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Windows 8 raises the bar for PC security

Tony Bradley | Oct. 29, 2012
Windows 8 is officially here. Microsoft held an event in New York yesterday to launch the new OS, and spent a lot of time talking about cool features and introducing a plethora of hardware options available with Windows 8. One thing Microsoft didn’t talk about much, though, is security—and the new features in Windows 8 that will keep your PC and data safe.

Windows 8 is officially here. Microsoft held an event in New York yesterday to launch the new OS, and spent a lot of time talking about cool features and introducing a plethora of hardware options available with Windows 8. One thing Microsoft didnt talk about much, though, is securityand the new features in Windows 8 that will keep your PC and data safe.

As with every previous iteration of the Windows operating system, Windows 8 is the most secure version yet. That really goes without saying, and amounts to little more than marketing hype. Each new version includes the security features of the previous one, but improves on them and adds new features to address potential risks missed by the predecessor. Not to suggest that Windows 8 is invulnerable, but it should be expected that its more secure than Windows 7, or any previous version of Windows.

So, what makes Windows 8 more secure? Perhaps the biggest security feature of Windows 8 is really not a Microsoft or Windows 8 thing at all: UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). UEFI is an open standard used to replace the archaic BIOS typically found on PC hardware.

UEFI has been around for a while, but systems built for Windows 8 (and Windows Server 2012) are the first to take advantage of the feature of UEFI that allows for pre-boot authentication. Basically, UEFI will only allow software with recognized, valid security certificates to run, so it prevents rootkits or other malware that might attempt to load at boot from doing so.

Next, we have Windows Defender. If youre already using Windows Vista or Windows 7, or if youve downloaded the free tool to use with Windows XP, then youre already familiar with Windows Defender&sort of. Previous versions of Windows Defender have been strictly anti-spyware, while Microsoft offered a separate, standalone tool for broader antimalware protection called Security Essentials. In Windows 8, the two are merged together so Windows Defender is actually a more comprehensive antimalware tool.

Windows Defender is part of Windows 8, and its enabled by default so you get protection right out of the box. However, Microsoft does allow for OEMs to disable and replace the Windows Defender protection with third-party tools. So, if you buy a system from Best Buy or Wal-Mart theres a very good chance youll still have some sort of trial version of Norton antivirus or something pre-installed.

Windows Defender should still be there, thoughyou just need to enable it. Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys, points out that Windows Defender is primarily a consumer-oriented security tool. Organizations, which typically require management capabilities, such as reports on machine update status and alerts of neutralized malware, will still need to look for an enterprise malware solution.

 

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