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Windows 95 and Windows for Workgroups

NT employs user-level security, as we discussed earlier in this document. Under user-level security, NT allows or denies access to the resource on a user-by-user basis (or collectively in a group of users). Users gain access by authenticating themselves through a name and password. By contrast, simpler Windows products such as Windows for Workgroups and Windows 95 use share-level security to control access to shared resources, such as a subdirectory. Share-level security means that the share itself can have one or two passwords, and any user who knows these passwords can access the share. One password can determine who has full control of the share, while a second password can grant read-only access. Both passwords are optional. While share-level security provides nominal protection, the quality of that protection is greatly inferior to user-level security. For one thing, multiple users share knowledge of a secret, which makes unauthorized dissemination of that secret virtually impossible to control. In contrast, user-level security entails passwords unique to each person. In addition, share-level security offers no possibility of effective auditing because it is impossible to know who accessed the shared resource. With user-level security, each person requesting access--even through group membership--must present his or her personal credentials.

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