Microsoft brings Windows 7 and 8.1 into the Defender fold, but there is a catch

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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