Windows 10 Threat Mitigation advancements

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 2, 2017
Windows, Windows 10

The new Windows as a Service model of Microsoft has helped Microsoft implement new threat mitigations and protection against threats faster than in the previous model that saw new releases happen every three years.

Windows as a Service evolves the operating system constantly, or more precisely, twice a year with feature updates around March and September of each year.

A new blog post on Technet compares the old release model to the new in regards to threat mitigation, and highlights improvements and advancements that Microsoft made since the release of Windows 10.

Windows 10 Threat Mitigation advancements

windows 10 threat mitigation

The author compares exploitation a decade ago to exploitation techniques that are used today. Microsoft's take away from that was that the faster release of Windows 10 feature updates would reduce the impact that new exploitation techniques had on the Windows population.

The graphic that you see above shows new threat mitigation techniques that Microsoft added to the first four versions of Windows 10.

The blog article highlights important mitigations afterwards:

  • User Mode Font Driver (UMFD) -- A feature implemented in the original release version of Windows 10. It moved font processing into an App Container in user mode. Additionally, administrators may disable the processing of untrusted fonts for a process using the Process Font Disable policy. (see Block programs from loading untrusted fonts in Windows 10)
  • Win32k Syscall Filtering -- The Win32k subystem is the number one target to escape the sandbox because of its large attack surface and its 1200 APIs. The feature limits the list if APIs that can be targeted.
  • Less Privileged App Container (LPAC) -- LPAC is a restricted version of App Container that denies access by default.
  • Structured Exception Handling Overwrite Protection (SEHOP) -- Designed to block exploit techniques that use the Structured Exception Handler (SEH) overwrite technique.
  • Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) -- This technique loads dynamic link libraries into random memory address space to mitigate attacks that target specific memory locations.
  • Heap protections -- Windows 10 protects the heap in various ways, for instance by using heap metadata hardening, and through heap guard pages.
  • Kernel pool protections -- Protects the memory that is used by the kernel.
  • Control Flow Guard -- Needs to be compiled into software programs. Microsoft added this to Edge, Internet Explorer 11 and other Windows 10 features. Control Flow Guard detects if an attack changes the "intended flow of code".
  • Protected Processes -- Protected processes are important or system critical processes. Windows 10 prevents untrusted processes from tampering with protected processes. In Windows 10, security applications may be put into the protected process space.
  • Universal Windows apps protections -- Windows Store apps -- UWP and converted Win32 programs -- are vetted before they are made available.
  • No Child Proc -- Designed to block code execution by launching child processes.

Microsoft mentions the main objectives when implementing threat mitigations into Windows 10 afterwards:

Reducing the attack surface of Windows Platform
Takes soft target out of the picture
Eliminates existing exploitation techniques so that new techniques need to be found.
Reducing impact of vulnerability by isolation.
Make overall exploitation harder and expensive

Closing Words

Windows as a Service guarantees faster deployment of exploit mitigation techniques according to Microsoft. While that is probably true for some techniques, others may have also been added to previous versions of Windows as updates.

Now Read: Windows Defender Exploit Guard - Native EMET in Windows 10 (via Born)

Windows 10 Threat Mitigation advancements
Article Name
Windows 10 Threat Mitigation advancements
An overview of Windows 10's Windows as a Service threat mitigation model, important anti-exploit techniques, and a comparison to the old system.
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  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–Error-Message-of-Windows-11-Update-KB5029351-Preview-142215

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–caused-BSOD-on-MSI-s-Intel-700-and-600-Series-Motherboards-142277

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