Windows 7 RC is now available, but Microsoft's new operating system could use a bit more tinkering to improve security.
Mikko H. Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure, points out that Windows 7 retains a feature in Windows Explorer, the operating system's file management application, that has allowed attackers to deceive Windows users since the Windows NT era.
Specifically, Windows Explorer provides a way to hide a file's extension. Virus writers use this feature to disguise executable files as something more innocuous, such as text files, Hypponen explains in a blog post.
By also changing the appearance of a malicious executable's icon, malware authors have a much easier time convincing users to run malicious software using social engineering techniques.
Such an oversight might be less noteworthy were Microsoft not pushing its End-to-End Trust vision to enhance computer security. Last year at the 2008 RSA Conference, Microsoft chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie said that it was "important that we give people the tools to empower them to make good trust choices."
Having accurate information about the nature of the files on one's computer could be said to be equally important.
At the same time, Microsoft deserves some credit for hardening Windows 7 against another attack vector, the automatic execution of files stored on removable media. Last month, Microsoft said that it had changed Windows AutoPlay so that it would no longer automatically run applications on external devices other than CD/DVD players. This will help prevent the propagation of malware like the Conficker worm through USB thumb drives.
InformationWeek Analytics has published an independent analysis on the current state of security. Download the report here (registration required).
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security EnterpriseTo learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Digital Transformation Myths & TruthsTransformation is on every IT organization's to-do list, but effectively transforming IT means a major shift in technology as well as business models and culture. In this IT Trend Report, we examine some of the misconceptions of digital transformation and look at steps you can take to succeed technically and culturally.