Windows 7 - Action Center

When Microsoft shipped Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) in the wake of its 2003 security-code review, one of the major and obvious new features it added to the operating system was the Security Center, a dashboard or front end of sorts to many of the system’s security features. In Windows XP SP2, the Security Center was designed to track the system’s firewall, virus protection, and Automatic Updates features to ensure that each was enabled and as current as possible. If any of these features were disabled or out ofdate, the Security Center would warn the user via a shield icon in the notification area near the system clock, or via pop-up warning balloons.

Security Center continued in Windows Vista and picked up even more security monitoring duties. But in Windows 7, the Security Center has been rebranded and dramatically updated to support new security features, house common tasks, and provide notifications in a less intrusive way. Windows 7’s Action Center is barely recognizable as the successor to the XP and Vista Security Center. There’s actually a lot more going on there once you begin examining its new functionality.

The core behavior of this tool hasn’t changed in Action Center. The Action Center still tracks certain security features and ensures that they’re enabled and up-to-date. If they’re not, the Action Center subtly notifies you by changing its notification area flag icon (using a small red “x” icon overlay), instead of irritating you with a pop-up balloon as before.

As noted previously, Action Center now tracks far more items. Here’s the list:

Security Features
• Network firewall: The Action Center ensures that Windows Firewall (or a third-party firewall) is enabled and protecting your PC against malicious software that might travel to your PC via a network or the Internet.

• Windows Update: Like Windows XP and Vista, Windows 7 includes an Automatic Updates feature that can automatically download and install critical security fixes from Microsoft the moment they are released. Action Center ensures that Automatic Updates is enabled.

• Virus protection: Although Windows 7 doesn’t ship with any antivirus protection, Action Center still checks to ensure that an antivirus service is installed and up-to-date. Modern antivirus solutions are designed to integrate with Windows Action Center so that the system can perform this monitoring function.

• Spyware and unwanted software (malware) protection: Windows 7, like Vista, ships with Windows Defender, the malware protection suite. Action Center will monitor Windows Defender (or your anti-spyware solution of choice) and ensure it’s running and using the latest definitions.

• Internet security settings: The Action Center ensures that Internet Explorer 8 is configured in a secure manner. If you change any IE security settings Action Center will warn you about this issue.

• User Account Control: The Action Center also ensures that the User Account Control (UAC) technology is active.

• Network Access Protection: Network Access Protection, first broadly provided with Windows Server 2008, enables IT administrators to protect the security of a network by ensuring that connected PCs (running Windows XP, Vista, or 7) pass software and settings checks, created by the administrator. These checks, for example, can reveal a required piece of corporate software or ensure that certain network authentication settings are configured properly. Any deviations from this configuration will be picked up and passed on to you by the Action Center.

Maintenance Features
• Windows Backup: The Action Center takes note of whether or not you’re performing backups of your crucial data.

• Windows Troubleshooting: The Windows Troubleshooting platform in
Windows 7 ties directly into the new Action Center. Action Center will alert you to any problems that should be sent to Microsoft for further analysis and any solutions that were found to solve existing issues.

• Problem reports: If you run into a software issue, Windows 7 can automatically report the problem to Microsoft and check whether a resolution is provided. Action Center monitors this feature to see whether it is enabled.

If all of the features that the Action Center is monitoring are enabled and up-to-date, you won’t ever see this feature unless you manually navigate to it. (You can find the Action Center in Control Panel -> System and Security -> Action Center, or by typing action center in Start Menu Search.) However, if one or more of these features are disabled, misconfigured, or out-of-date, the Action Center will provide the aforementioned alerts. It also displays its displeasure with red prefixed sections in the main Action Center window.

In such a case, you can usually resolve the issue by simply using the button provided. For example, if you don’t install antivirus software, in Action Center you’ll see a Virus protection alert along with a “Find a program online” button. After installation of the antivirus software, this alert will disappear.

If you install Windows 7 yourself, you will see a red Action Center icon in the notification area of the taskbar. This is because Windows 7 doesn’t ship with any antivirus solution: To make this warning disappear, install a third-party antivirus solution.

Source of Information : Wiley Windows 7 Secrets (2009)

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