Secure IT Foundation

Posts Tagged ‘Windows 7

There hasn’t been a major operating system update for some time then two come along together. Both Apple Mac’s Snow Leopard and Microsoft’s Windows 7 are available, so both PC and Mac users have to decide if they upgrade.

We have covered the correct decision process you should use when deciding if you should buy a new computer to get Windows 7 previously. The verdict was if your current secure computer is working fine with XP or Vista, then there is little benefit for the home user apart from eye candy. If your computer is slow now then adding 7 will not change much, software is no substitute for having fast hardware. Mac’s have an advantage here in that the hardware is known by Apple, and they will know the benefits of software changes better than Microsoft whose user could have a near infinite combination of hardware.

From testing and research though, neither operating system could be called ‘secure out the box’. Macs have the advantage of using non admin users on a daily basis, a practice that Windows 7 does not yet enforce, but can do perfectly well. Malware is mostly a Windows problem but Macs have their own malware these days, and the inclusion of very basic malware detection in Snow Leopard shows that it will only get worse according to Apple.

Both have fully functioning firewalls, and the default services offered over a network are mostly a sensible choice for either OS. However it is not all good. Both do suffer from default browsers with known security issues. Years ago the problem with PCs was their accessibility over a network to viruses and worms, but this vulnerability has been mostly closed.

The risk comes these days from the moment the home computer user starts to use their computer! You open a web page loaded with malware and your brand new operating system can be compromised. Even if both Snow Leopard and Windows 7 are using non admin users, poor security practice by the user can allow malware to run. There is nothing any operating system can do if the user enters the administrative password and installs an application which contains malware. The new malware detection in Snow Leopard only stops a couple of known viruses, so the virus writers will modify them not to be detected. Then begins the Mac Anti Virus arms race as seen with Windows.

Overall both operating systems offer a default level of security. Macs do offer a higher level of security out the box, but it still is far from a truly secured compared to the Secure Computer Standard. Windows 7 has a much higher security level than Windows XP out the box, but again it still is far from a truly secured compared to the Secure Computer Standard. Both 7 and Snow Leopard offer better user experiences than previous versions, so Mac users will upgrade and 7 will be adopted through people updating their hardware over time. The Secure IT Foundation’s conclusion is that Windows 7 and Snow Leopard are both not secure out the box, and both offer little in the way of user education.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had to watch a safety video before you used the new operating system. Works well to give all air passengers a minimum level of safety knowledge for flight, perhaps its time computers came with a safety manual. Until then you can always read the Home Computer Policy

SB

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October 22nd 2009 was the launch date of the new version of Windows, called exotically Windows 7. Unless you have never used a computer and are looking to buy your first one, then you will be used to using either Windows XP or Vista already. So the big question for home computer users is, should I buy a new computer with Windows 7 installed or buy Windows 7 and install on my current computer, else just keep using what I have?

We will answer this by running through the three different scenarios:

  1. Buying a new computer to get Windows 7
  2. Buying Windows 7 and installing it on my current computer
  3. Keep using my current computer with Windows Vista or XP

1. Buying a new computer to get Windows 7

Before you rush out and buy a new computer to get Windows 7, you should first ask yourself one very important question – Do you need a new computer at this moment? If the current computer over three years old and feels slow to you then you may have a valid reason for buying a new computer, regardless of the operating system. The old computer could then have its hard drives wiped securely, Windows or Linux installed and secured, and given to children, family or friends who currently do not have one. If you choose wisely then you will have a fast feeling computer with a fresh copy of Windows 7. As long as you remember that even a brand new computer with Windows 7 will need securing, then you are in for a good computing experience.

By using a non-administrator account for daily use, hardening Windows 7 and applications installed, then you are on the path to a secure a more secure computer. Windows 7 is mostly the same of Vista or XP under the hood, so there is no magic security added here to save you if you don’t, so all the rules for XP and Vista apply for Windows 7. You still need to use the Home Computer Policy!

2. Buying Windows 7 and installing it on my current computer

This scenario is the hardest to justify. Buying Windows 7 to install over Windows XP or Vista begs one question – What feature is it you think Windows 7 will add over your current operating system (Mac users may think they can nod off at this point, but you will have the same questions with the next version of OSX!). If your computer is working fine then you need to be sure of your reasons to justify the expense. While this blog is written on 7, and the Foundation agrees it is a good operating system compared to the bad days of Windows ME and 98, there is nothing it does that cannot be achieved with Windows XP or Vista. Unless there is a particular killer application or must have game that will only work on 7 produced in the future, the only reasons to buy it at the moment is you want to keep up with the Jones family or it looks pretty on screen.

Vista upgraders will find their computer works a bit quicker if the hardware was not up to standard for Vista when it was sold to you, else if your computer works fast on Vista then it is just a fast computer anyway, Windows 7 will not change that! Windows XP users may find 7 actually a bit slower due to increase of background stuff 7 does or you have an old graphics card and the new shiny desktop needs more power to run it. Do expect to change some of your hardware to get the most out of 7, if you currently use XP on a slow computer. You will need to backup XP before you install, as 7 can only upgrade an existing operating system if it is already using Vista.

3. Keep using my current computer with Windows Vista or XP

If your current computer over three years old and feels slow to you then you may have a valid reason for buying a new computer, regardless of the operating system, but if everything works as you want it already, doing nothing is a good option!

XP will be supported for at least a few more years, so a secured version of XP or Vista now will not benefit from having 7 in terms of security. There is no killer feature in Windows 7, just it works well and looks prettier, but style over content users will have chosen a Mac a long time ago. Don’t believe the hype, don’t expect Windows 7 to transform a dog of a computer into a stallion! Quick hardware makes computers run quickly, a good operating system is one that maximises the speed of the hardware available.

SecurityBrad


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