Microsoft is offering their users a piece of free magic software, called SteadyState. We have all been there late at night and our virtual guard is down. Maybe you hopped on an unsecured network and decided to browse some hardcore porn sites bit torrent trackers um er let’s just say some not so reputable sites. Either way you have exposed your machine to a potentially bad neighborhood and if your protection on your machine isn’t up to snuff then who knows what could have happened already!
But now let’s say you downloaded Microsoft’s new 6.3MB SteadyState program for XP or Vista. You can go ahead and fire it up and configure how you want it to interact with your Operating System. Think of it like free virtualization with some security features thrown in.
The features that stand out are:
Windows Disk Protection
This is the main feature that will help keep your machine spic and span. It does not allow changes to be made to your system – This includes your Operating System, Program Files and your Personal Files. Windows SteadyState gives you the option to remove all changes upon restart, to remove changes at a certain point in time, or to not remove changes at all. As you can see below the changes live in a cache and are not merged with the operating system (unless you want them to!)
User Restrictions and Settings
The options contained in here resemble group policy and allow you to lock down many facets of the Operating System including which programs are accessible and if and when changes are to be discarded.
User Account Manager
Create and delete SteadyState user accounts. They can be on external drives that can facilitate user’s data and settings being saved even when Windows Disk Protection is turned on. There are import and export features that allow you to move your SteadyState users around.
This is also like group policy settings and very similar to the User Restrictions but based only on the machine.
Now how does all this help you?
I am glad you asked!
Let’s take our example of late night shenanigans again and this time before we start our adult oriented surfing we’ll start up SteadyState. No more worrying about harming your machine or having your personal data sold on the back corners of the net. Aren’t you sick of worrying about computer security? Don’t you have more important things to worry about?
We do and trust you me it’s not just porn!
After your surfing is concluded, reboot the machine and watch as all remnants of your web session are automagically gone. No toolbars, shortcuts, history or even installed applications are left behind to sell you out to your significant other (or parents) and best of all everything you were doing was in a secure place that had access to your personal data or your operating system! SWEET!
Let’s take a look at how it actually works:
You start by configuring what you want to lock down, creating a user and then protecting your hard drive. It creates a cache file. This cache file is where all your changes are made to. Then by selecting the correct option you can make everything return to the way it was simply by restarting!
There is a lot to SteadyState and it is an invaluable tool that I am testing out this week and possibly deploying for a handful of publicly accessible machines! If you have a need for this tool give it a shot and let us know what you think in the comments!
Maybe you use something similar or the old Microsoft® Shared Computer Toolkit for Windows XP – let us know! Come let’s get a heated discussion going on why or why you don’t need something like this!