Steady As She Goes: Windows User Control

Cory Blog, Security, Software, Windows

Windows Only: The last two days I have spent most of my time setting up the tech bar at a local coffee shop. This gourmet beverage delivering company hosts two public access computers for customers to browse the net while they down their drinks. Long story short, after years of use and neglect, they both needed to be redone, completely. After a complete reinstall of Xp Pro, a user group needed to be created and tight restrictions needed to be set. Part of the reason the computers needed reset was because customers were custom to install unnecessary programs on the machines. I created an Administator account (only for the owners) and then a general user account for the customers and I used XP’s built in restrictors and set them as tightly as I could. But this wasn’t enough. The owners want the customers to ONLY be able to browse the internet via the corporation’s own browser- that meaning there needed to be no access to the hard drive, ability to write files or change files, ability to access other programs, even IE. The answer is Windows’ free SteadyState.

“Windows SteadyState (formerly Shared Computer Toolkit for Windows XP) is a set of software tools to help effectively manage shared computers running Windows,” ideal for internet cafes, school computer labs (hint hint) or coffee shops. Windows SteadyState provides a free solution to IT pros and end user comsumers. With WSs you can lock down nearly any part of Windows. You can hide the drives, restrict access to only the programs you want, and keep inconsiderates from jacking up the system. Inside WSs, “Windows Disk Protection keeps everything on the Windows disk partition from being permanently changed by users. This means every change made during a user session can easily be undone and the computer returned to its original state.”

In a nut shell, with WSs, I was able to accomplish exactly what this company wanted accomplished for their shared access computers. It’s amazing that I didn’t know about this program before, and it’s amazing what a simple Google search can yield.