A MUST change in computer setup

Discussions around the setup, operation, replacement, and disposal of clerk computers, not to include using MLS
engineereeyore
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A MUST change in computer setup

Postby engineereeyore » Mon Mar 07, 2011 9:30 am

I'm not sure if this is the right category or not, but there is a serious problem with the Church's current computer setup guidelines. Having one generic Admin account on the computer that nearly everyone in the Ward knows the password to is a very BAD idea. This posses several problems.

First, at almost all times anyone logged on to the computer is running as an Admin. The opens up all kinds of virus and malware possibilities. If you just set up a single Admin account, and then set up the "Clerk" account as a standard account (assuming Windows 7), MLS works just fine and everything is peachy. Anyone using the computer can't simply install any application any time they feel like it. I set our new computer up like this, and I intend to provide the password to the Bishopric and Stake only. No one else needs that password, but can still use the regular "Clerk" account to log onto the computer, create documents, and run MLS. This doesn't work on XP (for reasons I won't discuss), but as new computer should have the option of Windows 7 and MLS now supports Windows 7, this shouldn't be a problem going forward.

Secondly, just as the first point made, anyone can do anything to the computer! Anyone!! Does this not just scream problem to anyone else? I understand needing an account that all Stake and necessary Ward leader can use is important, but it doesn't have to be done this way.

Third, I know we're not supposed leave confidential records on the computer, but having one copy of these records is a bad idea. If you change to this setup, this is no longer a problem because standard users can't access an Admin's documents. That way the documents are on the computer, and backed up on a thumb drive that the Bishop maintains. Personally, just to add a second layer of security, I use TrueCrypt (which is free and the Church should ABSOLUTELY be using for confidential documents) and create a secure, password protected volume and I, and I alone, have access to. I can then place my confidential documents inside this volume and keep them safe from any snooping eyes.

Now, I realize we all want to think this would never be a problem, and that no one would every maliciously or unintentionally harm our computers. But the fact is that is happens! And just implementing this simple change would make worlds of difference. Last time I checked 90+% of viruses and malware are defeated on Windows systems when the user is logged in with a Standard account rather than an Admin account. That's basically better protection than Sophos or whatever that AV junk is.

So, take it for what it's worth, but speaking from the years of experience in vulnerability and systems assessment, we in the Church are not setting up our computers in a very good manner and we need to change that!

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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Mon Mar 07, 2011 10:39 am

engineereeyore wrote:I'm not sure if this is the right category or not, but there is a serious problem with the Church's current computer setup guidelines. Having one generic Admin account on the computer that nearly everyone in the Ward knows the password to is a very BAD idea. This posses several problems.


This topic has been discussed many times on the forum. For example:


So you can see that this is certainly not a new issue, although Windows 7 does provide options for dealing with it much better than Windows XP did. I think most people would agree with most of your points.

I know that suggestions along these lines have been submitted before, but it certainly wouldn't hurt for you to submit your suggestions to Local Unit Support.
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engineereeyore
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Postby engineereeyore » Mon Mar 07, 2011 11:21 am

I understand that this has been discussed before. However, the fact that it still hasn't been changed is very concerning. The more people talk about it, the more attention it gets, and perhaps eventually someone will catch on and fix the problem.

I wanted to explain things from my perspective and provide a possible solution to the problem. I'm not saving out any hope that anyone will listen, but at the same time, I'm not going to follow instructions that are going to make the computer ridiculously insecure. Problems like this have a tendency to only receive attention when something terrible happens. If everyone else wants to wait for that to happen, so be it, but I'm not.

But like I said, feel free to agree/disagree/ignore/whatever. I just want to make sure this topic is continually brought up until someone finally fixes the issue.

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Postby lajackson » Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:46 pm

engineereeyore wrote:I just want to make sure this topic is continually brought up until someone finally fixes the issue.


And as aebrown said, the place to do that is with Local Unit Support. There are a lot of folks here who agree. None here, however, has the ability to actually make the change. And those who can make the change do not always haunt the Forum.

So by all means, let them know where they will hear you.

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:51 pm

engineereeyore wrote:The more people talk about it, the more attention it gets, and perhaps eventually someone will catch on and fix the problem.


Unfortunately that's not how the church functions. I'm sure they are aware of the issue, but there are more pressing things needing attention. It's one thing to point out issues, it's another to get carried away in advocacy. Our influence here is quite limited. If discussion gets too out of hand, we may be asked to lock threads or delete posts.

engineereeyore wrote:I'm not going to follow instructions that are going to make the computer ridiculously insecure.


Keep in mind that you may be opening yourself to additional support issues when I'm sure your goal is to minimize issues. There really shouldn't be anyone in the clerks office that can't be trusted to follow directions.

With that in mind, you might want to consider creating a stake computer use policy and placing it on the monitor just so all users are clear on the ground rules.
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harddrive
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Postby harddrive » Tue Mar 08, 2011 7:03 am

The other issue with what you suggest is that, at least in my stake, all my computer are running Windows XP. One computer that is coming in this month will have Windows 7 on it and based on the ward, I will plan to set up a Standard account, based on what you said.

Now, the rest of my computers in the stake aren't do for a refresh until 2013, unless one "blows up." Some of us have been clerks back when MLS had to be run as an administrator and there was nothing we could do about it. So we had to set up an admin account and we have left it.

Now the next question is this, does the latest version of MLS need to have admin rights in Windows XP? If it doesn't, then I believe that this will require a reinstallation of the software and restore of the database. Now if the security code for the church is based on machine, then we are fine, but if it is based on the user, then that would need to be reset so that MLS can communicate with HQ.

That is a lot of work to secure a machine.

So this is my two cents worth.

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aebrown
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Postby aebrown » Tue Mar 08, 2011 8:43 am

harddrive wrote:Now the next question is this, does the latest version of MLS need to have admin rights in Windows XP?


The answer to that question is in the MLS 3.3.0 release notes: "MLS is now compatible with Windows 7. MLS will also continue to be compatible with Windows XP. Those using computers with Windows 7 (as well as those using XP) will not be required to run MLS as a Windows administrator."

But we have received no updated documentation that verifies that, nor instructions regarding appropriate procedures for implementing that. The current instructions for one Windows account called CLERK to run MLS still stand.
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