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October 26, 2012

Windows 8 is Built for Business Part 2

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We have determined over the years that security and privacy is one of our customer’s main concerns when purchasing new software. Most businesses especially Law Firms and Credit Unions pay particular attention to the details around security and without a doubt they should because it’s very important for them. For the past several weeks, we have pealed back the hood on Windows 8 Pro and dissected the security discovering all the new improvements that will make a positive impact on businesses like ours and we would like to share those new improvements with you.

The first security feature we want to discuss is BitLocker. BitLocker helps protect data if and when data is lost or stolen. The feature was available in the Ultimate and Enterprise versions of Windows 7, but is now readily available in Windows 8 Pro. After a quick change to the BIOS and control panel settings, BitLocker was enabled on all of our desktops and laptops. This was and is a huge relief to us and provides peace of mind if our equipment was ever lost or stolen. Now someone couldn’t access our hard-drives and potentially steel our private data (Thanks Microsoft!). BitLocker also has a companion as well known as BitLocker to Go. The same concepts apply except the difference is you can encrypt your external hard-drives instead.

The second security feature we want to discuss is Trusted Boot also known as Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). Not only does this feature help lower boot-up times dramatically, technically speaking, it takes on the role of the BIOS where the piece of software then interprets software instructions and relays those instructions to the machines hardware components. What we are trying to say is that this feature prevents malware operating system loaders from compromising your system and protects drivers from compromising your system. UEFI checks approved signatures in the chip meaning it identifies safe and secure files while removing the bad ones to enable our computers to boot normally.

The third security feature we want to discuss is focused on Internet Explorer 10 — Microsoft’s new Internet Browser. Most of the security improvements have been built on already existing features whereas some are new to the fold. Enhanced Protected Mode is a feature that will keep our data safe even if an attacker exploits variations of our computer. Attackers will try to install software or modify the settings on our computer via an unknown vulnerability in the browser, web-page, plugin or operating system. This defensive security feature will protect us from socially-engineered and or unknown exploits. Browse InPrivate is a feature that removes passwords, search history, webpage history, etc. when you close the tab or browser which is pretty straight forward. Do Not Track header is a feature that communicates with web-sites and lets them know you prefer not to have information collected about your visit to track us as we browse the web. SmartScreen Filter is a feature that enables us to identify if a web-site seems suspicious determining whether or not it may have Phishing or malware problems. Lastly, the Windows Store version of IE 10 will be completely plugin-in free focusing primarily on HTML5 to serve ads, videos, and other plug-in-dependent content. This will eliminate the vulnerabilities that happen with the 3rd party plugins. The desktop version of IE 10 will still support plug-ins just as the browser currently does.

We didn’t cover all the new or improved security features, but we touched on the ones we thought would be the most important. BitLocker and Trusted boot are amongst our favorites by far. Stay tuned for more posts on this blog about tips and tricks for using Windows 8 in a business environment.

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