Ask any expert who analyzes malicious code for Windows which system privileges malware works with and wants to acquire and, without a second thought, they’ll tell you: “Administrator rights”. Are there any studies to back this up? Unfortunately, I was unable to find any coherent analysis on the subject; however, it is never too late to play Captain Obvious and present the facts for public evaluation.
My goal wasn’t to review the techniques of elevating system privileges; the Internet already has plenty of articles on the subject. New mechanisms are discovered every year, and each technique deserves its own review. Here, I wanted to look at the overall picture and talk about the whole range of Windows operating systems in all their diversity dating back to Windows Vista, but without discussing specific versions.