Windows 7 Journal Episode 5: Security

Though using a computer has it’s good sides, it’s also just as dangerous. Nearly all computers, especially Windows, have been plagued by malware, spyware, and viruses every since the introduction of the internet. Though several companies have created several security suites to keep security up, a vast majority of users refuse to find new software other than the ones already bundled in a new computer. With that, Microsoft alone has to build a robust security component into Windows.

Unfortunately, the huge amount of malware was just too overwhelming. Early versions, around Windows 95 to XP, had very simple security options, only carrying a brittle firewall and a few commands. With Windows Vista, Microsoft introduced Windows Defender, a bundled security software programmed to combat the plague. Unfortunately, Windows Defender used way too much power, to the point that lower end machines struggled to perform very simple tasks. Also, Windows Vista’s security had an all or nothing notification. It’s either you choose to hear a security notification for nearly every single change you make, or you hear nothing at all. This strongly hindered the user-experience onVista, and ultimately made its security even more flawed than previous versions. Prioritizing Windows 7’s user-centric experience, Microsoft tweaked the security bundle to make sure the program was less hectic and more robust. So for this episode, we will take a preview on Windows 7’s security center.

Control Panel System and Security

Windows 7’s main security panel is found in the Control Panel as usual. You’ll also notice a few changes to the way things are organized. First of all, nearly all security overviews can be found in a pane now called the Action Center. The Action Center also acts as a springboard towards other security options except for Windows Firewall and Updates, which have a separate pane of their own. Another purpose of Action Center is to notify users if a certain program or action needs attention. I find this notification method quite flexible, and I hope other programs will be able to take advantage of this service.

UAC

Another important change is in the UAC, or User-Account Control settings. In Windows Vista, notification options were either all or nothing, leading to either annoyance or a hole in the security. In Windows 7, they have added two more options. One will only notify you when programs are being installed, while the other will do the same, except it will no longer dim your desktop whenever it notifies. This is good since it can be really annoying if you are always being notified simply because of small, unsignifivcant changes to the Windows settings. For new computer users, I highly suggest using the topmost option, while more seasoned users ought to use option two or three, especially option two if you will be installing software from not so well-known sites.

Windows Defender

The last thing we will cover is Windows Defender, the default anti-virus software. Based on my usage so far, protection has been alright. It does quick scanning, has flexible settings, and has updated databases. In other words, it does its job properly so far. Performance wise, it doesn’t really take a hit, but it will use up some resources during scans, so be wary of that. If you have a lower-end computer, I strongly suggest putting applications to a minimum during scanning intervals.

Can Windows 7’s security bundle stand on its own? From a technical standpoint, no. Though Windows Defender is good to have around, it is still relatively new and it may still have a flawed framework. I suggest getting an additional security software, even free ones, for your computer in order to maximize security. I particularly like Action Center in that its notification service can potentially be used by other programs. Lastly, while a built-in firewall is good to have, nothing still beats a discrete, professionally made firewall by other security companies. What I’m glad about though is that Microsoft did at least fix many flaws that made Vista’s security bad. While I do see some holes, I hope Microsoft will improve its security features by the time the final product will be released to the public.

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~ by Ian on April 3, 2009.

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