When Microsoft debuted Windows Vista on January 30th, 2007 it was clear that they had made online security one of their top priorities with this operating system. In fact, Windows Vista was the most secure Microsoft operating system to date.

So how did the Microsoft team approach the security issue when they decided to create Windows 7? Well first, they decided to take into consideration suggestions from Vista users to see what they could possibly improve with their online security features. These suggestions allowed the programmers to make the system more user friendly when it came to the security features.

Microsoft developed Windows 7 according to the Security Development Lifecycle (SDL). The goals of SDL are to minimize the number of security related design and coding defects, and to reduce the harshness of the defects that remain. This alone doesn’t make the system unique from Vista, as Vista was also developed according to the SDL. But seeing how Vista’s online security features were Microsoft’s best yet, it was clear that Windows 7 needed to be molded from that version.

Along with implementing the SDL into this new system, Microsoft also included such Vista key security features as Data Execution Prevention (DEP), Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR), Kernel Patch Protection, and Mandatory Integrity Levels.

So now you’re scratching your head asking yourself, “Then what makes this operating system special? Looks like it is just Windows Vista repackaged with a new look and name, but same security features.”

Though it’s true Windows 7 shares some of the same features as Vista on the security standpoint, it is also fair to say that some of those same features have been tweaked a little, improving their performance and reliability. Such as the Enhanced UAC you will find with Windows 7.

The UAC, or User Account Control, gives the administrators more power over what features and applications to grant access to when it comes to certain guest users and employees. UAC is what controls those pesky, annoying security prompts that you see pop up from time to time. Vista users gave this feature some heavy negative feedback, thus forcing Microsoft to re-think the way this feature works. They have worked out all the kinks and have reduced the number of applications and operating system tasks that trigger the prompts. Now if you access User Accounts in the Control Panel you can even adjust this feature to your liking and customize it to fit your own security needs.

Everyone knows you need more than just a password these days to protect yourself and your computer. Heck, nowadays most web sites require that you make your password at least so many letters long, include so many numbers, and on top of that you not only have to create a security question and password but also pick a picture from a series of graphics to be tied to your account. Windows 7 actually upped the ante when it comes to password protecting your computer. They have implemented better driver support and more reliable fingerprint reading across different hardware platforms. So now you don’t have to worry about some computer hacker logging into your computer to access all of your important files because if you have fingerprint access enabled on your computer, no one but you can get into your computer.

Windows 7 preserves Vista's data-protection technologies, such as EFS (Encrypting File System) and support for AD RMS (Active Directory Rights Management Services). Microsoft tinkered with those technologies to make them perform a little better, and they notably improved on Vista's BitLocker drive encryption technology, and it adds BitLocker to Go for encrypting data on separable media. You see, Windows vista was capable of protecting the volumes and drives that were part of the computer, but it could not do the same for removable drives. That’s part of the reason Windows 7 differs from Vista in that it is capable of protecting all of the files on your removable drives with BitLocker to Go. It’s a nice feature that will surely add more needed protection to your important files which you may keep on things such as Floppies, Jump Drives, or disc.

Also, with BitLocker to Go, administrators can block anyone from adding information to their removable files or even from removing information if those files are accessed. BitLocker requires Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip to store BitLocker encryption keys and smooth the progress of the encryption and decryption of the BitLocker-protected data. Many desktops and laptops do not come with a TPM chip, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world for you and your internet safety. Microsoft has included the option to use BitLocker Drive Encryption without a compatible TPM, though it’s not a cake walk in order to access it. Though the lack of a TPM chip can create a small road block, it can be overcome.

So in closing I must say that I am very impressed with the online security features within Windows 7. Like I discussed above, the final product does mimic Vista in the features implemented within the operating system, but most of those features have been slightly modified in order to offer the Windows user a safer and easier way of obtaining protection when surfing the net.

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