Elite News

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Windows Vista Security Features

Soon, I'm going to try to install Microsoft Windows Vista on one of my partitions. For now, this is a summary and thoughts on the new security features of Vista based off of what Microsoft TechNet has sent me.

Security
Vista is going to include User Account Control , which basically gives Administrator more control on User account rights. It also allows you to restrict access to a standard user while allowing most applications to run.

Windows will now also prompt the standard user for the Administrator password when you need the rights to run a program that you wouldn't normally. This is awesome because that was one of the reasons I liked Linux/Unix/Mac.

This makes it more viable to function as a Standard user without the risks of Administrator rights.

Another huge improvement is the addition of Virtual Registries . Vista will virtualize the registry settings that are only visible to each each user account. This means, you can really screw up your registry and not sacrifice the entire computer like before.

Windows Service Hardening will restrict critical Windows services from doing abnormal activities. They are hoping this will restrict attackers from using vulnerabilities in the services form attacking the computer. This is also a huge improvement because this should stop many of the vulnerable services from being exploited.

Network Access Protection . Okay, I can see this feature causing a lot of headaches for me as an IT Professional. From what I can tell, this allows a Network Access Protection encoforcement server to limit a client computers access to the network based off of its health. So much like when you have that red shield in your taskbar telling you that you do not have current antivirus definitions or security updates, Vista's Network Access Protection service can actually block you from communicating with the network. On one side this is great because you can restrict all non secure computers from using your network thus stopping many worms in their tracts. On the other side, this can also prevent workers from doing their work and need a security update. I can already see the complaints.

Another addition is a built in Anti-Malware service. If its as bad as Microsoft Defender, I would recommend using a third party anti-spyware program as a supplement to the one built into Vista.

Some of the other security improvements are a stronger more secure Firewall, more flexible authentication capability (such as Smartcard or fingerprint scanner), better Credential Manager, and an improvement on Auditing. Auditing can now be forwarded to a central location allowing companies to monitor the computers with more ease. It's a convient improvement for an IT but it probably wont affect a standard home user. One thing is for sure, I'm glad they are making the authentication more flexible, it would be awesome to eventually always require a fingerprint to access a computer.

There are many security enhancements on Internet Explorer. Some of the improvements include a built in phishing filter that analyzes web site content and decides if it should be trusted. I would imagine this would slow down your web browsing because its like adding an extra layer that's processing data to each page that you load. Another big improvement is Protected Mode . Protected Mode stops scripts from a malicious website from executing code that changes settings, installing software, or copying files. I'm still skeptical about IE even with these additions. I think I'm going to stick to Firefox.

All in all, there are many huge improvements, but it would be impossible to totally stop hackers from finding holes. It's a big step forward in stopping the average user from infecting their computer, but I can't imagine that it will take long before attackers to adapt and create nastier viruses/malware.

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