Standard User Account: Secure your computer with this one simple technique

A government computer security news alert issued on 22 October 2015 offered this simple advice:

“Run all software as a non-privileged user (one without administrative privileges) to diminish the effects of a successful attack.”

There are a lot of countermeasures to prevent or reduce the impact of malware, hackers, and viruses. Yet, none are as simple and sophisticated as creating and using a standard user account.

Configuration

Here’s how to configure a standard user account.

  1. In Control Panel (for Windows) or System Preferences (for Apple), go to Users.
  2. Create a new administrative-level user account. You’ll need to make sure you’re giving this new account administrative rights. The account should have a password as well — one that you won’t forget.
  3. Create a new visitor account with limited access (standard user) for any friends and family who might be using your computer.
  4. Login to the new administrative-level account.
  5. Go to Control Panel > Users.
  6. Set your original user account to be configured as a Standard account.
  7. Logout
  8. Login to your personal account.

Usage

On a day-to-day basis, use your newly configured personal account with limited rights. That way any virus or hacker who has access to your account can’t perform any administrative tasks.

Once a week, or as frequently as seems necessary, login to the administrative account and perform all updates.

Caution

For some versions of Windows, a new user account is created with standard rights by default. So for an administrative account you’ll need to specifically go in and set the rights to administrator. You need to be careful not to end up with no administrative account left on the computer. If that happens, it becomes unusable (at least not updatable).

Be careful to only perform updates and software installation in the administrative account. Don’t install questionable software or visit any unusual websites.

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