Windows 7’s Oct. 22 launch is just a day away. But whether or not it will be more secure than Windows Vista is still up for debate. Will it be as secure as Vista? Will it be more secure? At this point, the opinions are flying.
I believe that Windows 7 will be more secure than its predecessor. In some cases, Microsoft simply updated previous security features. In other cases, it added new features. But either way, Windows 7 stands to set a new benchmark for Windows security.
1. User Account Control
When Vista launched, User Account Control was annoying and, based on most estimates, not all that helpful. It certainly helped limit spyware applications from launching, but “click fatigue”-users clicking on warnings without reading them because they popped up so often-caused more security problems than Microsoft bargained for. In Windows 7, User Account Control isn’t so annoying. It’s also more intelligent. That can only mean one thing: better security.
2. Backup focus
In previous versions of Windows, Microsoft didn’t spend nearly enough time reminding users to back up data. It also failed to point out how important backing up data is when security issues do arise. In Windows 7, a backup tool is placed prominently in the Action Center, making it a nice reminder to folks that backing up a computer really is part of keeping data secure.
Although it’s only available in high-end versions of the software, Windows 7 now features a significantly improved drive-encryption tool called BitLocker. The feature encrypts the user’s hard drive, making it inaccessible without proper credentials. It’s a feature that’s available from free, third-party tools, but having it running natively in Windows is an added bonus.
4. Let’s see your fingerprint
Although some computers running Vista featured biometric technology, all of the drivers and support applications were delivered by the third-party developer. In Windows 7, Microsoft has added biometric support, allowing computers with biometric support to work without the need for third-party software. It’s a major security advancement. A Windows PC is typically more secure with biometrics. At the same time, Windows 7’s biometrics feature means there will be fewer third-party applications running in the environment. The fewer the third-party apps, the greater the chance of improving security. Security is still very much a numbers game.
Building In More Security Tools
Designed with the enterprise user in mind, DirectAccess automatically creates a secure tunnel into a corporate network for employees who want access to work from home. It seems rather simple, but by taking the user out of the connection process, Microsoft can ensure that the user’s work is kept secure throughout the transmission.
AppLocker will be an extremely important tool for network administrators. The application lets admins control software that’s running on a corporate network. In essence, network administrators can decide which applications can run in their desktop environments. Aside from the obvious security benefit of limiting application access, AppLocker should also help companies improve operational efficiency.
7. BitLocker To Go
OK, so BitLocker might have already made the list, but that feature isn’t new, it’s just improved. New to Windows 7 is BitLocker To Go, a feature that gives users the option to encrypt portable devices, such as USB keys and external hard drives. Since portable technology is so easily misplaced, it should help companies feel a little more secure when employees hit the road.
8. Windows Defender
Windows Defender isn’t new to Windows 7, but Microsoft did a fine job of improving it in the new operating system. The software provides simpler notifications, making it easier to understand for novice users. Perhaps most importantly, Defender now features more scanning options, allowing users to decide how it scans the PC. Microsoft has also added a “Clean System” feature, giving users the option to remove all discovered malware in a single click.
9. Customized Windows Firewall
Microsoft’s Windows Firewall has caught some flak in the past for not providing enough customization features. To fix that, Microsoft has significantly improved Windows Firewall in Windows 7, giving users the option to adjust settings based on where they are. According to Microsoft, users can now decide how tight firewall settings should be for different places. Depending on where they are, they can quickly switch to the right setting.
10. Microsoft’s attitude
One of the main reasons why Windows 7 will be more secure than Vista has much to do with Microsoft’s new attitude when it comes to security. Whether or not Microsoft really took security seriously in the past is up for debate. The company’s operating system was plagued by far too many issues. But since Microsoft announced Windows 7, it has said time and again that it is committed to making its operating system more secure. And by the looks of things, Microsoft is doing a better job at it. That should count for something as we compare Windows 7 with its predecessor.