Security Experts:

Windows 8 Vulnerable to 15% of the Web's Common Malware

Romania-based anti-virus firm BitDefender conducted a controlled test on Windows 8, in order to determine how strong the basic defenses were, and attempted to infect the new OS with some of the most common malware on the Web. When all was said and done, Redmond’s latest creation was found to be just as vulnerable to common malware as Windows 7, despite the compensating controls being pitched by the company.

“Even if the new operating system boasts a major overhaul in terms of visuals with the introduction of the Advanced UI, Windows 8 with the default antivirus solution activated registers alarming detections rates similar to the one registered by Windows 7,”said Bitdefender Chief Security Researcher Alexandru Balan.

BitdefenderBitDefender tested 385 of the most common malware variants against two systems running Windows 8. The malicious sample set consisted of malware frequently detected in the past six months by the Bitdefender Real-Time Virus Reporting System.

One test system had Windows Defender activated and the other did not. On the system with Windows Defender, 61 different malware variants successfully infected the system. Another sample bypassed Windows Defender but crashed on execution, and another one ran but was blocked by User Account Control, so no payload was delivered.

However, on the system without Windows Defender, the results were worse – which is to be expected really. Yet, one would think it would be somewhat tricky to target Windows 8 given its layered protections that have been touted as security features. Of the 385 samples, 234 ran successfully. Another 138 samples could not be started on the machine on various reasons, six e-threats executed but then crashed, and seven others launched but had their payload was blocked by UAC.

The malware that successfully bypassed Windows Defender was capable of granting backdoor access to the system, intercepting keystrokes, stealing online games credentials, and more.

“As a means of protecting a computer from viruses, data theft and other type of malware, Windows Defender is better than nothing,” said Bitdefender Chief Security Strategist Catalin Cosoi.

“But it’s not a whole lot better. Most of the popular antivirus can do better. The conclusion is clear: Using your PC without a security solution is extremely risky,” Cosoi added.

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.