Ctrl+Alt+Del is the path to the Secure attention key on Windows computers.

Some of the answers on related questions imply it is possible to modify the this.

My thinking is that a password does not do you any good, if you can't get to the screen to enter it. If you changed the key combination required to access Winlogon and don't publish the change, would there be a measurable change in your system security?

Presumably it would be possible to send users of Ctrl+Alt+Del to a sandbox, and begin security containment activities. While users with the correct different combination go to the production system.


  • 1
    Security implications aside, you can't change the key combination. It's hard-coded in winlogon.
    – Steve
    Oct 26, 2016 at 19:51
  • other combos would be less protected, maybe possible to spoof
    – dandavis
    Oct 26, 2016 at 19:54
  • What do you want to accomplish with all this? What threats do you want to mitigate? What benefits do you not have by not doing this? You don't explain the purpose of this proposal.
    – schroeder
    Oct 26, 2016 at 21:24
  • @schroeder I was thinking hands on machine, your answer about all the other ways to gain access, points out why the idea has little merit. Oct 26, 2016 at 22:37
  • @Steve the top answer here says you can "patch the kernel and override this behaviour for other purposes" which I read to mean you can change the key combination. Oct 26, 2016 at 22:45

2 Answers 2


To my knowledge, you cannot change the SAS (Secure Attention Sequence) keystroke combination (Ctrl + Alt + Del). But even if you can, only the valid SAS key combination would invoke the login procedure (LogonUI). An invalid key combination cannot direct user to some kind of sandbox, it'll do nothing.

So overall, this idea of changing SAS key combination might only be good for preventing unaware users from getting to LogonUI.

  • 1
    Most critically, Ctrl+Alt+Del has a special meaning to the IBM PC architecture, and triggers a specific interrupt which operating systems can handle.
    – Polynomial
    Oct 26, 2016 at 21:08
  • @Polynomial: I thought so as well, but could not find evidence to support it. Do you have a "normative" reference? It's quite impossible to trigger a hardware interrupt. How shall a USB keyboard trigger a special hardware interrupt? Therefore I'd say it must be a software interrupt. And then again, the OS could trigger a software interrupt for any key combination. Oct 27, 2016 at 19:26
  • I disagree with "An invalid key combination cannot direct user to some kind of sandbox": if the key combination would not have special OS handling (after changing it, that would be the case), you could write a hotkey handler for it and implement anything you want - i.e. a sandbox Oct 27, 2016 at 19:29

It sounds like you want to invoke security by obscurity. Yes, you might eke out some measure of confusion, but all benefits evaporate if your users discover the 'real' sequence.

It's also of note that this only affects local users who have physical access to the machine. Playing games at the UI level is not worth the effort when you consider the potential access your target users already have.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .