Commentary Sophos Labs Insights
Whether You Call It Modern Or Metro, Here Are Eight Security Tips For Windows 8
Windows 8 a case of improved security, increased vigilance
The naming of its user interface aside, on Oct. 26 Microsoft is releasing Windows 8, the newest version of the Windows operating system. Although Windows 8 offers enhanced security features, it also raises new security concerns because of changes to the graphical user interface and a new online app store. Courtesy of Darren Teagles, senior poduct manager, Sophos, here are eight security tips that can help you stay secure as you move to Windows 8.
1. Exercise caution with apps for the new Windows 8 user interface. Some familiar applications have been completely rewritten for the new Windows 8 UI. As a result, they may work completely differently, despite looking the same. For example, an application historically delivered as an executable could now be entirely Web-based. This impacts the visibility your existing security and monitoring tools have into these apps.
2. Use the Windows 8 style UI version of Internet Explorer. By default, plug-ins are disabled, blocking a major target for exploit kits and Blackhole attacks.
3. Make sure your security vendor can flag malicious Windows 8 UI apps. Windows 8 UI apps have important differences from regular applications, and your security product should be able to distinguish the two. The security product should correctly flag malicious or modified Windows 8 UI applications (tampered, modified, invalid license).
4. Disable hard-drive encryption hibernation. Hard-drive encryption is a cornerstone of data protection. If possible, disable the hibernation option in Windows 8 through group policy because it doesn’t always work well with encryption.
5. Make sure your hardware carries the "Designed for Windows 8" logo. To carry this logo, hardware must be UEFI-compliant. This means you can take advantage of the secure boot functionality available in Windows 8. Secure boot is designed to ensure the pre-OS environment is secure to minimize the risk from boot loader attacks.
6. Make application control a priority. The Windows 8 app store makes application control increasingly important for both malware prevention and productivity control. While the Windows Store will be secured, history shows that malicious apps are likely to slip through. Disable the use of apps that aren’t relevant to your organization.
7. Treat Windows RT (ARM) devices like any other mobile device. Make sure you impose the same security levels on Windows RT devices as all others. You should have the ability to control, track, remote wipe, and encrypt them.
8. Block near field communications features you don’t need. Windows 8 now caters to near field communications within the operating system. Because it uses Wi-Fi, it’s another potential vector for security attacks. Block or disable features you don't need to close unnecessary security holes.
Bonus tip: Don't allow sign-in to Windows 8 PCs with a Live ID. Live ID sign-on lets your users personalize their computers based on their own settings, regardless of which computer they sign onto. In doing so, all Windows 8 Style UI apps will be reacquired along with their settings, and apps will be automatically signed in where they use a Windows Live ID. This opens the potential for accidental data loss.
Of course, all the old security rules also apply with Window 8. It's still a bad idea to disable the lock screen or allow automatic log-on. Keep to your principles and, above all, remain vigilant.
Download a PDF of "The Top Eight Security Tips for Windows 8"on Sophos Security News and Trends.
Brian Royer, a security subject matter expert, Sophos U.S., is partnering with SophosLabs to research and report on the latest trends in malware, web threats, endpoint and data protection, mobile security, cloud computing and data center virtualization.