An Unprotected Vista PC

Published Date
01 - Mar - 2008
| Last Updated
01 - Mar - 2008
An Unprotected Vista PC

After reading a million white papers on how Vista implements security and, coming to the conclusion that it isn’t the virus-magnet the Windows-hating world would have me believe (on paper, at least), I decided to see if that holds good in the real world—well, my version of reality, if nothing else. Out went the anti-virus; I left the settings for Windows Defender and Firewall at their defaults—firstly, because that’s what you get when Vista is installed, and secondly, because I have a strict only-one-stupidly-brave-thing-at-a-time policy.

Day 5:

My daily activities progress as usual, with one significant change:I spend a lot of time monitoring my running tasks and services, and I open Defender at least twice a day—the last time I ever opened it was to see what it was, just after I installed Vista. I’ve turned on UAC (User Account Control) again, just so I know what’s going on in the system.

All systems stable for now, but I’m biting my nails more, and I suspect some stress-related hair-loss. This needs to pass. Soon.

Day 12:

It’s passed. Working like this has been uneventful so far—my start-up list hasn’t changed, performance remains the same and UAC hasn’t flagged anything suspicious. The nail-biting has stopped, and my hair stays on with new resolve.I’m almost starting to believe this might actually work! I’ve even turned off UAC again—when it’s not protecting me, it’s just annoying.

Day 15:

This is starting to get boring. Here I am surfing the Internet, an open invitation to any Dark Force that might want to destroy my PC, and nothing. Don’t they love me anymore? Is Vista really that secure? Or am I just not living dangerously enough?

Day 16:

Aha! My sister’s PC (Windows XP) seems to have been infected with some sort of worm. And my shared folders are writable, too! Now let’s see what this thing’s made of. Any minute now...

Day 18:

That’s odd. My PC’s still bafflingly untainted. I’m not giving up this easily, though. I have procured a Flash drive which I’m told is infected with an Autorun virus. That ought to do some damage.

Unlike XP, Vista doesn’t blindly execute autorun.inf—so when I attach the drive, I still get a dialog box that asks me whether I want to open the drive or run “explore.exe”. Sharp knife that I am, I choose to open the drive and delete the autorun file. It’s amazing how a feature as simple as this can thwart a virus.
Day 30:

Still clean. Of course, I haven’t actively hunted for malware to subject my PC to—nobody should—and I have no doubt that I could infect this thing if I really tried. But that wasn’t why I did it—I wanted to see if I could go about my daily business without an anti-virus, and it turns out that I can. The two times that I could have faced infection are perfectly realistic scenarios—it could happen to anyone. I know there are viruses out there, but the probability of a random infection like the ones I sometimes faced with XP seems to have gone down considerably. Until further notice, my PC is going to be anti-virus-free.
Then again, with my luck, I’ll get infected tomorrow...

Nimish ChandiramaniNimish Chandiramani