Windows 8 has the best built-in security of any consumer version of Windows, but it also has some features which open it up to dangerous computer security threats.
Windows 8 As A Closed Platform
Early versions of Windows became the dominant operating system platform thanks to Microsoft’s encouragement of open development. Windows did everything it could to encourage developers to build on Windows and extend Windows.
That made Windows the number one operating system, but it also helped make Windows the buggy and unsafe platform we’ve come to expect. If developers could do anything, they could accidentally work at cross-purposes, creating bugs. Also, if developers could do anything, then malware programmers could do anything too, creating the opportunity for disaster.
Recent releases of Windows, starting particularly with Vista, have make Windows a much more closed platform. Windows 8 takes this trend a step further with the introduction of the Windows Store.
As a closed platform (or, at least, a more closed platform), Windows 8 will probably be more stable and secure than any previous Windows release. Programs from the Windows Store will have to meet certain criteria so they don’t work at cross-purposes and viruses will have no opportunity to install themselves on computers which only use programs from the store.
The Jailbreak As A Computer Security Threat
Of course, some developers who have spent their entire careers writing software for Windows as an open platform are upset by Windows 8’s new closed model. Their software needs to access those advanced features Windows made available in previous versions, so they’re prepared to go around the Windows Store.
Windows hasn’t (yet) made this as difficult as going around the Apple Store is for i-device users, but it still takes extra effort the first time you do it on Windows. But circumventing the Windows Store not only negates the security Microsoft intended to build into Windows, it creates a chink in the armor of Windows 8 every time you do. That’s the real computer security threat.
The Computer Security Threat Of Third-Party Installs
When it’s in locked-down mode, Windows 8 doesn’t need anti-virus software the way previous versions of Windows did because all of the software you install comes from a trusted source—the Windows Store. Many people still use anti-virus software on Windows 8 out of habit, but I expect that will stop once they realize they don’t need it.
But if people start installing third-party software on Windows 8 like they did on previous versions of Windows, they put themselves at risk of getting a computer virus—and if they don’t have anti-virus software, they probably won’t be able to stop the virus before it infects their computer.
It’s true that this computer security threat depends on Windows users both avoiding anti-virus software and using third-party software, but in my experience, people go where the interesting software is. If developers keep publishing direct-download software outside of the Windows store, that’s where people will get their software. And if anyone thinks they can get away without the hassle of anti-virus software, they’ll turn it off in a moment. But whether or not this becomes a significant computer security threat will have to wait until it’s more than just the early adopters using Windows 8.