Microsoft is making it easier for businesses and IT administrators to tell if their PCs are protected from Spectre and Meltdown. Along with yesterday's collection of Patch Tuesday security updates, Microsoft upgraded its Windows Analytics service to specifically look for various mitigations against Spectre and Meltdown, including antivirus, operating system patches, and appropriate firmware.
Unless you manage several PCs deployed at your workplace, you might not be familiar with Windows Analytics, a free tool that Microsoft provides to businesses. It's a cloud-based service designed to provide actionable insights into the performance, reliability, and health of Windows devices. Windows Analytics also makes upgrading to Windows 10 from legacy operating system easier.
To make the service even more useful, Microsoft added three new features to Windows Analytics. The first is an antivirus audit. Microsoft notes that not all AV software is compatible with the latest Windows updates, and if that is the case, Windows Analytics will let IT admins know about it.
The second thing is a Windows security update scan. Windows Analytics tells IT admins which Windows security update is running on any particular device, and if any of the updates have been disabled. In some cases, IT admins may choose to install a security update, but disable the fix, presumably for compatibility or performance considerations.
Finally, Windows Analytics now takes a look at a system's firmware status, and specifically looks to see if the firmware installed includes the necessary mitigations for Spectre and Meltdown.
"Initially, this status will be limited to the list of approved and available firmware security updates from Intel. We will be adding other CPU (chipset) partners’ data as it becomes available to Microsoft," Microsoft stated in a blog post.
There are millions of PCs that use Windows Analytics. While these new audit capabilities do not have a direct impact on consumers, they should relieve some of the headaches that many IT admins face as they deal with the challenge of mitigating Spectre and Meltdown.