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Old 08-08-2007
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Windows Vista Security Center
In a recent meeting with my colleagues Mike Burk, a Security Center Program Manager, and Austin Wilson, a Director from Windows Client Marketing, I had the opportunity to find out more about how and why the Windows Vista Security Center evolved. If you've used Windows Vista, I’m sure you've noticed that the Firewall, Automatic Updating, Antivirus, Antispyware, Internet Security Settings and User Account Control settings are all located in one easily accessed place: the Security Center.
Although the Security Center was originally introduced with Windows XP SP2, Windows Vista has improved on almost every feature found there. A lot more "under the covers" features have been included for Windows Vista. If any of these safeguards are out of date or in an unsecure state, the Security Center will warn you so that you can make adjustments or changes.
Some of the other improvements to the Windows Vista Security Center include:
  • Showing the status of software designed to protect against spyware (such as Windows Defender) that helps to keep your computer safe with the latest downloads and updates
  • Security settings for Internet Explorer 7
  • Notification if User Account Control has been changed or is no longer enabled
The Windows Security Center can also monitor security products from other security companies and will show you if they're current with the latest virus definitions and other updates.
Windows Security Center monitors the following security components for Windows Vista:
Windows Security Center monitors your system to see if you have a firewall installed and if it's the Windows Firewall or a firewall product from another company.
Many users prefer to use a couple of different firewalls with the hope that two are twice as good as one. Yet, this is definitely not the case. A secondary software firewall is not recommended, as it will usually cause more conflicts and problems than it prevents. For example, exceptions must be set up for each firewall. If there is a problem, which firewall is the one causing it?
Most firewalls will disable any other firewall it discovers to avoid these types of issues. The only exception to this is a hardware firewall in conjunction with a single software firewall. A hardware firewall is still the best way to stop unsolicited traffic.
Automatic updating
Windows Security Center checks that the auto-update feature is enabled and is using the recommended settings. If it's not enabled or configured differently than recommended, Windows Vista Security Center alerts you to that fact.
Windows Vista Security Center checks for antivirus software and warns you if your settings are not configured correctly. If you prefer to run an additional antivirus application, the Security Center will give the status of both if the third-party application uses the underlying API that allows such reporting.
Another improvement over Windows XP SP2 is that Windows Vista can re-enable your antivirus program if it has been disabled. Windows XP SP2 only warned you and required you to access the actual application to re-enable it.
Anti-spyware and other malware protection
In Windows Vista, newer features and the prevalence of spyware required additional refinements to the Security Center. Windows Security Center now checks and reports if Windows Defender or another company's anti-spyware software is running. When you're using both Windows Defender and third-party anti-spyware software, Windows Security Center will monitor definitions for both as well as warn you if there are any irregularities in your settings.
Unlike a secondary firewall or antivirus application, running a second anti-spyware program doesn't affect your computer's overall performance nearly as much.
Internet Security Settings
Internet Explorer 7 has its own security settings. Windows Vista Security Center will alert you whenever these settings may be configured other than as recommended. Windows Security Center makes it easy to change the settings back to their default state by providing a button you can use to restore the settings automatically; or, you can access the Control Panel to change them manually.
Although you may fall into the habit of thinking you're always secure whenever you're browsing with IE7, there may still be times when you've disabled a particular setting for one reason or another and then become distracted and forgotten you'd changed it. Luckily, Security Center is there to remind you.
User Account Control
In order to help keep your computer safer, the User Account Control service should be enabled. Window Security Center monitors the status of User Account Control and lets you know if User Account Control has been changed or disabled. (You may have reason to disable it similar to the IE7 example above.) You can restore User Account Control to its recommended settings with a single mouse click.
One of the challenges in developing the Windows Security Center was working with various ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) and figuring out the best methods for reporting an application's status to Security Center. As users are becoming more security-aware, and malware producers become more proficient, users want more protection from malicious sites and users. Windows Vista Security Center is there to help users keep their computers and data more secure. One way of allowing for this is Security Center's standardized API "hook" that any ISV can use to report their application's status, even if the application has been newly installed or is invoked after boot-up. In other words, there's no need for the user to check the status of each security product separately, as Security Center will track the status of all anti-malware and antivirus programs that make use of its standard API.
As an additional security measure protecting Windows Vista users, before a third-party antivirus or anti-malware application can be included in (i.e., tracked by) Windows Security Center, the company producing it must be formally approved by Microsoft. In order to accomplish this, that company must be under NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and in good standing with the community. If you are using a third-party program that makes use of Windows Security Center, it should be designed to inform you if it uses its own end-user warning system rather than making use of the Security Center notification feature.
As you surely know, it's a whole new ballgame when it comes to computer and Internet security. Regardless of how, where or for what you use your computer, I suggest you visit this link to learn more about Windows Vista Security Center and security in Windows in general.

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