While no operating system is perfect, Microsoft appears to have made significant security improvements with the release of Windows 7. I've made a list of some of the best security features in Windows 7. What is on your list?
- BitLocker to Go. BitLocker is a data encryption service that was first introduced in Windows Vista. BitLocker to Go in Windows 7 includes data encryption to portable USB devices, like thumb drives. The encrypted information can be changed only on a Windows 7 machine by using a password. It can be read but not manipulated on Windows XP or Vista.
- Action Center. The Action Center is responsible for overall maintenance and security on Windows 7. The Security Center that was on Vista has been absorbed into the Action Center. Users are notified of changes in the system on the taskbar.
- DirectAccess. This is a brand-new Windows feature. DirectAccess allows remote users to secure their networks over the Internet without a VPN, creating an atmosphere that is as safe and secure from a laptop in a hotel room as it would be from the office desktop. This program will also allow IT administrators the opportunity to patch systems remotely, as long as the user is on the network.
- BranchCache. Whereas DirectAccess benefits the remote worker, BranchCache assists workers who are working from a branch office where network connections to the home office are spotty and slow. BranchCache creates a cache of a document or application locally. If someone else needs that information, it is downloaded from the cache rather than the network.
- AppLocker. This tool gives administrative power back to IT department. Administrators control who can download software onto work computers and what applications can be accessed, lessening the threat of someone downloading malware.
- Biometric Security. Biometrics add a human element to security systems by using DNA, retinal scans, or fingerprints, for example, to identify the user. New to Windows 7 is Windows Biometric Framework, which provides support for fingerprint detection applications. Windows has had the capabilities for biometrics in the past, but required third-party software to use it. Now it is part of the OS.
- Changes to User Account Control. User Account Control (UAC) was one of the most maligned aspects of Vista, as it repeatedly asked user permission for administrative applications. You could turn off the function, but then would run the risk of downloading unwanted software. Windows 7 gives the user more options on how and when it provides notifications.