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Microsoft is to disable Windows Messenger service and activate Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) by default on XP boxes, in a move to better shield Windows PCs against hostile attack.

Windows Messenger service, a function used to exchange data between computers unrelated to MSN Messenger, has become more trouble than its worth in recent months since spammers latched onto the service as a way of launching pop-up spam boxes on targeted PCs. The service was also subject to a security flaw this month which created a mechanism for crackers to commandeer vulnerable Windows boxes. Microsoft has issued a patch but even so, the problem is another black mark against a not-terribly-useful service.

So Microsoft has decided to turn off Messenger services with Windows XP Service Pack 2, due in the first half of next year. Microsoft is yet to detail how it intends to disable the service on other versions of Windows. Windows Messenger service is seldom used by consumers; and businesses, which might use it, have the expertise to turn the service back on.

Last week, AOL took the unilateral decision to kill off Windows Messenger service for its subscribers.

Security Fence

Microsoft execs this week outlined various plans to improve Windows security at the firm's Professional Developer Conference in Los Angeles.

IDG reports that Microsoft is developing a new API (application programming interface) for RPCs (remote procedure calls) to more tightly control the operation of the protocol in MS environments. The security shortcomings of Microsoft's implementation of RPC within its distributed component object model (DCOM) were highlighted by the devastating Blaster worm. Further Microsoft security alerts about this same RPC component of Windows since the August spread of Blaster have merely underlined the problem.

Microsoft also plans to apply more restrictive default configurations on its ubiquitous Internet Explorer web browser Local Machine and Local Intranet security zones. ®

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