Windows 10 S has started to roll out on Microsoft’s new Surface Laptop with a bold claim; the computers are immune to all current ransomware. The boast comes up a time when ransomware attacks have started to peak after a five month low. Unfortunately, in order to provide a secure platform, Microsoft has taken extreme measures to lock down their operating system.
The reason that Microsoft can make the claim that Windows 10 S is ransomware-proof is that it’s a closed system. That means that only Microsoft verified apps from the Windows Store can be installed on the platform. If you want a comparison, this is very similar to how Apples iPhone OS functions. When it comes to most threats today, this walled-garden approach to security will actually prevent the majority of attacks. Most types of malware require an executable and those that don’t require an open vulnerability in an existing application. In either case, Windows 10 S is protected; at least for now.
The problem with a closed system is that it severely limits what is possible on the computer . Most Windows users have come to expect flexibility in the types of programs offered. Even something as basic as the choice of internet browser becomes restricted; Microsoft has already stated that Google Chrome will never be supported. From a pure security standpoint it makes sense to lock down potentially unsecure browsers but Microsoft itself doesn’t have the best track record with browser security. When it comes to other programs, developers have started to port software to the Windows Store but many of these are either stripped down versions or have usability issues. As time goes on these applications will likely improve but if you have a specific requirement to do your job you will need to investigate compatibility on an individual basis.
Windows 10 S offers a few additional security features that should be familiar to anyone who has already upgraded to Windows 10. The system includes the Defender AV behavioral engine and Windows Defender ATP, which are suitable for Enterprise class users. These security programs are designed to identity and isolate malware before it is able to activate and spread. Also, since Windows S uses the Windows Store versions of all programs, security updates are installed automatically as they become available.
Ultimately, it is going to come down to individual user requirements whether or not Windows 10 S is a valid option. The operating system is ideal for users that stick to a core set of programs and who also work in high-risk environments. Everyone else is probably better off sticking with a tried and true version of Windows. On the plus side, if you do want to experiment with a copy of Windows 10 S and it doesn’t work out, all copies include a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro, valid until the end of 2017. This should provide a relatively risk free incentive for anyone who is still on the fence.