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05 December 2006, 16:12

Virus scanner crucial for Vista too

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It shouldn't really come as a surprise that even Windows Vista offers no reliable protection against worms and viruses if a virus scanner hasn't been installed, particularly if the user is haphazard about clicking about the web. Anti-virus vendor Sophos has conducted a test of Vista's resistance to ten of the most common viruses. Three of them were able to penetrate the system: the ancient email worms Stratio-Zip, Netsky-P and MyDoom-O.

Vista was able to successfully block all infected attachments when email access was made through the new "Windows Mail" client. However it was less effective during web mail access. Sophos concedes that the security threshold for Windows Vista has been greatly improved. Yet it should surprise no one that the vendor comes to the conclusion that a virus scanner is still crucial. Christoph Hardy, Security Consultant at Sophos, reports "The use of supplementary IT security programs remains indispensable for minimising the risk of virus infection".

In a statement released to the US media, Microsoft explained that the results were not attributable to vulnerabilities in Vista, but rather centre on a classical social engineering problem, related to user interaction. UAC (User Account Control) typically protects against these kind of infections during the installation of allocated user accounts and even specifically asks the user whether the program should run with administrator rights. Stephen Toulouse, a Microsoft product manager says that if, despite all these warnings, the user simply clicks through the various protective mechanisms, it should then come as no surprise when a system is beset by viruses.

After all, he emphasises, Windows Mail did successful block all executable attachments. This cannot be guaranteed for other mail clients, however. Web mail portals like Yahoo and Google Mail represent particularly acute attack vectors. That will likely remain so until some technology is developed for operating systems to recognise and acknowledge the trustworthiness of a program. Even in the face of all the new security functions, that is why Microsoft itself also recommends a virus scanner for Vista. Hence for users the song remains the same: secure computing requires follow-on expenditures, without adding any real positive functionality.


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