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Windows XP Less Secure Than Windows 7?


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#1
Danc20

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Being an XP user for most of my short life, I am wondering, is the difference in the security of computers with more recent operating systems (VISTA, 7) that big? I have a Windows Vista laptop and although my Avira Antivir does pick up an occasional threat, it seems like my XP has had more trouble.

If this is true, do you think this presents an advance in the war against malware or is it just a temporary fight against it till malware coders find their way around the new defenses?
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#2
sari

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Well, as long as there are malware coders there are going to be people who find exploits and take advantage of them. It is true, however, that Vista and Windows 7 have fewer exploits of which to take advantage. The first unpatched version of Windows XP had a lot of vulnerabilities, and after Microsoft came out with version 1a, we wouldn't help people until they'd updated; by SP 3, it had become a lot more secure. Unfortunately, no software is perfect. We hear about Windows and its flaws, but the forum software we use here has had its share of exploits, as have Java, Adobe, etc. When 64 bit versions of Vista were first infected, we weren't sure what to do;a lot of our tools wouldn't even run on 64 bit systems.

To answer your question, however, I do think it's an advance. The malware writers seem to make advancements also, but as long as they have fewer exploits available, they have fewer choices to wreak havoc.
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#3
Danc20

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Thanks so much for the reply Sari. This information really helps, especially if I ever decide to go for another Vista or try Windows 7 out.
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#4
admin

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XP has two strikes against it right out of the box. It's 10-years old. Then most systems weren't connected to the internet, and those that were probably used AOL dial-up. It also has the largest market share of any operating system, so it's the largest target of malware writers.

Windows 7 (and Vista) do a lot to enhance security. Microsoft fundamentally changed they way they code, and security touches every part of their process. Specific code changes to the OS that block exploits completely are address space randomization and data execution prevention. While user account control was much maligned in the now infamous Apple commercials, its file and registry virtualization prevent malware from installing when enabled. Maybe you've read recently about the USB drive malware that installs simply by plugging it in? Windows 7 is not affected.

64-bit versions of Windows 7 go even further by adding hardware based (CPU) data execution protection, and kernel patch protection. Also signed native 64-bit drivers are required. This makes the system not only more secure, but also more stable.

I've never understood why some people seemingly have no problem spending a hundred dollars or more on security software and subscriptions, not to mention the risk of data loss, so they can run an outdated or even pirated OS. But they won't pay to upgrade to a more secure operating system.

Windows 7 Home Premium is appropriate for most home users. An upgrade is $109.99 at Amazon or NewEgg. It comes with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Install 64-bit if your hardware supports it. Allow automatic updates and keep your system patched. Keep your applications updated (Adobe Flash and Reader, Office, Java). Setup standard user accounts, and use them. Install Microsoft Security Essentials (free). For $110 you'll have a much more secure system then if you were to buy the best antivirus, antimalware, firewall, etc. available for Windows XP.
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#5
Danc20

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That sounds awesome (Windows 7 USB feature especially!)! I just got a bunch of security updates from Microsoft for my XP and on Vista I usually just get a Windows Defender definition update every so often. The way they coded in XP must need a lot of mending!

I have never thought or known of specified targeting from malware coders. I feel pretty safe currently, but I'd feel even safer to get out of that population.

I've never understood why some people seemingly have no problem spending a hundred dollars or more on security software and subscriptions, not to mention the risk of data loss, so they can run an outdated or even pirated OS. But they won't pay to upgrade to a more secure operating system.

Good point! If Windows 7 and Vista are the strongholds (at least compared to XP and others) I'm learning them to be, then that sounds like a fair price compared to the less risky and possibly more pricey option.

This is good information to know for any Windows XP, lower, or future Windows user. Thanks for all the in-depth info and opinions, Admin. Again, very helpful.

Edited by Danc20, 14 December 2010 - 08:40 PM.

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