When Microsoft claimed Windows 8 was the most secure version of Windows ever made, many analysts were unconvinced. Turns out Microsoft wasn’t just blowing smoke; the new operating system does indeed possess a robust set of pre-installed security features.
Rooting Out Rootkits
Rootkits are a particularly nasty form of malware capable of opening a “back door” hackers can use to gain access to a computer. Rootkits are also difficult to detect because they start running while the underlying operating system boots up. The malware takes advantage of startup to rewrite anti-virus code, preventing the virus’ detection by security software.
Microsoft insisted that PC manufacturers retire the 30-year-old BIOS system in favor of the more recent Unified Firmware Interface, or UFI. UFI firmware produces a digitally signed certificate necessary for operating system boot up. Called Secure Boot, UFI helps prevent rootkit infection.
Windows 8 also includes an updated version of Early Launch Anti Malware (ELAM). ELAM allows antiviral programs to start running during boot up, providing another layer of protection against rootkit infections. Previous versions of ELAM only worked with Microsoft-bases programs; the new versions works with third-party antiviral programs.
The new Windows Start screen has a neat feature. Start typing the name of an app while on the Start screen, and the app launches. You can use this feature to quickly view your security settings.
Type “Security” while on the Start screen and hit enter. In the window that appears, select the “Check Security Access” option. Microsoft pulls up a complete security overview, listing the status of anti-viral programs, the Windows update schedule, Internet security settings, firewalls and other pertinent information.
Apps and files downloaded from the Internet are common sources of malware. Whether you’re running a single personal computer or maintaining a network of PCs for an SEO company, one malicious download can infect your entire network.
When Windows detects an attempt to run an unauthorized app or file, the SmartScreen window appears, asking if you’re sure about this. SmartScreen only allows users with admin status to install new programs
You can modify SmartScreen settings so users without admin privileges can download and install unauthorized apps. You can also turn off the system entirely should you choose. Privacy advocates may wish to do so, as SmartScreen automatically sends app information to the SmartScreen improvement program.
In previous versions of Windows, Windows Defender was little more than an anti-spyware program, and one users often ignored in favor of more robust security options. Microsoft redesigned Defender for Windows 8; the program is now a complete antiviral program.
Like third-party security solutions, Windows Defender receives regular virus definition updates. You can schedule virus scans with Defender, but the program also runs in the background, increasing the chance of detecting viruses on contact.
Microsoft makes switching from Windows Defender to a third-party security suite easy. Installing third-party antiviral apps automatically disables Windows Defender. Remove the third-party app and Defender will automatically be reactivated.
Carl is an aspiring writer who enjoys blogging about anything and everything that crosses his mind. He’s constantly striving to strengthen his writing skills and is continuously grateful that the Internet allows him to share his thoughts with the world.