Security Advisor

Windows 8.1's New and Improved Security Features

New features include updates to Windows Defender and Internet Explorer.

While Microsoft is buckling under the pressure to bring back the Start button with its Windows 8.1 update, it's also bringing new and improved functionality to many parts of the OS, including an area of Windows 8's strength -- security.

This week's TechEd conference, currently going on in New Orleans, is the first time that Microsoft has started to dive deep into what we're going to be getting with Windows 8.1, and that includes the announcement of new security functionality, which include increased authentication options and new monitoring features in its Microsoft Defender.

Microsoft appears to be especially excited for these new monitoring options, powered by its Azure cloud. According to the company, the code-named "Provable PC Health" will take a proactive approach to defending your network by not only blocking documented malware, but to spot and block potential malware attacks -- whether or not Microsoft's antimalware program has it in its database.

Internet Explorer 11 will also be stepping up its search-and-destroy security approach. "Internet Explorer 11 now includes capability that enables an antimalware solution to scan the input for a binary extension before it's passed onto the extension for execution," wrote Microsoft in a blog post. The new browser is expected to arrive bundled with the Windows 8.1 update.

While the jury's still out on if and when enterprises start integrating touch-based displays, Microsoft is giving those who have embraced touch improved security features that gives the option to replaces the traditional password with a fingerprint.

"Modern readers are touch based rather than swipe and include liveliness detection that prevents spoofing (e.g.: silicon emulated fingerprints)," wrote Microsoft. "Access to Windows Store Apps, functions within them, and certificate release can be gated based on verification of a user's biometric identity."

Microsoft is also bringing more functionality for network admins to closely monitor and restrict app access of devices based on the individual. In a new feature called Assigned Access, Microsoft is basically taking the same concept used previously in its Windows embedded devices to Windows RT and Windows 8 to pick and choose what is displayed and what can be accessed on the Windows Store UI screen. Not only does this lower the chance of outside infections, but it also provides a more personal Windows experience, said the company.

While Microsoft hasn't given every detail on all the new security features coming to Windows 8.1 (look for more information to slowly trickle out between now and its release later this year), users can get their first hands-on with the preview starting June 26.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for Redmondmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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