Windows Defender Exploit Guard

What is Windows Defender Exploit Guard?

Microsoft Windows Defender Exploit Guard is antimalware software that provides intrusion protection for Windows 10 OS users. Exploit Guard is available as a part of Windows Defender Security Center and can protect machines against multiple attack types. For example, Exploit Guard provides memory safeguards that protect against attacks that manipulate built-in memory. Other intrusion protection offered by Exploit Guard include application attack surface reduction, preventing malware from accessing folders and protecting networks from malware.

Sometimes referred to as WDEG, Exploit Guard settings can be changed through the Windows Defender Security Center app or Windows PowerShell. The Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) management console can also be used to manage Exploit Guard. The ATP management console provides detailed reports, such as activity alerts against suspicious traffic.

Windows Defender Exploit Guard features

Microsoft said the four main components of Windows Defender Exploit Guard are the following:

  • Exploit mitigation. This protects applications. Exploit Guard works with Windows Defender Antivirus (AV) and third-party antivirus software to reduce the severity of possible exploits.
  • Attack surface reduction. This minimizes the attack surface of an application. For example, it can help stop Office, mail and script-based malware. This component also requires Windows Defender AV.
  • Network protection. This extends malware protection from Windows Defender SmartScreen in Microsoft Edge to endpoints. This component also requires Windows Defender AV.
  • Controlled folder access. This protects files in system folders from malicious applications. This component also requires Windows Defender AV.

Attack surface reduction rules and network protection are offered in Windows 10 Pro version 1709 or later, Windows 10 Enterprise version 1709 or later, Windows 11 Pro and Windows 11 Enterprise. Windows Defender Exploit Guard can also run in audit mode to provide users with basic event logs.

Advantages and disadvantages of Windows Defender Exploit Guard

Advantages of Exploit Guard include the following:

  • It is lightweight and does not use up a lot of system resources.
  • It is free.
  • It requires little user input.
  • It is similar to the retired Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit. Users experienced in EMET will notice the same features in Exploit Guard.

Some disadvantages of using Exploit Guard include the following:

  • Some features require additional Windows software to run.
  • Attack surface reduction rules and network protection are not available on all Windows editions and versions.
  • Logging can be slow.
This was last updated in February 2023

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