Product Reviews

Get a Handle on Logons

Thwart lockouts with UserLock v2.2.

Every month I get several calls from users saying their accounts are locked. It seems that no matter how many times the help desk resets their passwords, their accounts continue to get locked out after a few minutes. My response is always the same. “Looks like you changed your password and you’re logged on somewhere else with the old password. Where did you last log on?”

This is frustrating to troubleshoot, because it means you have to comb the event logs looking for entries indicating locked accounts. You can prevent this by limiting users to a single logon, which can be accomplished by only allowing users to log on to a single machine based on its NetBIOS name. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for users who share machines. Also, this is set at the user level, which is difficult to administer. IS Decisions’ UserLock v2.2 solves this problem by allowing you to restrict users to a predefined number of simultaneous logons, without applying restrictions at the user level.

UserLock tracks domain users’ logon activity, and all records are saved to a central CSV file for easy archiving. The UserLock MMC (see screenshot) allows you to see, in real-time, where your users are logged in. You can right-click on a user to reset the counter, which is handy for when you want to let a user log in one more time without permanently changing his or her settings. UserLock controls simultaneous logons for individual users or groups of users; controlling logons at the group level makes administration a breeze. You can also restrict the machines to which users can log on, based on computer names or IP address ranges. UserLock can be configured to send e-mail alerts when users attempt to exceed their limit or log on to unauthorized machines.

UserLock is easy get up and running in a hurry. Manually install the software on a domain controller and use the UserLock MMC to automatically deploy the agent to all workstations (running NT 4.0 or higher) in your domain. Installing the agent does require a reboot, but you can have UserLock force the reboot after install. When forcing a reboot, you can configure the message sent to the workstations being rebooted, as well as the time left before the reboot occurs (the default is 60 seconds). UserLock supports Windows 9x/Me/NT 4.0/2000/XP, and it uses its service account to deploy the agent. The service account must have local administrative rights and be able to access the registry and the admin$ share of the client workstations remotely. Your network must support NetBIOS name resolution and broadcasts. If broadcasts aren’t supported on your routers, you have to put a UserLock relay agent on each subnet. The relay agent routes the broadcast to the UserLock primary server.

IS Decisions UserLock 2.2
Deploy the agent easily via the UserLock MMC. (Click image to view larger version.)

I was impressed with how easy UserLock was to get working. From start to finish, I had 10 machines set up in less than 15 minutes. The software is very intuitive—after using it for a few minutes, I was quite comfortable with it. I recommend UserLock for anyone who wants a better handle on where and how many times his or her users are logging on. At a few dollars per machine, UserLock is definitely worth the investment.

About the Author

Chad Todd, MCSE, MCT, CNE, is the author of Hack Proofing Windows 2000 Server by Syngress Publishing. He is the co-owner of Training Concepts, which specializes in Windows 2000 and Cisco training.

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