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Does the Virtual PC XP-Mode (or any other virtualized mode) require safety measures, such as antivirus or a firewall?

I'm just wondering if the XP-Mode would be a large security loophole, since it's so much more integrated into Windows 7. Actually I'm wondering the same for Portable Ubuntu, are their any safety measures I should undertake, so that I don't open a backdoor on my computer.

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Yes. In essence, It is still just regular old virtualization, same as used in VMWare or VirualBox. Just because they share the same start menu items, does not make it any less (or more) secure.

You should always be taking the appropriate measures and cautions as with anything else. If you use antivirus, install it on both the host and guest OS.

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I am unfamiliar with virtualization, but would that not require an extra subscription (if you chose to use a paid antivirus software)? – TheTXI Jul 22 '09 at 11:23
That may depend on the exact licensing terms that subscription has. – Joey Jul 22 '09 at 11:27

From my understanding and experience with Virtual machines, they usually need seperate security measures. Seeing that they are "bypassing" antivirus software firewalls of the host PC / Server, you'd want Antivirus / SW-firewall on both the HOST and the vitual pc / server.

A Physical Firewall placed before the gost would cover both the host and the virtual pc/server, because all network traffic passes through it.

This article covers mentions that exact issue

Woodgate noted that XP Mode isn't a security solution. Indeed, to protect their systems, users will need antivirus software running both on their Windows 7 desktop as well as a copy running inside their Windows XP virtual machine.

Also check out this blogpost concerning security of XP-mode in win7

The problem is that Microsoft are not providing management around the XP mode virtual machine (VM). This creates the potential for a security disaster. XP mode is an independent Windows instance, that shares the odd folder and device with the host Windows 7 installation. What it doesn't share is processes and memory. So it doesn't share security settings, security software, patches etc. It does not inherit any security from the host. When you use XP mode, you need to patch the copy of XP as well as the host Windows 7. You need to manage settings separately, configure two personal firewalls and install and manage two copies of anti-malware software.

This would mean having 2 seperate liscences for software, unless the specific software vendor has a liscencing scheme that covers virtualization. This may probably become more popular* now that Win7 is going to havebuitl in XP, since users will expect liscences for both operating systems.

*: Assumption on my part, no facts to base this upon! :)

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Luckily we have an Enterprise license of Symantec ;-) – Ivo Flipse Jul 23 '09 at 8:15
Hehe, unluckily most people don't have that though. I wonder if MS is going to make available some tools to cover this matter..seeing as it is a potential security hole of "anyone" running XP mode on Win7. – pavsaund Jul 23 '09 at 8:48
I know that the VM's I use at work don't have antivirus, but that's because we're behind a corporate FW infrastructure, and most of those machines have no access to the internet. Machines that I'm runnig personally though are a potential security risk though... – pavsaund Jul 23 '09 at 8:51

I contacted Microsoft last week and asked them about the potential risks of using Windows XP Mode. They replied saying that due how it's implemented, the risk of malware breaking out of the VM is 'very unlikely'. They didn't go into further details, though.

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Just be sure to disable Integrated Devices -> Hard Drive sharing. Warning: Windows XP Mode not only can read the contents of your hard drive, it can also write and modify files in it with elevated security credentials. This is a very serious oversight by Microsoft. Most users assume that shared drives under Virtual Window XP mode follow normal behavior of shared folders, ie. if you did not explicitly share a drive, it will not be accessible, and if you do not have the right security credentials, access and modification is disabled. ALL OF THESE ARE BYPASSED BY WINDOWS XP MODE INTEGRATED DEVICES. That means all the files in the host machine can be accessed and modified by a program in the virtual machine. Be warned. Install security software as a precaution, or atleast disable Integrated Devices if you are lazy in keeping your virtual machine secure.

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The official answer from Microsoft is: yes it does need anti-virus software.

This is mentioned in the following video on Microsoft's web site:

One more thing to note: anti-virus software is not included in Windows XP mode. Even if your computer running Windows 7 already has anti-virus software, you should also install anti-virus software in Windows XP mode, to help defend your computer against viruses.

And as other people have posted, this happily concurs with third-party reports on the subject.

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Using Windows 7 pro with xpvm, I have a lot of problems. The biggest is FINDING an antivirus that works. On the win 7 main, I can use Norton 360, but now have removed that in favor of microsoft essentials (MSE). I think that still requires malwarebytes, but careful to interact a malware scan in win 7.

In xpvm one antivirus would not even download, another seemed to work at first but after several hours came to a stop, very slow I think interacting with Norton 360 in the main.

So that got honked up to the point I had to uninstall the antivirus, then malwarebytes removed 118 files associated with something and that required some ingenuity to get my new Dell 64 bit machine back up. Now looking for a restore disk set.

Then I removed Norton360 and added MSE. At this point I will run XPVM as little as possible without antivirus since MSE doesn't support XP. That means to me, keep it off the internet.

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