Microsoft released the highly anticipated Windows 8 OS last week, and the media has been buzzing about its touch-based system and new features.
Although Windows 8 is an improvement from its predecessor, the new OS still contains vulnerabilities. Some are well documented, while others have yet to be found. For complete security and consumer peace of mind, below are 8 facts about Windows 8 you should know to make sure you’re protected.
1. Scammers Take Advantage of Windows 8 Excitement
There’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you’re shopping around for Windows 8, don’t fall for scams that offer free versions or deep discounts. Scammers historically exploit consumer news to find victims online, and Windows 8 is no exception.
It might be tempting to click that link offering a free copy of the OS, but always remember that there could be viruses or other malware waiting on the other side. The sites themselves could also be fraudulent, looking to steal personal information such as your credit card number.
2. Secure Boot is an Improvement with Limits
Windows 8’s new Secure Boot feature only allows pre-approved applications to load during startup. This means the only applications that load are ones you have authorized.
However, Secure Boot has its limitations. It essentially locks down devices to prevent users from running non-Windows systems, open source software (like free programs), or applications not created by Microsoft or a validated third party.
3. Running Non-Microsoft Applications? You’re at Risk.
One of the most popular antics of hackers today is to target applications that run on multiple devices such as Adobe Acrobat Reader or Java. This makes sense, because if someone is going to write malware, then why not get the most bang for the buck by having it run on PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets.
4. Dangerous Download Warnings Don’t Promise Protection
SmartScreen works for all browsers on Windows 8, automatically checking downloads from the Internet to see if the file or program is known to be malicious. Part of this check includes download history as well as the popularity and reputation of the file. If the download receives a low rating, SmartScreen offers a warning message to users.
While the feature is helpful, the fact that it’s available doesn’t mean users will heed its warning. SmartScreen becomes ineffective if the user decides to override the system and download the suspicious file anyway. It’s also important to note that SmartScreen only applies to the reputation of the file or website. It does not extend to unique phishing scams on social networks such as Facebook. This is crucial to understand, as McAfee has seen a dramatic increase in hackers using social media to spread malicious materials.
5. Picture Password is Fun, But is it Secure?
One of the many touch-based features, Picture Password is a new security login option where users choose a picture and set a three-gesture “password” sequence.
Although fun and easy to remember, anyone looking over your shoulder could log into your system.
6. Windows App Store Screens for Security
With all of the apps out there today, it can be hard to figure out which ones are safe to use. Hackers know what Microsoft looks for in Windows App Store applications and it won’t be long before they circumvent their controls with malicious code or other ways use those apps to scam users.
7. Security with Internet Explorer 10
Internet Explorer 10 is Microsoft’s safest browser yet. However, if you’re like most people and prefer an alterative browser such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, you’re out of luck. MS does not extend any security capabilities to those browsers.
In addition, no matter how secure IE 10 ranks, there will always be vulnerabilities and patches Microsoft needs to address.
8. Windows 8 Continues to be in the Crosshairs of Malware Writers
Even with all the advancements in security that Microsoft made in Windows 8, they are still – by far – the most targeted company by malware writers. The reason for this is simple: They have the most systems out there, and hackers always try to exploit vendors fortunate enough to have the bulk of computing devices using their operating system. As a word of caution, Android is experiencing this today as well.
With Windows 8, Microsoft requires that every system have anti-virus software installed and operational. We applaud that requirement, but what’s important is that you choose a security provider with a proven track record of delivering highly effective protection against evolving threats, and whose software offers security attributes beyond basic anti-virus protection.
Whether you’re considering an upgrade, researching your options, or already using Windows 8 – remember that even with security improvements, it’s still essential to have a dependable security solution to protect legacy applications. McAfee’s security solutions are compatible with all versions of Windows (including Windows 8) and with our wide range of products, you’re bound to find one for your needs. For more security news and updates, follow us on Twitter @McAfee and @McAfeeConsumer.