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Symantec: Vista probably 'less stable' than XP

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The networking technology underpinning Windows Vista may be less stable on release that that behind Windows XP, according to an analysis by security firm Symantec.

Microsoft has re-written its networking stack for Windows Vista in order to allow for "easier maintenance, improved performance, and improved stability". But an analysis by security researchers at Symantec found a variety of security flaws with early builds of the OS.

In a white paper based on this research, Windows Vista Network Attack Surface Analysis: A Broad Overview (PDF), the researchers conclude that Vista may be less stable, at least for the immediate future, than Windows XP. They reached this conclusion after looking at the stability of Vista, searching for undocumented or unexpected behavior and probing for the effect of adding support for new protocols, such as native support for IPv6. Researchers also looked for the susceptibility of Windows Vista to well known attacks, fixed in previous versions of Windows.

The Symantec team are careful to note that their tests were conducted on beta code, designed for testing purposes. Bugs are constantly getting identified and fixed with each build. Symantec reckons that the complete rewrite of Windows network stack - along with the introduction of new protocols such as LLTD, IPv6, Teredo, SMB2, and encapsulation - will prove a far bigger security headache for Microsoft and its customers.

"A number of the issues we had identified in the earlier Vista builds have already been fixed in later ones. We fully expect that trend to continue up until Vista’s final release. [But] network stacks can take several years of real-world scrutiny before they are battle hardened. It will be interesting to observe to what degree the Windows Vista network stack accomplishes this in such a compressed time frame," Symantec concludes in a posting about its paper on its security blog here. ®

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