Microsoft Remote Assistance UAC

We recently ran into an issue at my work when using Microsoft Remote Assistance. We’d be able to remote into a user’s PC using Remote Assistance just fine, but then when we ran something that needed admin rights, We’d go from a normal screen to this:

MSRA with UAC Secure Desktop prompt

Well that’s not good. The user would be presented with a normal UAC dialog box with a prompt to put credentials in, but the tech helping them just saw a big black box. This was happening because UAC prompts don’t quite go to the user’s desktop, but rather to something called Secure Desktop. To quote Microsoft:

The Secure Desktop’s primary difference from the User Desktop is that only trusted processes running as SYSTEM are allowed to run here (i.e. nothing running as the User’s privilege level) and the path to get to the Secure Desktop from the User Desktop must also be trusted through the entire chain.”

What this means for those using Remote Assistance to help out a user, is that the UAC prompts can be viewed and interacted with on the user’s console, but not via the Remote Assistance session.

The way to “fix” this issue would be to simply disable Secure Desktop, which would keep UAC on, but now present the UAC dialog box on the user’s desktop (and also on the Remote Assistance session). After reading more about Secure Desktop though I decided the need was too small to justify disabling it, as it significantly weakens UAC’s protections, and most especially since we were able to workaround this issue by simply RDPing in as an administrator. With that warning in mind, here’s how to disable Secure Desktop if you decide that’s what’s needed in your environment:

In Group Policy, go to “Computer Configuration\Windows Settings\Security Settings\Local Policies\Security Options”, and from there go to the policy “User Account Control: Allow UIAccess applications to prompt for elevation without using the secure desktop”. From there check off “define this policy setting”, and make sure “enabled” is selected.

GP setting to disable Secure Desktop


2 thoughts on “Microsoft Remote Assistance UAC”

  1. There may be a workaround using Remote Assistance.

    If you hold the shift button while right clicking on applications you should be able to select the Run As Different User option. If you supply administrative credentials then the user on the other end simply gets a Yes/No prompt from the Secure Desktop screen. The user is not prompted for admin credentials (which they may not have) and the IT person can continue with administrative access over applications.

    Liked by 1 person

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