Securing the Windows 7 beta

Several leading security companies have products, at least in test form, that work with Microsoft's new operating system.
Written by Ina Fried, Contributor

Despite the fact that security programs are often some of the toughest code to make work with a new operating system, Windows 7 already has several companies ready with products aimed at keeping it safe from attackers.

By comparison, only one antivirus firm--McAfee--had its security software commercially ready by the time Microsoft launched Vista for businesses in November 2006.

That said, it stands to reason, given that Microsoft was making far more dramatic changes to the operating system's underlying architecture in Vista than it is in Windows 7.

This time around, it is AVG, Kaspersky, and Symantec that have products that are being touted from Microsoft's site. McAfee said it will have support by the time Windows 7 launches, while Trend Micro is working to have a compatible product in the next month or so.

"It is great to see that these partners were able to have their solutions working so early in our development process," Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc said in a blog posting.

Dave Cole, a senior director of product management at Symantec, said his company decided to offer up a test version of its Norton 360 product for use with Windows 7, even though the company knows there are still a few things left to work out.

"We determined that we could run reasonably well under Windows 7," Cole said. "There are bugs that we know about, but we're comfortable enough with the effectiveness of the product that when they called us to participate we took them up on the offer."

Having the support lined up is important to Microsoft, which built an "action center" into the operating system that warns users if it detects there is no antivirus software installed. The action center then points to a page on Microsoft's Web site with links to Windows 7-compatible security software.

The page lists Kaspersky, AVG, and Norton, but adds that "Microsoft is actively working with additional security software independent software vendors (ISVs) so that security software solutions will be available for Windows 7 Beta and (the final release of) Windows 7."

As far as Windows 7's approach to security, it appears to draw heavily from the investments the company made with Windows Vista.

The most notable change is probably the fact that users now have the option to choose how often they are required to authorize changes to their system. One of the most frequent criticisms of Vista was the annoyance of the User Account Control dialog boxes that forced users to authenticate many types of changes to their systems.

Microsoft spent a fortune securing Vista, both in engineering new features as well as in testing. The software maker corralled a significant chunk of the world's penetration testers to help poke at Vista ahead of its release.

The software maker plans some penetration testing for Windows 7, but declined to say how much or whether it would be comparable to its Vista effort.

CNET News' Elinor Mills contributed to this report.

During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

Editorial standards