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400 million Windows 7 licenses sold, says Microsoft


Windows 7 is adding users like Facebook. Today, Microsoft has reminded us again of its dominance, reporting that it has sold 400 million licenses for the OS in the 20 or so months since its debut. This comes about three months after the April news that sales had breached 350 million and remember, it was only a year ago (in July 2010) when Microsoft was boasting that Windows 7 had sold a, now unimpressive, 175 million licenses. According to a new blog post, the tech giant is now selling 7 copies of Windows 7 every second, with the OS now reaching 27.3 percent of all PCs worldwide.

But what about Windows 8? The new OS is set to debut in 2012 and has looks nothing like Windows 7. It appears that Microsoft is positioning Windows 7 as a bit of an equal to Windows 8, stating that many businesses may be “running a combination of Windows 8 devices and apps alongside Windows 7 PCs and apps.” Hopefully we’ll get clarification on what that means in the coming months.

Aside from the good sales report, Microsoft kicked off its annual Worldwide Partner Conference yesterday where it announced the beta for the next version of Windows Intune. The company has also posted impressions of Sony’s VAIO SA premium utlrathin laptop, which could get up to 15 hours of battery life.

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Jeffrey Van Camp
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As DT's Deputy Editor, Jeff helps oversee editorial operations at Digital Trends. Previously, he ran the site's…
Microsoft’s Windows 7 Meltdown update granted access to all data in memory
microsoft building tab support into windows 10 upgrade popup

Security researcher Ulf Frisk reports that patches to address the Meltdown processor flaw on Windows 7 (64-bit) and Windows Server 2008 R2 machines created a far greater vulnerability. He claims the new flaw allows any process to read everything stored in memory "at gigabytes per second." It also allows processes to write to arbitrary memory without "fancy exploits." 
"Windows 7 already did the hard work of mapping in the required memory into every running process," Frisk states. "Exploitation was just a matter of read and write to already mapped in-process virtual memory. No fancy APIs or system calls required -- just standard read and write!" 
Because of the amount of data stored in memory is rather large and complex, Windows PCs track data using addresses listed on virtual and physical "maps" or "pages."  The reported problem resides with a four-level in-memory page table hierarchy the processor's Memory Management Unit uses to translate the virtual addresses of data into physical addresses stored in the system memory. 
According to Frisk, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 have a self-referencing entry on Page Map Level 4 (PML4) in virtual memory with a fixed address. This address is only made available to the operating system's lowest, most secure level: The kernel. Only processes with a "supervisor" permission have access to this address and the data on this table. 
But Microsoft's Meltdown patches released at the beginning of 2018 set the permission to "user." That means all processes and applications can access all data stored in memory, even data only meant to be used by the operating system. 
"Once read/write access has been gained to the page tables it will be trivially easy to gain access to the complete physical memory, unless it is additionally protected by Extended Page Tables (EPTs) used for Virtualization," Frisk writes. "All one has to do is to write their own Page Table Entries (PTEs) into the page tables to access arbitrary physical memory." 
To prove this discovery, Frisk added a technique to exploit the vulnerability -- a memory acquisition device -- in the PCLeech direct memory access toolkit. But if you're trying to test the vulnerability on a Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2 machine updated on March Patch Tuesday, you're out of luck. Microsoft switched the PML4 permission back to "supervisor" as part of the company's blanket of security fixes for the month. 
The memory problem surfaced after Microsoft distributed its Meltdown and Spectre security fixes in the January Patch Tuesday update. Windows 7 (64-bit) and Windows Server 2008 R2 machines with the February Patch Tuesday updates are also vulnerable. Devices with Windows 10 and Windows 8.1 are not vulnerable. 
That said, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 devices owners are encouraged to update their machines with the most recent patches distributed in March. But Frisk notes that he discovered the vulnerability after Microsoft's March Patch Tuesday update, and has not been able to "correlate the vulnerability to known CVEs or other known issues." 

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Microsoft brings Windows 7 and 8.1 into the Defender fold, but there is a catch
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Microsoft said on Monday, February 12 that its Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) subscription service for the enterprise is coming to Windows 8.1 and Windows 7. Previously an exclusive for Windows 10, the company is now offering the service on older platforms due to the slow transition to Windows 10 in the corporate environment. There is still a mixture of Windows-based devices, thus a need for a single security platform across Microsoft's three operating systems for the best protection possible. 
This is not the version of Windows Defender installed on mainstream Windows 10 PCs. Instead, Windows Defender ATP is an all-in-one subscription service with several components: Intelligence-driven security analytics, application control, anti-virus, firmware protection, exploit defense, and so on. It's a loaded package that covers multiple devices in the corporate environment and managed by the company's security team using a cloud-based interface. 
Windows Defender is a native component of Windows 10, but the upgrade process from Windows 7 and 8.1 within the corporate environment costs both time and money. Large companies simply can't upgrade all PCs to Windows 10 in one huge swing. The transition will take time, so Microsoft is now responding to requests for a Windows-based solution that covers all thee operating systems. 
The catch is that these customers must be in the process of moving their PCs to Windows 10. That means all PCs with Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 are scheduled to receive the Windows 10 upgrade. Throwing Windows Defender support onto these two platforms is more of a temporary fix so that corporate IT can better manage multiple devices with the three operating systems until the upgrade process is complete. 
Specifically, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 machines will only have Windows Defender ATP Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) functionality. According to Microsoft, this component provides "comprehensive monitoring tools to help you spot abnormalities and respond to attacks faster." All events are made visible in the cloud-based console for Windows Defender ATP subscribers. 
"Security teams benefit from correlated alerts for known and unknown adversaries, additional threat intelligence, and a detailed machine timeline for further investigations and manual response options," Microsoft says. 
This endpoint solution for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 can run side by side with third-party anti-virus products, but the company suggests Windows Defender Antivirus, aka System Center Endpoint Protection for the enterprise. Microsoft will provide a public preview of Windows Defender ATP for the two older platforms this spring followed by a full launch sometime during the summer. 
Microsoft introduced its Windows Defender ATP service in March 2016 built specifically for the enterprise. It provides attack detection, attack analytics (who/how/why), response recommendations, network analysis, and so on. It's continuously updated by Microsoft and works alongside other native services including Microsoft Advanced Threat Analytics and Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection. 

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Windows 7 and 8.1 systems built with the latest CPUs will no longer receive security updates
microsoft building tab support into windows 10 upgrade popup

No operating system lasts forever, as evidenced by Windows Vista reaching the end of its support life cycle just the other day. That's probably well understood by most computer users, but some might be surprised to learn that even an operating system that's officially supported can still have its options limited.

Such is the case with Windows 7 and 8.1, which are still receiving either extended or mainstream support from Microsoft and remain popular among Windows users. However, as some people are discovering, if you're running a machine equipped with a newer CPU, then you'll want to give more serious consideration to giving them up and finally making the move to Windows 10, as Ars Technica reports.

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