Microsoft's next version of Windows will ship with "tons of security features," including one that automatically scans boot drives for malware and a revamped version of the Windows Defender antivirus program, company executives said.
At the company's BUILD conference in Anaheim, California on Tuesday, Corporate Vice President of Windows Planning and Ecosystem Michael Angiulo demonstrated an early version of Windows 8 that automatically scanned an infected USB drive used to boot the next generation operating system. Before the OS was able to load, the computer stopped the process and displayed a warning that the boot volume contained an "invalid signature" indicating it had been compromised.
He was able to get the valid version of Windows to load by turning off the system and turning it back on. The presentation starts around the 1:08 mark in the following video:
The technology making this possible is known as UEFI, short for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface. A successor to the BIOS ROM firmware that Microsoft operating systems have relied on since their beginning, UEFI was designed to shorten the time it takes a PC to start up. It was built by Intel, but is designed to work with a variety of CPU architectures.
"It's not just about speed and having a boot that looks better," Angiulo said during Tuesday's keynote, referring to UEFI. "It's about security, too."
Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division, went on to say that Windows 8 developers "have taken Defender and we've actually built a whole new range of protection, all the way up though antimalware, antivirus." Users are free to run Defender or security software supplied by another company. In all, the new OS will offer "tons of security features," he added.
The company issued a statement Wednesday saying Windows 8 would include "low-level security features such as Secured Boot to help defeat classes of threats, and user facing features including Windows Defender and SmartScreen" spam-filtering. The statement didn't elaborate.
Windows 8 will also offer a new way to log on to PCs equipped with a touchscreen. Sam Bowne, a security instructor at San Francisco City College, provided a screenshot here that describes the feature this way: "You choose the picture – and the gestures you use with it – to create a password that's uniquely yours."
Bowne and his students have been testing the security features in the new Windows beta, and he reported on their progress to The Register.
"There is built in antivirus, and it works!" he wrote "It stopped not only thr EICAR test file, but more than a dozen malware items in Metasploit. So it might be time to sell your Symantec stock." ®
This article was updated to add comment from Bowne.