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Windows 7 : Authenticating Users - How to Use Credential Manager

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1/2/2014 3:14:55 AM

What Is Authentication?

Authentication is the process of identifying a user. In home environments, authentication is often as simple as clicking a user name at the Windows 7 logon screen. However, in enterprise environments, almost all authentication requests require users to provide both a user name (to identify themselves) and a password (to prove that they really are the user they claim to be).

Windows 7 also supports authentication using a smart card. The smart card, which is about the size of a credit card, contains a chip with a certificate that uniquely identifies the user. So long as a user doesn't give the smart card to someone else, inserting the smart card into a computer sufficiently proves the user's identity. Typically, users also need to type a password or PIN to prove that they aren't using someone else's smart card. When you combine two forms of authentication (such as both typing a password and providing a smart card), it's called multifactor authentication. Multifactor authentication is much more secure than single-factor authentication.

Biometrics is another popular form of authentication. Although a password proves your identity by testing "something you know" and a smart card tests "something you have," biometrics test "something you are" by examining a unique feature of your physiology. Today the most common biometric authentication mechanisms are fingerprint readers (now built into many mobile computers) and retinal scanners.

Note

BIOMETRICS

Biometrics are the most secure and reliable authentication method because you cannot lose or forget your authentication. However, it's also the least commonly used. Reliable biometric readers are too expensive for many organizations, and some users dislike biometric readers because they feel the devices violate their privacy.

How to Use Credential Manager

Credential Manager is a single-sign on feature, originally for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP, that enables users to input user names and passwords for multiple network resources and applications. When different resources require authentication, Windows can then automatically provide the credentials without requiring the user to type them.

In Windows Vista and Windows 7, Credential Manager can roam stored user names and passwords between multiple Windows computers in an AD DS domain. Windows stores credentials in the user's AD DS user object. This enables users to store credentials once and use them from any logon session within the AD DS domain. For example, if you connect to a password-protected Web server and you select the Remember My Password check box, Internet Explorer will be able to retrieve your saved password later, even if you log on to a different computer running Windows Vista or Windows 7.

Users can take advantage of Credential Manager without even being aware of it. For example, each time a user connects to a shared folder or printer and selects the Reconnect At Logon check box, Windows automatically stores that user's credentials within Credential Manager. Similarly, if a user authenticates to a Web site that requires authentication and selects the Remember My Password check box in the Internet Explorer authentication dialog box, Internet Explorer stores the user name and password in Credential Manager.

Note

CREDENTIAL ROAMING

For detailed information about credential roaming, read "Configuring and Troubleshooting Certificate Services Client-Credential Roaming" at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/guidance/cryptographyetc/client-credential-roaming/implementation-differences.mspx.

Windows automatically adds credentials used to connect to shared folders to the Credential Manager. However, you might want to add a user name and password manually so that Windows can provide those credentials automatically for a group of computers in a different domain. To add a user name and password manually to Credential Manager, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.

  2. Click the User Accounts link twice.

  3. In the left pane, click the Manage Your Credentials link.

    The Credentials Manager window appears, as shown in Figure 1.

    Using Credential Manager to authenticate automatically to resources that require credentials other than those you use to log on

    Figure 1. Using Credential Manager to authenticate automatically to resources that require credentials other than those you use to log on

  4. Click Add A Windows Credential. Note that you can also add certificate-based credentials and generic credentials.

  5. In the Internet Or Network Address box, type the server name. You can use an asterisk (*) as a wildcard. For example, to use the credential for all resources in the contoso.com domain, you could type *.contoso.com.

  6. In the User Name and Password boxes, type your user credentials. Click OK.

Note

WEB SITES THAT CREDENTIAL MANAGER CAN AUTHENTICATE TO AUTOMATICALLY

The only Web sites that Credential Manager can authenticate to automatically are those that use Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) authentication. When visiting the site, the Web browser opens a dialog box to prompt for credentials. Credential Manager cannot remember your user name and password for Web sites that use a Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) form of authentication (such as those that have a logon page), which is much more common. Credential Manager can also remember .NET Passport credentials.

You can also back up and restore credentials manually in Credential Manager.

 
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