Windows 11 has always been an operating system for hybrid work. When it came out in October 2021, it was already the most secure Microsoft OS yet, and it came to a market that was increasingly revolving around remote work and hybrid options. And for the first several months of its use, Microsoft wanted feedback from customers. What they heard was that robust security continues to be a high priority, and that flexibility, connection, and ease of management are also important. So in April this year Microsoft announced some new features that would respond to these requests, and now the Windows 11 2022 update has made them available.
Continually Improving Security
A number of new features make for modern, intelligent security in Windows 11:
Smart App Control
This feature helps protect individuals or small businesses from untrusted applications that are often associated with malware. Garnering trillions of security signals every day, it creates an AI model and predicts whether an app is safe. This kind of app control has traditionally been difficult to deploy, but Smart App Control makes it simpler, with AI continually updating its policy based on incoming information.
One of the ways malware makes its entry is through kernel mode code in drivers. A new memory integrity feature called Hypervisor-protected code integrity (HVCI) runs kernel mode checks inside a virtualization-based security (VBS) environment instead of on the main Windows kernel. It ensures that only safe and validated code can be executed in kernel mode. HVCI is now enabled by default on all new Windows 11 devices.
Also provided in the Windows 11 2022 update is an automatic block policy that references a Microsoft vulnerable driver list with known drivers that are vulnerable to exploit. If you’re not using a new device, opt in to enforce this policy through the Windows Security app.
Windows Defender Credential Guard
Enabled by default at the Enterprise level, this helps protect against pass-the-hash and pass-the-ticket type credential theft techniques. It also helps stop malware from accessing system secrets even when processes are running with admin privileges.
Local Security Authority (LSA) Protection
Local Security Authority is an element that plays a critical part in verifying a user’s identity. With new LSA protection, Windows will load only trusted, signed code, so that attackers have a much harder time stealing credentials.
Microsoft Defender Smartscreen
This screening tool is another one that keeps track of known compromised apps or websites and warns you when you’re treading into danger zone. It also gives smart password-related advice, such as alerting you when you’re about to save a password in an unsafe location. This extra layer of protection helps safeguard against password phishing attempts.
Windows Hello for Business
If you prefer signing in without typing passwords, Windows Hello allows you to authenticate with face, fingerprint, or PIN. These identifiers are bound to the device, and with new presence sensing the device can sign you in automatically when you approach and lock up when you leave. Windows Hello for Business is now easier to deploy as well.
Sometimes device settings get out of sync with the company’s IT policies when users with local admin privileges change them. If you want to stop this from happening, Config lock reverts configuration drifts back to the secure settings. It’s available for select PCs with specific hardware features.
Enhanced User Experience
Quicker & More Intuitive Navigation
The number one request from customer feedback was to add tabs to the File Explorer—this feature will appear soon in October. Other enhancements include an improved Start menu, Quick Settings, and faster and better search capabilities.
Nearly 20% of all Windows users benefit from some kind of accessibility features—tools that aid in processes where users have particular challenges or disabilities. Now there are new ones added: system-wide live captions, a tool called voice access that lets you control your computer through voice, and a more natural-sounding voice when audio assist reads documents or web pages.
Focus & Organization
Snap layouts, which help users optimize their views when using multiple apps, now have better touch navigation and can be used with multiple browser tabs in Microsoft Edge. Focus sessions and Do Not Disturb will silence notifications and stop taskbar badges from popping up, and you can use the Clock app to remind you to take breaks, which are proven to make you calmer and more productive.
Windows Studio Effects
New enhancements can improve video calls, better filtering out background noise and following you if you move around during a meeting. A special Eye Contact tool can even make you look like you’re keeping eye contact with your meeting participants if you happen to look away (what?!).
Photo & Video
The Photos app now brings a more aesthetic gallery with simplified browsing, finding, and photo management. Taking the example of Apple and Google’s photo collections, it will also create “Memories” that will make you smile. For video editing, the addition of Clipchamp brings templates and effects for creators to play around with.
For those working on the IT end, processes should become more streamlined with zero-touch deployment, updates, management, and support. Intelligent tools help manage IT needs with reduced manual processes necessary. To take a look at the updated IT toolbox, see this article on what’s new for IT pros.
Forrester’s Total Economic Impact of Windows 11
If you’re really into Windows 11 or interested in how it ends up affecting organizations economically, see Forrester’s recent Total Economic Impact (TEI) report on it. Among other things, it found a projected return on investment from 109%-394%. That report and more details about the new update can be found here.