Security Advisor

Windows 7 Better Than XP, Vista in Security

Microsoft's Security Intelligence Report calls its latest OS the safest. Plus: phishers "like" social media, and scareware gets scarier.

Microsoft just released its annual Security Intelligence Report and it says Windows 7 is five times more secure than Windows XP, and twice as effective against bugs as Vista.

What separates Windows 7 (in particular, Windows 7 64-bit) from its predecessors is the fortification of what many consider to be the nucleus of processing power-- aka, the Windows Kernel. And the report says Windows 7 64-bit's Kernel Patch Protection is what makes all the difference.

This means that although it's counterintuitive, patching the Kernel is not necessarily a good thing. Redmond has released Kernel patches for specific issues, but it is generally not patching the Windows Kernel comprehensively. Hence, the KPP.

The big irony is that in that report, Microsoft admitted that Windows 7 malware infections have jumped 33 percent over last year.

Social Network Phishing on Rise
Microsoft continues to see "cyber criminals evolve attack methods such as a significant rise in social network phishing," said Microsoft malware protection center manager Vinny Gullotto. This, coming again from the Security Intelligence Report.

If you're on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or any of the social networking favorites, it's important to note that instances of spoofed Web pages, IM chat notes with links with "your video" and system-saving software tricking users into clicking their way to infections rose1,200 percent on social networks in 2010.

All of these methods fall under the umbrella of phishing. The report said "Highly sophisticated criminals skilled at creating exploits and informed with intelligence about a target's environment pursue high-value targets with large payoffs." In other words, hackers are getting to know what you "like."

Symantec: "Scareware" on Windows Systems Growing
Scareware developers have stepped up their swagger.

Scareware falls under the purview of a phishing attack, but it's much more targeted. A common one is the phony Windows security pop-up telling you your system is at risk or your hard drive is failing. There's usually a target or something that tells you to "click here" to install "Windows Recovery."

The scareware then gets to work. One of the more effective scareware out there is "Trojan.Fakefrag," a named conferred by AV giant Symantec, which is triggered on a Windows PC after a user mistakenly lands on an spoofed page and/or an infected or malicious Web site.

Symantec this week detailed the old bait and switch in this blog post where once a hacker has crashed your workstation or taken you to the staging site, a very authentic looking "Windows Recovery" menu appears, where you can then choose to save your infected system for only $79.50. (That should tell you right there -- if it's not 95 or 99 cents, something's wrong...)

If you've been hit with scareware and recovered, we'd love to hear about it. You can post your comments here.

About the Author

Jabulani Leffall is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times of London, Investor's Business Daily, The Economist and CFO Magazine, among others.

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