands that threaten to explode budgets while offering no guarantee that any of the expensively-assembled defenses will actually work.

The roots of the malaise go back to the early years of the millennium when enterprises and consumers using Windows 2000 and Windows XP were suddenly ambushed by waves of clever software attacks that warned the world that criminals had floored an evolutionary accelerator pedal. By the time XP and Windows received its first major security upgrade in the form of Service Pack 2 in 2004, it was becoming clear that security had entered an unsettling era that might take decades to play out.

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Whose job is it to watch the Admins?

Why privilege management must apply to everyone

Administrators, privileged network deities or just a type of ordinary network user much the same as anyone else?  Years into an age where IT security has become a mainstream topic, this remains the sort of polarising question that can provoke one of two reactions; shock or relief.

Those in the ‘shock’ camp will probably have grown up used to the traditional divide in which there were only two types of network being; the queen bees at the centre of chaotic and uncertain network who needed absolute power and were called ‘network admins’.  Everyone else was mortal and had to make do with a support number stating the hours of service.  In too many organizations, the power of admins was not only seen as natural so much as necessary, a benign dictatorship of those ‘in the know’.

This model persists, especially in smaller organizations, but it is obsolete because, quite simply, it creates unquantifiable risk.  For anyone who agrees with this analysis, the realization that admins are just a specialized type of user is more likely to elicit the second response…that of relief.

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Enhanced User Experience in Privilege Guard v3.8

Privilege Guard’s UAC Replacement Extends to MSI Packages

For quite some time we have supported Windows Installer packages, empowering standard users to run MSI’s, MSU’s and MSP’s that would require administrator privileges to complete. This functionality is fundamental in most least privilege deployments, where power users are delegated the privilege of choosing their own productivity tools.

We worked closely with our customers to understand how we can improve this offering, and came up with some additional use cases. We listened, and we delivered a much better user experience in 3.8.

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Mitigate Operational Risk: Service Control in Privilege Guard 3.8

Privilege Guard becomes the only privilege management solution to provide control of Windows Services

Services play an integral part of endpoint functionality – they are components of many desktop products, and almost all server implementations. On desktops, services run in the background across multiple user sessions, most commonly for products such as antivirus, firewalls and other security products. On servers, many roles function as services because of the performance and high availability requirements of applications in the datacenter.

In addition, many native features of Windows run as background processes, and are enabled or disabled from its service.

So it’s a fair assumption that no matter your role within the organization, at some point there may be a need to interact with a service, and herein lies the issue.

Unavoidable risk

Services are typically accessed through the Services.msc management console, Task Manager, or from the net.exe command line. Other 3rd party tools offer extended functionality for managing services. But one thing in common is that managing services (with a few exceptions) requires administrator privileges. Granting those privileges to the application is great if you want your user to have access to ALL services, but what if you need a bit more control? Access to services should be restricted to only authorised personnel – the people responsible for what they deliver to an organisation. Put it another way, services should be out of bounds.

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