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Windows 7 may be more secure, but its UAC is less functional than Windows Vista's, according to a recent security study. The study suggests that only antivirus protection can properly protect Windows 7.  (Source: Switched)
Antivirus protection still necessary, says firm

One of the most unpopular features of Windows Vista among casual users was the User Account Control (UAC).  Ironically, while the UAC provoked irate comments from these users, like "why is my computer asking me to approve everything", the feature was one of the most appreciated features by power users as it gave them much more control over their security and ability to prevent inappropriate actions.

With Windows 7, Microsoft pledged to go the OS X route on this topic, tuning down the UAC's warnings to a lesser level.  Many security firms complained about this approach and Microsoft relented slightly, restoring some of the UAC's warnings, in particular a warning about the disabling the UAC altogether (experts showed that attackers could disable the UAC without prompting the user in early builds of Windows 7).

While these changes helped make Windows 7's release edition more secure than the test builds, the UAC's default setting is still neutered compare to Vista's robust solution, indicates Sophos Senior Security Adviser Chester Wisniewski.  He's just completed a study of attacking Windows 7 with malware and seeing how the new UAC responds.

Of the ten pieces of malware tested, Windows 7 wouldn't install two of them.  Of the remaining eight only one generated a UAC warning, allowing the user to disallow its installation.

Microsoft officials, though, minimized the test, saying the UAC just isn't that important a security feature anymore.  They point to Windows 7's improved memory protections and Microsoft free Security Essentials antivirus suite as two critical tools that can be used to fight infection, in addition to the UAC. 

States a Microsoft spokesperson, "Windows 7 is built upon the security platform of Windows Vista, which included a defense-in-depth approach to help protect customers from malware; this includes features like Security Development Lifecycle (SDL), User Account Control (UAC), Kernel Patch Protection, Windows Service Hardening, Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and Data Execution Prevention (DEP)."

"Windows 7 retains all of the development processes, including going through the Security Development Lifecycle, and technologies that made Windows Vista the most secure Windows operating system ever released," the spokesperson added. "Coupled with Internet Explorer 8—which includes added malware protection with its SmartScreen Filter—and Microsoft Security Essentials, Windows 7 provides flexible security protection against malware and intrusions."

While he understands that with other supplemental protections Windows 7 will likely be safe, Mr. Wisniewski seems mildly disapproving of defaulting the UAC to reduced functionality.  After all, users of Windows Vista may be lulled into a false sense of security expecting prompts to save them from malware.  Ultimately, though, there's little that can be done to convince Microsoft to change this, though, and he concludes, "Lesson learned? You still need to run antivirus [protection] on Windows 7."



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By Amiga500 on 11/5/2009 2:59:36 PM , Rating: 2
OMG OMG OMG...

I could never see that coming!

The world is going to end unless I install every bit of anti-virus software I can lay my hands on.

How has my computer been able to function for years without dozens of protective programs on it?!?!

I need to get norton, sophos, mcafee and all that pish on this NOW!!!




By TomZ on 11/5/2009 3:46:51 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. What a surprise, an anti-virus software vendor reaches the conclusion that customers should still buy their products...

Me, I'm 10+ years using Windows, never had any anti-virus software and never had a virus.


By jonmcc33 on 11/5/2009 4:20:49 PM , Rating: 2
That's what you think. How would you know if you can't detect it?


By Redwin on 11/6/2009 2:08:12 PM , Rating: 2
If you can't detect it, then is it *really* a problem?

Some virus scanners hog up resources and slow down file reads with on-access scanning in ways that CAN be noticeable, so the argument that you might rather have a virus you don't notice at all than a scanner that slows down your computer isn't entirely without merit.

(Disclaimer before you flame: yea i'm aware of the implications of botnets and such doing their stuff in the background and you not noticing but it being detrimental to other people, etc. I choose to use a virus scanner myself. Just saying a lot of people DO follow this line of reasoning, particularly gamers who don't want virus scanners running while they play)


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