Windows 8 the most secure operating system?

Martin Brinkmann
Aug 14, 2012
Security, Windows, Windows 8

Windows is seen by many as an insecure operating system, inferior security-wise to Linux and even Mac OS X. And while it certainly can seem that way, considering that most malware authors concentrate on Windows thanks to the operating system's crushing market share, others have suggested that this impression comes more from the concentration on Windows than superior security of other operating systems.

Microsoft will improve the security of the operating system in Windows 8 further, for instance by integrating a Smartscreen Filter into the system that protects users from malicious files they may run on the system. This feature has been overly protective in test builds though, as it is also blocking new or less popular files from being run on the system. Users can however bypass the protection for individual files provided they know how.

Windows 8 will also ship with trusted/secure boot which prevents unauthorized operating systems or drivers to run on the system. Hardware makers may, but do not have to, provide an option to turn secure boot off in the BIOS. There is also a new version of Windows Defender which comes with anti-virus capabilities similar to those of Microsoft Security Essentials.

A story on the IT Pro Portal suggests that Windows 8 may be the most secure operating system when it gets released. Proof for this claim? Recent security conferences where hackers managed to get into the majority of operating systems but Windows 8. While this may look like solid proof on first glance, there may be other explanations why Windows 8 was not hacked at these conferences.

The operating system has not yet been released, and interest may have been lower because of this. Why bother with a system that is not out yet officially? It is very likely that the final release will spark the interest of security experts, so that we will see additional attempts to hack the system or way or the other after the October release.

What's your take on the matter? Will Windows 8 be the most secure mainstream OS yet? One thing's for sure, it will be highly targeted just like all the other Microsoft operating systems.


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  1. Timothy said on September 26, 2012 at 5:42 am

    Windows will NEVER be the most secure operating system. It will always be the clunky, nonsensical pile of rubbish I was forced to learn in grade school.

    1. Anupam Sharma said on October 6, 2012 at 8:38 am

      Microsoft will remain as a disgusting OS as compared to Linux/MAC. I have used Ubuntu/Mint as alternative to Win 7, believe me its awesome.

  2. JudyN said on September 25, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Good post. I also wanted to know about the security of Windows 8. Your article is really good and also found another good one at vpswebserver (

    I hope Windows 8 Defender will hit the current Virus software development companies.

  3. Anupam Sharma said on September 3, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Windows as secured OS ?…. take a big laughter from my end :)

  4. DOA said on August 17, 2012 at 1:28 am

    If you really want a secure OS you have to change what you want from it. Scripts are out, remote access is out, easy installs are out, just an OS, no frills. Lock the OS on an eprom and boot that.
    Sounds way out there? I had that setup on my Apple ][gs and loved the almost instant boot. What do I do now that the ][gs OS would not do just by running programs? Almost nothing, but I do it at higher resolutions and a bit faster.

  5. Gonzo said on August 16, 2012 at 1:39 am

    Discoveries like the (un)intentional backdoor by Didier Stevens in Applocker and other “bugs/features” found in Powershell and Bitlocker and ipv6 tunneling should end any attempt to call Windows “most secure”. M$ has been called out too many times, it’s why many nations refuse to allow the OS to run anything critical like banking or Nationnal $ecurity.

    Testing out of the box settings is proof that the end user is the weakest link and nothing more. Certainly the less permission a user/app has the more secure the OS is. It’s been a growing trend in Windows to remove permission and call it security and any attempt to circumvent it a violation of EULA. Pretty soon you’ll be goggleing how to jailbreak your Windows tablet but it’ll be “super secure”. That was the intention of UEFI wasn’t it?? /rant

    Conspiracy aside, I agree with webfork. SELinux kernel is widely regarded as the most secure available. Preferably custom compiled with only needed features and modules included. For the lazy/uneducated there’s apparmor and for the brave BSD. For everyone else there’s NT and Mac.

    Martin, you should rephrase the question – Will Windows 8 be the most secure out the box Microsoft desktop OS yet? – I would hope so.
    As far as being “highly targeted” – yes and no. The Win32 apps used by all Windows OS will be highly targeted. Personally, I don’t think there will be much interest in $400-$1000 Windows tablets that are less capable than a $300 laptop or a $200 iPad. I doubt Metro apps will ever be preferred to Real apps on the desktop. For this reason Metro apps should benefit from “security through obscurity” for quite some time.

  6. Bill Lee said on August 16, 2012 at 1:29 am

    Hi Martin. In this sentence “Recent security conferences where hackers managed to get into the majority of operating systems but Windows 8.”, is there a “not” missing after the “but”? (Thanks for all your articles; I find much of value in them.)

  7. Dath Severus said on August 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Many users will download a cracked Win8 from the net or get it from friends which dowloaded it, I think this is the biggest security problem.

  8. Harkin said on August 15, 2012 at 4:29 am

    Martin, please stop with these clickbate titles and trollbate posts!

    Seriously, I’m considering removing your feed. This is NOT respectable journalism!

    1. Peter (NL) said on August 15, 2012 at 11:54 am

      It is just a title, meant to open a nice debate :)
      I am afraid that Windows 8 security is still very, very vulnerable. The best is indeed to develop a complete new OS from scratch.

  9. jay said on August 15, 2012 at 3:21 am

    Im on a Vista system and thought to upgrade to Windows 8 but i changed my mind Windows 7 here i come or i may get a hackintosh soon

  10. Bilgo said on August 15, 2012 at 1:58 am

    I haven’t had a Windows machine infected by malware ever since Windows 7, so that claim might not be very far off. Windows has come a long way since the days of XP which practically required an antivirus running anytime the system connected to the internet.

  11. Bison said on August 14, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    I think that the false belief your operating system is secure all by itself is VERY dangerous. I’ve helped literally dozens of my friends and family clean out their windows installations. They were told by customer service people that windows defender and firewall would for sure protect them against any threats. They used this information as license to go around running any binarys they could find on the internet; a recipe for disaster.

    In order to stop hackers, you have to think like a hacker; just saying that something is more secure doesn’t make it that way.

  12. Coyote42 said on August 14, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Am I the only one that fails to see how this makes the OS any more secure for the user, do they mean it also secures the wallets of greedy manufacturers?:
    “Windows 8 will also ship with trusted/secure boot which prevents unauthorized operating systems or drivers to run on the system. Hardware makers may, but do not have to, provide an option to turn secure boot off in the BIOS.”

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 14, 2012 at 10:11 pm

      It gives the user less control, I’d agree to that. Security-wise, it makes sense though, and I only wished Microsoft would have been firmer and made an off switch mandatory.

      1. itsMe said on August 15, 2012 at 8:09 am

        Already got the RTM weeks ago and believe me its not worth the cost, they would have to pay me daily to use that pile of [insert rude descriptive insult here]

  13. webfork said on August 14, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Security is a broad term but I think I could break it down into three major categories: backup, precautions in the event theft (usually encryption), and overall reliability while connected to the Internet. Both Mac and PC have come a long way with the first two and seem to be improving on the third vs. the really bulletproof systems out there (SE-Linux and OpenBSD).

    However, the bulletproof operating systems *can’t* become mainstream because they lack the newest stuff. New features seem to always represent a security threat. As such, I think a built-in functionality to carefully and reliably sandbox programs (somewhat like SE-Linux and recent efforts by the PC-BSD folks) without affecting functionality needs to happen.

    I don’t know that Windows can do this without breaking compatibility with thousands of programs. However, it would go a very long way to stopping viruses, trojans, and most malware: a program that self-destructs can be easily reinstalled, and an OS that’s aware of how files were modified by a sandboxed program won’t lose data in the process.

  14. itsMe said on August 14, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Yea the most secure OS because no bugger will use it!

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 14, 2012 at 10:12 pm

      I will. Signed up for Technet today and will install the RTM tomorrow. Will see how that goes.

  15. ilev said on August 14, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    Windows 8’s ‘protected mode’ has been hacked in the last pwn2own, with remarks that is has many security holes.

    1. pgg said on August 14, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      Let me guess – RC?

      1. ilev said on August 14, 2012 at 6:59 pm

        It doesn’t matter which version. Putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t turn it into a prince.
        As long as Windows 8 (and every Windows before it) carry code copied from Windows 3.1, 95, 2000/NT, XP… it won’t be ever secure. The only solution to secure Windows OS is to drop
        backward compatibility and re-write Windows OS from scratch.

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