After a devastating wrong turn with Vista, Microsoft is back on its game with Windows 7. Sure, Windows 7 has annoyances – such as touting attractive features, but making most of them available only to those who pay extra for Enterprise (or Ultimate). But Windows 7 Enterprise delivers a plethora of improvements to justify the cost and pain of migration. The security benefits you could reap by upgrading to Windows 7 Enterprise include the following:
Improved platform security.
Windows 7 picks up where XP SP2 and Vista left off, extending Data Execution Protection and Address Space Layout Randomization to deter malware, even when browsing. Kernel Patch Protection stops malware from hooking 64-bit kernel events, and Windows Service Hardening can enforce resource access profiles for included Microsoft services. Alas, not all applications use DEP and ASLR and only services can use WSH, but Windows 7 starts with a more solid foundation from which to fend off attackers.
Internet Explorer 8, supplied with all versions of Windows 7, incorporates a wealth of security enhancements, including SmartScreen filtering, trusted domain highlighting, type 1 cross-site script attack filters, and InPrivate browsing. IE8 takes advantage of ASLR and DEP and can apply more granular ActiveX settings—for example, letting admins authorize riskier ActiveX controls, but only by trusted sites or users. IE8 can also be installed on XP SP3 and Vista, but upgrading to Windows 7 makes the most of some IE8 features and provides further incentive to retire older, less secure browsers.
Secure protocol support.
Network protocols may not “wow” end users or sys admins, but they’re a vital part of building a more secure foundation. Windows 7 includes native support for IPv6 (including IPv6 IPsec) and DNSSEC. These more secure protocols make it harder for attackers to spoof IP packets and addresses by providing cryptographic authentication and integrity checks. Enterprise networks must master other hurdles to actually use these protocols, but embedding protocol support in all of your endpoints satisfies one big pre-requisite.
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