Windows Vista FAQ

Security

Q. Can I finally rely on the Windows Firewall?
Q. How do I customize the Windows Firewall to allow certain apps to bypass it?
Q. What do the other Windows Security Center apps do?
Q. How easy is BitLocker Drive Encryption to use?
Q. What do I do if my PC doesn't have TPM?
Q. Will I still need an antispyware app?
Q. How is Vista set for antivirus software?
Q. Will my existing antivirus software work on Windows Vista?
Q. Why didn't Microsoft include an antivirus tool in Windows Vista?
Q. I don't like having to pay extra for an antivirus program for Vista. Are there any good free ones?
Q. Will Windows Vista protect me against phishing?
Q. I hear that User Account Controls (UACs) are pretty annoying. Is that true?
Q. Do they actually help with security?
Q. I trust my own security precautions, and I'd like to turn UAC off. How can I do it?

Q. Can I finally rely on the Windows Firewall?

A. Vista's Windows Firewall is a full-blown security tool. The Windows XP version could block only unwanted inbound connections; but the Windows Vista version blocks unwanted outbound connections as well, so you may be able to dispense with your third-party firewall.

Q. How do I customize the Windows Firewall to allow certain apps to bypass it?

A. By default, the firewall is configured to block outbound as well as inbound connections. If you want to allow certain inbound applications through, select Control Panel, Allow a program through Windows Firewall (under Security), and use the Exceptions screen. To configure outbound connections and to customize the Windows Firewall in various ways, type wf.msc at a command prompt and press Enter. The resulting Windows Firewall with Advanced Security screen will give you control over many aspects of the firewall.

Q. What do the other Windows Security Center apps do?

A. Parental Controls is a nice tool for parents who wish to limit the way their children can use the Internet and the computer. BitLocker Drive Encryption works with hardware to encrypt the contents of an entire PC hard drive; if you lose your laptop, no one will be able to read its data.

Q. How easy is BitLocker Drive Encryption to use?

A. That depends on your hardware. If your PC contains Trusted Platform Module (TPM) technology version 1.2 or better, BitLocker isn't particularly difficult to use.

Q. What do I do if my PC doesn't have TPM?

A. Don't bother with BitLocker Drive Encryption. In theory, you should be able to use a USB flash drive to handle the encryption. In practice...well, just don't try it. It's been known to make grown men weep.

Q. Will I still need an antispyware app?

A. Windows Defender, a nice piece of antispyware, now comes as part of the operating system. But no single antispyware app can catch all spyware, so it's a good idea to install and run another program, such as AdAware or Webroot Spy Sweeper, as well.

Q. How is Vista set for antivirus software?

A. It doesn't have any.

Q. Will my existing antivirus software work on Windows Vista?

A. Probably not. Vista is different enough from previous versions of Windows that antivirus software written for older versions of the OS won't work on it. You'll need a version written or rewritten specifically for Vista. Symantec and other makers of major antivirus software have announced Vista versions of their programs.

Q. Why didn't Microsoft include an antivirus tool in Windows Vista?

A. The reason is open to debate. According to some people, Microsoft feared that including one would expose it to antitrust problems, particularly in Europe. Others say that it wasn't included because Microsoft wants to be able to sell you a copy of Windows Live OneCare, which has an antivirus program as its centerpiece.

Q. I don't like having to pay extra for an antivirus program for Vista. Are there any good free ones?

A. Yes, several are free for home, noncommercial use. One popular choice is Avast, which is "lightweight" and thus makes relatively low demands on system resources. Avast was among the few antivirus programs--free or otherwise--that worked with Windows Vista throughout its beta cycle.

Q. Will Windows Vista protect me against phishing?

A. Both the Windows XP and the Windows Vista versions of Internet Explorer 7 include an antiphishing filter. It works quite well. In fact, in my tests it outperformed the antiphishing filter built into Firefox.

Q. I hear that User Account Controls (UACs) are pretty annoying. Is that true?

A. Does the sun rise in the east and set in the west? By far, UACs are the most annoying thing about Windows Vista. When you need to change certain system settings, install software, or perform any of a number of other tasks, a prompt will appear, nagging you to click OK, or type in a password.

Q. Do they actually help with security?

A. Yes, there is method in the madness, and UAC prompts do help protect you. By forcing you to confirm that you wish to take various actions, UACs prevent spyware and other malware from making changes to your system without your knowledge.

Q. I trust my own security precautions, and I'd like to turn UAC off. How can I do it?

A. In Control Panel, select User Accounts and Family Safety, User Accounts, and then click Turn User Account Control on or off. This of course triggers a UAC prompt that you'll have to answer before you can proceed. But it's a small price to pay for your freedom.

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