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Windows 8 not only has a brand-new look, but there are also
some serious security enhancements throughout the operating system. The biggest
change is that antivirus software, called Windows Defender, now comes pre-installed with Windows 8 — and
it's completely free.
Windows Defender offers virus, spyware, and malware
protection. If the name sounds familiar it is because a program called Windows Defender also shipped on Windows Vista and Windows 7. Previous versions of Windows Defender only offered
spyware protection, however.
The updated Windows
Defender uses the same anti-malware engine as Microsoft Security Essentials,
which Microsoft has offered as a separate free download with previous versions
of Windows. If your organization uses
Security Essentials already, you'll feel at ease with Windows Defender as it
has a very similar look and feel.
With Windows 8, you won't need to download Microsoft
Security Essentials. In fact, Security Essentials isn't even compatible with
Windows 8. Microsoft will, however, continue to provide Security Essentials for
Windows 7, Vista, and XP.
If your organization prefers to use different
security software, Windows Defender will turn itself off. To find out if your
security software works with Windows 8, see Microsoft's Compatibility
Windows 8 also offers improved screening of programs
downloaded from the Internet. The SmartScreen Filter detects and blocks unknown
and potentially malicious programs that you download. The first time you run a
program you've downloaded from the Internet, the SmartScreen Filter checks it
against a list of known safe applications, and alerts you if it's unknown and
therefore has potential to be malware.
SmartScreen Filter is built into the
operating system (and not tied to a browser), so it will work with Internet Explorer,
Firefox, Chrome, or any other browser. If you're using a previous version of
Windows, you can still benefit from the SmartScreen Filter's spyware protection
by using Internet Explorer 9 as your default browser.
BitLocker Drive Encryption, available only on Windows 8 Pro
and Enterprise versions, encrypts the hard drive on your computer to protect your
data against theft, loss, or hackers. While BitLocker was available on previous
versions of Windows, there are some security enhancements in Windows 8.
Microsoft now offers both BitLocker To Go,
which protects portable storage devices like USB flash drives and hard
drives. You can also opt to only encrypt
the used space of a hard drive. This is a huge timesaver now that many drives
have up to 500GB of storage space or more. Microsoft
TechNet has more about the new BitLocker enhancements with Windows 8.
For more information about Windows 8's new features, read
TechSoup's Should You Upgrade to Windows 8: Questions to Consider.