Windows RT Secured Only By Microsoft

If you’re looking to purchase a Windows RT tablet, there are a few things you need to know. The first thing is that you can only purchase software for it from Microsoft’s online store. The second thing is that the software giant isn’t offering third-party antivirus solutions in this store.

That disconcerting news is what Mark Hachman is reporting for Read Write Web. One can more or less safely assume that Microsoft will come up with its own antivirus software for Windows RT. Still, this is a rather unusual state of affairs; why is the company doing this?

Hachman explains that apps for the Windows RT operating system can run just fine on Windows 8, but the reverse is not true, unless the Windows 8 app has been specially compiled to run on both Windows 8 and Windows RT. The difference apparently stems from the processors for which the two systems have been optimized. Windows 8 runs on traditional Intel processors, while Windows RT was designed for the low-powered ARM chips used in most smartphones and tablets.

So Microsoft seems to have closed the Windows RT ecosystem by letting users download their apps only from the company store, while users of Windows 8 can get their software from a diversity of sources, including DVDs and third-party downloads. Arguably, it’s for security, but certain security professionals disagree with this approach.

For example, Gerry Egan, a senior director of product management for the Security Technology and Response Group at Symantec, believes that Windows RT users will need his company’s security software. And Symantec does plan to design a version of it for Windows RT. “The question is whether we can…we’ll have to work with Microsoft to figure out how we can, and remain in compliance with their store policies.”

So what is Microsoft’s reaction to the consternation among third-party security providers? No comment. They’ll have to do better than that, if only for the sake of their own users. Hachman notes that “longtime Windows users…have become accustomed to installing an antivirus package to defeat malware.” Users expect Windows to need such software, because its popularity paints a huge target on it that hackers can’t resist.

Currently, though, Symantec may be the only security vendor looking at creating an antivirus solution for Windows RT. Kaspersky Lab noted that its Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Antivirus will not run on Windows RT. The 2013 version of their software will work on the Surface Pro, however.

Even AVG, makers of popular antivirus software packages in both free and paid versions, is undecided as to whether they’ll create a version for Windows RT. It’s worth remembering, though, that Windows RT is coming out in October; a spokesman for the antivirus maker said that the company’s typical development time for a product would be between five and eight months. That would take us to February at the earliest.

Here’s hoping Microsoft understands that, by allowing users to get apps only from its own online store, and policing those apps, the company has closed off only one possible vector of attack on Windows RT. Attackers can still get in through e-mail and browser-related exploits. So until Microsoft offers something a little more solid than “no comment,” if you’re planning to use Windows RT, be careful out there.

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