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Microsoft Is Bringing Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection To Windows 7

Microsoft is extending support for key Windows 10 security capabilities to Windows 7, which remains popular with many businesses.

Microsoft announced it will offer the security capabilities of Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection for Windows 7 devices this summer.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft said Monday that it recognizes that many customers are still in the process of moving to Windows 10, and it will still be another two years before the company cuts off support for Windows 7.

[Related: Microsoft Deploys Windows Update To Help Undo Intel's Troubled Spectre Patch]

Rob Lefferts, a partner director in Microsoft's Windows & Devices Group, said in a blog post Monday that "we know that while in their transition, some [customers] may have a mix of Windows 10 and Windows 7 devices in their environments. We want to help our customers achieve the best security possible on their way to Windows 10 ahead of the end of support for Windows 7 in January 2020."

Microsoft said that Windows 7, as well as Windows 8.1, will begin supporting Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) this summer, bringing threat and exploit protection along with endpoint detection and response directly into the operating system.

At New Signature, a Washington, D.C.-based Microsoft partner, Chief Technology Officer Reed Wiedower said: "We love this change – and were notified by Microsoft in advance this was coming."

The main challenge New Signature has seen with sales of Windows Defender ATP is that "organizations want to immediately use it for a subset of 'critical' devices in an environment," Wiedower said. "By limiting ATP to only Windows 10 machines, especially at larger organizations, we’ve seen the entire rollout get delayed because of a Windows 10 upgrade that is scheduled to occur at a later date."

With the extension of Windows Defender ATP to Windows 7 and 8.1, Microsoft has enabled "the best of all worlds," he said.

"Folks who are in the process of updating to Windows 10 can continue moving forward, while devices that aren’t yet updated can get the real-time protection capabilities of Windows Defender ATP," Wiedower said. "Many of the native, out-of-the-box security features in Windows 10 help to mitigate threats on that platform, which means that older devices running 7 or 8.1 are more vulnerable than devices running 10. Windows Defender ATP can now be used to show that, in real time, as a security team monitors the situation."

For partners that already have a monitoring and security practice such as New Signature, "this expands the number of opportunities we can deliver upon," he said. "And because Microsoft can continue to sell the value of the E5 license, independently of the underlying OS, it dovetails perfectly."

Microsoft said it will offer customers access to a public preview of the endpoint detection and response support for Windows 7 and 8.1 starting in the spring.

New capabilities added to Windows Defender ATP last fall included features to combat phishing, impersonation and domain spoofing. Windows Defender ATP also gained capabilities to fix certain security issues, rather than just alert users about them, Microsoft said at the time.

Windows 10 surpassed Windows 7 as the world's most popular desktop operating system in January, according to research firm StatCounter. Windows 10 reached market share of 42.78 percent during the month, compared to 41.86 percent for Windows 7, according to the firm.

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