In Microsoft’s recent advertisements promoting Windows 7, the company focuses on the various user-initiated features the new operating system includes. As far as I’ve seen, however, the company has not addressed the dual concerns of virus and spyware vulnerabilities. Similarly, the October 26 issue of Fortune Magazine, which declares “Microsoft Is Cool Again,” highlights various improvements Microsoft made to Windows 7 in response to the myriad problems that plagued Vista, but author Jeffrey O’Brien completely overlooked the securities vulnerabilities that malicious software poses. While I have no doubt that Windows 7 is a substantial improvement over Vista (my former employer upgraded to Vista, much to its chagrin), the risks arising from viruses and malware emphasize why, for security and other reasons, Mac OS X is my choice of operating system. As it turns out, though, Microsoft may not be showcasing its efforts to address these security risks because only certain editions of Windows 7 include a feature to deal with these problems.
Rather than addressing the overall security vulnerabilities that plague Windows et al, Microsoft opted to add a feature to certain versions of Windows 7 that attempts to secure the operating system. Known as AppLocker, and only available on the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows 7, the function allows computer users to specify what software is allowed to run on their systems. If a certain program is not authorized through AppLocker, it cannot be executed. While this approach will certainly stop most malicious software from having its intended effect, AppLocker is not part of the Home Premium or Professional editions of Windows 7. For Windows 7 users to access this feature, they will have to pay for the Ultimate edition, which retails for $319.99 ($139.99 to upgrade from Windows 7 Home Premium to Ultimate, or $219.99 to upgrade from a prior version of Windows). Further reducing users’ access to AppLocker, a brief review of BestBuy.com reveals that of the 130 computers available with Windows 7 pre-installed, only one comes with the Ultimate edition, and that model retails for $2,999.99. If Microsoft was truly serious about improving the security of its newest operating system, the AppLocker feature would be included in every version of Windows 7, even that which runs on a $329.99 netbook or a $319.99 desktop computer.