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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

Microsoft Corp has spent the best part of $200m securing Windows Server 2003, its next major operating system, under the company's year-old Trustworthy Computing initiative,

writes Gavin Clarke

.

Mike Nash, corporate vice president of Microsoft's security business unit, said yesterday the money was spent re-designing and reviewing Windows code in an attempt to lock-out hackers, stop viruses and ensure system resilience.

Speaking at Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus before an open audience, Nash said these changes were made as a result of Bill Gate's highly publicized Trustworthy Computing initiative, launched in January 2002.

Reviewing lessons Microsoft learned during the first 12-months of Trustworthy Computing, Nash said the company had undertaken cultural changes in addition to altering the way it builds products.

Eleven thousand engineers were re-trained to program for security, and individuals are now assigned ownership of modules to track responsibility for development and testing. The company learned Windows could become vulnerable through the actions of a feature not necessarily associated with security, such as the ISAPI server in Windows 2000.

"One of the things we learned at Microsoft is [Trustworthy Computing] involves a change of culture," he said. "One of the goals of Trustworthy Computing is to close the gap between the goal of innovation and the need for reliability."

Nash classified the four key tenets of Trustworthy Computing as: security - making software secure from attack; privacy - protecting customer information and giving users the ability to control their own data; reliability - dependability of software; and business integrity - Microsoft dealing openly with customers.

Nash said Microsoft spent $200m on "internal processes" such as re-training and re-working the company's mechanism for delivering security bulletins. The money was primarily spent on Windows Server 2003, he later told ComputerWire, even though Microsoft has used elements of the initiative in Visual Studio.NET, Windows XP Service Pack (SP) 1 and Windows 2000 SP 4.

As such, Nash predicted, the first public effects of Trustworthy Computing will be felt by customers this year, with Windows Server 2003.

"The first year of Trustworthy Computing's primary focus was the issues where we could reduce customers' pain," he said. "2002 will bear fruit in 2003, as Windows Server 2003 becomes available." Windows Server 2003 is scheduled to launch on April 24.

Windows Server 2003 will see more than 20 features such as Internet Information Services (IIS) that come "turned-on" out of the box in the current product, "switched-off". Leaving these features turned-on places the obligation on users to disable them, many of who don't and who leave a back door open to hackers, viruses and systems instabilities such as buffer over-runs. Nash claimed 95% of system breaches are the result of misconfiguration by users.

Nash added Internet Explorer's out-of-the box functionality would also be limited. "A lot of work has gone into turning things off," Nash said.

Additional security has been added to the operating system. The Windows PKI has been enhanced, there is greater control of role-based authorization and greater documentation of security features and changes for users to read.

Looking ahead, Nash predicted improvements would ensure Windows Server 2003 becomes the "foundation" of Microsoft's future operating systems. "There will be a security push for Longhorn and versions of Windows after Longhorn."

However, Nash ruled out inclusion of Microsoft's proposed Palladium chip-based security mechanism for any immediate versions of Windows, such as Longhorn.

"There are some important things we have to do to improve the experience prior to availability of Palladium, so we can talk of Palladium as something of a security banner for the long-term," he said.

© ComputerWire

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