Page 1 of 3
With Windows 8 poised to roll out, information security experts are scrutinizing the new OS in comparison to the level of security offered in its predecessor, Windows 7. The general consensus is that while Microsoft continues to get serious about security, users who attempt to rely on Windows 8 as a security tool will likely be disappointed.
"The threat landscape is like water running down a hill," said Gerry Egan, senior director of product management at Norton by Symantec. "It takes the easiest path. If you block off that path, it selects the next easiest path. If you block off that one, it chooses the next easiest. So, Microsoft has raised the bar. But, Windows 8 will not stop the flood."
Part of the challenge, according to Egan, involves backward compatibility. While few people would question the importance of being able to use legacy applications, this capability often applies to malware, as well. "When they insure backward compatibility for desktop applications, that does help their users, but it also provides backwards compatibility for malware too," he said. "There will be millions of malware variants that will continue to run on Windows 8."
Some of the attacks may be deflected by Windows Defender, which is believed to take an escalated role in Windows 8. But, Defender is not seen as an effective replacement for antivirus software, which has come under its own attack recently for being unable to scale to the constant onrush of malware signatures.
"Windows Defender provides a basic level of security," explained Peter Beardmore, senior director of product marketing at Kaspersky, a well-known AV vendor. "And while it is a positive development that Microsoft is becoming increasingly focused on security, this is not a situation where the full security need is met when the device comes out of the box. We believe that business customers will be aware of this, but it might be a different story at the consumer level. We're a little concerned about whether some individuals might think they no longer need full protection."
Others in the antivirus sector believe that industry dynamics will likely reinforce the need for effective antivirus.
"We believe that antivirus adoption will continue as before," said Tony Anscombe, senior security evangelist at AVG. "There’s a whole ecosystem around introductory AV on PCs at the time of purchase. No one is going to want to switch off that revenue stream."