Windows XP Mode Needs Protection Too
Article by George Norman
On 05 Aug 2009
We all know that the number of security threats for the Windows operating system is mind-boggling, because every hacker and spammer out there targets – in the near future they might start to take Macs seriously and put serious focus on them as well, but that may take some time still. Until then, keeping your Windows-based OS up-to-date and using a properly good security software solution is your best bet in the fight to keep your system safe.

Redmond-based software giant Microsoft has recently announced that Windows XP Mode, the software that can be used to set up a virtual Windows XP environment in which the customer can run legacy Windows XP applications, has reached another milestone in its development process, mainly Windows XP Mode Release Candidate (RC). The software comes with several changes since it was launched as a Beta in April, but that’s not the interesting part.


What’s interesting is that Microsoft believes Windows XP Mode will, in the end, become unnecessary. This is because the company has gone to great lengths to ensure that the Vista fiasco (apps that worked in XP did not work in Vista) will not happen again with Windows 7. Consequently most apps that work in XP and Vista, will work on Windows 7 as well. Windows XP Mode will thus become necessary only in the unlikely situation when an XP productivity app is not compatible with Windows 7.

Those of you that will use Windows XP Mode Release Candidate, as well as the upcoming final and stable version, must know that it has to be protected from security threats just like any Windows-based operating system need to be. Windows Communications Manager on the Windows Client Communications Team, Brandon LeBlanc, commented when announcing the release of Windows XP Mode RC:

“I also strongly recommend that customers install anti-malware and anti-virus software in Windows XP Mode so that Windows XP Mode environment is well protected.”

This is not the first time that the issue of Windows XP Mode security has come to light. Richard Jacobs, Chief Technology Officer with Sophos, company that specializes in providing security software solutions for businesses, says that Microsoft will always choose functionality over security. Windows XP Mode creates a virtual machine on top of Windows 7 and the level of integration is so deep that most users will not even notice XP Mode. But this functionality comes at a price for security.

“The problem is that Microsoft are not providing management around the XP mode virtual machine (VM). This creates the potential for a security disaster. XP mode is an independent Windows instance, that shares the odd folder and device with the host Windows 7 installation. What it doesn't share is processes and memory. So it doesn't share security settings, security software, patches etc. It does not inherit any security from the host. When you use XP mode, you need to patch the copy of XP as well as the host Windows 7. You need to manage settings separately, configure two personal firewalls and install and manage two copies of anti-malware software,” explained Richard Jacobs.

Tags: Microsoft, Windows 7, Windows XP Mode, Security
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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