Feeds

Feds mandate 'secure' Windows set-up

One registry setting to rule them all

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

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. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
'Kim Kardashian snaps naked selfies with a BLACKBERRY'. *Twitterati gasps*
More alleged private, nude celeb pics appear online
Home Depot ignored staff warnings of security fail laundry list
'Just use cash', former security staffer warns friends
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
Freenode IRC users told to change passwords after securo-breach
Miscreants probably got in, you guys know the drill by now
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
BitTorrent's peer-to-peer chat app Bleep goes live as public alpha
A good day for privacy as invisble.im also reveals its approach to untraceable chats
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.