Windows application security

Cybercriminals can take advantage of poorly secured applications to access valuable resources. With Windows, IT admins can combat common application attacks from the moment a device is provisioned. For example, IT can remove local admin rights from user accounts, so that PCs run with least privilege to prevent malicious applications from accessing sensitive resources.

Learn more about application security features in Windows.

Application and driver control

Feature name Description
Smart App Control Smart App Control prevents users from running malicious applications on Windows devices by blocking untrusted or unsigned applications. Smart App Control goes beyond previous built-in browser protections, by adding another layer of security that is woven directly into the core of the OS at the process level. Using AI, our new Smart App Control only allows processes to run that are predicted to be safe based on existing and new intelligence processed daily. Smart App Control builds on top of the same cloud-based AI used in Windows Defender Application Control (WDAC) to predict the safety of an application, so people can be confident they're using safe and reliable applications on their new Windows 11 devices, or Windows 11 devices that have been reset.
Windows Defender Application Control (WDAC) Your organization is only as secure as the applications that run on your devices. With application control, apps must earn trust to run, in contrast to an application trust model where all code is assumed trustworthy. By helping prevent unwanted or malicious code from running, application control is an important part of an effective security strategy. Many organizations cite application control as one of the most effective means for addressing the threat of executable file-based malware.

Windows 10 and above include Windows Defender Application Control (WDAC) and AppLocker. WDAC is the next generation app control solution for Windows and provides powerful control over what runs in your environment. Customers who were using AppLocker on previous versions of Windows can continue to use the feature as they consider whether to switch to WDAC for the stronger protection.
User Account Control (UAC) User Account Control (UAC) helps prevent malware from damaging a device. With UAC, apps and tasks always run in the security context of a non-administrator account, unless an administrator authorizes administrator-level access to the system. UAC can block the automatic installation of unauthorized apps and prevents inadvertent changes to system settings. Enabling UAC helps to prevent malware from altering device settings and potentially gaining access to networks and sensitive data. UAC can also block the automatic installation of unauthorized apps and prevent inadvertent changes to system settings.
Microsoft vulnerable driver blocklist The Windows kernel is the most privileged software and is therefore a compelling target for malware authors. Since Windows has strict requirements for code running in the kernel, cybercriminals commonly exploit vulnerabilities in kernel drivers to get access. Microsoft works with the ecosystem partners to constantly identify and respond to potentially vulnerable kernel drivers.

Prior to Windows 11, version 22H2, the operating system enforced a block policy when HVCI is enabled to prevent vulnerable versions of drivers from running. Starting in Windows 11, version 22H2, the block policy is enabled by default for all new Windows devices, and users can opt-in to enforce the policy from the Windows Security app.

Application isolation

Feature name Description
Microsoft Defender Application Guard (MDAG) for Edge standalone mode Standalone mode allows Windows users to use hardware-isolated browsing sessions without any administrator or management policy configuration. In this mode, user must manually start Microsoft Edge in Application Guard from Edge menu for browsing untrusted sites.
Microsoft Defender Application Guard (MDAG) for Edge enterprise mode and enterprise management Microsoft Defender Application Guard protects users' desktop while they browse the Internet using Microsoft Edge browser. Application Guard in enterprise mode automatically redirects untrusted website navigation in an anonymous and isolated Hyper-V based container, which is separate from the host operating system. With Enterprise mode, you can define your corporate boundaries by explicitly adding trusted domains and can customizing the Application Guard experience to meet and enforce your organization needs on Windows devices.
Microsoft Defender Application Guard (MDAG) public APIs Enable applications using them to be isolated Hyper-V based container, which is separate from the host operating system.
Microsoft Defender Application Guard (MDAG) for Microsoft Office Application Guard protects Office files including Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Application icons have a small shield if Application Guard has been enabled and they are under protection.
Microsoft Defender Application Guard (MDAG) configure via MDM The WindowsDefenderApplicationGuard configuration service provider (CSP) is used by the enterprise to configure the settings in Microsoft Defender Application Guard.
App containers Universal Windows Platform (UWP) applications run in Windows containers known as app containers. Processes that run in app containers operate with low integrity level, meaning they have limited access to resources they don't own. Because the default integrity level of most resources is medium integrity level, the UWP app can access only a subset of the filesystem, registry, and other resources. The app container also enforces restrictions on network connectivity; for example, access to a local host isn't allowed. As a result, malware or infected apps have limited footprint for escape.
Windows Sandbox Windows Sandbox provides a lightweight desktop environment to safely run untrusted Win32 applications in isolation, using the same hardware-based Hyper-V virtualization technology to isolate apps without fear of lasting impact to your PC.