Feeds

Feds mandate 'secure' Windows set-up

One registry setting to rule them all

Top three mobile application threats

Changes in US government purchasing policies due to come into effect this summer could have a huge effect on computer security, particularly for Windows desktops.

A White House directive to federal chief information officers issued this week calls for all new Windows PC acquisitions, beginning 30 June, to use a common "secure configuration". Applications (such as anti-virus, email etc) loaded onto systems remain flexible but what will be specified in the registry settings and which services would be turned on or off by default.

Even more importantly, the directive calls for suppliers (integrators and software vendors) to certify that the products they supply operate effectively using these more secure configurations.

The federal government scheme builds on the "comply or don't connect" program of the US Air Force. The principal targets are Windows XP and Vista client systems but the same ideas might be applied in Unix and Windows Servers environments over time. The schedule for introduction gives application developers building applications for Windows Vista to test against. The incentives for developers to get this right will be huge.

"No Vista application will be able to be sold to federal agencies if the application does not run on the secure version of Vista," explained Alan Paller, director of research at The SANS Institute. "XP application vendors will also be required to certify that their applications run on the secure configuration of Windows XP.

Common, secure configurations reduce the effort required to patch systems. Such configurations directly block certain modes of attack. Improved security is likely to save money for application developers and integrators because it reduces support costs in the long-run, Paller told El Reg. "Organizations that have made the move report that it actually saves money rather than costs money."

"The principal frustration has been you can't always patch systems quickly because they might break applications. Software developers point out that they can't test against every different configuration as user might have. From summer developers will be able to make sure their patches work on more securely configured systems, reducing the patching headache and saving costs," he explained.

The purchasing power attached to the $65bn federal IT spending budget means that suppliers will have no choice but to take notice. Paller said the scheme is likely to be adopted by large organisations outside government.

Kit purchased by governments needs to meet common criteria standards and this will remain the case even after the new programme kicks off in the summer. Paller said that common criteria is a measure of the design documentation of products. "This, on the other hand, specifies that the kit will be set up in the right way. The two approaches are complementary but different," he added. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Heartbleed exploit, inoculation, both released
File under 'this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me'
Canadian taxman says hundreds pierced by Heartbleed SSL skewer
900 social insurance numbers nicked, says revenue watchman
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
Burnt out on patches this month? Oracle's got 104 MORE fixes for you
Mass patch for issues across its software catalog
Reddit users discover iOS malware threat
'Unflod Baby Panda' looks to snatch Apple IDs
Oracle working on at least 13 Heartbleed fixes
Big Red's cloud is safe and Oracle Linux 6 has been patched, but Java has some issues
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.