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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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RE: Flawed Methodology
By Hoser McMoose on 11/5/2009 6:33:52 PM , Rating: 0
What operating system even has to worry about automatically executing viruses and malware anymore?

Sadly ALL of them. No matter how much hardening you do there will always be the possibility of remote code execution through security holes in programs, particularly web browser add-ins.

Just last week I got a rather nasty bit of malware on my WinXP machine (serves me right for logging in as an Administrator I guess). It came in through a hole in Firefox and/or one of it's plugins (my money is on Adobe Flash, even though I run Flashblock stuff still gets through sometimes). Installed itself all over my system and was a bitch to get rid of! Microsoft's Security Essentials actually was the best at removing most of it (Ad Aware, Norton Anti-Virus, Spybot S&D, Malwarebytes, HiJackThis and a few other tools all missed some things that Security Essentials caught), but even that didn't catch everything.

If I had been running Vista with UAC turned on though? I can guarantee that it would have caught probably 90% of what was trying to install itself. The trickiest piece of malware to get rid of, an "audio" driver not found by any tools (fake "wdmaud"), almost certainly would have triggered a UAC prompt.

Or even go with the Linux/iphone software model. Keep just about everything in an approved repository/store so essentially only white listed programs can be easily installed.

If Microsoft tried to do follow this method, as Linux and Apple do, they would be crucified. For better or for worse Microsoft in many ways is held to MUCH higher standards than Apple or Linux distributions.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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