Windows 7 is a success by almost any measure you can come up with, but that is not to say it has been completely without issue. Users have experienced a variety of issues when trying to upgrade to Windows 7. PC World’s Robert Strohmeyer deals with some of the more prevalent issues in his article Fix the Most Common Windows 7 Upgrade Problems.
The article addresses:
- Installation hangs at 62 percent
- Endless reboots
- Bad product key
According to Acer, the #2 PC maker behind HP, Windows 7 is driving demand for new PC’s this holiday season. That is good news for retailers, for PC makers, and for Microsoft.
Initial reports after the launch of Windows 7 were quick to note that Windows 7 did not seem to be contributing to actual PC sales, but those numbers were largely a factor of timing. With the holidays–and Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals–right around the corner, the initial Windows 7 sales were software upgrades but those looking for new systems held out for the bargains.
Now, only a month after its official release, Windows 7 has captured as much market share as all of Mac OS X combined and retailers are beginning to report stronger PC sales. Thus far, though, Windows 7 has been eating Windows Vista market share and only nibbling at Windows XP. For Windows 7 to be a true success it has to surpass Windows XP as the dominant desktop operating system.
Microsoft’s Windows 7 is the most secure desktop operating system it has ever produced. Of course, why shouldn’t it be. It seems reasonable to expect that each new version of the operating system will build on the security features that work, address issues from its predecessor, and include new security innovations. Basically, it would be a huge failure if it wasn’t the most secure Windows yet.
Even with advances in security like ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) and DEP (Data Execution Prevention, the addition of BitLocker-to-Go encryption for portable USB drives, and the more secure Web browsing experience provided by Internet Explorer 8 (combined with UAC which enables Internet Explorer Protected Mode), there is still some work to be done if Microsoft is looking for ideas for Windows 8.
Security experts from nCircle and Sophos contribute their thoughts about what Windows 7 got right and what still has room for improvement–namely the Windows Firewall, XP Mode virtualization, and hiding known file extensions by default.
Windows 7 has been officially available for just over a month, but in that short time it has captured as much of the operating system market as all versions of Apple’s Mac OS X combined. To put that in perspective, Mac OS X has been available since 2002. So, in 4 weeks Microsoft’s Windows 7 has captured as much market share as Apple has scraped together over the course of seven years.
Publishing statements like this–no matter how true–is a sure-fire way to spark a debate of epic religious proportions between the two sides. The arguments from the Apple faithful are schizophrenic in nature though. The statistics either mean everything or nothing depending on where they fall.
A tenth of a percent increase in Mac OS X market share is proof that Windows has fallen from grace and Mac OS X is poised to conquer the world. But, Any mention of the fact that Windows dominates more than 90 percent of the desktop operating system market is met with objections from Apple fanbois that either:
A) Windows is pre-installed by default on most hardware that is sold, so customers have a gun to their heads and the operating system doesn’t dominate on its own merits.
B) Apple is not trying to compete head-to-head with Windows and is content as a luxury, high-end niche operating system.
C) all of the above.
It is hard to question Apple’s success, though–if you’re an investor. With a virtually negligible fraction of the overall market Apple has still managed to rake in half of the total revenue for the desktop market.
As an end-user though, that statistic would make me think twice (or three or four times) about my purchasing decision. The Mac OS X operating system is nice, but I am not sure its worth paying nearly three times the price on average for a comparable desktop or laptop system.
The information security industry is built on a model of protecting internal network assets and resources from external threats. IT and security administrators are heavily invested in the concept of the network perimeter and an us-vs-them approach. The problem is that most of the threats actually come from the ‘us’ rather than from the ‘them’ in that equation.
I was recently a guest on the IMI-TechTalk radio show where I talked with host Tom D’Auria about the Enemy Within: The Insider Security Threat. I mentioned some recent data breaches like the situation unfolding with TMobile in the United Kingdom where employees sold customer data to competing mobile providers.
Its not always about corporate espionage or sabotage though. The insider threat exists for a variety of reasons stemming from poorly defined policies and innocent mistakes on the part of well-meaning employees as well.
Products like Zecurion’s ZGate software give IT administrators the tools to monitor and control access and prevent data breaches–both intentional and accidental. Zecurion recently announced expansion of its partner program into Asia, and will be discussing both its products and its partner program next week at ChannelWeb’s virtual conference- SMBs: Ready for the Rebound.
Having clearly defined policies and the tools to monitor activity and enforce them is critical for protecting data. When it comes to defending against data compromise through malware attacks, bots, spyware, and phishing scams, Windows 7 is significantly more secure.
According to the most recent Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, Windows XP is 75 percent more likely to be compromised than Windows Vista. The data didn’t yet include Windows 7, but Windows 7 contains a number of enhancements that make it even more secure than Windows Vista.
Knock, knock. Tighten up your tinfoil hat, its going to be a long ride. Conspiracy theorists are acccusing Microsoft of building a secret ‘backdoor’ into the Windows 7 operating system that will allow Uncle Sam to sneak in without the user’s knowledge or permission.
The rumor began when it was discovered that the NSA provided support for the development of Windows 7. Yes, that NSA. The National Security Agency of the United States. The very same NSA that has been illegally eavesdropping on virtually all communications since the attack on 9/11.
What exactly does the NSA have to do with developing an operating system? Isn’t the NSA busy enough with more important things…like collecting intelligence to prevent another terrorist attack on American soil?
Oh! Now I see where the tinfoil hat crowd came up with this crazy theory. What better way to keep an eye on everyone and everything than to have a secret view into everything that goes on in the operating system that will eventually be on 90 percent of the personal computers in the world?
Certainly, the NSA doesn’t have a very solid track record when it comes to trivial concerns like privacy or Constitutional rights and I can understand that it sounds dubious for the NSA to have anything at all to do with developing Microsoft’s flagship desktop operating system, but the conspiracy theory, like conspirary theories tend to be, is still a tad far-fetched.
Steve Ballmer may be as patriotic as the next guy, but if it were ever discovered that such an egregious violation of trust and privacy as is assumed in this rumor turned out to be true it would be suicide for Microsoft. Money talks.
Let’s just add this to the growing pile of insane tin foil hat theories- like how NASA faked the moon landing, or Bush being responsible for the attack on 9/11, or Pesident Obama not really being a United States citizen, or how healthcare reform includes a government death panel to decide when and how to euthanize the elderly.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
I wrote recently about a service from Panda that provides a cost-effective antivirus and endpoint security solution for home offices and SMB’s–Panda Managed Office Protection. This week Panda rebranded and relaunched the service as Panda Cloud Protection.
Here is an excerpt from the Panda press release describing Panda Cloud Protection:
“Today’s security software solutions are too costly and difficult to manage for the vast majority of small and medium-sized businesses. Panda Cloud Protection is an incredibly lightweight managed security service that automates all maintenance tasks and allows SMBs to stay focused on their core business, while resting easy about safeguarding their digital assets and information. As a hosted service, Panda Cloud Protection optimizes resource consumption and eliminates the need for any investment in IT infrastructure. SMBs can benefit from a fully-outsourced security service, enabling them to easily monitor and maintain their own protection against malware from anywhere, anytime, or assign responsibility to a managed service provider (MSP).”
You can get more details on Panda Cloud Protection from this white paper.
In addition to the Panda Cloud Protection offering for SMB’s, Panda Security also unveiled Panda Cloud Antivirus–a free service to provide protection for consumer systems. Here is what Panda says about Panda Cloud Antivirus:
“Since its successful beta launch in April 2009, Panda Cloud Antivirus has received acclaim from industry experts and consumers for being the lightest free anti-malware service in the world. As it emerges out of beta, Panda Cloud Antivirus 1.0 offers improved protection against new and unknown viruses with even less impact on users’ PCs. Cloud Antivirus 1.0 provides 100 percent cloud-based protection against malware, spyware, rootkits and viruses. Panda Cloud Antivirus works with Windows XP (32bits), Windows Vista (32bits & 64 bits) and Windows 7 (32bits & 64 bits) operating systems and only consumes 20 MB of RAM. It is available in 11 languages and can be downloaded from http://www.cloudantivirus.com.”
Today is Patch Tuesday for November, 2009. Microsoft released 6 new Security Bulletins for November–3 rated as Critical and 3 rated as Important. Of course, not all Critical Security Bulletins are necessarily created equal.
Tyler Reguly, Lead Security Research Engineer with nCircle, says “There’s no question that this month, the most important bulletin to patch today is MS09-065. Given the drive-by attack vector presented in Internet Explorer, combined with the Office document vector, this bulletin is dangerous and should be patched as soon as possible.”
Reguly goes on to describe concerns with some of the other Security Bulletins. “There are three vulnerabilities this month that target a listening service. While none of them are likely to considered great candidates for exploit, they are worth noting as they all primarily affect the enterprise. It is unlikely that the home user will be running a license logging server or have Active Directory up and running. While Web Services on Devices affects Vista and Server 2008, the attack vector requires that you be on the local subnet, meaning the home user is unlikely to see any real risk.”
While I understand that businesses have critical software that could be impacted and therefore may need to test patches before deploying throughout the environment, I highly recommend that home users simply enable the Automatic Updates in Windows to ensure their systems are protected automatically with as little intervention as possible.
Make sure you read the details of the Security Bulletins to understand what platforms and applications are affected and what the possible impact could be to your systems. This summary provides links to the Security Bulletin details and the downloads for the patches and updates to protect your computer.
Reguly had one last thing to add about this month’s batch of Security Bulletins. “As a researcher, I always like to comment on the bulletin that I find the most interesting. This month that is definitely MS09-063. The Web Services on Devices API attack interests me greatly as it’s remote code execution on a listening service. I’m rather excited to dig deeper into this one and find out how it works.”
Hopefully he’ll figure out the nuts and bolts of how it works and share that information with us. Thankfully though, you can just apply the patch and not worry about it.
If you are only upgrading a handful of systems you can use the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor to determine if they are ready to make the switch to the new operating system. Do you need to upgrade a large number of systems to Windows 7? There’s a MAP for that.
No–not the clever play on words ‘There’s a Map for That’ ads that poke fun at the Apple ‘There’s an App for That’ ads while slamming AT&T for having very sparse 3G coverage. I must say though–those ads are awesome and if AT&T wasn’t feeling the heat before it is sure to be upset with the latest holiday editions of that marketing campaign. Whoever the marketing guy is that came up with that concept–give him a little something extra in his holiday bonus. He’s earned it.
But, I digress. No, when I say there’s a MAP for that I am referring to the Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit Solution Accelerator. There’s also an ACT for that–the Application Compatibility Toolkit Solution Accelerator. Using MAP and ACT you can scan your systems and generate reports that will help you identify hardware and software that will not be compatible with Windows 7 so you can work proactively to address those concerns prior to the upgrade.
With MAP and ACT reports in hand, you can get to work figuring out which version of Windows 7 makes sense for your business and develop an implementation plan to make the switch. Any business-critical applications that won’t work in Windows 7 can be run in XP Mode, at least until a Windows 7-compatible solution can be found.
Windows 7 is far better than Windows Vista was in terms of driver and application compatibility available when the operating system launched, but many users may still run into issues. Microsoft developed XP Mode virtualiation to bridge the gap and make transitioning easier.
On the one hand, most Windows Vista compatible hardware and software will work just fine under Windows 7, so vendors have basically had a couple years to catch up. On the other hand, nearly 3 out 4 users have stuck with Windows XP and may have legacy hardware and software that hasn’t been updated in years.
I haven’t run into any applications or peripherals I use that require the legacy XP environment, but I do frequently need to test things out or look at an XP system for comparison sake when writing. So, I installed XP Mode.
I also installed Windows Virtual PC and built my own virtual environment running Windows Vista. Both virtual systems work, but Microsoft hit a homerun with XP Mode. You install it and it just works–fast. It boots fast, runs pretty snappy in the virtual environment, hibernates quickly. It seamlessly provides access to the drives in the host Windows 7 system, and connects to the Internet.
I have only one complaint about Windows 7 XP Mode virtualization–but its not a complaint for me. My issue is that Microsoft has only made it available for users who have the Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise versions of Windows 7. There are millions of consumers out there running Windows XP who will go to Best Buy or purchase a system from Dell that will come pre-configured with Windows Home Premium by default. Those consumers will not have the advantage of being able to use XP Mode as a stepping stone to extend the life of legacy hardware and software while making the switch.