Windows Action Center

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Windows Action Center
A component of Microsoft Windows
Windows security center icon.png
Action Center on Windows 8.png
Action Center in Windows 8: No issue has been detected
Details
Type Maintenance Application
Included with Windows XP (SP2 and above)
Windows Vista
Windows 7 (renamed Action center)
Windows 8
Service name wscsvc
Description Security Center
Related components
Backup and Restore Center
User Account Control
Windows Defender
Windows Error Reporting
Windows Firewall
Windows Management Instrumentation
Windows Update
Windows Security Center in Windows Vista, reporting antivirus protection missing
Windows Security Center in Windows Vista, reporting antivirus protection missing
Windows Security Center in Windows XP Service Pack 2 reporting no antivirus product is installed
Windows Security Center in Windows XP Service Pack 2 reporting no antivirus product is installed

The Windows Action Center (previously known as Windows Security Center) is a component included with Microsoft's Windows XP (beginning with Service Pack 2), Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 operating systems that provides users with the ability to view the status of computer security settings and services. Windows Action Center also continually monitors these security settings, and informs the user via a pop-up notification balloon if there is a problem. It is renamed to Action Center in Windows 7, where it covers maintenance as well as security.

Overview[edit]

The Windows Action Center consists of three major components: A control panel, a Windows Service, and an application programming interface that is provided by Windows Management Instrumentation.

The control panel divides the monitored security settings into categories, the headings of which are displayed with a background color of light blue (green in Vista), yellow, or red. A category with a blue or green background indicates that the settings in the category are "healthy". A yellow background typically indicates that some or all of the settings in that category are not being monitored. A red background indicates that there is a problem that can expose the user's computer to problems.

The current state of these settings is determined by the Windows Service. This service, named "Security Center",[1] is started automatically when the computer starts, and takes responsibility for continually monitoring the system for changes, and also informs the user via a pop-up notification balloon if there is a problem. The settings are made available to the system through a Windows Management Instrumentation provider.

The primary interface which third-party anti-virus, anti-malware and firewall software vendors use to register with Windows Action Center is through the WMI provider. In Windows Vista, some Windows API calls were added to let applications retrieve the aggregate health status of Windows Action Center, and to receive notifications when the health status changes. Microsoft has offered suggestions that these new calls could be used by any application that wants to confirm that the system is in a healthy state before engaging in certain actions. An example they give is that a computer game could ensure that a firewall is running before connecting to a multi-player online game.

Version history[edit]

Windows XP SP2[edit]

Microsoft learned from discussions with customers that there was confusion as to whether users were taking appropriate steps to protect their systems, or if the steps they were taking were effective.[2] From this research, Microsoft made the decision to include a visible control panel with Windows XP Service Pack 2 that would provide a consolidated view of the most important security features. Service Pack 2, released in August 2004, includes the first version of Security Center. This initial version provides monitoring of Windows Update, Windows Firewall, and the availability of an anti-virus software package. Third-party providers of firewall and anti-virus software packages were encouraged to make use of the Windows Action Center application programming interface to ensure that their software would be recognized.

Windows Vista[edit]

Windows Vista adds anti-malware software detection, monitoring of User Account Control, and monitoring of several Internet Explorer security settings. Windows Defender, Microsoft's anti-malware product, is included with Windows Vista by default, which the Action Center monitors; a third-party anti-malware product can replace it. Another feature of the Windows Vista version is that it includes the ability to display logos of third-party products that have been registered with the Security Center.

Unlike Windows XP, in the beta versions of Windows Vista the Windows Action Center could not be disabled or overridden. Security software maker Symantec spoke out against this, noting that it would cause a great deal of consumer confusion because any security problems would be reported by both Windows Action Center and Symantec's tools at the same time.[3] McAfee, another large security software vendor, lodged similar complaints,[4] and in the end Microsoft allowed Windows Security Center to be disabled in the release version of Vista.[5]

Windows 7[edit]

In Windows 7, the Windows Action Center has been renamed the Action Center (Windows Solution Center and Windows Health Center in earlier builds) and encompasses both security and maintenance of the computer. Yellow indicates that there is a message that requires attention. Red indicates that there is an important message for the user to solve.

Windows 8[edit]

Action Center has been updated and monitors 10 new items: Microsoft Account, Windows Activation, SmartScreen, Automatic Maintenance, Drive Status, Device Software, Startup Apps, Homegroup, File History, and Storage Spaces.[6]

PC Magazine criticism[edit]

On 25 August 2004, PC Magazine published an article in their Security Watch newsletter titled "Windows XP SP2 Security Center Spoofing Threat" which outlined a design vulnerability which could allow malware to manipulate Security Center into displaying a false security status regardless of the true security status. To do so, the malware requires Administrative privileges.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The service's real name is "wscsvc".
  2. ^ "Microsoft Windows Security Center: The Voice of Security for Windows Vista". Microsoft. 6 October 2006. Retrieved 16 November 2009. 
  3. ^ Jeremy Reimer (2006-09-27). "Symantec says Vista will "reduce consumer choice"". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2006-10-14. 
  4. ^ Hines, Matt (2006-10-03). "McAfee Chides Microsoft Over Vista Security Policies". eWeek. 
  5. ^ Seltzer, Larry (2006-10-16). "Microsoft Caves on Vista Security". eWeek. Retrieved 2008-08-13. 
  6. ^ "Image of 'Change Action Center settings'" (JPEG). TechRepublic. San Francisco, CA, USA: CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on 2013-01-19. Retrieved 2014-05-04. 
  7. ^ Jay Munro (25 August 2004). "Windows XP SP2 Security Center Spoofing Threat". Security Watch. PC Magazine. Retrieved 16 November 2009. 

External links[edit]