With Windows 7 released this month, many commentators including TechWorld’s John E. Dunn have been reflecting on the events leading up to the release of Microsoft’s latest operating system. After the dire security of XP was followed up by a more secure but less user-friendly OS in the form of Vista, it is expected that a majority of businesses will be switching to Windows 7 as soon as budgets allow.
As such, Windows 7 has a significant amount of ground to cover in order to be seen as a secure and stable platform for business. Whilst Windows 7 offers significant security improvements over XP, including rigidly defined user and admin accounts, it is an amelioration rather than a revolution when compared to Vista’s security architecture.
The User Account Control, which in Vista would mollycoddle and irritate users with persistent alerts and warnings, can be significantly toned down in Windows 7. Applocker replaces the Software Restrictions Policies of the past in order to control desktop-based program access. Bitlocker and Bitlocker To Go have had their encryption interfaces simplified to make them easier to use. There is also a Data Recovery Agent built into Windows 7 which should make backing up and restoring data less onerous. However, since a large scale data loss has yet to take place, the mettle of DRA has yet to be tested.
Microsoft has been keen to emphasise the continuing downward spiral in vulnerabilities exhibited in their operating systems since SP2 was released for XP. Thanks to the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) Microsoft claims to have demonstrably reduced vulnerabilities and has quickly patched issues as they occurred. With Windows 7, Microsoft hopes to further enhance its reputation for security.
However, Dunn and others remain sceptical about the downward trend in vulnerabilities. Vista was never really tested because of the relatively insubstantial number of businesses that bought into the platform. Windows 7, with its assured popularity, will become a far more significant target for hackers. With so much new code to scrutinise, the security of Windows 7 will undoubtedly be sorely tested over the coming months.