For the past couple of years, Microsoft has been consistently encouraging both commercial and enterprise users to upgrade to Windows 10, citing increasing cybersecurity threats. A few months ago, it boasted that it's "raising the bar" for security in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, and also showcased data to indicate how its latest operating system prevented the spread of the Petya outbreak.
Now, the company has penned yet another blog post detailing its efforts in developing next-generation security on Windows 10, which proves that the operating system is a "worthy upgrade".
Tanmay Ganacharya, Principal Group Manager, Windows Defender Research, says that 2017 was a troubling year in terms of ransomware attacks with three global outbreaks affecting millions of computers, new attack vectors, over 120 new ransomware families, and tons of other variants from known families surfacing from a "criminal enterprise powered by ransomware-as-a-service".
The executive noted that even though Windows 10 is installed on more devices than Windows 7 - statistics from StatCounter peg them equal - in the period June to November 2017, Windows 7 was 3.4 times more likely to experience a ransomware attack than the latest operating system. Ganacharya explained that this is because older platforms do not have "built-in end-to-end stack defense", which is available on Windows 10.
The executive then stated how the WannaCry attack last year mostly infected Windows 7 machines, while Windows 10 contained built-in mitigation techniques such as control-flow guard for kernel and kernel code-integrity, making it a much more difficult target.
Ganacharya further explained the multi-layer defense of Windows 10 using the Petya outbreak in June as an example. While a fully patched version Windows 7 with an updated antivirus software could combat the spread of the ransomware, many people with outdated versions of the platform fell victim to it. On the other hand, those on Windows 10 were relatively safer thanks to Windows Defender Application Control, Credential Guard, and Windows Defender System Guard (Secure Boot). Similarly, those on Microsoft's latest operating system were also protected against the Bad Rabbit ransomware attack, which encrypted disks and files by posing as an Adobe Flash installer on infected websites.
Ganacharya went on to say that all these examples prove that Windows 10 is indeed a worthy upgrade for both corporate users and consumers, as it boasts several capabilities such as Controlled folder access, the sandbox features of Microsoft Edge, and Windows Defender. He also noted that people who primarily require security and performance from their machine can also utilize Windows 10 S, which uses Edge as its default browser and allows the download of apps only from the Windows Store.
The executive stated that enterprises and small businesses, which can be majorly affected in case of a ransomware attack, can use Windows Defender Exploit Guard, Windows Defender Application Guard, Microsoft Exchange Online Protection, and Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection to safeguard their data.
Ganacharya went on to say that:
With all of these security technologies, Microsoft has built the most secure Windows version ever with Windows 10. While the threat landscape will continue to evolve in 2018 and beyond, we don’t stop innovating and investing in security solutions that continue to harden Windows 10 against attacks. The twice-per-year feature update release cycle reflects our commitment to innovate and to make it easier to disrupt successful attack techniques with new protection features. Upgrading to Windows 10 not only means decreased risk; it also means access to advanced, multi-layered defense against ransomware and other types of modern attacks.
It will be interesting to see if enterprise customers and consumers pay heed to Microsoft's warnings of keeping updated software such as Windows 10, which will offer a stronger, multi-layered defense against cyberattacks.