Malta: How To Stop Users From Installing Software And Breaking Things?

Last Updated: 30 December 2016
Most Read Contributor in Malta, January 2017

By Casper Manes

No matter how good a sysadmin you are, there will always be users that will install something bad and break their computers. Here are a few tricks you can use to stop them.

You try really hard to do a good sysadmin job. You convinced your boss to purchase modern hardware. You got the entire company upgraded to a current release of Windows. You even manage to keep all your machines fully patched every month. And yet, somehow, you still find yourself reimaging machines every month, all because someone installs something that manages to fubar their machine, and the only way to get them back up and running is the old format/reinstall approach.

That takes hours to complete, leaves them (and you) unproductive until it's done, and takes away time from more important work. There's got to be a better way! Actually, there is; I have used many of them with great success at various companies, and in this post, I'll present you three ways you can keep your users from installing software that breaks their machines, while still enabling them to do their jobs.

Remove admin rights

The simplest and most effective way to keep users from doing anything that will break their machines is to not give them administrative rights; unless they are users who actually need them, of course, but that a small percentage of all users. Without admin rights, they cannot install software, change the configuration of services or drivers, or alter any registry keys. By simply not giving them the power to change stuff, you take away the risk of them breaking anything, installing malware, or installing software to which your company doesn't have sufficient licenses. It's dead simple to do, as long as you do it before you give them the machine.

Of course, this does mean that for anything they may need to do, like change a system setting or install software, they will have to come to you instead, and that alone may bring more work than you are willing or able to deal with. You may also have some line-of-business software that requires a user to have admin rights; as ridiculous as that sounds, there's tons of software out there that does, and there's unfortunately little you can do about it. The removal of admin rights may also cause some hard feelings at your users, if they are already accustomed to being able to install whatever they want on their machines.

In short, the easiest solution may be the hardest to implement. But for small shops, or those that need Windows, but are either not Windows-centric or have a widely distributed workforce, this may be the way to go. Remember that Remote Assistance is a useful way to enable your support team to help users who are on the road, even with software installs. Here's a tip though – don't use the same admin password on every machine, it's guaranteed to get out eventually.

Make apps available from a centralized location

Published applications in Active Directory are a good way to provide users with a catalog of additional applications they can install if they need them, while not giving administrative rights. Any app that comes with an MSI file, or that you can package, can be published on the network this way, and you can push the install to machines using GPO. Since installing these MSI/MST/MSP files invokes the Installer service, your users don't need admin rights. But remember to make available only the ones you are willing to support.

You can use groups and permissions to make certain apps available to all, and others only available to some. Even better, apps deployed this way can be removed in the same way, so if you decide to stop supporting an application or you don't renew licensing for it, you can remove it from machines (see https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/816102 for more on this). Again though, publishing applications does require Active Directory, and a connection to it, so this may not to be a good fit for small shops, or for users who are remote full time and have limited bandwidth. Even with VPN, installing software over a slow link is painful at best, and may fail.

Lock your applications

First introduced with Windows 7, and greatly improved in Windows 10, AppLocker enables admins to either allow or block users from installing or using specific applications. You typically use Active Directory group memberships to control permission assignments to users who can or cannot install applications, and combine that with a whitelist of applications that privileged users can install. You can go the other way, but it's far easier to assign permissions rather than take them away, and a whitelist of allowed applications is less work than creating a blacklist of the legion of apps you don't want users to install.

On the pro side, you can create a group of users that should (or at least need) to install software on their machines that is not a part of your "standard image" and ensure that, even for users who have local admin rights, software not on that list cannot be installed. It takes a bit of work up front, and you will probably need to add new programs to that list on a regular basis, but it lets you restrict what software can be installed, while still letting users have local admin rights.

It also requires an Active Directory environment and workstations to have a connection to it, which may be challenging for the mobile workforce, that is probably your neediest bunch, and in smaller companies. But if you do have AD and your mobile users have VPN, it's a great way to go. Take a look at https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd723686(v=ws.10).aspx for some dated but still good guidance on how to set up AppLocker if that's something you would like to use.

Don't forget the management

No, not your company's leadership – it's the application and patch management I'm referring to, that any of the above solutions will certainly require. Windows Update can be great for operating systems and Office products, but as soon as you have any third-party software on your systems, you are going to need to be able to patch that software, and ensure that you company remains compliant with licensing. Freeware and open-source software is not always free for commercial use, and even when it is, if your users don't keep up with the updates, that software can present serious risk to your company.

There are several solutions out there, and GFI LanGuard is one of those who can help you in this. In addition to its vulnerability scanning, GFI LanGuard can patch many of the most popular third-party applications, including the ones that seem to have security updates every other week (see the full list of supported apps here). Using GFI LanGuard, you can ensure that those apps you publish through AD or permit through AppLocker can be updated, so your users and your data stays secure. And with its software audit capabilities, you can easily create and maintain a running inventory of all the software installed on your systems, so you can ensure you have enough licenses to cover what your users have installed. Whether you decide to take away admin rights, or provide alternatives that can be a good compromise between lock down and anarchy, it's important to make sure you keep your systems patched and your compliance in line.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.